Leadership Is Not A Personality Trait

Andreas Svedin Blog 0 Comments

The concept of leaders being born or made speaks to the notion that leadership is a personality trait that can be evaluated or compared. Someone with “leadership skills” can become a “leader” if he/she is surrounded by “followers” who accept his/her leadership. This might have been an acceptable way to describe leadership in the past but I am uncertain that this model is useful for understanding and promoting leadership in modern organizations, projects, and companies where hierarchical structure is sometimes less important than the dynamic interaction inside complex and rapidly changing working environments.

What if there was another way to look at leadership?


Let’s define leadership as the force that creates a future for the organization that is beyond what is predictable. Now the question is where is this force located. I see leadership as an ongoing process that involves all members of the organization; with the people who do the actual work, not only with the lone hero on top. Leadership would, in this view, not be a personality trait but an emergent phenomenon. The leadership of the organization would organically shift around between the people who at any specific time are the people with the best perspective or the ones who can currently keep the commitment of the organization alive.

There are of course people who have an aptitude or talent for promoting leadership and they are an integral resource for organizations that are committed to producing unprecedented results. However leadership does not rest inside thse people, it rest inside the group.

In the classical model, the person formally responsible for the results of the group is the “leader” or “boss”. In this modern approach leaders facilitate and empower leadership within the organization. They make sure that the resources required are provided, and that the progress and challenges of different teams are being effectively communicated. In essence, leaders breed leaders.

You will know that leadership is present when your team members rely on one another and take ownership of the project. You see, it is not about the leader; every team member gets to make a difference.

When teams operate in this way, with everyone in partnership, unprecedented results become probable. And, while leadership is an emergent phenomenon and various team members can fill leadership roles, the true measure of leadership is in fact results. This is easier said than done and may sound like a paradox. It is.
Please contact us with your questions. We can walk you through it with your specific circumstances in mind, making this a vision of leadership that is real for you.

“To lead people, walk beside them … As for the best leaders, thepeople do not notice their existence. […] When the best leader’s work
is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!’” – Lao-Tsu

Edited by Meg Buck and Paul Greiner

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