As far back as I can remember, my mother always stressed the importance of being a leader and not a follower. She always suggested that I own every decision that I made, and not simply rely on others to think for me and/or make decisions that will ultimately affect my life, especially if those decisions of others were not conducive to my goals and/or lifestyle. I can honestly say that I have never considered myself to be a follower. The only instances I have gone with the decisions of others is when I had no choice (i.e. – as an employee), or I just harbored feelings of indifference about a particular occurrence.
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When I look at most of my friends who are in leadership positions, either at work, in their community or amongst friends and family, I do recognize similar qualities in each of them. They are go-getters, head strong, driven and self-aware. Though they may seek the counsel of others when needed, they tend to be comfortable in the decisions they make for themselves and others, whether they prove to be wise and effective decisions, or not. Additional characteristics used to describe leaders include: charismatic, energizing, knowledgeable, attractive, and well liked. As there are many terms to describe the traits of leader, I have often wondered if leaders are born or if they are made.
I personally believe leaders are both born that way, and groomed to extend those particular leadership traits.
While matriculating through grade school, high school and college, it was always easy to spot the leaders of the bunch. No matter the type of crowd one chose to associate themselves with during these years of growth, the leaders naturally stood out. Was this because God had poured a little extra confidence onto them, or because their parents started to instill the importance of self-thought and self –discipline at an early age?
According to two independent studies recently published, as it relates to leadership, nature and genetics may be assisting the most with the creation and determination of leaders. Researchers at the University College of London studied 4,000 people to decipher if a gene known as “rs4950” was present in commonly known leaders. The study found that this particular gene was actually found in a surprising number of those who held positions of power or on the supervisory level. Additionally, a study at Wake Forest also determined that leaders display different brain activity in their frontal and prefrontal lobes when compared to those who were not in leadership roles.
Despite the results of these studies suggesting that leaders are born and not made, The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) posed this question to C-level executives of companies in 53 countries. Slightly more than half (53.4%) of the top executives think leaders are made, about a fifth (19.1%) think they are born, and a little more than a quarter (28.5%) think leaders are both born and made. Both groups believe that learning from experience is important for developing leaders. Borns, however, are likely to think that organizations should be selective in who gets developmental opportunities, and offer such opportunities only to those employees judged most likely to benefit from them.
The researchers point out, though, that providing all employees access to developmental experiences, coaching, mentoring, training, and other leadership experiences can improve an organization’s leadership — whether such experiences draw out and boost the natural abilities of Borns or help Mades develop new skills.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.
Check Out This Gallery Of Books For Creative Leaders:
SHE READS: 13 Must-Read Books For Creative Leaders
1. Hey, What Are You Reading?!
Though many of us are currently of the mindset only dedicated to summer office hours, beach vacations and patio happy hours, we should not totally vacate interests pursuant to work. As most people do a majority of their personal reading while on vacation and during summer months, maintaining a reading list which can also help in your career pursuits may be just what your professional goals have ordered.
As noted in a recent Forbes.com article, here are 13 recommended publications to check out for more insight into workplace creativity, leadership, and organizational and business success.
3. 1. Julian Barling, The Science of Leadership: Lessons from Research for Organizational Leaders (Oxford University Press)
Barling, an organizational behavior professor at Canada’s Queen’s University, explores some central debates about leadership – whether leaders are born or made, the relevance of gender, the import of followership – by reference to mostly psychological research conducted over the past two decades.
4. 2. Warren Berger, A More Beautiful Question (Bloomsbury)
What if companies had mission questions rather than mission statements? Looking closely at some of our most creative organizations, including Google, IDEO and Netflix, journalist Berger (who wrote the excellent Glimmer on design thinking) describes the importance of generating a culture of inquiry and learning. The book proposes that asking the right questions might be a more fundamental skill.
5. 3. Adam Bryant, Quick and Nimble: Lessons from Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation (Times Books)
Offering consistently insightful glimpses of today’s leadership challenges & innovations, the NYTimes ‘Corner Office’ column of interviews with executives appears twice weekly. In the 2nd book drawing from his work on the column, Adam Bryant highlights lessons in innovation, change &, especially, building creative cultures. A crisp summary of current leadership practice illustrated with helpful real-life examples.
6. 4. Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies (Norton)
How are digital tech, from hardware and software to networks and data sets, fueling exponential growth & profound social & economic change? Two leading thinkers from MIT explore the forces reinventing fields as diverse as medicine, retail & transportation & having far-ranging implications for creative collaboration, business leadership & policy-making alike. The changes enable & necessitate a revamping our edu system
7. 5. Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace, Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration (Random House)
Catmull, co-founder & President of Pixar, one of the world’s most admired creative businesses, shares insights and proven techniques for harnessing talent, forming teams and structuring organizations, and producing fresh and original work. Mining his company’s illustrious production history for instructive episodes and helpful examples, they devote special attention to the sustaining creative cultures.
8. 6. Lynda Gratton, The Key: How Corporations Succeed by Solving the World’s Toughest Problem (McGraw-Hill)
Gratton has produced a fresh model for scaling impact and innovating for good. ‘The Key’ is to coordinate the latest approaches to organizational design and talent development with purpose-driven support for broader communities. The outcome, she argues, is business organizations capable of confronting and solving global problems like rampant unemployment and climate change.
9. 7. Arianna Huffington, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-being, Wisdom, and Wonder (Harmony)
Arianna Huffington fell and injured herself in 2007. Amidst a battery of medical tests and soul-searching, she came to realize that there was more to success than money and power and that she & we needed a third metric for celebrating our lives, maintaining our sense of wonder, prioritizing our relationships & remaining compassionate & generous. She produced a manifesto for redefining well-being, work and success.
10. 8. Keith Reinhard, Any Wednesday (Any Wednesday)
An original Mad Man, Reinhard was an advertising creative legend before orchestrating the merger that formed Omnicom and becoming the CEO of DDB Worldwide. For more than two decades, he penned brief weekly memos filled with wit, wisdom and advice to all his employees. This collection of 104 of those pieces both shares some of his favorite insights for inspiring creative excellence.
11. 9. Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t (Portfolio)
Sinek is the perceptive, best-selling author of Start with Why (your company exists and should be meaningful to your customers and society…). Here, he turns to the crucial questions of how leaders can foster and support safety, trust and cooperation inside that organization as well as greater kinship with customers.
12. 10. Biz Stone, Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind (Hachette)
The co-founder of Twitter offers a creative memoir of his career in Silicon Valley (thus far), starting at Google, helping to pioneer both blogging and podcasting, and then launching the social media platform. In the process, he explores the nature and potential of ingenuity and imagination, reflecting through his personal experience on vulnerability, failure, empathy, ambition, collaboration, and creative culture.
13. 11. Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (Viking)
The authors of the invaluable Difficult Conversations take on an equally challenging aspect of work and life in this new volume: how (well) do we receive feedback? Extending some of the principles of their earlier work to being less defensive and building richer relationships to engaging the feedback of others, Stone and Heen also show how to gather and process honest insights about oneself.
14. 12. Robert Sutton and Hayagreeva Rao, Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less (Crown Business)
This is a major work based on a decade’s research by two Stanford professors on the pervasive challenge of spreading and multiplying success in organizations. Looking across industries, and from small start-ups hoping to grow to mature large firms seeking to avoid stagnation, Sutton and Rao offer insights and proven practices for ‘scaling up’ farther, faster, and more effectively.
15. 13. Barry Wacksman and Chris Stutzman, Connected by Design: Seven Principles of Business Transformation (Jossey-Bass)
R/GA is one of the world’s most consistently successful creative digital agencies. Wacksman, its Chief Growth Officer, describes how the agency has been a pioneer in helping develop new business models featuring highly interactive eco-systems of interrelated products, digital services, brand loyalty and continuous customer engagement.