Myth #1: “Leaders Are Born, Not Made”

What makes a good leader?  Most leaders think they are good leaders but the real test is what those they lead think.

Read and connect with your clients better

Mentor – Mark Oliver

  • We can all improve – even genius is not genetic!
  • Leadership is about understanding others’ motivations.
  • You can only understand others’ motivations to the extent you understand your own.

Marketing Monday – You can’t sell a secret.  Here is how to explain that to a seller.


Kevin: Our guest mentor this week is Mark Oliver. Mark has written a really interesting book on Motivational Leadership. And it digs into the 10 myths that managers must debunk to avoid being disengaged, and having unproductive people working for them. Relates very well to our industry, to real estate.

Kevin: Myth number one is leaders are born, not made. This is a conversation we’ve had a number of times in the shows. Mark joins me to talk about that this morning. Good morning Mark!

Mark: Good morning and G’day Kevin.

Kevin: Yeah, well thank you Mark. Thank you very much for joining us this week. You say leaders are not born, sorry, leaders are born not made. Is that a fact?

Mark: Yeah, that’s what I call myth number one and the evidence is despite many people trying to push the idea that leaders are born, and people can’t become good leaders or are naturally good leaders and that’s it, the evidence is markedly to the contrary, and all of us can become better leaders.

Kevin: But most people, leaders think they are good leaders.

Mark: I think, actually a lot of leaders think that and of course we come to the definition of leadership, what is a leader? And some people define a leader and a manager or some hierarchical position as the same. Some people would say they’re different. If I was to cut to the chase, I’d say a leader and a manager as such are different in terms of the way they behave, the sort of characteristics.

Mark: Trying not to be too technical Kevin, if you look at entomology the study of words, management comes from the Latin word, manus. It’s to do with handling. It’s about handling things. It’s the same root as manipulation.

Mark: Leadership comes from a very root, it’s much less clear which of the three or four alternatives it is, but if you take the Indo-European route, it’s about going forth and dying. It’s about self-sacrifice. Not so much the dying bit, but it was about sacrificing doing things for other people.

Kevin: Yeah, ’cause we’ve heard of the term natural born leaders and that’s lead to that understanding that leaders are born, but it’s obviously a learned skill. I guess that’s a sign of a good leader is that they’re always willing to learn, Mark.

Mark: I’d agree Kevin, and I guess there are a couple of things that I’d use to emphasise a point that they’re not born. I was in the British Military in a previous life and if anybody’s gonna believe that leaders are born, not made, it’s the British Army and they gave that up 100 years ago. It’s true that some will start slightly ahead of others, in terms or behind others in terms of leadership ability, but what has by far the biggest impact is, how much we develop our leadership, and that far out-stretched any natural ability we start with.

Kevin: Well then in that case why has leadership development been so flawed over the years, Mark?

Mark: Well, I think you’re right it has been flawed. Of course a huge amount of money has been put into it. According to some reports by McKinsey, it’s about $50 billion a year corporations spend on leadership training and other ones look at, sort of similar sort of figures, if you look at the sort of figures are spent by American corporates in developing leadership and yet a McKinsey, an organisational global survey found that only 11% of executives believe that these sort of leadership development initiatives are creating results. So there’s clearly a gap between what is done to develop people and whether it’s having an effect.

Kevin: It has a lot to do with changing someone’s perspective, doesn’t it?

Mark: It does and it’s not about changing it in a way that is fanciful or unreal. It’s about helping people see things more. There is a link here, Kevin with the work done around optimism and that’s very relevant to salespeople. The question was, the age-old question was “Are you an optimist because good things happen to you or do good things happen to optimists?”

Mark: For 90 years Western Psychology couldn’t break that dichotomy, and along came Seligman, standing on the shoulders of giants. The research that he built on other people, people’s insights, found that it’s the second one. The more optimistic you are, the better your life is per se, in almost every way. Certainly with sales people but, the better a sales person you are, the more effective on pretty well every measure, which is probably relevant to a number of the listeners.

Kevin: Indeed it is, Mark. Thank you very much. Mark Oliver’s my guest all this week. We’re taking portions from his book, Motivational Leadership. Tomorrow we’ll have a look at charisma in a leader. Mark, thanks for your time. We’ll talk to you tomorrow morning.

Mark: My pleasure, Kevin! Good to talk with you.

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