While most people think that leaders are born, when it comes down to it leaders are made. Whether their leadership education is structured or free form, all leaders at one time or another had to go through a process that created and developed their leadership ability.
If you think about it, every culture has leaders and every culture has a method of creating leaders. This process can be hard to recognize in democratic societies with a looser leadership structure, but the education of leaders is very apparent in societies with more rigid class structures. For instance, England still has a monarchy that raises its children from birth to be leading figures. While the royal children receive the same basic education as everyone else, they also receive a supplementary education that teaches them how to become future princes, princesses, kings, and queens. In other societies with powerful religious classes, such as in Tibet, spiritual leaders are also taught from a young age how to lead people. Consider the Dalai Llama, whose reincarnation is identified as an infant to raise them to lead their people.
This education teaches the future leader how to handle an increasingly large load of responsibilities, an increasing large curriculum of knowledge, and an increasingly large number of people whom they lead.
Often, future leaders are directly guided by those who are already leading. Whether that guide is a parent, a priest, or a politician, everyone who learns to lead does so with the help of one who has already followed the path. Even American leaders, who aren’t presented with the same rigid course of education, often achieve their position after being taken under the wing of at least one already powerful individual. As Professor Cornel West has said- “A truly self-made man will suffer from poor construction.” Just as no one is born to lead, no one learns to lead on their own.
Besides an education in how to lead, a future leader requires a vision of a better future that they want to move towards. In many ways, a leader is defined by the challenge they undertake. Leadership revolves around an individual deciding that they are going to take on a problem that a group of people is unable to solve by themselves. Think about it- if the group of people could solve the problem on their own, they wouldn’t require a leader to help show them the way. Leading people towards working through this problem is the trial that separates a true leader from all the would-be leaders. Without a clearly defined problem and the germ of a solution, a leader will have nowhere, and no path, by which to lead her followers.
Which of course leads to the final requirement of leadership- a leader requires followers. Many people who do not succeed as leaders fail because they attempt to “go it alone.” Many competent people have the belief that they can confront and master a problem by themselves. However, if you feel like you can solve a problem all by yourself, you will not reach out to people to lead them. While leading by example is important, you must also actively reach out to people to build a base of supporters who will follow you and help you solve the problem in ways you would have never considered. In many ways, this is both the hardest and most important aspect of leadership.