Leadership: Who’s Trainable?

The ubiquitous question: Can anybody be trained (or better phrased, learn) to become a leader? From my perspective – NO! Many yes, possibly most, but not anybody.

Another way of asking the question: Who’s trainable and who’s not?

The prerequisite to this entire topic is about intent; given a potential leadership candidate, do they want to become or have the motivation to become a leader of people? This is often forgotten or ignored in the effort of promoting employees into the management ranks.

Given the starting point of a motivated leadership candidate, the following characteristics establish the best scenario for success:

  1. Introspection:  Becoming a leader is a process of learning and development that requires an individual to be open minded about their strengths and weaknesses. This not only requires the ability to accept criticism but to seek out feedback proactively.
  2. Willing to listen and learn:  Growing into a leadership role requires a person to be coachable. Learning from a great leader is a highly rewarding and unforgettable experience.
  3. Big picture thinker:  In addition to having industry expertise, leaders need to place emphasis on finding balance cross-functionally and in relation to organizational objectives and goals.
  4. Responsive versus reactionary:  Running any business is an endless string of solving problems, resolving conflict, and meeting challenges. Leaders set the tone to ensure the best result.
  5. Perspective as a follower:  Leaders start as followers and should never lose perspective on what people need from their manager to reach their potential.
  6. Lifelong learner: Read any biography or autobiography of a great leader and you will find some element of “I never stopped learning”.

Being a “top performer” in a position did NOT make the list. Although it is nice to have it does not provide substantial (enough) value for success as a leader. For followers it helps lend credibility to their manager, however, certain required characteristics necessary to be a super-star contribute to failure as a leader of people.

Defining Your Integrity

Must leaders have integrity? Most people would say they do without hesitating. However, defining integrity is not black and white. Integrity is not something that is defined in a book. It’s not something that’s defined by someone else. Integrity is you deciding what’s important to you.

As a leader, how do you perceive integrity? What do you want your life to look like? How do you want to be perceived by others? You create a model of integrity based off your own opinion. It’s not how someone else thinks you should live. It’s not how your boss, your spouse, or your family or friends perceives you. It’s how you define it.

Here is one way to create the definition of your own personal integrity. Write on a piece of paper the things in your life that are negotiable. Then, write the things in your life that are non-negotiable. The things that you are not willing to compromise on, the things that you are not willing to change and the things that you are not willing to get rid of in your life. Once you can truly determine what your non-negotiables are in life, it makes it easier to identify what your integrity paradigm looks like.

So, if only you can determine your own personal definition of integrity, what traits do you think leaders must possess? Are they tangible? Can they vary? And, how does a leader’s level of integrity affect those in the organization?