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Are Leadership Skills only for those with the right genes?

Leadership skills are going to be essential, no matter what you’re attempting as an entrepreneur.

It’s an obvious and necessary skill for entrepreneurs hoping to grow business empires. Whenever staff enter the equation, the entrepreneur with qualities of a true leader is the winner.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that your solopreneur-style internet business is immune either. When you’re building a following of devoted fans (and customers) you become their leader!

So what is leadership and is it possible to learn? Let’s break it down…

What is leadership?

All good leaders must have competency in their field – the knowledge to get the job done and, typically, the experience to say “been there, done that” with integrity.

However, these are not the defining criteria of leadership. What separates a leader (from say, a manager) are the following traits:

1. The ability to create and maintain a cohesive team (or tribe)

This means knowing how to get talented people to work together (harder than it looks).

2. Drive the team to output more than their individual capabilities combined

Teamwork is only worthwhile when the collaborative total output exceeds the results the individuals might produce on their own time. Otherwise, why bother? Leaders know how to make 4+4 equal 9.

Do you have the right genes?

The “nature”, geneticist argument says our potential to be great lies in our genetic make-up.

Cognitive psychology, on the other hand, suggests it is the “imprinting” and “modelling” periods of our early youth that determine our innate leadership skills (or lack of them).

Either way, we don’t have control over our genes OR the environment we’re born into (and subsequently learn from)…. so we’re screwed right?


I believe that leadership, like every other skill, can be deliberately and consciously mastered… if we approach our education in the right way.

Leadership is not something that can be taught at a university, sitting in a classroom. I don’t even believe books have that much to offer… (I’m aware of the irony as I write this article)

The best leadership books are those that encourage the reader to go out and do. It’s real-world activity (not pointless over thinking) that creates leaders.

Nevertheless, we’ve got to get educated somehow. We need a way to learn the specific strategies and techniques great leaders use!

For me, this has to be modeling. The process? It’s simple: Acute observation of specifically selected role models.

What better way to learn than by studying those who are great?

The problem is, these folks are generally too busy leading their people to sit down and write a book – much less teach a MBA class!

Learning from real-world examples is the only secret sauce here. I believe there are a handful of great leadership books – my favorites are Business Stripped Bare by Richard Branson and Tribes (because it’s a call to action) by Seth Godin.

Things I’d like to know from you:

  1. Who are the leaders in your life whom you could model?
  2. How could you approach them?
  3. What great leadership books can you recommend me?

I appreciate your help on one (or all) of these!

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  1. Very good text. I’ve found your blog via Bing and I’m really glad about the information you provide in your articles. Btw your blogs layout is really messed up on the Chrome browser. Would be cool if you could fix that. Anyhow keep up the good work!

  2. Hi Homer, thanks for stopping by and thanks for the feedback.
    I’m curious about what specifically is going wrong with the blog layout – if you get a chance, let me know what looks unusual.

    I appreciate you help!

  3. I was talking to a friend of mine who does quite a bit of ‘Leadership’ style presenting about this. I had actually asked him the same question when I posed it to you. Same answer from both of you.

    It’s interesting, though. We were discussing negative modeling and how difficult it is to retrain people who come from that type of environment. And in his case, the environment he entered 18 months ago is filled with that type of negative leadership. He has been working to transform the place and is just beginning to see some powerful changes occur. At the same time, he is beginning to see peers and next level leaders growing around him. They’re getting it.

    For me as I thought about this question a little more deeply, I began to wonder about some of the other personality traits that make up a person who becomes a strong leader. Strength of character and strength of will, charisma to draw people in and make them believe in what you are projecting.

    Leadership is probably one of the most fascinating things I’ve begun observing lately. I love reading different authors discuss this and I love digging into why a leader performs and acts the way he/she does.

    1. I think you’ve touched on an important “litmus test” here.

      Great leaders should beget more great leaders within an organisation. If your leadership style is placing you at the top and keeping other people as “cogs” rather than their own, autonomous leaders…. then something isn’t right.

      Your friend created “next level leaders” – they grew up around him.

      Great leadership begets great leadership.

      I like this Diane – Thanks for the contribution!

  4. Hi Peter,
    I have been receiving you blogs, articles since late last year and I thoughly enjoy them.
    In you article on leadership, it reminds me of my experiences of finding the correct path to follow so others may follow, and the test was always to turn around to see if any one was following.
    The point of change came with a book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, written in 1932( updated many time since, but never out of date), and it is a book about human nature and interaction with other people. Because a lot of entrepreneurs are more thinkers than people orentated types, they often forget the skills in communication that display the empathy great leaders demonstrate. I have trained many young people to be leaders. Many of them lack the model you talk about or dont have a resource to work from, hence I would buy them the book as a starting point.
    This is a great book to understand what are the things we can use in a pratical way to be a leader, to demonstrating the empathic characterists leaders are famous for, so in due course we can learn skills that will reward us (often unpaid).
    Power to the art of working in the grey!

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