Inventories can be managed – people should be led

Being a leader is different from being a manager and Jack Welch is right when he says that leaders are born and then develop by learning. IQ and energy we are born with. What we call charm and charisma is actually energy. And having that kind of energy is a crucial aspect of a natural leader that people follow without even realizing it.  So much so that natural leaders, unlike managers, don’t even need to ask people to do something, merely suggest and people follow.

Would Mandela still be as popular if he wasnt a natural leader?

Would Mandela have achieved what he did if he was just an educated, but not natural, leader?

Charming people actually make others feel satisfied with themselves. Most women fell in love with JFK and the majority of men did anything they could to make him happy. And that’s exactly what happens with natural leaders.

How do you change your energy?

Leadership also comes from education and training but the “cherry on the ice cream” that, for instance, JFK had can not be learnt. Another word for it is star quality, but you are either born with that kind of energy or you are not. And without it leadership is much more difficult.

A good example is the difference between Nelson Mandela and his successor Thabo Mbeki. The latter is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met, if not the most intelligent. But Nelson Mandela, like, for instance, Bill Clinton and JFK, filled up the room. Mbeki does not and hence failed to make the amazing connection with the South African people, and people around the world for that matter, that Mandela has.

Leaders make others feel good about themselves

Like all effective leaders, Mandela made others feel good about themselves as well as the work they were doing. He had a vision of what he wanted to achieve and could communicate it to others in ways that made them want to be part of it.

Passion is crucial to leadership

Back in school we all had teachers that were natural leaders and passionate about what they were doing. Even without being told what to do, we loved what we were doing, learnt a lot from them and got high grades. Don’t need to mention all the terrible teachers we had that made us fall asleep and loose interest in the subject. And they were all educated and trained to teach.

Emotional intelligence makes a difference

In many companies today people who are not born leaders are in charge and it is definitely having a negative impact on their results. Managers who are also leaders use their influence to coach and mentor others to make the most of their potential. They are more likely to be strategic and integrated planners, thus spending less time putting out fires and more time streamlining and planning ahead. In general, employees are more attracted to managers with excellent leadership skills as they are more emotionally intelligent.

Why are natural leaders not better utilized?

Personally I can not understand why educated natural leaders are not better utilized in business since they would really have a tremendously positive impact on results. In some companies top management unfortunately feels threatened by natural leaders who are hence not allowed to lead. Can’t help wondering what shareholders would have to say about that if they knew? Another reason is that the first step in evaluating candidates usually is looking at their CV/resume. And there is no way of judging if a person is a natural leader or not just by looking at their CV. So by the time top management meets the candidates for a C-level position there often isn’t a natural leader amongst them.

Imagine the massive positive impact more educated leaders to whom leadership comes natural would have on companies world-wide. Results would increase significantly while at the same time making employees happier to work.

Let’s hope we will see more educated people with leadership qualities in key positions. Why this amazing resource is overlooked I can not comprehend. It is a fantastic asset that should be utilized to its full potential. Eisenhower put it very well when he said “you do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership”. And in today’s world we really should be civilized enough to move beyond that.

Photo: Flickr Pan African News Wire File Photos

94 responses

  1. There are six billion of us. The infrastructure is huge, beyond comprehension for most. Global 'performance' does not depend on the few, but on the vast many each of whom lead just 10 people or some such figure. At issue is what exactly does the average person do to lead a team to get superior results. And we need some several hundred million of them.

    Leadership today is not about the few, but about the vast many, with the few only remotely linked to the reality of the many, with limited impact. The world still thinks in terms of the Caesar's, but their days are gone and will never return.

  2. Brian, all you get when you click on your site is "page not found" and then it's a bit difficut to find whatever post it is you are advertising here.

    Graham, that's true, but the issue here is the optimal leader. Besides you do have quite a few natural leaders in all walks of life. All you need to do is go to a school and see which pupils the rest of the kids flock around. You can deduct some of them who are bullies but you will fairly soon find some natural leaders.

  3. Catarina,
    I agree on your 'school example' in your reply to Graham. I do remember my schoolday 😉
    However how can an HR dept nowadays recognise the natural leaders in their company, how can a recruiter identify a natural leader during the recruitement process?
    It is similar to your previous blog on Europe, I see it's all about having the right (good) leaders in place, not the so called ideologies (as they say themeselves) 'leading' the political parties.

  4. Jan, most recruiters and HR people are not able to identify natural leaders, in fact many times natural leaders are stopped because they are seen as a threat to the exisiting management. Also the corporate culture currently is to use managers because it makes top managment feel more secure because of the control element.

  5. as i said there , you are hudred percent right.
    now adays there is so many people in wrong places that they do not belong at all! but the luck or corruption helped them to be there.
    and the suffers are the people whom under their management,wrong decisions, plans what ever form leaders stuff.
    i think only few people can be called leaders according to the factors you have mentioned.
    we are in era that every is is up side down!?so many wrong images need to be modified , but who will?
    i do have hope may be the future is brighter …..

  6. Catarina,
    Natural leaders are fine. We need them to make progress. No one can deny that.

    As I see it, however, we need more than natural leaders to move ahead in the right direction. A sound , generally agreed upon, common vision and a system that facilitates its implementation is also vital for achieving desired results.

    The history is full of great natural leaders who charmed, enchanted , and led their followers, whether in organizations or nations, to ultimate misery and destruction.

    To sum up: I believe, all cannot be left to the charming leaders, but equally important are other factors, such as , organizational or social values, a common national or organizational vision , and an infrastructure to support the efforts to achieve the desired objectives.


  7. – thanks Catrina for that insightful article. What would you highlight as the top 5 traits that a Natural business leader should posses / or invest in?

  8. Catarina

    Very interesting and insightful comment and analysis. You raise a very valid hypothesis.

    "Basically in many companies today people who are not born leaders are in charge and it is definitely having a negative impact on their results……. In some companies top management unfortunately feels threatened by natural leaders who are hence not allowed to lead." There could well be much truth in this. It would be more powerful insight with some academic research evidence to back it up.

    I am not sure that the people in charge of many of the world's top organisations would agree with that. To take a current example how would Tony Hayward's leadership skills match up? What about those lords of leadership in the banking community? One of the top US business school professors was proud of having advised RBS's Chief Executive on his merger and acquistition strategy. It was RBS's merger with ABN AMRO, promoted by its Chief Executive, which in no small part led to its near demise and retreat to public ownership. Presumably these and other leaders went and go through rigorous assessment and interview processes. Or perhaps you are challenging the validity of these and the headhunters that usually front them up? Choosing appropriate case studies to examine the evidence is problematic enough.

    The analysis you provide poses another question, which is even more tricky to answer. How does a born leader successfully manage an organisation, country, etc in the thin gap between chaos or anarchy and control freakery?

    The Corporate Governance campaigns around the globe have sought to keep management safe from not naturally born leaders. Mike Smith from Manchester University business school has proved that job interviewers choose candidates like themselves. Must we just accept that all leaders are fundamentally flawed?


    Due to the fact that this question does not have an obvious and clear answer, let me express my own personal bias as it relates to your question. – I happen to be in the camp of believers that "EQ" cannot be learned/taught (due to lack of a clear definition of "EQ", I'll refer to it as a combo of interpersonal skills, charisma, ability to emphatize with others, ability to pick up on non-verbal cues such as body language, etc) . I believe EQ can be enhanced. I happen to agree with the proposition that EQ is more of "a psychological trait" rather than a "learned behavior/skill." On a very basic level: can anyone name an institution that can teach a boring person to become a successful stand-up comedian? Hitler, Stalin….two "monsters" who succeeded to persuade millions of high IQ people to follow their insane and inhuman goals…These 2 monsters were not dumb, but they must have been some of the most charismatic leaders the world has ever seen. I'd venture a guess that EQ rather IQ played the more important role. They lacked formal education, their IQ must have been quite high, but they were not Einsteins…. Hugo Chavez…I never met this brilliant leader of Venezuela, but I'll venture a guess that his "success" (ie, ability to become a leader of entire nation) has more to do with his DNA than with his intellectual abilities. Of course, I may be wrong. If somebody can sell "nonsense" to high IQ individuals, then the entire debate become rather complex (and quite entertaining). For some reason, I am rather skeptical of the IQ brilliance of President Chavez..but, it's possible he's simply a great actor who mastered the skill of acting like an "idiot" in order to persuade bright people to follow his "idiotic" theories. My logic is rather fuzzy, but such an "act" would require an incredibly high level of EQ 🙂 During my brief academic career I was surprised to learn that 60-70 yrs of leadership/business research failed to produce a definition of "entrepreneurship." To this day, Business School profs/researchers cannot agree on the definition of the word. To this day, the argument about the determinants of entrepreneurial success has not been settled. Entrepreneurs are born, not made vs Entrepreneurship can be taught/learned to anybody who wants to learn.. Again, overwhelming amount of reliable data proves an absolute lack of statistically valid relationship between entrepreneurial success and "education". I know several entrepreneurs with Ph.D. degrees. I also "know" thousands who never graduated from college. Leadership seems to be confused with "management." My bias is a follows: – you can teach a person with high EQ (and average IQ) how to become an effective/successful manager. – you cannot teach a person with a high IQ and average EQ how to become a successful leader. To reiterate, I am expressing my own bias. In general, leaders don't need IQ of 145…Leaders tend to succeed thanks to their ability to create a strong "emotional" bond/influence over their followers (Hitler was a screaming maniac…Stalin was a "cool" and "calm" uncle Joe…but, they both became God-like figures). Managers: some of the best managers I know seem to be nearly "mentally-challenged" (in EQ terms) in my own, extremely biased opinion. Yet, they do an excellent job "managing." As usual, I'll end my answer with the following statement: I am simply expressing my opinion & I may be completely wrong :-)… Jay

  10. This is a complex subject, and while I agree that there are many great natural leaders, there is also a considerable body of opinion that believes leadership skills CAN be taught. Of course, this does not imply that everyone/anyone can become a great (or even effective) leader as there are a number of basic attributes that leaders – whether born or made – need.

    For leaders to be effective, they need to inspire the people they are leading: paint the picture of a goal that all can aspire to reach, and then to keep the proverbial ship on course to reach that goal, steering it around the inevitable obstacles that emerge. Leadership is big-picture stuff, while management is detail and operationally focused.

    Of course, as some of your previous commentators have pointed out, there is always the danger that charistmatic natural leaders can "turn bad" – as many of history's despots have shown, but that is the subject for another, longer post 🙂

  11. While charm and charisma may be natural for leaders, they cannot be true leaders without substance. The former is often used to manipualate less educated masses who desire a person who can "do" and not just "be.

  12. A former CEO of the bank where I worked used to ask his new direct reports, "What is the most important trait of a leader?" Almost no one got it right. We never thought of "compassion." That was his priority.

  13. Catrina – a special thanks to you and the wonderful comments on this insightful post.
    We are honored to work with organizational leaders who are infusing a new vision for the workplaces of the future.

    Thanks for your generosity in this post!

    My Best,
    Judy White, SPHR, GPHR, HCS
    The Infusion Group™ LLC

  14. Catarina – I believe there are many natural leaders who remain unknown to the general populace. Money seems to matter. For example, most American presidents have had a life of entitlement. Some people receive "leadership" awards because of generous donations they make. Yet, hiding behind the scenes the unacknowledged leaders still lead – perhaps working in an urban school system or caring for the very poor.

  15. Excellent title for this post Catarina. I agree completely with you that often top management feels threatened by natural leaders. You mention Presidents Clinton and JFK as being great leaders. I’d like to suggest adding President Reagan to that list. He was passionate, charismatic and had a vision. He succeeded by surrounding himself with knowledgeable and intelligent people who he led rather than managed. I truly miss those days.

  16. I totally agree about emotional intelligence. I went to Uni with someone who was very bright. We both ended up a few years later at a company and unfortunately was hopeless as a leader as she did not have the emotional intelligence.

    I have also found in business, the leaders are the ones that are motivated by helping others succeed and are not afraid of learning from the ones they lead.

  17. Great post Catarina. Love the reference to emotional intelligence which is as important in our every day lives as in business and is not related to educational levels or standard IQ scores. I have found that oftentimes those with IQ scores nearing the genius level have emotional IQ's nearing the retardation level 🙂 The best leaders are those who do have compassion, mentor those under them, are open to learning from others no matter where they fall on an organizational chart, and are more interested in the overall goals of an organization than their status. Thanks for sharing your awesome insights.

  18. Catarina, always good to read your blog, and this post especially resonates. I believe the quality that, ironically, predicts great leadership is humility. By that I mean "the ability to remove my need to be recognized." In our "look at me, I'm on reality television foolishly influencing the minds of millions" culture, it's hard to remember that great leaders are quietly, passionately providing positive impact. Looking forward to your future posts.

  19. I agree that leaders and managers are not the same thing. A person can be both. Perhaps, some of the people with the charisma and natural leadership ability are seeking other roles rather than at the high levels of business. As to Mbecki, he needs a good PR firm. He always is portrayed as being a day late and a dollar short as the old saying goes. Of course, comparisons to Mandela don't help his situation.


  20. I think you're right about fear being the motivating factor behind why natural leaders are not hired or promoted. I've also seen the flip side, where they are hired and then kept in place to support a weak leader. Its a solution that never has a good ending.

  21. I can't believe I missed this post. I love this post. Natural leaders are not always recognized when they're younger. It takes an astute observer to see them when they manifest their God given gifts. Aside for that, having a talent or learning how to manage with emotional intelligence instead of with reports and rules can make for a great department or company. The good news is there is a much larger emphasis placed on that skill set these day. 🙂
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  22. I really enjoyed this post Catarina. You are so right, natural leaders have a great impact and should not be overlooked. I have seen the results first hand and it is quite amazing.
    My recent post The interview that changed my life

  23. I just read a quote that said something like 'leadership is getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it for you'.
    My recent post Motivational Monday Quote: 4/22

  24. Absolutely right – Management is about stuff and numbers, Leadership is about empowering people to reach their full potential.

  25. Hi Catarina,
    This is a very insightful article. I truly believe my country has a crisis of leadership. This is why so many businesses have failed. Too many of our leaders are lazy, and want to enjoy being privileged while others do the work. I feel sorry for managers who try to do both and fail, because it is too much responsibility. They are unable to do a good job at either role.

    Thanks ~ Aleshia

  26. I think this IS changing. It almost has to with the way companies are continuing to downsize. At the heart of things, leaders who possess these traits you mention, really – CARE. I don't think that can be taught.
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  27. Hope you are right. But the majority of leaders don't inherit their decision. Frequently management are afraid of people with leadership qualities and consequently don't promote them. In other words, people in senior positions are looking after their own interest. Doubt that will change:-)

  28. I agree. The dichotomy of a natural leader and a manager in the work place actually blows my mind. It seems like that would just be a constant struggle and conflict when in fact it could be solved so easily by placing the natural leader as an over seer but would the natural leader be so much of a leader if those who followed him were put underneath him and suddenly not on his level of authority?
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  29. This article about leadership qualities is quite interested.This is a debatable subject.
    Mirza Azhar Beg

  30. Catarina, I like the way you compared leadership to teachers. You are so right about that – some held our attention, we listened and we wanted to earn their approval. Others, not so much.
    I have worked with a Board Chair who had that leadership quality and we got an awful lot of work done. I have also worked with a chair who may have known all about management but his way to manage was rather through bully tactics – my way or no way – with that approach very little was actually accomplished.
    Love your posts, always give me food for thought.

  31. Couldn't agree more Catarina! There is no way that charisma can seep through the page of a resume/CV. And I do think that natural leaders are rejected by top management who fear the competition. How sohort sighted of them not to think that their first priority should be replacing themselves.

  32. Always thoughtful posts Catarina. I don't think either a resume or an education makes a person a leader. I don't think that ALL leaders are born. Certainly some people have more natural predisposition than others. Still don't we need both – managers and leaders? I love your examples of people who filled up a room (energy) vs likely emptied it! My take away is if as a leader, you see an leader in your organization, help them become more so and have the humility to recognize it.
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  33. Thought provoking post – as usual!

    I agree that there is a huge difference between a manager and a leader. A manager simply allows others to follow them whilst a leader raises up other leaders once he/she sees potential in them. I am reading a book based on leadership and it really is eye opening.

  34. Good post Catarina. I love the title about inventories being managed, people being led and I love the quote from Eisenhower at the end. I do agree that we should be better utilizing natural leaders, but I do not agree that all leaders are born leaders. Some develop over time. Many effective leaders have a lot of charm and charisma, but not all effective leaders have the kind of charisma that fills a room. One of the most effective leaders I came across in my career was a somewhat quiet man who did not naturally dominate the group. He was an intelligent, strategic thinker with a great deal of integrity and understanding of people. He earned respect and loyalty from everyone around him. And managed to make change happen without taking a lot of credit himself.

  35. Natural leaders are treasures. I taught school for a few years and each year had a different principal. One of them was such an educated natural leader that everyone loved to do what he suggested. The kids respected him and also liked him. He brought out the best, most innovative programs in me. Your examples of JFK, Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela are excellent. I am in awe when in the presence (by TV or computer) of people like that. Wouldn’t it be a great world if there were a lot of them in influencial positions? I really don’t think you can teach that type of charisma to people. And of course I would have to vet them to make sure they were also “good” people.

  36. Natural leadership is a rare find, but I completely agree that it's not really sought after. Business in general tends to be conservative, and like many things now, there's an emphasis on ticking boxes. So CV's might be rigid about having an MBA, when in fact experience could be more valuable. That said, it's tough to discover a natural leader in an interview. Intuition can only go so far. BTW Catarina, I had a hard time reading the top left of the post as the floating share button covers part of the text. A little frustrating I have to confess. But enjoyable post none the less:-)
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  37. Glad you mentioned teachers in this post. I've always admired people who have intelligence, energy and leadership ability and chose teaching as a profession. In my opinion teachers are badly undervalued by our society. And I worry that the low pay and often challenging working environment will keep people like the ones you describe in this post from going into the profession.

  38. One of the greatest leaders of all time said, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I have made known to you.” This is the spirit that really values and respects employees, and the basis of economic transparency.

  39. “you do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership” – what a great quote. Hitting people over the head does not work in general. But it seems to be a chosen path for a lot of people – if you don't like group X, why hit them over the head, of course (not). And emotional intelligence certainly does make a difference, especially for a leader.
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