Change your Beliefs? Are leaders born or developed? This has been a common question you will find in much of the research around leaders. You will find that the answer is "Yes", as it is quite certain that some people are born with certain natural tendencies towards leadership, and we also know that our process of natural and social development strongly impacts our abilities to lead.
Like many others who work in the realm of leadership development, I am fascinated by the nurture side of that question. I have worked with hundreds (quite possibly that's in the thousands now) of leaders during my career, and my experience is that most of the truly effective leaders are developed. We are certainly born with certain traits and qualities that make aspects of leadership very easy, but the skills of using those and the wisdom of the situational aspects of leadership are most certainly learned. Consequently, my current book project is looking at the most basic element of leadership, Inspirational Presence, and how we go about developing it. Obviously, it is very multi-faceted and changes as we go through life.
Each of our life experiences not only contributes to our overall presence, but also influences what we learn from that point on. Each experience creates a new point in our perceptual filter, which then creates a different view of how we experience life. So, if we have good experiences that teach us that life is good and rewarding, we build beliefs around that and tend to find more of it in the future. By the same token, unpleasant or difficult experiences can teach us limiting beliefs, that then has us find more of those experiences in the future. The good news is, that we may have had some bad experiences in life, but we are not destiny bound to repeat them. We have the power to change our experience. At the Gaian Group, our leadership practice has many techniques for uncovering these areas and for reframing old limiting beliefs. This enhances our ability to influence others. Of these, most of these become apparent in our language patterns. Some are very obvious, like when we hear a person say "I'm not a very good leader"
. The more subtle are in areas like "I find this work very challenging" or "I really have to drive these people". Each of these indicates either an underlying belief about self or other. Working with our belief systems tends to create much more powerful and lasting results than simply focusing on behaviors. Granted, behaviors matter, and we find that our belief systems drive far more behaviors than we might typically identify over a course of coaching sessions. Getting to the core enabling or limiting beliefs creates positive shifts in all areas of life. In the examples above, there is a deeper and more problematic commonality. Each limits the speaker's ability to inspire him/her self and others. This is where it becomes a critical leadership issue. Our ability to lead is directly related to how much inspiration and passion we feel in the context where we are leading. If you feel rotten about what you are doing, what do you think your leadership style will be like? On the other hand, if you are genuinely enthused about what you are doing and where you are going, it will spread faster than you can imagine. So, take a few minutes, take some notes, and change your life.