We are all leaders now

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The Independent Online
WHETHER leaders are born or made has been a subject of intense debate almost since the beginning of time. But, with current management theory indicating that "we are all leaders now", the issue is assuming ever greater importance.

In The Leadership Gene (Financial Times Pitman Publishing, pounds 21.99), Cyril Levickimakes a telling contribution without really coming down on one side or the other. Although he leans towards the "born" rather than "made" school, he comes up with a sort of compromise based on the premise that "leaders need to be born with a set of genetic characteristics which create the raw materials from which leadership may be nurtured".

Adopting the biological terminology that has become fashionable in the management world, he adds that "if the gene of leadership is, as this book argues, housed within the leader at birth, the chromosomes form the threads of the leader's development as a child and during the early evolution of their psyche". The gene is only the starting point, "the vital progenitor of many ingredients that have to be in place before the creation of a quality leader is completed".

Mr Levicki, a former academic and consultant, identifies seven chromosomes - youthful energy, courageous circumspection, winning ways, balance, intuition, moral fibre and leadership itself.

But how do you know whether you possess such characteristics? Mr Levicki peppers his book with self-assessment questionnaires to enable the reader to weigh up whether they, for instance, enjoy co-ordinating people's efforts to meet goals and targets or like to mull things over and give people "objective truth", and so have the potential to become a great leader.

Though he talks about "leadership skills", it is clear that - for all the moves towards greater numbers of people in the workplace and indeed elsewhere assuming leadership roles - he does not believe that everybody has what it takes.

Part of his aim is to help more people achieve their potential, on the grounds that there are not many good leaders around. But he stresses that the "chromosomes" only reinforce the notion that some people have that vital something, and therefore that readers should not think that just by going through all the exercises in the book they can necessarily achieve great things.

He does not go so far as those who reckon they can predict with certainty how far leaders would rise in organisations but says that "you can foretell, by and large, that a person has or doesn't have the 'leadership gene'."

Which leads neatly to what he calls his other "underlying theme" - that leadership and management are in some senses a trade-off to the extent that it is almost possible to say that leaders do not manage and managers do not lead.

Indeed, there is an implication that the roles of leadership and management are almost contradictory. Managers need to be team players - co-ordinating others, while leaders must add to this role being visionaries and judges. As he says, leaders do not manage people towards a result; "they manipulate the entire set of resources - people, assets, streams of income.

"Leaders have the ultimate responsibility for success." As individuals rise further up their organisations, they need to use more leadership skills and fewer management skills, he argues.

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