Chamber Chat

Good leaders: born or made?
Jul. 07, 2013 @ 12:00 PM

Leadership is the crucial element in every organization that experiences long lasting success. There is little debate about the value of leadership. However, there are currently many ideas on what defines good leadership and how it can be developed. Business managers are especially curious about the relationship between leadership and training.

Strong leadership affects financial return, employee retention and performance, productivity, innovation, customer satisfaction and overall strategic advantage. Leadership skills also enhance what researchers call “organizational agility” — a key to competitiveness in the international business environment.

Author and lecturer John Ambrose, Senior Vice President of Skillsoft, points out that one reason leadership fascinates us is that it involves the interplay of so many variables: personality, life experiences and the ability to connect emotionally with others. These skills are as important as having the intellect to grasp specific management concepts or industry knowledge.

Can leadership be learned or are the characteristics innate? Scholars have various opinions but one thing is clear: there is no one, single activity that is sufficient to develop leadership in an organization. 

Recent research also shows that leadership development has evolved from developing leadership qualities in a few selected individuals, to the processes and environments that encourage leadership behaviors throughout an entire organization. This change of perspective is being driven by a number of business challenges, such as increasing global competition, the need for continuous innovation, as well as the evolving nature of work teams. Training only a chosen few creates a culture of haves and have-nots, not an environment conducive to high morale, retention or achievement.

One of our goals at the Chamber is to train more and better leaders for our community — for all organizations, including business, non-profits, civic clubs and churches. The Chamber’s leadership program is in its 15th year. A new class will begin in August and meets one day each month for 10 months. Part of our focus is on community leadership because communities, like businesses, thrive on the efforts of strong leaders. 

Our class studies history, examining past successes and investigating new ways of thinking about community decision making. (Scholars call this success-based approach Appreciative Inquiry — AI for short — and it is used in strategic planning for corporations and organizations.) We also teach emerging leaders about social capital and its importance to community vitality. We develop and reinforce skills in managing people, running effective meetings, conflict management and group facilitation. Lee County has become much more racially and culturally diverse. We talk about ways to use this diversity as a strength in economic development.

If you know someone who would be a good candidate for our leadership program or have an employee who would benefit from enhancing their skills, please let us know or visit our website and complete an application. Or call us at (919) 775-7341. 

We’ve had very successful leaders in our community over the years. The fact that we’ve developed a unique manufacturing base without much in the way of natural resources is a testament to that 100 year record of good leadership. Help the Chamber keep this trend going. It will pay off for your business and the community.

Bob Joyce is president of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce.