(Are They Born, Or Made?)
According to current research, about 30% of a person’s leadership ability is genetic, and the rest is learned—but not necessarily in school.  Stem cells are waiting to be developed.  Much of that which is learned comes through life experiences. The contributions of life cannot be overlooked. Challenges, hardships, work experiences, education, colleagues, direct and indirect role models, and personal outlook contribute to our ability to lead.
Learning through doing is one of the greatest ways to lead. John Kotter’s research in this field suggest ways to take charge of your own leadership development. In an interview with Dr. Dan Maltby, we came up with five tips for being intentional about your growth…

Some departments and divisions are better than others. Some teams have more to offer than others. They offer broader exposure, better teammates, more challenging assignments than others. Some will provide better coaching and mentoring. Keep your eyes open and land on the best spot possible.

Warren Bennis talks about being a first class noticer. Keep your eyes open and look for those mentors and role models. Observe and learn. You need to be in charge of your own personal career and development. Learn to reach up and develop the relationships where tacit knowledge can be learned. You won’t find this in your job description, handbook, or policy manual. Learning from someone else’s experience is worth much but costs little.

Since others are avoiding them, that will definitely get noticed! It’s a no-lose situation. You will be challenged and learning will increase. People will sing your praises. You show you’re not afraid to get in the trench and do what’s best for the team. And remember that people don’t promote what they don’t notice!

This could be a work group that is taking on a special assignment. It will get you outside of your typical work role and expose you to new challenges. But the exposure doesn’t stop there! Others have gifts, skills, and strengths that you don’t possess, or at least have not developed until this point. And since everyone shares in the work, you will be more likely to succeed. And since most assignments are high-profile and come from the top, your chances of being noticed are greater.

A lot of companies offer these. They might even be incentivized. If it’s after hours, do it anyway. Don’t waste your time on the ineffective ones. Do your research. How do you spot the good ones from the mediocre ones?…

…More on that later.

J.P. Kotter, Force For Change: How Leadership Differs from Management

(Kotter surveyed two hundred executives at highly successful companies and interviewed twelve individuals in depth. Early in their careers they had opportunities to take risks and to learn from their successes and failures. He identified several things as important developmental opportunities. We’ve picked five that seem especially relevant.)