THE BLOG

Leadership Lessons From Warren Bennis

11/08/2014 15:44 BST | Updated 10/10/2014 10:59 BST

People often ask me, "Geoffrey, are great leaders born or made?"

Actually, if I'm honest, people rarely ask me that. They're more likely to ask me something like "Geoffrey, how would you like to join our weekly breakfast networking group for a modest membership fee?" or "Geoffrey, can I interest you in our start-up business growth marketing package?"

But when it comes down to the old born-or-made question in the leadership debate I am on the same side as the late Warren Bennis whose recent passing prompted me to offer my own leadership thoughts.

As this recent profile in Business Insider put it:

"Mr Bennis believed leaders are made, not born. He taught that leadership is a skill--or, rather, a set of skills--that can be learned through hard work. He likened it to a performance. Leaders must inhabit their roles, as actors do. This means more than just learning to see yourself as others see you, though that matters, too. It means self-discovery."

And, of course, what better way to help a leader in their journey towards self-discovery than to offer them executive coaching? This, after all, is our mission at Geoffrey Wadhurst Coaching Limited and gives me as Founder and Chief Executive Officer, my sense of purpose and meaning.

Reading about Bennis has been a welcome opportunity for me to reflect on my own leadership skills. Since it remains early days for my business, I remain its sole employee and so the capacity for me display leadership behaviours in the traditional corporate sense is somewhat limited. But are leadership skills just for those of us that have reached exalted C-suite titles (for those unfamiliar with the C-suite concept, it's simply any job title with a 'C' in the front: CEO, CFO, and of course, most important of all, CHRO- Chief Human Resources Officer)?

For reasons that I will explain shortly, I am writing this blog in the St Albans Starbucks with a steaming mocha (no cream) next to me to a not unpleasant jazz soundtrack. But normally, my base is the dining room of our St Albans home. Earlier this morning, I began to reflect that in a way, I am a leader and that my "team" is the Wadhurst family - my wife Sandra and son Ollie, 16. After all, I have to provide Sandra and Ollie with the vision and mission that will guide us in our journey together. Bennis was so right - it's not just how others see us.

I was about to share this insight with Sandra earlier when she came into the dining room; it's never clear with Sandra just how open she is to a chat on the concept of leadership at any given time.

"I need you to clear off, Geoffrey," she said. "I'm hosting the tennis ladies' book club today and they'll be here any minute."

"Won't you be in the living room?" I said, offering a gentle challenge.

"Yes, but I need to lay out drinks and nibbles in here. Why don't you go and use the wi-fi in Starbucks."

Sure enough, the ladies began to arrive before I could pack away my laptop.

"Have you read the book for this month?" Beverly asked Liz. Liz had to be reminded that it was Love in the Age of Cholera by Marquez in recognition of the fact that he too had recently passed away.

"I've got it on the Kindle," said Liz. "Haven't had a minute to start reading it." I squeezed past her and made for the front door. "What I have got," she continued, "is a couple of bottles of that lovely Pinot from Waitrose. Be a darling and put these in the fridge will you, Sandra?"