This question came from a participant in one of my strengths workshops. “Are certain strengths or characteristics common in leaders?” Many questions along this same line have been asked about leadership over the years. What do you think the answer is?
Are leaders born or made? What are the characteristics of great leaders? Can you learn to become a better leader? These are all versions of the same question and a natural one to ask. Deep down inside we might just want to know if we have the capability to lead.
The catch phrase “we are all leaders” is true. Yet it does not get at what most people are attempting to ask which is do I have the stuff that leads to greatness as a leader. Yes you do and here is what you need to know to tap it.
Leadership is not an anointment, appointment or an otherwise granted ability. It is earned through the use of the gifts you were given at birth. Is it born? Yes. Is it made? Absolutely.
A few rare souls come into this world with clarity about their natural gifts and how they are to be utilized for good. Most of the rest of us get to figure it out and that is where leadership is made. Back to the question from the participant in the strengths workshop “are certain strengths or characteristics common in leaders?”
This is the question that Dr. Donald O. Clifton and the researchers at Gallup sought to answer as they began their research starting in the 1960’s*. Through interviews, Dr. Clifton and his team quizzed leaders across industries and occupations including political leaders. One might think after all this research the scientists would identify one strength, a single characteristic that all the best leaders have in common. That was not the case. As Dr. Clifton shared,
“A leader needs to know his strengths as a carpenter knows his tools, or as a physician knows the instruments at her disposal. What great leaders have in common is that each truly knows his or her strengths – and can call on the right strength at the right time. This explains why there is no definitive list of characteristics that describes all leaders.”
The answer to the question you are asking “Do I have what it takes to be a leader?” is yes. Will you become a leader is the question to be answered.
*You can learn more about the research and the outcomes in the book Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie.