“Contrary to the opinion of many, leaders are not born. Leaders are made, and they are made by effort and hard work.”
~Vince Lombardi

“She’s a born leader,” people say. According to Vince Lombardi, leaders are not born; they are made. I have to agree.

I have to agree because much of our work is helping clients do the work to become better leaders. And it is hard work. As a client said to us years ago, the skills we teach are simple, but they’re not easy.

I have to admit that I do, most likely, believe different things about the effort and hard work it takes to become a leader than Vince does. I’m guessing he means sweating and pushing and trying harder and harder. Most of the hardest work my clients do generally involves doing less than they normally do, not pushing as hard, and getting more comfortable stepping aside so that their teams can take on more responsibility and learn and grow.

That’s the really hard work.

It’s the really hard work to learn not to always push for perfection when perfection has been your only way of being. But pushing for “the ideal” often gets in the way of getting a great job done, and beating up oneself (or others) when anything less than 100% perfection is achieved is a sure way to rile negative emotions and lessen impact. But it’s really hard work.

It’s the really hard work to step back and let others take the lead, especially when their approach is different than yours. It’s hard to delegate to your team members, but it’s the only way they’ll learn and the only way you can do the important work you don’t have time for. It’s true leadership to lead others so well that they can start leading. But it’s really hard work.

It’s the really hard work to turn down your intensity when everything about you is intense. And when (at least you believe) your intensity has helped you achieve all you’ve achieved. But intensity can shut others down and get in the way of the greatest results. But it’s really hard work.

It’s the really hard work to step up, share your opinion, and even maybe engage in a bit of contentious discussion when somehow you learned to never rock the boat and never challenge the status quo. Or other people. But leadership requires sharing your thoughts and having an opinion. Leadership requires stepping in and speaking up. But it’s the really hard work.

Leaders are not born; they are made. They are made through intentional effort and, at times, really hard work. Hard mental, psychological, and, at times, emotional work.

It’s hard work, but it can be fun. It certainly is liberating. And it certainly is a hoot to coach others through it.

How have you worked hard to be a better leader?
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