On many courses, we discuss the difference between management and leadership.  Unfortunately, most don’t understand the difference in the beginning but leave the class with a much better understanding of the traits of a leader vs the characteristics of a manager.  I then ask them what do they consider themselves to be a leader or manager?

In my experience leadership is either there or not naturally.  Although it can be taught the reality is the best leaders are leaders who have very natural skills and can lead a team effortlessly.

In many circumstances, natural leaders can be within the workforce, particularly young people. This can be misinterpreted as being a trouble maker or someone who is always finding fault, looking to change things. In the wrong hands, the natural leader may be shot down to ‘sort them out’ or to embarrass them in front of their peers. This is a very negative management behaviour and is often created due to weak and non-effective management.

These natural leaders should be encouraged to voice their opinions correctly; we should mentor them and not shut them up.  Of course, that doesn’t mean they can say anything; sometimes we may have to take them to one side and point them in the right direction.  Sometimes we may have to take them to one side to tell them their behaviour needs to be adapted.  Sometimes we have to do this many times to encourage positive change.

One thing is for sure, in the right hands we can mould the future leaders today, and we probably know who they are now.   Look at your staff and ask yourself the question which can I see leading a group of people in 2 years.  Look for opportunities for them to grow and not to be held back.

Ralph Moody is the founder of Target Training and specialises in trainer and management development.  You can read more about him here.  To see courses where Ralph delivers see our website here.