It seems as though everyone has something to say about leadership - even if what they are saying is based on misunderstanding and misconception. Sometimes we accept ideas as facts and let them rule our behaviors without taking the time to really think about them. Therefore, when we hear people saying this or that about leadership, we may be tempted to just accept it as truth. This is unfortunate, as leadership is something everyone could use a little more in their lives, whether it is at work, with their families or in the sports community. While leadership is defined as being the function or position of a leader, it is more complex than that. Leadership is a behavior we exert when we take responsibility for our actions and their consequences.
It is about being accountable when we assume responsibility for guiding others. Leadership is often the difference between success and failure. It is what separates the doers from the observers, and it is what gives positive direction to individuals and organizations. However complex or simple the definition may seem to an individual, leadership becomes much more complicated when attempting to define the origin of leaders. In other words, where do leaders come from? Are they born or made?
It is impossible to decide one way or the other without appreciating the fact that there must be integration of both parts before arriving at a conclusion. Most of the world's best leaders were born with certain highly developed characteristics, such as an extraordinary high level of ambition, a special instinct and a favorable charisma. In addition, leaders share a group of common characteristics that have everything to do with personality and nothing to do with position. Even so, an individual cannot anoint him / herself a leader.
Leadership is an honorary degree, which can only be bestowed by those who are led. Top management cannot appoint leaders any more than leaders can appoint themselves. The loyalty of those to be led must come through positive and successful attitudes and behaviors. In this increasingly competitive world, businesses need leaders, not managers to be successful. Those who have been assigned to lead others, but lack the motivation or skill to do so, will forever remain a mere manager (Yuk l, p. 86). It is difficult, however, to believe that through proper training, whether it is formal or informal education that anyone can be a leader.
Is it with ignorance then that one can say if a class was taught on training people to become leaders that the person who revealed the most knowledge is the most successful leader and so forth until the lowest mark whom would be known as a poor leader? This is troubling and hardly seems worthy of any truth. This is not to say that one cannot be successfully educated in the field of leadership. However, it may be more accurate to state that leadership cannot be taught but it can be learned.
Educational leadership can reveal a limited amount of situational ideas to a student - i.e. types of leadership, leadership positions, and people skills. In spite of this, an educator absolutely cannot teach someone to be a leader as a classroom does not have the ability to refine some of the natural human characteristics that are commonly found in great leaders, such as courage, understanding and self-assurance. As mentioned, leaders often have strong characteristics like courage, understanding and self-assurance. These skills are not always unique to leaders or have they been thrust upon someone through some right of birth.
They are however, a very special combination of skills that are revealed and strengthened during difficult times. It is during these times that a leader learns the most. During these difficult times a leader can learn from the experience or learn by watching someone else. This is the time that leadership has the strongest quality to be learned (Barr, p. 117).
When speaking of leadership qualities, one must understand the importance of courage. Courage implies firmness of mind and will in the face of danger or extreme difficulty. Most great leaders possess a highly developed sense of teamwork that enables them to step away from the limelight and allow others to take credit. They delegate, and they take responsibility for their decisions without stepping in at the first sign of a problem (Gardner, p. 42).
Courage also enables leaders to surround themselves with strong personalities while demanding unreasonable goals. A courageous leader is someone who will also think outside the current situation and challenge the process. This natural courage is something that cannot be learned. Another special character is the ability of understanding or a familiarity of the situation. A person or manager who has never been through a rough situation will never be able to motivate the group of workers to reach their ultimate potential because he is not aware of the feeling himself. This is how knowledge and understanding is developed: during times of difficulty.
Anyone can lead a group while everything is running smoothly, but it takes a special person to stand and take charge during times of stress. This kind of personal or behavioral competence is important because it translates the built-in ability to listen and to influence people without hurting their feelings. This really is the biggest difference between a leader and a manager - leaders understand and care. The final quality of a true leader is self-assurance. A leader must not only have the courage to take control of a situation and understand the groups feelings, they must have the self-assurance that the decisions they make are agreeable and are guided towards the interest of the group and not the individual. This is also a strong quality as a leader may be challenged especially during times of hardship.
If there is any feeling of self-doubt, it will be revealed to the group and therefore will be cost the leader his respect or the confidence of the group. Having said all this, there is an overwhelming amount of information leading to believe that leaders are born. It seems much too difficult for one to comprehend that if given proper training or education everyone may be an equally or sufficient leader. It is not impossible to conceive that if put in the right situation that anyone can lead but it takes a unique individual to lead in times of stress or hardship. However, it seems impossible to believe that all people have the human characteristic to face adversity with a smile, or have the courage to restructure and the self-assurance to stand behind their decisions. These characteristics are found in only a special kind of person and are revealed when simple knowledge has lead to an impasse.
In conclusion, it is believed that anyone with special knowledge and power can lead, but only people with special characteristics and abilities can be leaders.