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Developing the Leader Within

by Gaines Taylor

Leaders aren’t truly born. There isn’t a unique leadership gene that elevates certain individuals to greatness within organizations. Actually, we’re all leaders in one way or another, whether we think so or not, because we all have an influence on others who follow our example or whom we influence. The real question you must ask yourself isn’t “am I a leader,” but “how can I become a better leader?

One secret to great leadership is that the greatest leaders are the best learners. In the book, Learning Leadership, James Kouzes and Barry Posner outline three stages of discovering who you are and in developing yourself as a leader:

  1. Looking outward - Leaders begin to develop by reading books by and about other leaders. They will be coached and mentored. They will listen to podcasts and go to seminars. They learn from experts and emulate those who came before them.

  2. Looking inward - After learning from others, a period of discovery and invention happens. This occurs when leaders look at what they know and see how what they know can be effectively applied.

  3. Finding your voice - In this final stage, leaders take everything they’ve learned, blend it together, and put their own mark or brand to it. In this way, they create their own voice, learning from masters, but now standing on their own feet instead of parroting information from others.

Leaders who invest in learning and growth not only elevate themselves but also raise up those they’re leading. Studies show that these leaders have more productive teams and have earned the trust of their teams. Show your team the leader you are; show them the work you’re doing; elevate yourself and them. Be a learner.

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