Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > can you learn leadership?

can you learn leadership?

Can leadership be taught? I believe that it can and to a good standard, but it is another question as to whether someone who learns how to lead can become a great leader.

A few years back I was on one of my regular trips to Glasgow and wandered over the road from my hotel to a little bar where there was an open mike folk evening promised. The bar got packed and I found myself in the company of, amongst others, a music teacher. We chatted between numbers and much of the discussion was around the quality of the performers who took their turns on the small stage.

As often happens at these events there is a sharing of instruments and one guitar was being used by a fair numbers of those who got up to have a go. Everyone did well, but there was one guy who would take up that guitar and made music on it that was way beyond anything that the others could manage. My new friend the music teacher had an explanation, and suggested to me that anyone could be shown where to put their fingers and given enough of a grasp of strumming patterns to be able to get a tune out of a guitar if they had the inclination to learn; “Anyone can competently play an instrument if they have the desire, but only if you have the gift can you really explore what the instrument can do and push it beyond where most people can go with it.” they told me.

I think that the same applies to leadership. If you have the desire to lead and the courage to take on the challenge then you can learn and you can do a competent job of it. You have to want to do it and you do need the courage because leading is not easy; many people fail just because their courage fails then when the going gets tough. If you have the gift then you can be a great leader and the difference is, as with a musical instrument, which the virtuoso leader will explore the capabilities of their team and push them beyond the point that others might manage.

Over the years I have been the front man for some very successful projects and operations. The common denominator for all of them was that I had good people around me that had that synergy; the sum of the whole being greater than the sum of the component parts.

You can be taught how to lead and it doesn’t matter whether you become a good leader or a great one for, just like those who got up and did a turn in that Glasgow bar, having the desire to do it and the courage to have a go, if you can be at least competent at leading then you can be successful at it and the more you do with practice the better you will become.


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