ONE OF THE FUNDAMENTAL reasons why people don’t take the initiative to lead is that too often they believe that leadership is for somebody else, not for them. They think it’s beyond their capabilities or capacity. But in talking to people from all walks of life across the globe for more than three decades, we’ve found that everyone has a story to tell about being a leader, about a time when they were making a difference. Here’s just one example of what someone told us about how revealing this reflection can be:
Growing up, I assumed leaders had certain traits and qualities that I didn’t seem to have. I thought there were ‘natural’ leaders who were born to lead. I thought leadership was the description of what these people did. But when I thought about my personal-best leadership experience, to my surprise I realised I had displayed those same leadership qualities I thought only the ‘natural’ leaders displayed.
Leadership is clearly within the capacity of every individual. And, just as importantly, we’ve found that across time, place, position and geography the essential behaviours people were engaging in when at their personal leadership bests are much more similar than they are different. Leadership is local, but it’s also universal.
Our research involving leaders in Australia and New Zealand is consistent with these findings. While context certainly makes a difference — whether it is nationality, discipline, ...