You have probably heard the term “natural born leader” before. It seems to be used to describe someone with charisma, someone who is more outspoken or is maybe a great storyteller. A person who seems to have some intangible trait that is difficult to even name.
Although this seems to be conventional wisdom, I don’t believe there is such a thing as a natural born leader so I was thrilled when I read A Big Fat Leadership Myth by Doug Conant. Doug was the CEO and Chairman of Campbell Soup from 2001 to 2011. He is currently the non-executive Chairman of Avon and sits on the Board of AmerisourceBergen Company. This is only a small portion of his professional achievements.
I’ve been following Doug for a while now and have gained a lot of respect for him because of how much he stresses the soft skills as being critical to great leadership. He and I are in agreement that the soft stuff is really the hard stuff. His latest book, Touchpoints, stresses the importance of authenticity, communication, understanding and building caring relationships with your team, among other things.
Doug’s post argues that great leaders are made because they spend their lives pursing it. They have a deep sense of inquiry, want to learn and view mastery as a quest or journey. They view leadership as a craft.
How To Become a Master Craftsperson
Like members of medieval guilds, leaders become master craftspeople by embracing the journey and going through the steps of apprentice, journeyman and master.
1. Find a Master
Masters were highly skilled and well respected by others. It is best to seek out people who want to teach and who care that you learn. Although self-study is important, we learn best with others and by observing masters, just like in the guilds.
2. Embrace the role of humble Apprentice
The apprentice who makes it all the way through to Master is humble and is willing to pay his dues. Nothing is beneath him. But he is also persistent and pushes through mistakes.
3. The long middle of the Journeyman
Journeymen had some skill and were entitled to earn a salary, but they had to create a masterpiece to become a Master. Journeymen are willing to invest their own time and money to master the craft. It is that important to them.
4. Mastery is not a destination
The Master has shown he can make something spectacular, once. But to stay a Master and earn a living, he has to do it over and over again. There is no arriving. A critical part of the Master’s job is also to teach and bring others along from Apprentice, to Journeyman and to Master. Create more Masters, grow more leaders.
Embracing the long journey is easier said than done but it is more than likely the way to become a master. Making mistakes is also part of it, at every level, and there is no hiding from them. The important thing is to get out there and start working on the craft and never stop learning.
- Article: A Big Fat Leadership Myth
- Article: How to Become a Leader Before You are One
- Article: The Secret Morning Fuel of High Performing Leaders
- Article: Feedback
- Podcast: Boost Your Communication Skills
- Podcast: Continuous Improvement For Leaders
- Podcast: Investing In Your Leadership Development
- Book: Touchpoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments, Doug Conant
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