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Can leadership be taught or is it innate?

Friday, 5 August 2011 | By Tony Faure

Can leadership be taught or is it innate? I’ve never really been a leader at work and I wonder if it’s worth doing a course or getting advice before starting up?

 

Well this is a time-old question which is similar to the old nature or nurture debate. Are leaders born or made? And can you become one if you aren't one already?

 

Of course there's no definitive answer – and there are good strong arguments both ways – but the important thing for me is whether you can become one very quickly around the time you start a company.

 

And my answer would be – almost certainly not.

 

My instinct on the born or made question for leaders is more the former than the latter. Although people can learn how to lead, it's been rare for me to see someone who struggles to lead transformed quickly into someone who can.

 

We all have natural strengths and weaknesses, and are usually better off playing to these. This is thrown into sharp focus around starting up your own business.

 

It's a very intense and stressful period (both good and bad), but absolutely not the time to be learning a new set of skills and trying to practice them.

 

Save that for later, when you've made your first million and are looking for interesting ways of stretching yourself.

 

Your start-up needs you to be brilliant at what you're already good at, and not be distracted by anything else.

 

Leadership is about defining what the company is, what it does and how it will operate, what its goals are, and why people should do business with it/partner with it/work for it/invest in it.

 

Leaders define what is and isn't a priority, where focus should lie, and inspire their teams to do great work. All start-ups need to be well lead.

 

They also need great teams of people who get the tough things done. People will tend to be one or the other.

 

If you don't think you're a leader then there's no reason not to do a start-up, but every reason to make sure that you find a partner who IS a leader to do it with you.

 

Good luck!