Defining what a leader is and if leaders are born or made seems to be one of the biggest leadership questions still to this date. I admit, I like to expend some bandwidth to these questions every now and then, but the answers really don’t matter. If we are born leaders, we still have to develop our skills. And the definition of what a leader is will evolve as you develop. Therefore whether someone is an all-natural leader is a moot point. In fact, according to Peter Drucker’s research, going all-natural at work does not work. He says, “Only three things happen naturally in an organization: friction, confusion, and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.” Therefore we can’t be “natural” leaders if we want to have success with our teams.
I have found this to be true with every team I have ever been a part of. Think of the last time you and a a few others were given very little direction and told to get something done. I remember a time like this when we were doing a squadron cleaning day. Four of us were sent over to straighten up a storage area in the back of an aircraft hangar. We all saw the mess and knew a lot of work needed to be done, but we just stared at the mess and made small talk. We sorted through a few things out of curiosity, but no progress was made until a leader stepped forward. I bet you have had a similar experience and there was a lot of confusion and underperformance until someone took the reigns.
It is not natural to step out as the leader; however, we have to remember that people want to be led. So how do you step up without looking like “that” guy? I would suggest deconstructing Peter Drucker’s quote for the answer.
1) Start with clarifying the objective. Remove the fog of confusion by clarifying why you are all there. In the case above, “Sgt Zimbabwe wanted us to organize all of this. Any ideas on what we can toss and what we need to keep?”
2) Divide and conquer to overcome underperformance. Encourage buy-in by getting your team to choose their poison. “Sgt Sparkleberry, you suggested sorting through all of the hardware, will you tackle that?” This goes back to the old CPR training where we are taught to point to a specific person, “You. Go call 9-1-1.” Same thing on a project. Everyone needs to know what their role is.
3) Communication and discussion smooth friction. You will experience friction. Sgt Hasselhoff is going to think there is a better way or is upset about his task. Address the issue and discuss it. Don’t let dissent linger, get ahead of it. The earlier you deal with friction, the easier it is and the faster the team gets back on track.
Being a natural is not always a good thing, but knowing how things naturally work will allow you to succeed in any leadership role.