In response to the post from a few days ago, “Why developing leaders is hard and the two most powerful ways to go about it“, Kurt Häusler (@Kurt_Haeusler) commented:

“Both assume good leadership is already in place, nearby and available. It also encourages emulation over improvement.”.

[If you’ve not read the post already, maybe take a couple minutes to do so, just click up there ↑ and it will open in a new tab.]

Without getting bogged down in polemics, here are my thoughts on this.

Integral to being (or becoming) a good leader, is the trait of helping others to develop their own leadership skills.  We are all in (or should be in) the business of helping those around us to be their best.  You don’t need to be a titled leader to have (or to want to have) leadership skills.  Method Leadership is about the fundamental leadership skills that enhance every individual’s life, not just the performance of those with formal leadership titles.

So, inspiring those around you to improve their leadership skills by providing a positive example and by providing learning opportunities whenever you’re able does not require that you yourself are already a “good leader”, only that you want to develop your own leadership capabilities.  In fact, that very point reinforces the self-driven nature of leadership development.

As to “emulation over improvement”; they are not mutually exclusive.  If by emulation one means “monkey see, monkey do” then yes, that would be fairly pointless.  But in regard to complex human behavior, copying is one of the fundamental ways humans learn.  Setting a good example for others is absolutely vital to good leadership.  Nothing is worse than the leader (or person) who says one thing and does another.

To this day, when faced with some leadership challenge or other, I sometimes find myself asking, “what would X do?”; reaching back to the example of the few good mentors I have been lucky enough to work or be associated with.

I am so, so, grateful to have had the good example of some exceptional people.  From some I learned to think, to reason, to make better decisions;  others had a magic way with people; one taught me the humility to recognize that learning is never done, and can be found in the most unlikely of situations; and all, bar none, provided me with the example of unstinting effort – the passion to initiate, to drive on despite obstacles, and to never rest on one’s laurels.

Did I emulate these individuals.  Yes, absolutely, and proudly.

So, let me reiterate.  Developing your leadership skills comes from you, and an important aspect of leadership is inspiring others to develop themselves too.  Set a great example, and follow great examples.  Provide learning and development opportunities for others, and grasp them for yourself whenever you can.

Both of these things are vastly more powerful, (because fundamental and a priori), to any formal leadership training and/or development.  They are, in fact, foundational.

Cheers to @Kurt_Haeusler for the prompt.