This month, several female employees from Vitalyst attended the ever-inspiring 13th annual Pennsylvania Conference for Women with over 7,000 attendees. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share our perspectives with you through a series of blog posts capturing highlights from some of the most powerful sessions.

Are leaders born or made? When the question was posed to me, I emphatically said “made.” After all, I couldn’t rationalize how leaders could be “born.” According to Courtney Lynch, founding partner of the consulting firm Lead Star and best-selling author of “Leading from the Front,” it’s both. And after attending her session “How to Lead…When You’re Not in Charge” at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, I can see why.

Courtney Lynch

Courtney Lynch

Lynch asserts that 30 percent of leadership ability is inherent at birth—predisposed personality, intelligence and good looks, for example. But, 70 percent is made—it’s about your mindset, your drive, your ability to solve problems and a host of other skills you “learn” and “perfect” along the way.

Most effective leaders do two things really well. They inspire others and influence outcomes. They do this by:

  • Setting a good example: Good leaders do not merely tell employees to do something and to do it well—they lead by example. Just like parents teach and guide their children to make the right choices, so do good leaders. For example, if you want your team members to be diligent about follow-up, show them how it’s done. Perhaps forward them an example of an email you’ve written that clearly outlines takeaways from a recent meeting and allowed you to complete a project on time. Point out why the email was effective and guide them to create a similar approach that works for them.
  • Committing to a project/task/goal and following through: Great leaders have high credibility. They are seen as reliable and trustworthy because they deliver on promises made. All tasks, projects and goals are met because of constant communication, due diligence and follow-through on what is being asked of them.
  • Being accountable: Let’s face it, we’re humans and mistakes are bound to happen. Aside from limiting the number of mistakes being made, good leaders fess up to an error and use it as a teaching moment to communicate why something didn’t work, and provide suggestions on how to prevent it from happening again. By being accountable, it earns you the right (and respect) to hold others accountable for their actions.
  • Pushing boundaries: It’s difficult to go beyond the comforts of what you know. But, leaders who go outside their comfort zone and take risks see huge rewards.
  • Being confident: Effective leaders are successful for a reason—they know they have what it takes to inspire others and to have them act. They also surround themselves with positive role models they can learn from.

Most effective leaders do two things really well. They inspire others and influence outcomes.

This session got me thinking about my own professional development and leadership ability. As the Marketing Communications Manager, in a mid-level management role, I think characteristics, such as being an extrovert, being organized and timely were inherent at birth. My parents always told me that I loved being around people, craved structure and liked things neat and orderly. All of these characteristics remain true and it shows in how I go about my day to day. However, skills like having the confidence to speak up, being able to problem solve by seeing the issue from many different angles and setting a good example were learned skills throughout my career.

As you ponder your own professional careers, ask yourself, and don’t be shy about chiming in—are you born and made? Which of your leadership skills are inherent versus learned?

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