There is an entire industry debating whether leaders are born or made. Every time I come across this debate, it takes me back to the familiar saying – “a leopard cannot change its spots.” When someone makes this statement, he or she is suggesting that a person will always do the same things over and over again. The saying at times suggests that unless you are a born leader, you have a very slim chance of becoming one. It’s true that the saying frequently carries negative connotations. However, I’ve come to realize that the saying “a leopard cannot change its spots” could actually be a positive one.
While people cannot change their DNA or genetics (their spots if you will!), I believe people can change their habits, just as a leopard can adapt and change with the environment in a micro-evolutionary manner. I have seen this happen – with a ton of forethought, planning, and doing, anybody can create his or her own versions of great leaders. While people cannot change the spots they are born with, they can change their habits, given the right mentoring, leadership, environment, and levels of motivation.
Embrace your spots
Much like a leopard, we are all born with certain looks and traits – yes, spots. We may be agile (quickly jumping on opportunities), good at hunting (closing deals), or good at finding the best spots to hunt (targeting the right markets).
A lot of times, we may not like the spots we are born with, but it is absolutely necessary that we embrace them. Doing so allows us to be the best version of ourselves. Being the best version of ourselves is crucial for both survival and thriving in a dynamic environment. If the climate changes, or the market in which we compete changes, or the food source changes, or we experience something jolting that causes a shift in our outlook on life, we need to be prepared to put our best foot forward.
Choose your spots
Once we have embraced our spots for whatever they are, we need to study them more in detail. As we approach each day’s challenges, we need to know our spots. We need to work toward improving ourselves to be the best we can be despite our weak and not-so-pretty spots, and we need to help others do the same. This means understanding each one of our innate strengths or best spots and working towards amplifying these traits.
In this process of choosing our spots, we should know the habits that cause us to be less than our best. Write these down, and begin changing them. We shouldn’t work to change our spots, but to improve our habits and empower ourselves and those around us to become better everyday.
Make your best spots brighter
Not everybody is a Jack Welch, an Elon Musk, or a Warren Buffet, but we are all leading something in our own right, and our spots enable us do so. We can lead at home, we can be leaders within our particular teams at work, or we can be leaders in the way we own and execute tasks. In my case, I have been fortunate enough to lead four companies to date. Leadership roles don’t fall into lap because you are a born leader – it happens when we consciously work on making our best spots brighter.
I believe that people are both born leaders and need to work consciously to become good leaders. Being a born leader does not indicate that you will successfully become a great leader as the years roll by. What is indicative of being a great leader is how we choose to live with our spots, embrace them, and make the best spots brighter everyday. True, a leopard cannot change its spots, and this is a good thing.
Edwin has authored 9Lenses Insight to Action:A Social Approach to Business Optimization and Snapshot9 What’s Your Picture?:Accelerate Your Business Performance. Click here to download the first chapter of 9Lenses Insight to Action for free!