Leaders Are Made

Michael on Twitter asks if people are born leaders or if you can read and study to become one. Dave doesn’t think anyone is a born leader—it’s all about choices.

QUESTION: Michael on Twitter asks if people are born leaders or if you can read and study to become one. Dave doesn’t think anyone is a born leader—it’s all about choices.

ANSWER: No one is born a leader. I’ve watched three children be born, and in no case did one of them come out and the doc said, “Oh, look! It’s a leader. Congratulations, Dave! You have a little leader—an eight pound, six ounce leader. Look, this one’s going to be a success. This one’s a deadbeat.” No, people make choices.

I’m 49 years old, and I’ve been studying leadership since I started this company almost 20 years ago. I’m a world class leader now. When I started, I sucked. I was awful. I made so many mistakes leading and running this company. But I have to tell you, I have a fabulous team, and I have some world class talent and some world class leaders that lead within our organization trained by me. I’ve learned how to do this stuff, and yeah, it’s reading, studying, experience, making mistakes. That’s how you become a great salesperson. That’s how you become a great teacher. That’s how you become a great radio host. That’s how you become a great author. That’s how you become a great leader. None of these things are born. These are choices. They’re acquired skills.

If you read Malcolm Gladwell’s fabulous book called Outliers where he studied people that are unusually successful, he finds that not only do they have a natural gift or talent—for instance the music business or they’re athletically inclined or they’ve got a natural math gift or whatever it is—but they take that gift and they study 10,000 hours and they practice 10,000 hours to take a great gift and make it world class. Then you have Cho on the bass violin or Peyton Manning as a quarterback or Brad Paisley on the guitar or Dustin Hoffman.

It’s 10,000 hours of study. This stuff doesn’t just occur. You work your butt off. That’s how you get good. Being a leader is no different.

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