On Becoming a Natural Leader

I yam what I yam and dats all that I yam

–Popeye the Sailor Man

An insightful story is told of baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams. In his prime as a player in the 1940’s-50’s, he was known as a “natural hitter.” He was once was asked about this natural ability and replied, “There is no such thing as a natural-born hitter. I became a good hitter because I paid the price of constant practice, constant practice.”

Williams’ answer reveals the open secret as to what it means to become the best version of you. Practice. And just when you think you’ve got a handle on it – there’s more practice. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

In leadership, especially among younger leaders, there’s a tendency or temptation to want to rush the process. They want to be at a place in leadership in two or three years that has taken 30 years for others. And while the motivation and desire are commendable, there are no shortcuts on the road to maturity.

Becoming a “natural” is about your daily disciplines. It’s all about paying attention to the small things along the way-things that if practiced regularly will make you a natural leader.

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it’s a good starting point. This is not about resolving the debate of whether people are natural-born leaders or if they developed. There are some things that do come naturally for some people, and there are obviously some things that have to be developed. But what I am laying out here are some essentials. Let’s see how they resonate with you.

A natural leader has a servant’s heart

The highest form of leadership is not in what others do for you but in what you do for others. It’s not about you. 

This attitude is developed not so much in our mindset, which is part of it, but more so in the attitude of our hearts. At the end of the day, it’s about what you give and contribute, not what you take.

The Daily Practice – Put others first.

A natural leader is a life-long learner

This should go without saying, but I’ll say it. Leaders are learners. Leaders are readers. Your growth and development is a lifelong journey. If you are not learning you are not growing. It’s just that simple.

The Daily Practice – Never stop being a student. Read and learn every day.

A natural leader adapts to change

In life and in leadership, change is inevitable. A natural leader recognizes this and embraces it. It’s a given that not all change is what it’s cracked up to be and it’s also true that not all traditions are worth enshrining. But change is a constant and a natural leader will keep up.

The Daily Practice – Recognize change and embrace it. It will happen with or without you.

A natural leader has a positive attitude

In leadership, your attitude is everything. How you see your life, your work, and your influence is all connected to your attitude. How high, how far, and how well you make this journey all rests on the attitude you have. And as a leader, your attitude is often what others look to more than anything else. Guard it carefully.

The Daily Practice – Check your attitude at the door. Ask yourself – is my attitude today a good example for others to follow?

A natural leader is connected to faith

The practice of faith will vary for each of you. As a person of faith, I do not seek to impose my beliefs and views on anyone. I will simply say this – as a leader you can draw on your faith to keep you grounded, to keep you refreshed, and to give you courage and strength to fulfill your life’s mission.

The Daily Practice – Allow your faith to guide you, strengthen you, and inspire you on a daily basis.

No one ever mastered their trade or achieved greatness as an athlete, writer, or musician, etc.without putting in the time and countless hours of practice. It’s the same for you as a leader. If you want to be a natural leader, there are no shortcuts. Just practice, practice, practice.

Doug Dickerson
Doug Dickerson
DOUG has been speaking to audiences in the U.S. and overseas for more than 30 years. Doug knows how to spin a story, make you laugh, and how to challenge your traditional ways of thinking about leadership. Most of all, Doug is committed to helping you grow as a leader. Doug is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida and studied Clinical Pastoral Education at Palmetto Baptist Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. While his leadership expertise has its roots in ministry and teaching. His background also includes public relations and business. Doug understands the necessity of leadership development and why creating a leadership culture in your organization is critical to your success. He is the author of four leadership books including: Leaders Without Borders, 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders, Great Leaders Wanted, It Only Takes a Minute: Daily Inspiration for Leaders on the Move, and Leadership by the Numbers. As a speaker, Doug delivers practical and applicable leadership insights with a dose of humor and authenticity that endears him to a wide range of audiences.