For over thirty years I’ve believed to the core of my being that high performers are made, not born. Otherwise I would have given up long ago!
When I was a sales trainer with Culligan Water Conditioning back in the seventies I wrote a fictitious (and facetious) series of birth and death announcements making fun of the popular misconception that we’re either born talented or not. I revamped and revised the announcements along with a passionate passage outlining my argument in 1994 when I wrote Pathways to Performance.
You can read all this in my article Leaders are Made, not Born. The main point of this piece is that if we are not working hard to continually improve our leadership skills because we weren’t “born with natural talent” then we are either copping out, misinformed, or both.
Here are a few more of my articles and book excerpts continuing my strong contention that we make ourselves:
Not all learners are leaders. But the research clearly shows that the strongest leaders are continuous learners. They are self-made leaders.
Leaders are made not born. Developing our “gift” starts with a clear and constant focus on where we’re going, what we believe in, and why we exist — but it also demands persistence.
Many managers in leadership roles have stunted personal growth. We can focus on the gain of improvement, by keeping our preferred future and purpose firmly in front of us, and develop the “habit” of personal improvement.
So I was DELIGHTED to find come across the article on “The Making of an Expert” in the July-August 2007 issue of Harvard Business Review. I devoured the piece hungrily with pen furiously underlining and making notes. I quickly compiled the following excerpt from the article for a slide I’ll now be using in my leadership development and personal growth workshops:
“….based on rigorous research (from over 100 leading scientists) that looked at exceptional performance using scientific methods that are verifiable and reproducible…in a variety of domains: surgery, acting, chess, writing, computer programming, ballet, music, aviation, firefighting, and many others.
Consistently and overwhelmingly, the evidence showed that experts are always made, not born (their emphasis).
….the journey to truly superior performance is neither for the faint of heart nor for the impatient.
The development of genuine expertise requires struggle, sacrifice, and honest, often painful self-assessment.”
“The Making of an Expert,” K. Anders Ericsson, Michael J. Prietula, and Edward T. Cokely, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2007