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Is Leadership Inherent or Learned?

Categories: leadership
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Leadership General Petraeus

From the moment we have the ability to consciously make choices, we start displaying some of the traits we can characterize as leadership. For example, even the newest of our kind, too tiny to walk, roll over, or even open their eyes, will begin to demonstrate the need to connect, influence, and participate in their own destiny — albeit they use coos and cries, not what we usually ascribe as leadership traits or actions (at least in most instances!). Later on, as toddlers, children begin to showcase more sophisticated behaviors that can be characterized as leadership. For example, some toddlers take the reins of their environment more easily and start to take noticeable initiative, usually manifesting in words like no and no and no…no. It is so cute at first…then it isn’t.
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Dyan Nyad Routes

I have the privilege of meeting with many different kinds of people. My clients, both men and women, range in age from 15 to 75 and can only be described as an eclectic group. I designed my practice this way, and I have to tell you that, from a certain perspective, it was a selfish act. See, in addition to helping my clients, working side-by-side with them to create inspired lives, I also wanted to learn everything I possibly could.

I have not been disappointed. Sitting down with a person, listening to him or her describe life, both struggles and triumphs, has and is teaching me more about human potential than a million hours of reading or research.

Admittedly, my clients are unusual. They have a clear (except when they don’t) agenda when they walk through my door. They are not coming just for the conversation; that would be pretty expensive conversation, relatively speaking.

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The ability to control behavior is one of the most valuable skills a person can possess. Sometimes referred to as will power or self-regulation, this capability allows us to control impulses, make plans, suppress unwanted thoughts, and in general manage personal and social behavior. Better self-regulation can lead to improved relationships, facilitate better mental health, and increase career success. Just as important, learning to marshal our physical, emotional, and physical energies in order to achieve meaningful goals and tasks without needless and exhausting depletion of our personal resources can provide powerful and welcomed momentum toward success. From almost any perspective, better self-regulation is desirable and useful.

That’s the good news.

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Essentially, there are two different types of people in the world: leaders and followers. Often, though, leaders are not in roles traditionally attached to leadership. But who’s to say that the mechanic working on a fleet vehicle isn’t as much of a leader as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company? Each may possess similar leadership qualities and the ability to motivate, engage, and inspire others. How do you let your leadership come through, regardless of official title?

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From the moment that we’re born, we learn to expect certain outcomes as a result of our actions. When we cry, Mom or Dad comes to our aid to figure out the problem. The expectation is that a cause (crying) will elicit an effect (the arrival of a caregiver). This cause-and-effect system persists in our lives, and mostly for good reason. It’s how we build our lives for normalcy, to make sense of the world. But what happens when the reality of the situation doesn’t meet with our expectations? It can be blinding, even debilitating, and make us question everything we’ve known until then.

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