More than thirty years after moving away from Chatham, New Jersey I had the opportunity to facilitate a Leader As Coach workshop for a client organization in Summit, the town next door to Chatham. For dinner one evening I chose to go into Chatham for dinner at Charley’s Aunt. This restaurant was a favorite for my wife and I during the days of our young married life. Nostalgia drew me back and off I went walking back in time to have a solo dinner.
A woman, whose name I later discovered was Jill, sat me at a table for two and I ordered off the menu that looked much like it did over 30 years ago. While casually watching the soccer game on the TV as I waited for my dinner to arrive I noticed Jill starting to draw a flower on a board that advertised the new web address for the restaurant. Before she finished drawing the first leaf I said to myself that this woman was very good and judged that she likely missed her calling. Instead of working at this restaurant she should have become an artist. Her natural talent was very easy to see. Jill proceeded to draw a beautiful picture that surrounded the words about the website.
Thoughts of my own artist son, Casey ran through me as I saw Jill draw with passion and energy that flowed through her hands to the board. It was natural and you could see the artist she was just came out of her with total ease. I have always marveled at the ease Casey shows when he is completely immersed in his art.
After I finished my dinner I rose to leave the restaurant and as I got to the door I turned and went back in. I felt I wanted to tell Jill how much I liked her art and how it brought thoughts of my son as well as thoughts of the natural gifts we all have, including the gifts we have as leaders. I think Jill thought I was a little weird having all these thoughts from just watching her draw and I assured her that I regularly have a myriad of mixed thoughts going through my head as normal course. And Jill shared with me that she was an artist and gave me her card. She has spent many years working at Charley’s Aunt and loves this place like a home. She still works there while working as a professional artist.
Having been in the middle of a two-day leadership workshop I thought of the leaders I had in the room and how often I see some leaders that are naturals, like Jill and Casey are as artists. Other leaders have to work really hard at it. I have played and coached team sports throughout most of my life and I always marvel at the natural athletes that seem like they effortlessly flow through a practice or game with such ease. And I also remember that I had to work very hard at any of these sports because I was not a natural. There were many times I wished for the natural talents many of my teammates seemed to possess.
Artists, athletes and leaders alike all work tirelessly at their skills and the naturals just seem to have that something extra. The answer to the age-old question of “are leaders born or made?” is simply yes. Some leaders will have that seemingly natural ability and others will have to work harder to achieve leadership success. Whichever one you are, keep working at it as this world needs more great leaders.
And remember, they won’t care about what you know until they know that you care.