Bosses: Born or Bred?

Leadership skills are key to making it to the top. Some may come naturally, but most can be nurtured.

“There are some things that you’re born with and then other things you can learn,” says Professor Ron Burke, who teaches at York University’s School of Human Resources Management. “You can learn to be focused, you can learn to set priorities, you can learn to manage your time better, you can learn to make yourself available to staff.”

Train to succeed

Recognizing the importance of leadership skills, many organizations offer workshops to teach employees how to lead a team, delegate and make effective presentations.

Colleges and universities across the country are also responding by adding more leadership curricula. The Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia has even gone as far as to launch a Centre for CEO Leadership. Burke, however, believes that what you can learn in the classroom has its limits. “In terms of leadership, I think it’s a lot harder to teach that, and I don’t think most schools in Canada do a very good job of that in the classroom,” he says. “But I think they give students in our programs a decent basis, so once they leave, they can get into the first job and they can observe good and bad managers.”

And companies are starting to hire outside career coaches to work with employees if necessary. To find one, start online with the Canadian Counselling Association, which offers a directory of certified counsellors. Social service agencies or employment service centres funded by the federal or provincial governments also offer career counselling services for free or at minimal cost. See what Service Canada has to offer.

Learn outside the box

Employees should also take the initiative to gain leadership skills at work and outside the office. Ada Ip is a human resources manager for Teligence, a Vancouver-based company that offers social-networking services.

“I would recommend taking on assignments at work such as leading project-based teams, training new employees, creating learning and development sessions, coaching/mentoring junior staff,” she says. “Or, outside of work, taking on volunteer roles where management skills are required, such as leading teams or a group of people at a non-profit organization, whether it be Girl Guides or Scouts, or organizing an event.”

Ultimately, becoming a leader in the workplace can depend as much on what you do to improve your skills as what Mother Nature gave you.