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Natural born leader: Fact or myth?

We’ve all heard the phrase, “natural born leader.” What does it really mean?

I think it’s safe to say that some people are more likable than others, some more confident, some quicker at making decisions, some easy to be around, and some more willing than others to raise their hand and take on a task or project. Are these the behaviors of a natural born leader?

Perhaps. But even possessing these natural behaviors does not guarantee an effective and successful leader. Natural born leaders may have a leg up on others, but if they don’t have the desire to lead, it really doesn’t matter. Leadership skills can be learned and honed if the desire to lead is there.

A while back, I visited a manufacturing company. I was greeted by the receptionist who made me feel very welcome. She inquired how my day was going and asked what my company does. As I sat in the lobby, she was approached by a manager who needed help in securing a group of people to solve a problem. She was clearly an insider and had a good perspective on who might be a good fit for solving the problem. She called and had them meeting with the young manager later that afternoon.

Someone stopped by without an appointment to see the president. Knowing the president never sees anyone without an appointment, she sympathized by expressing how difficult it must be to make cold calls. However, her president was booked up solid and could someone else help? Could she help by passing information on, etc.?

As I sat watching her work, it occurred to me that she was a hub of power. Many people touched base with her for information, help and consultation. She could clearly make things happen. She was a leader in her organization. She had power but no authority. She exhibited confidence, courtesy, empathy, and knowledge. She anticipated needs and acted upon them. She liked her role and her positive energy was passed on to everyone she greeted. Clearly, she was memorable to me.

Leadership is doing … it’s not a rank! Leaders have power, managers have authority. The trick is to marry good managers to solid leadership skills. Most people want to do a good job and make the right decisions. Some people are born with good leadership behaviors, others can develop them. Good people follow great leaders!

Not every great leader knows they are great; in fact, I suspect many of them do not. They do things for the sake of the right thing and not because it will get them a promotion. I am observing and judging these behaviors in our membership daily, both in our Manufacturing Executive Members and the high-potential individuals who work for them that they send through our Leadership Development Programs. Then I realize if I am doing this to them, there must be people doing the same to me. So I challenge you to always be the best leader you can be . . . someone is always watching.


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Kelly Rudy is originally from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, the state she has called home most of her life. Kelly graduated from Loyola University-Chicago with honors, earning a bachelor’s degree in communication and marketing. She earned her MBA from Marquette University and is a certified professional behavioral analyst. Prior to joining The Paranet Group, Kelly participated in sales and marketing at Olympus Group, formally Olympus Flag & Banner.

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