There’s no such thing as a ‘natural leader’

One of the discussions that has surrounded the concept of leadership for many years essentially boils down to a ‘nature vs nurture’ debate. Some believe leaders are born charismatic and able to convince others to do what they want. Others believe leadership is a complex and interwoven skillset of learned behaviours that give the individual the ability to eventually lead others.

Whilst some see leaders as simply charismatic, confident speakers, the truth is that strong leadership requires a vast array of skills to get the best out of people. Abilities that intertwine, such as negotiation, compromise, communication and problem solving are some of the most key capabilities. What’s fascinating is that you can see these skills being learned at any nursery or primary school by children discovering how best to work and play together. Children naturally experiment with how to get what they want from their peers, essentially using trial and error to develop what eventually become leadership skills.

A vast array of styles

The usual list of names given as examples of great leaders often includes Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. The more the list expands, the clearer it becomes that no two leaders are the same, which means there’s no ‘one trait’ a baby is born with that predicts them being a leader.

Some young people may more easily identify the skills that translate into strong leadership, therefore making it more likely they’ll naturally transition into a leadership role, however it does mean that these abilities are learned. Furthermore, if they’re learned, they can therefore be taught.

The skills you need

Leadership isn’t all ‘smooth talking charisma’ but in leadership terms, these are actually important and are examples of a number of different skills needed. Firstly, effective communication is required – a leader must be able to explain what they want. It is also likely they’ll need to overcome objections, which means they’ll need strong listening skills. Overcoming objections isn’t a matter of simply repeating yourself, it relies on the capability to negotiate, compromise and, in some cases, develop innovative solutions to problems.

Just as no two leaders are identical, no two employees are identical, so leaders must also learn how to adapt their style to get the most out of everybody, as a one-size-fits-all approach is not a part of strong leadership.

Learning to lead

Whilst it’s clear that it is possible to learn to lead a group, taking positive steps to improve those requisite skills may not seem quite so straightforward. This is why the University of York offers a 100% online MSc in Innovation, Leadership and Management programme, to teach you the skills you need in order to be effective in a more senior role.

As all learning materials are delivered online, you have the flexibility to study in your spare time, so don’t require an extended study break away from work. As you can stay in your current job, you can keep your position and salary and get to apply what you learn to your role as you progress. There’s also the option to pay-per-module, avoiding the need for large, upfront payments and giving you the chance to obtain a prestigious Russell Group university Masters degree in a manner that suits you.

Leadership is a learned capability that doesn’t require being blessed at birth with one particular trait, and there are as many leadership styles as there are leaders – but there’s no reason why you can’t take a jump up the career ladder by learning how to harness your own power as a leader!

Find out more and begin your application.