You Are Not a Natural Leader

You are not a natural leader.

You are not an adaptive leader or a leader by circumstance.

You are not a leader because your father or mother was a leader. Or because you were in the Army or Marines.

You are not a leader because you got a Harvard MBA, read some books, listen to some podcasts, or attend some seminars.

You are not a leader because your boss said so, you started a company, or even because your title says “Team Leader.”

You are a leader only by choice.

This Penguin is not a natural leader - he chose to b

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Great leaders are not born. Great leaders are not made. Great leaders are not taught, trained, appointed, or promoted into leadership.

Most bosses and “team leaders” are not leaders. They never choose to be.

They say:

  • Let’s meet our quota
  • We need to reduce turnover. 
  • I think we can cut costs by 10%.
  • I hope I get a raise.
  • I hope I get promoted.
  • When will management ______?

They never choose to lead.

Most parents are not leaders. They never choose to be.

They say:

  • The world today is so ______.
  • My children are not so bad.
  • But my parents never _____.
  • This is all I know.
  • I’m just trying to make it.
  • When will the schools ______?
  • I hope my children are not like me, but what can I do?
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Meet the quota, make minimal impact, blame society, aim for average, continue the cycle, hope for change, but do nothing to bring it. That is what most people do. They assume that leaders are born:

  • Bold
  • Energetic
  • Intelligent and well-spoken
  • Quick-thinking

Most people think these traits are natural and therefore elusive to the masses. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Great leaders choose to be great. Great leaders choose to:

  • Destroy the quota.
  • Change the world.
  • Blame no one.
  • Break destructive cycles and patterns. (In themselves, their family, and organizations)
  • Make change happen.
  • Step out of their comfort zone.
  • Be bold and energetic.
  • Continually learn and practice.

They choose to be great.

What choices can you make today to be a great leader?

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  • CabinetDoork

    Thanks Matt…. for making the choice to be great, for encouraging and inspiring others to be great, and for recognizing that it is choice.

    thought –> belief –> choice –> habit –> path –> destination #RespectTheProcess #NoShortcuts

  • I agree that we become leaders by choice. I haven’t really chosen to be a leader in the traditional sense of leadership. I’ve chosen to lead through story and song. It’s a longer process, but I think it may have more influence in the long run.

    • There are hundreds of ways to lead. Sadly, some celebrities are “leaders” today in that they lead the culture in the wrong way. But you can do it in a positive way!

  • Thanks Matt. I needed to read this today.

  • Steve Pate

    I agree with Lily there, I needed to read this today! It’s been a rough morning already, but I make the choice to lead and do it with integrity! Keep killing it Matt

  • Oooh, good post, my friend. good post.

    I think the biggest thing to becoming a leader, is acting like you’re already leading.
    Act like people are following. Act like what you’re doing matters…because it does. And if you act that way, people will start to look at you like a leader.

  • Great post Matt. You are so right. You have to make hard choices, but it pays off in the end. And it’s never easy – but it’s so worth it. Thanks!

  • lulu

    Hmmm…I think leaders are made, by God. We then may choose to follow His will in this area, or not. Often leadership is thrust on you. You may be the only one in the room with the creativity, get done attitude, and aptitude to motivate. Sometimes you just have to “get ‘er done” because no one else is – and life is short :-). I truly believe genuine leadership is a gift from God. I also feel you can learn to be a better leader (thus all the courses and seminars). I also believe that your leadership is motivated by the company you keep and your family. “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”. W. Shakespeare. Substitute leadership for greatness and you get the idea.

  • Matt, I have to tell you that this past week, I implemented your one-on-one strategy. I’m exhausted, but I’m also excited about what is to come. This is one of the choices I am making today to become a great leader. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • I love it Jon! Give them time and they will rock your world.

      By the way, I am considering writing a book on one-on-ones. Interested in sharing how it goes?

      • Of course. Give me a little more time to digest what is happening here with mine, and I’ll be glad to give you some feedback that you could probably use.

      • Wade_Thorson

        You know I didn’t relealize how important the one-to-one meetings were until I had a change in managers and the new one has a tough time making the call. You develop a very good relationship during those times when you allow the employee to speak, and as a leader you ask personal questions and not just business questions.

  • You can see the victim mentality in the first list and a visionary perspective in the second. I also agree many people don’t choose to lead – but are leading because there are people following them. Sometimes you are leader by default – because others are looking for you to lead – take advantage of those instances and make a difference.

  • Wade_Thorson

    I will choose to lead with integrity and model what I want my team members to be doing. Just like your kids model what you do as a parent, your team members do the same thing.

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  • CheryGegelman

    GREAT Post Matt! I love the list at the beginning of the post about what does not make a great leader and the inspiration at the end of the post about the simple choices we can all make to lead! I shared everywhere!

  • Artika Tyner

    Matt, thank you for sharing these insights on leadership. As a civil
    rights professor, I have made the choice to inspire the next generation
    of lawyers to lead in the process of social change by serving as
    gatekeepers of justice and servant leaders. My hope is that my
    leadership curriculum: “Planting People, Growing Justice” will prepare
    my students to leverage their legal skills in the pursuit of equal
    justice under the law.

    • What an awesome choice you made Artika.

      I am sure you are familiar with the Troy Davis case then? I just watched a story about him yesterday. I pray that his legacy will teach the next generation to fight for exactly what you are fighting for. Keep it up!