There is an age-old debate about whether great leaders are born or made. But both the nature and nurture sides of this debate misunderstand leadership as a fixed state reached after study and practice transforms an individual into a leader. Today’s leaders, however, see environments and people freshly, as if for the first time. They question everything continually, even the very nature of leadership. This is a big change from the older style of top-down, authoritarian leadership.

Modern leaders genuinely believe in themselves, and through this authentic self-belief derive the confidence and legitimate authority that encourages people to follow them. They remain confident in the face of risk because they are able to calculate a risk/benefit balance that tells them when to act. They balance strong determination with a flexibility that lets them change course.

Communication and Expectation

Good leadership depends on good communication. Dale Carnegie found that effective leaders open difficult conversations with an abundance of praise. In fact, he advised giving praise lavishly and freely.

In contrast, constructive criticism should be offered with great care. Good leaders often begin critiques with praise and honest appreciation. They call attention to people’s mistakes obliquely and often talk about their own mistakes before criticizing others. They follow up by providing praise at even slight signs of improvement. Indeed, Carnegie suggested praising without delay, saying,

“Providing someone with a reputation to live up to can be the best way of inspiring peak performance.”

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