One of the leaders I enjoy following is Jack Welch. More often than not, he and his wife Suzy offer insights into leadership few others have experienced. Over the years, there have been very few insights I felt wouldn’t serve me well in product management.
A few weeks back, the Welch’s posted an article titled Are Leaders Born or Made? Here’s What’s Coachable — and What’s Definitely Not. While I’ll encourage you to read the article for yourself, the closing statement is a great summary:
So are leaders born or made? The answer (perhaps not surprisingly) is both. Your best strategy, then, is to hire for energy, the ability to energize, and passion. Go full force in training and developing edge and execution. Promote the people who have a good dose of all five traits. Always remember, though, that not everyone was meant to be a leader. But as long as you are one yourself – it’s your job to find and build those who were.
Sound advice from my perspective. So it was interesting to see a follow-on article Why people ‘with leadership traits’ don’t become leaders. Waiting for that other half of the article show up a few weeks later challenging the Welch’s viewpoint.
It was the title that caught my attention, because I have personally experienced talented individuals who exhibit leadership traits and yet who fail in becoming leaders. I enjoyed the counter-perspective, especially one of the assertions Dr. Herrero makes about another five traits beyond those mentioned in the Welch article: clear communication of vision, ability to bring others along, servant leadership, humility, and ability to learn and change gears quickly. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years in exploring this topic, there is no shortage of lists on the subject of leadership (check out a previous post for more).
Again, I encourage to read the article for yourself, but where I disagree with some of Dr. Herrero’s other assertions is in the difference between ‘causation’ and ‘correlation’. Consider these definitions:
Correlation is the relationship between two sets of variables used to describe or predict information. There is an emphasis here on relationship. Sometimes we can use correlation to find causality, but not always.
Causation, also known as cause and effect, is when an observed event or action appears to have caused a second event or action.
Essentially, I do not believe having any particular leadership trait(s) necessarily causes someone to become a leader. There certainly is a correlation, but there are so many other factors that must be taken into consideration.