Leadership is a life skill

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Written by Elke Edwards on 24 January 2020

Reading time: 2 minutes

I think it’s time we exploded some myths. Leaders are not born. People do not learn to become leaders through experience, and finally, my favourite, leadership is not just something we do at work.

If, and it is a big if; if we stand any chance of turning the tide on the quality of leadership in this country, we are going to need to change our mindset around the nature of leadership. And for me this means three things:

1 Leadership starts with self

None of us has the right to lead others until we can lead ourselves. In other words, we’re able to create a vision for our lives by having the kind of deep self-knowledge to know what is right for us.

Develop a plan that, while being flexible, is also actionable and effective. And finally, create the environment, both inside and outside of us, to make our plan achievable.

Any leadership programme that doesn’t start with a deep exploration of how people lead themselves and give them the time and tools to build up a deep understanding of who they are will not succeed in creating purpose-led and values-driven leaders.

2 Leadership can and must be taught

To successfully develop leadership in others we must follow each step of effective development. First, people must make a personal choice to learn the skill of leadership – to actively engage.

Leadership is personal. It is about who we are, how we show up, the actions and behaviours we choose

Second, they must be taught what good looks, like by experts. Third, they must get chance to practice in a safe environment, one in which they get useful, expert feedback.

And finally, they must make a commitment to continued growth. Like most deep-seated learning, leadership is a life-long commitment, not a one-off job.

3 Leadership is, and must be seen as, a life skill

Leadership is personal. It is about who we are, how we show up, the actions and behaviours we choose, the way we treat other people, the decisions we make and how we manage our emotional and mental states.



It is about the way we learn, what we want to achieve, the impact we want to have and the legacy we want to leave.

Giving people this kind of learning is crucial to how their life turns out. It will impact the habits they form and, as a result, the people they become.

Giving it to them early enough – at a time before they start copying those around them – would seem to make sense.

We mustn’t wait until people are leaders in the traditional sense to give them leadership development. It should be front and centre of how we develop every new generation.

Only then do I think we stand a chance of being awash with leaders we would all want to follow.


About the author:

Elke Edwards is the founder of Ivy House London.

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