Becoming a leader

The paths to becoming a leader can be as numerous as there are leaders. Focusing on these differences could require a separate treatment for each person who becomes a leader. Broadly speaking, culture and environment and organizational/industry characteristics help to define who reaches the top and how they get there. For example, how one becomes a political leader in Europe or Canada is clearly different from the way one gets there in Latin America, Africa, or the Middle East. And if you start a small business, you are immediately in charge of all of it. The founding leader of a dot-com start-up gets to the top through a different process from that followed by the leader of an established, and typically much larger, organization such as a Fortune 500 company, the Roman Catholic Church, or the U.S. Republican Party. Moreover, not every job or every organization is suited for every person. Organizations seek employees with the appropriate skills and personalities to fill jobs. Individuals with different interests and skills in turn seek employment situations providing personal satisfaction and adequate reward. This indicates there has to be a match between the job and the person in it.

But there are common patterns. Two of the important underpinnings of leading—evolutionary or biological forces and childhood influences—were discussed above. Humans are apparently predisposed to do certain things in certain ways. For example, they group together for safety and companionship, ...

Get Leadership: Leaders, Followers, Environments now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.