Leaders aren’t born, they are made!

Vince Lombardi

“Leaders aren’t born. They are made!” – before we start, I need to give credit where credit is due to the great NFL coach Vince Lombardi for this quote.

In the meantime, some psychological and behavioural characteristics we link with being a leader can be found early. If you are a parent, probably you have the chance to see for yourself. I know I did. I have two sons. They are very different, and both have shown leadership traits.

Does this mean that that quote is wrong?

All of us have two personalities – a natural and an adapted one. If some are almost natural-born leaders, everyone can work hard to adjust and learn how to be a leader. I would love to re-write that sentence, but I need to provide you with additional thought first.

Although both have leadership traits, I see two different types of leaders when I look at my two sons. Yes, to be a leader is not a blueprint that you copycat and replicate all the same way because you have several possible blueprints to follow.

You can be an Authoritarian Leader, using a more directive approach to leadership. You dictate what needs to be done, how it should be done and basically, it will resolve into “my way or the highway” approach.

Or you can be more democratic, a more Participative Leader. You have a strong sense of working with your people, and you want them to be involved and participate in the decision-making process.

You can have a more delegative approach to leadership. You will be a Laissez-faire Leader. On the opposite side of micro-management, you will be completely hands-off. You provide your people with the necessary tools and resources and leave everything else to them.

You can be a Transactional Leader with a “rewards and penalties” approach to leadership. You will set clearly defined expectations, and everyone will know what happens if they make or break it.

If innovation and status quo change are what you have in mind, you would be a Transformational Leader.

“To serve”. There is a leadership style with the only mindset of “serving” the people. And while serving, you will provide what people need to grow and develop to become better. You will supply what they need, not what they want. You are not an “attendant” of their daydreams or desires. In this sense, you would be a Servant Leader. 

You can be a Bureaucratic Leader where you use a set list of rules and systems to manage your people or any decision-making—most like a coach using the playbook to decide the next play on the Super Bowl game.

You can also be a Charismatic Leader who uses charisma to navigate and convince the decision-making.

As you see, when we say someone “has leadership traits”, in which leadership style do they fit?

For a long time, I thought of myself as a servant-leader. I’ve been studying that leadership style since 2008. And I like the approach of having a healthy attitude towards my teams. I want my managers to grow, improve, and become better persons and professionals. Like what a parent wants for their children.

During my career, I had several teams to lead. And I did make a near-fatal mistake. Looking back, I can see that I was using a bureaucratic approach because I wanted to apply the Servant leadership style to every team. It’s almost like the coach with a playbook that worked OK in team A, and when he switches teams, he does not change any play for the new team’s roster. It is a “one size fits all” shoe.

I can feel you cringe.

Probably the most significant trait a leader may have is adaptability

A leader should adapt their leadership style accordingly to the moment of the team or the moment the company is having. If the team’s roster changes, the playbook should change as well. It is inevitably.

After that insight, I had the chance to implement different leadership styles. For instance, if I have a new team manager, I will probably need to be more directive to help them focus on what to do next while teaching the importance of that decision. However, this approach would be wrong if I had a seasoned manager leading that team. Maybe a more laissez-faire approach would bring fantastic results.

You see, to be a true leader is a forever-long study process. Indeed it would help if you tried to learn all leadership styles. Some may go well or not with your personality, but you should know them.

And remember, a leader adapts to their reality. Because a leader isn’t born, a leader is made!

Yours truly,

Ricardo Castelhano