Developing Leadership

Many people wonder if leadership can really be taught.

People with vested interests (academics and those offering leadership training or literature of some sort) are convinced that it can. Many successful leaders, however, have never had any formal training. For them leadership is a state of mind, and it is their personalities and traits that make them successful leaders.

There is, clearly, a balance to be struck between these two positions.

There is no question that some people are intrinsically more drawn towards leadership roles than others. However, it would be nonsense to suggest—although this has been mooted in the past—that only people with certain physical or personal traits could lead. For example, it has clearly been proven that being male, or being tall, does not of itself make someone a better leader, although many leaders are both male and tall.

See our page Leadership Trait Theory for more.

It seems most likely that leadership requires certain skills. Some people will acquire these more easily than others.

You can of course learn about effective leadership skills and practices but being able to implement them yourself may require an altogether different set of skills and attitudes. The question “Can leadership be taught?” has no simple answer and we do not want to argue for one side or the other, but rather keep an open mind on the subject and provide information about the skills good leaders need.

Our page on Top Leadership Skills You Need may provide a useful starting point if you wish to develop your leadership skills.

Leadership Styles

One of the most important aspects of leadership is that not every leader is the same. Of course we have all heard jokes about ‘mushroom’ leadership (keep them in the dark and feed them manure) and ‘seagulls’ (swoop in, squawk, and drop unpleasant things on people) but, joking aside, there are many different styles of leadership.

Different leadership styles are appropriate for different people and different circumstances, and the best leaders learn to use a wide variety of styles.

There are many different models of leadership style, but perhaps one of the best-known is Daniel Goleman’s Six Leadership Styles. This is almost certainly one of the models that is most strongly-rooted in research, which may explain some of its popularity.

Our page on Leadership Styles sets out that Goleman identified six styles, which he labelled:

  • Coercive, or commanding – ‘do as I say’
  • Pace-setting – ‘do as I do, right now’
  • Authoritative – ‘come with me’
  • Affiliative – ‘people come first’
  • Democratic – ‘what do you think?’
  • Coaching – ‘try it and see’

What Sort of Leader are You?

Take our quiz – What Sort of Leader are You? to discover which leadership styles you use and which may need further development.

You may then want to see our page on Developing Your Leadership Style for more about how to improve the styles in which you are weaker.