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Nature v Nurture: How to become a leader

  • Monday, February 12, 2024
  • Jane Crombleholme
  • Leadership
  • Blog
  • minute read

Let’s dispel a myth: no one is born a leader. Most people learn how to lead. And it’s a lifelong practice. Even today’s giants of industry had to start somewhere. Whilst some may have a natural aptitude for leadership, we all need training to continue to progress in our careers. 

Leadership skills are not innate knowledge. We have to be taught how to lead, how to manage people, how to build company culture. But with the rapid rate of business transformation, skills and knowledge can become out-of-date very quickly. 

According to Gartner, Inc., 58% of the workforce needs new skills to get their jobs done. So, leaders’ professional development needs to keep pace with this continuous change. Executive education can bridge those gaps. Continuous development is crucial for leaders to deliver great work for their businesses and excel in their careers.

Learning new skills and knowledge is important, as well as new ways of thinking and approaching a role or challenge. Thanks to executive education, you might be able to see your customers with fresh eyes, imagine a new way to deliver your job, or create an innovation that adds value to your organisation. The possibilities are endless. 

Whilst there’s no ‘typical’ leader that we find on our Alliance Manchester Business School executive education programmes, here are some key qualities that unite them.

Adopt a growth mindset

A good leader acknowledges that they don’t have the answer for everything. But they are certainly driven to acquire more knowledge. Constantly in ‘sponge mode’, the best leaders have an insatiable appetite for knowledge. They want to better understand themselves as professionals and how their organisation works.

Diversify your network

Take an excellent leader. Drop them into a new team or business and they may have to start from scratch. As part of having a growth mindset, it’s worth connecting with leaders in different roles and different organisations. They will bring a new set of skills and perspectives which can accelerate your development. The diversity of delegates on Alliance Manchester Business School’s programmes allows our leaders to build strong networks which they continue to benefit from throughout their careers. 

Be a changemaker

Not only do leaders have a thirst for knowledge and diverse connections, but they also want to put those learnings into action to make a difference in the real world. Leaders take new information and apply it to improve their own ways of working or that of their team or organisation. It’s all about turning ideas into action! 

Invest in your development

Whether it’s connecting with industry peers, finding a mentor, or enrolling onto an executive education programme, dedicating the time and money to learning is the foundation for growth. We all live busy lives, so it’s easy for professional development to slip down the list of priorities. However, there’s no quick fix for growth. Executive development is a lifelong learning journey. This can be a useful reminder to take steps today towards your long-term career goals. 

When is the right time to undertake Executive Education?

Executive education is essential for all professionals throughout their careers. But taking the time out of your job to dedicate to learning is a big decision, especially if you’re in a high-pressure role. It’s also a privilege. So, it’s important to choose the right time to maximise this investment in yourself. 

Typically, people choose to undertake a course with Alliance Manchester Business School at transformative moments in their careers or their organisation’s development. That might be when changing jobs. For example, moving from a functional lead to a team lead. Or during significant organisational changes, like a merger or period of rapid growth.

Keep in mind that there’s no perfect time. Like many things in life, we’re often waiting to feel ‘ready’. You might be surprised – and hopefully relieved – to learn that lots of our executive education delegates are nervous about starting or returning to university. Many people think of universities as intimidating places and are worried that the course material might be too academic. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! 

Our programmes are home to people from all sorts of industries and roles who learn in a wide range of ways. Alliance Manchester Business School’s programme leaders turn academic theories into action, bringing together fresh concepts with their real-world applications. New starters often tell us the almost immediate relief they feel when realising that they’ve made the right decision: to be surrounded by other leaders who share their commitment to professional development. 

A great place to start with professional development is our Manchester Leadership Development Programme. This is a practical, accelerated leadership programme for leaders and managers moving forward in their career, and will help you understand how to get the best out of your team and business.

My advice: take the plunge! 
You won’t regret it.

Blog posts give the views of the author, and are not necessarily those of Alliance Manchester Business School and The University of Manchester.

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