Do you see yourself as a leader? Some people have leadership thrust upon them. Others seek it out. But in either (or any case), author and leadership expert Paul Okum believes that leadership talent is an innate ability, something some people are simply born with. Is it in you? Whether you’re an intern or a full-time employee in your first post-grad job, if you feel that itch to take charge, but maybe haven’t had to courage to take the next steps, take a look at the quiz below to see if you have innate leadership abilities.
For generations, leadership scholars, gurus, and authors of a multitude of leadership books have proclaimed that with training and a personal desire and commitment, anyone can be made into a leader. We’ve attempted to put leadership under the microscope and define the profile of a leader and the recipe or formula that when followed will replicate good leaders. In reality, a multitude of factors may catalyze a leader—not the least of which is an innate ability to lead.
Good leadership is not the result of applying a formula found in a book; it’s an art form where leaders can tap into their personal reservoir of talent to generate a level of creativity that science cannot define or measure.
Although there are no full-proof formulas or rules to follow in identifying leaders with innate talent, the following set of questions can be used as a starting point in assessing one’s own innate leadership talent:
1. What is your primary motive for wanting to be in a leadership position?
A. The increase in salary and prestige associated with being promoted into a leadership position.
B. The determination to accomplish the organization’s assigned mission and develop a strong workforce.
C. The deep satisfaction of obtaining an important personal career goal.
2. How would you define leadership?
A. Leadership is focused on organizing, overseeing, and controlling work to be performed.
B. Leadership is a science that can be synthesized into formulas and principles to follow for success.
C. Leadership can’t be defined because it is an art.
3. What is the primary cause of poor performance and mission failure?
A. An inadequately trained and equipped workforce.
B. A weak organization structure and insufficient standard operating procedures.
C. Poor leadership.
4. As a leader, what is the most important method of communication with your employees?
A. A leader’s personal conduct and behavior.
B. Formal recurring performance discussions and career counseling.
C. Frequent use of informational e-mails and periodic employee meetings.
5. How should a leader react to feedback and criticism regarding his or her leadership ability?
A. Analyze the mechanics of gathering the information to determine the validity of the information.
B. Defend your actions to your workforce so that they understand your motives and behavior.
C. Objectively analyze your own actions as they relate to the criticism and adjust as needed.
6. What would you do if as a leader, you made an embarrassing mistake that impacted your organization?
A. Express regret for the mistake, but do not apologize because that will make you appear weak.
B. Accept responsibility for the mistake and apologize.
C. Admit you could have handled the situation better and then move on with business.
7. What is the single most difficult aspect of leadership?
A. Dealing with problem employees who are exhibiting unacceptable behavior or performance.
B. Making quality selections for key leadership positions.
C. Motivating employees to maintain superior performance and achieve the organization’s goals.
Question #1. Answer: B. “The desire to accomplish the organization’s assigned mission and develop a strong workforce.”
A born leader is selfless and driven by a deep sense of commitment to doing the right thing for his or her organization and employees.
Question #2. Answer: C. “Leadership can’t be defined because it is an art.”
Born leaders recognize that leadership cannot be distilled into some formula that will replicate leaders in mass. As an art form, there is no universal recipe for a born leader. Each one is unique and can be recognized but not defined.
Question #3. Answer: C. “Poor leadership.”
At the end of the day, the leader is ultimately responsible for the actions, decisions, behavior, and performance of his organization and workforce. A born leader embraces this responsibility and understands that it cannot be delegated or transferred.
Question #4. Answer: A. “A leader’s personal conduct and behavior.”
Born leaders recognize that while their words are important, modeling those words is paramount. Every day is an opportunity for born leaders to tutor employees on the conduct and performance they expect from themselves and from their employees.
Question #5. Answer: C. “Objectively analyze your actions as they relate to the criticism and adjust as needed.”
Born leaders understand that they are not perfect. They accept the criticism at face value, and incorporate it into their on-going efforts to become better leaders.
Question #6. Answer: B. “Accept responsibility for the mistake and apologize.”
Born leaders realize that they are not infallible and that being honest by admitting a mistake builds respect and trust with their employees.
Question #7. Answer: A. “Dealing with problem employees who are exhibiting unacceptable behavior or performance.”
A born leader will quickly confront problem employees and either corrects the problem through counseling or initiates appropriate discipline to include removal. Born leaders will not shrink from this task because they realize that to procrastinate will negatively impact other employees and the ability to accomplish the organization’s mission.
If your answers matched the designated answers, then you should further explore the possibility that you possess innate leadership talent—that you are a born leader. Seek out every opportunity to demonstrate to yourself and others that you in fact have innate leadership talent. In this effort understand that leadership is an art form and as with any art, there are no formulas or one right path to follow; that leadership training can enhance the innate leadership talent you possess, but it cannot give you more than you were born with; and that you must personally forge this leadership talent from within yourself—no one can do it for you. You can seek out a leader you admire as a mentor or coach but be thoughtful in choosing someone worth emulating. Leadership is not a job; it’s a calling. If you have innate leadership talent, it will find a way to express itself in your actions and words. In the final analysis, the only true way to know if a person has innate leadership talent is by placing the person in a leadership position and observing how she or he deals with the stress and challenges of leadership.
If your answers lead you to believe that you do not possess innate leadership talent, remember we are all born with a unique set of talents and a large part of our lives is spent discovering what talents we have and to what degree we possess them. The more you can align your life and career with your talents, the more you will be doing something you were born to do—something that we were meant to do.
You can further explore the tenets in these questions and answers, as well as other indicators of innate leadership talent, in my book, Leadership DNA.