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Looking the Part

Optimize Blog - October 30, 2017 - 0 comments

A question we get asked a lot is if leaders are born or made. Apparently this is a discussion that has been undertaken since the time of Plato so clearly there is yet to be a definitive answer. So which side of the debate do we land?
There is no doubt that there is substantive research which shows that there are certain subconscious biases that exist. Appearance for example plays a part – apparently height, weight, fitness are all important which has echoes from our past where in the survival of the fittest; stature and physical appearance were important. According to science journalist and author Anjana Ahuja, who has studied the evolutionary basis of leadership “If you ask children to look at candidates in an electoral contest, very often they will pick out the same winner as the electorate.”
Whilst we are sure many of you have already determined to hit the gym more frequently in 2018 as part of your New Year’s resolutions perhaps you hadn’t considered that the exercise would in fact help your leadership capabilities….
However, just looking the part is not going to help if you make the wrong decisions, are indecisive, are unable to communicate, fail to deliver a compelling vision or are unable to inspire others to things even they thought were not possible. These things can be learned. Leadership is behavioral and we can consider great leaders both past and present and determine which values, behaviours and beliefs they consistently demonstrated or demonstrate which set them apart and define them as great leaders.
After that it is case of practicing those behaviours ourselves borrowing the values, beliefs, drive, and passion. Then we can deliver what we would have normally delivered in a very different way, but we will be delivering it with integrity and passion and become a different person in the way that we deliver. Ultimately leadership is a combination of definable technical skills.
As with all things worth investing in, there is no switch than can be flicked on to make us instant great leaders. It takes practice and mistakes will be made along the way. Of course, as aspiring great leaders we will recognize those mistakes as positive things, and we will learn from them and enhance our skills in the process.
If, as part of your personal development plan for 2018, you have the aspiration to develop your leadership skills, then take it from us that those skills can be learned and whilst there are certain personality characteristics that make it easier or harder for us as individuals to adopt certain different behaviours, behaviours can be learned with the right coaching and support.
As you develop your personal development and career plan in 2018 don’t state the generic need to ‘become a better leader’ but rather state specific areas that you want to focus on. This may be personal effectiveness, political astuteness, financial literacy, negotiation skills, decision-making etc. Then determine the best way to close the skill/behaviour gap and find a way to measure your progress.
Whilst many leaders are described as ‘born leaders’ the fact is that absolutely anyone can become a great leader if they have the desire and motivation to move to that next level and master those crucial leadership skills. If you’re good looking as well then you have it made…….

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