Standing On Top

No man can stand on top because he is put there.
— H. H. Vreeland

Experience, especially leadership experience, can’t be rushed.  Just as a fine wine matures over time, becoming a leader can also only be done over time.  Rushing either often produces an inferior, unpalatable, product.

The art of being a leader (I use the term art as there most certainly is no science that can define all the qualities of a leader) is dependent upon one’s experiences.  Yes, we’ve all heard the term, and may have even seen, a “natural-born leader” but even those leaders rely on their personal and professional experiences.  They are only born with the potential to be a great leader.

Being placed in to a leadership role, or worse, assuming a leadership role, without the experience necessary to support one’s decisions is a recipe for failure.

Many years ago I worked for a computer integrator whose “National Sales Manager” knew little about computers, little about customer service, and even less about leading a team.  He would often change the rules regarding sales territories and referrals based on how it would benefit himself the most.  Needless to say he was universally disliked and no one respected him.

How did he garner the position of National Sales Manager?  Over time, all of the other sales people left the company leaving him as the only sales person.  Naturally, he granted himself to the title of National Sales Manager never having managed anyone or anything before.  He was simply the last sales person left at the company.

Many start-up companies, especially in the dot-com arena, fall prey to a similar elevation of titles.  How many “C” level people at these start-ups attained their position simply because they were the first developer hired?

Being the last person standing, or the first person in, doesn’t make someone a leader any more than being the most senior or tallest member of an organization.

A leader must understand the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness.  He or she must be able to develop and articulate their vision of the future.  They must be open to new and different ideas.  They ask “what if” rather than dictate “what is.”  A true leader operates with integrity and humility.

Each of these qualities are best when, like a fine wine, they are developed and nurtured over time.


~ by Marc Hedish on June 18, 2010.

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