The question of whether effective business leadership can be learned remains a contested debate. Many individuals believe that business leaders are born. While this might be somewhat true, it is imperative to understand that effective business leadership can be learned. Many people fail to lead due to the perception that successful leaders must have unique leadership chromosomes. People with this perception only think of leaders as persons who have done extraordinary things.
They think of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Nightingale, and Winston Churchill. In the business world, people think of leaders that actively encourage unsavory reputation and publicity like Donald Trump, Jack Welch, and Lee Iacocca. Therefore, many people believe that effective business leadership entails having a charismatic personality and high profile. Effective business leaders are products of “a never-ending process of skill and character development.1” Effective business leaders grow through a series of continual learning about their careers, relationships, and personalities. Any person with unwavering desire to develop their skills can learn effective business leadership.
Skills of a Good Business Leader
Any person can develop leadership skills. The primary challenge to developing leadership skills is the notion that persons without particular chromosomes cannot be leaders. Some people learn business leadership skills at an early age. However, this does not mean that one cannot learn leadership skills at a later age. To appreciate that effective business leadership can be learned, it is imperative to understand the skills of a good business leader. One of the primary skills of a good business leader is that they never stop learning. One mistake that many people make is being complacent. Some individuals remain in a post for a long time and think that they understand everything about the positions. It does not mean that one should not feel skilled in their job. The problem is that feeling “competent may lead to one being complacent, therefore not becoming an effective leader.2” For one to learn effective business leadership, they need always to look at their roles in new ways.
An effective business leader is a good listener and talker. An effective leader understands the importance of communication. One can always learn new things by communicating and listening to the coworkers. For instance, “a manager may gain knowledge of a company-wide challenge by collaborating with employees.3 Additionally, a leader may acquire leadership skills by discussing with employees how to handle particular tasks. Being a follower is another critical skill of an effective business leader. It does not denote that once you become a leader, you cannot learn something from your juniors. Spending time with employees from different departments gives leaders an excellent opportunity to learn various skills.
Business Leadership can be Learned
Every individual possesses leadership skills. Nevertheless, some people may not have meticulous leadership skills to manage specific departments, organizations, groups, industries or businesses. The world history comprises numerous examples of business leaders who acquired leadership skills through learning. Leadership skills are “learned under the auspices of a culture, and the learning process starts as the children are growing up.4”
In the family context, the parents act as leaders. The children learn the fundamental business leadership skills from the parents. They observe how the parents manage the family business and later build on the skills when they start their businesses. In other words, children are not necessarily born with business leadership skills. However, they learn the skills from their parents. In the same way, a person can learn effective business leadership by working in business organizations or interacting with persons with trade shrewdness. The learned skills can help an individual to succeed in running an enterprise once they assume leadership roles.
Life offers people an opportunity to learn new things on daily basis. Every day comes with a new learning opportunity. One can learn effective business leadership by reflecting on their achievements and failures or studying how the businessmen conduct themselves. The trick to “effective business leadership is making time for the hard work that continual learning requires.5” People can learn effective leadership by updating themselves about what is taking place in the business world. Besides, one can learn business leadership skills by taking the time to analyze the internal and external factors that affect a business. Learning effective business leadership requires the ability to have a stance on things. Business leadership entails a learning process. What motivates a particular group of employees many not necessarily persuade all workers. Thus, a leader learns the leadership skills by interacting with the subordinates and getting their feedback.
Numerous books give details on how one can become an active leader in the business world. Besides, various leadership theories teach on how to be a successful businessperson. “Studying these ideas and books may help one to acquire knowledge in effective leadership.6” However, the most efficient way to learn effective business leadership is by emulating renowned leaders. One can learn business leadership skills by identifying the qualities that renowned leaders possess.
Further, an individual can quickly learn effective business leadership through working under a person that they consider to be an effective leader. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of an effective leader can go a long way towards bequeathing a person with business leadership skills. In other words, people can learn business leadership skills by analyzing the achievements and failures of their leaders.
In life, people do not always “get a chance to choose the role they play, but they decide how to play it.7” This mantra can help individuals to acquire business leadership skills regardless of their experience. Good leaders trail a demanding and infinite course of learning that requires them to maintain an open mind. People can learn business leadership skills by shunning their ego and working with all kinds of employees. Domination and control have no place in the present business environment. Hierarchical thinking is a fundamental impediment to learning effective leadership skills. It denies a person the chance to learn from others who might be below them in the hierarchy.
The journey to effective leadership begins at a personal reflection level. The literature reveals “many advocates of reflective practice, from learning theorists to leadership scholars.8” One can learn effective business leadership through personal reflection. Personal reflection kindles self-discovery in a career life. Additionally, it enables one to develop the perceptions that lead to a holistic appreciation of questionable circumstances by encouraging a person to query and even change personal postulations. Personal reflection helps to develop ethical and moral responsibilities that are core to effective business leadership. Research has confirmed that through reflection, a person can acquire emotional astuteness and in due course leadership skills. Personal reflection “promotes universal patterns of thinking that are core to effective leadership.9” Consequently, it may help one to acquire business leadership skills, particularly in a work-based learning environment.
Business leadership constitutes “high self-awareness and emotional and social intelligence.10” A good leader is one that understands their weaknesses and strengths and is familiar with the emotional needs of the employees. Leaders that have emotional and social intelligence are skillful at exploiting the behavioral cues of the employees. They use the signs to determine the emotional needs and moods of the employees and react accordingly. There is no doubt that some individuals naturally possess emotional and social intelligence as well as high self-consciousness.
However, it does not mean that those who do not possess the attributes are disadvantaged. One can acquire the traits through contact with “instruments like the DISC Behavioral Styles framework.11” The framework gives individuals ideas about their ideal character traits and behavioral styles. Therefore, it leaves people in a better position to enhance their leadership skills. Once a leader understands their strengths and weaknesses, they can work towards improving their business leadership capabilities by leveraging the strengths and moderating the weaknesses.
Effective business leadership is a skill and not an innate character. The perception that one is in a leadership position because of their inherent qualities may be unfortunate. The thought of a hereditary leader is a practical joke. A person cannot be an effective business leader without a professional knowledge of the company. One can learn business leadership skills through support, training, and experience. Research proves that the most effective leaders are those with a clear knowledge of the primary goals of the organization. Nevertheless, being a professional alone does not constitute an effective business leader. One must possess management and leadership skills to be an effective leader. “The natural personality is not enough to make one a business leader.12”
An individual can learn business leadership skills by enrolling for management courses. Besides, one can acquire leadership skills through mentorship programs or accumulation of experience. Being a successful business leader is not a one-time issue. It takes time to become an effective leader. A person can learn business leadership abilities through practice. Practicing leadership skills enables an individual to be dynamic at any level of their profession in spite of the nature of the organization. Enrolling in business and leadership courses can go a long way towards helping one to become an effective leader.
A majority of the successful business leaders claim that they were not born as managers. Many argue that they learned how to lead. They never woke up one day and decided to lead. Instead, “one person instilled in them the desire to lead.13” Many leaders hold that they learned the leadership skills through taking risks. They were keen to take risks in areas that many workers were reluctant to try. One can learn effective business leadership abilities by volunteering to do hard and at times challenging assignments. Additionally, one can learn business leadership skills through performance. For one to become a business leader, they have to demonstrate superior performance. Superior performance acts as a stage from which leaders can enhance their skills. It also nurtures self-confidence that enables one to gain leadership skills.
No one is born as a business leader. Anyone can learn effective business leadership skills as long as they are determined to be a leader. For one to be an effective leader, they have to exhibit several skills. A person has to be open to learning. Additionally, one has to be good at listening and communicating. The perception that successful business leaders are born with particular leadership chromosomes is unrealistic. One can learn effective business leadership skills through interacting with employees from different departments. Besides, a person can learn business leadership abilities by reflecting on failures and achievements. Understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses serves as the starting point of a journey to effective business leadership. People can learn effective business leadership through mentorship programs.
Avolio, Bruce and William Gardner. “Authentic Leadership Development: Getting to the Root of Positive Forms of Leadership.” The Leadership Quarterly 16.1 (2005): 315-338. Print.
Brown, Lillas and Barry Posner. “Exploring the Relationship between Learning and Leadership.” Leadership & Organizational Development Journal 22.6 (2007): 274-280. Print.
Day, David. “Leadership Development: A Review in Context.” Leadership Quarterly 11.4 (2006): 581-613. Print.
Doh, Jonathan. “Can Leadership be Taught? Perspectives from Management Educators.” Academy of Management Learning and Education 2.1 (2008): 54-67. Print.
Roberts, Cynthia. “Developing Future Leaders: The Role of Reflection in the Classroom.” Journal of Leadership Education 7.1 (2008): 116-126. Print.
Smith, Peter. “Action Learning and Reflective Practice in Project Environments that are Related to Leadership Development.” Management Learning 32.1 (2006): 31-48. Print.
Townsend, Christine, James Linder, and Jennifer Williams. “Teaching Leadership: Do Students Remember and Utilize the Concepts that we Teach?” Journal of Leadership Education 4.1 (2005): 62-74. Print.
- Bruce Avolio and William Gardner, “Authentic Leadership Development: Getting to the Root of Positive Forms of Leadership,” The Leadership Quarterly 16.1 (2005): 325.
- Avolio and Gardner, 329.
- Lillas Brown and Barry Posner, “Exploring the Relationship between Learning and Leadership,” Leadership & Organizational Development Journal 22.6 (2007): 275.
- Brown and Posner, 278.
- Brown and Posner, 280.
- David Day, “Leadership Development: A Review in Context,” Leadership Quarterly 11.4 (2006): 583.
- Day, 589.
- Cynthia Roberts, “Developing Future Leaders: The Role of Reflection in the Classroom,” Journal of Leadership Education 7.1 (2008): 118.
- Jonathan Doh, “Can Leadership be Taught? Perspectives from Management Educators,” Academy of Management Learning and Education 2.1 (2008): 52.
- Peter Smith, “Action Learning and Reflective Practice in Project Environments that are Related to Leadership Development,” Management Learning 32.1 (2006): 35.
- Smith, 37.
- Christine Townsend, James Linder and Jennifer Williams, “Teaching Leadership: Do Students Remember and Utilize the Concepts that we Teach?” Journal of Leadership Education 4.1 (2005): 64.
- Townsend, Linder and Williams, 68.