Notes around the natural process of growing into great leaders

Ever wondered how some first time managers turn into great leaders and some don't? There is a primary step, less discussed in public, this short essay take a look at it, with focus on individual level and on society level.
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Shakespeare said, "We cannot all be masters" ... I have doubts about such formal learning for something as elusive as leadership. You cannot study how to be the boss from a dusty textbook or in the lecture theatre ...

Sadly, this is an age of pygmy bosses and grey leaders. Too few have real flair or a persona with a sense of high drama. The characters have been replaced by committees. Many twenty-first-century "leaders" are simply administrators or over-promoted bureaucrats.

Quote added July 23, 2016 (Johnson, 2013)

The misleading storyline about becoming a leader

Even though these days lots of books are being published about how to be a good manager and leader, there is a fundamental truth that remains untold, or even, usually, these publications present it in the wrong way.

Maybe it would be better to first see what is wrong in these publications, let’s take one of the authors of higher quality books in this field as an example; here is the book’s description by the publisher:

New managers must learn how to lead others rather than do the work themselves, to win trust and respect, to motivate, and to strike the right balance between delegation and control. It is a transition many fail to make. This book traces the experiences of nineteen new managers over the course of their first year in a managerial capacity. Reveals the complexity of the transition and analyzes the expectations of the managers, their subordinates, and their superiors. New managers describe how they reframed their understanding of their roles and responsibilities, how they learned to build effective work relationships, how and when they used individual and organizational resources, and how they learned to cope with the inevitable stresses of the transformation. They describe what it was like to take on a new identity. Two themes emerge: first the transition from individual contributor to manager is a profound psychological adjustment--a transformation; second, the process of becoming a manager is primarily one of learning from experience. Through trial and error, observation and interpretation, the new managers learned what it took to become effective business leaders. A paperback version is available.

Not only Professor Linda A. Hill (2003) but lots of other publications out there follows the same storyline too, and their view about this "transformation" is limited to what happens after individuals are assigned to managerial roles and positions for the first time, but I believe this "transformation" is not really a "transformation", as scholars like Professor Hill try to explain it but rather a process of growth. It is not that first time leaders —I mean true leaders— undergo a transformation in their identity during the first year of managerial experience, but that the process of discovering oneself comes to fruit giving results by the end of that period —at least for the successful one of those first time leaders—, results which were not obvious for the eyes of ordinary observers before that time. It is not that these results, or as Ms. Linda A. Hill claims this "identity" wasn’t there all the way long from their childhood through adulthood and till the day they were assigned to such duties or accepted such duties by themselves, but that this "identity" were really unobservable for the eyes of ordinary people. In the same while, the consciousness of these individuals is usually unaware of this feature of their identities too, and it is all right to be this way1.

Leadership; a feature in human being's design

I believe leadership is an attribute given to every human being and like any other attribute, there are usually few people who have this attribute in a degree and intensity so that they are able to pursue it in their professional life and in fact, such individuals usually must do so in their professional life too ...

We encounter the results of teamwork and leadership, whether it would be the lack of leadership or presence of a great leader on an everyday basis. Our existence in this world is the result of teamwork, I don’t mean the hospital staff, but very young or mature woman and the man who ... long before we opened our eyes for the first time in a hospital ...

The invisible process of growing into great leaders

Looking at the list of essential duties of leaders in big organizations, "listener, delegator, and the one who communicates and reinforces their subordinates", it is easy to realize that parents carry the same duties. The very vital task of parents is not to do things for their children but rather to empower their personal and professional development. That sounds exactly the same as the tasks of leaders, doesn’t it? Perhaps we need to question ourselves what have happened in our family life that we grow up into adults, who don’t know how to perform the tasks of leaders, so that we are required to take part in leadership and management courses and that these fields and such books are booming for the time being.

I think as a society and as a family —mothers, and fathers— we have to question ourselves about what had happened that we ended up in these conditions. I hope this article gives you few insights and descriptions to be able to discuss and question our conditions in their regard better.

Hence, the leadership practices are present in daily family life, it is understandable that every one of us has such abilities and talents to an ordinary degree, but like language, where everyone is able to talk and communicate in his or her mother tongue but not anyone grow into Shakespeare, not everyone grows into a great leader in crucial organizations and positions.

The very primary step into leadership and management, which starts long before one gets a position in this profession is the journey of understanding the meaning of functions of leaders and leadership and accepting such identity for oneself.

Overview of what distinguishes leaders

There are maybe a handful of people out there who can tell whether a child could become a good leader or not, how many CEO’s getting fired and how many CEO’s making wrong decisions, it is easy to recognize, evaluating an already mature manager and leader for such positions by people who are already experienced in these fields [read it, boards of directors], is not easy at all, and not always possible either. So, how do we expect to know whether someone could get promoted to leadership and management position or not?

If you are not that young, the chances are that you already know that what distinguishes a successful business from an unsuccessful venture is not solely a better idea but the execution, and in case we don’t talk about startups, the process of deciding on an idea would also become a part of the execution. Steve Jobs was an exception, leaders are not usually the utmost important or key player in the field. The leader is also responsible for the performance of its best player. It was Pep Guardiola, who empowered Lionel Messi to who he is today. He made the crucial decision to let him go to the Olympic games with Argentina’s national team, a decision which lots of coaches would avoid making this way, cause they are not going to have their best players ready for the start of the seasons. Pep Guardiola decided himself for a happy Messi than having a prepared Messi in Barcelona for the start of the season. In the same way, there are leaders who decide whom to hire, whom to fire, what to give to someone, what to expect of them, where to put pressure, where to give freedom to their subordinates ... Great leaders encourage people with great ideas inside the company to come up with such ideas and to pursue them inside the company.

In contradiction to lots of people’s beliefs, great leaders are not necessarily the ones who set the tone of the organization, group or the team, or even they won’t decide the mission2. Human beings are not creatures with just one primary feature or only one significant ability, and that’s why you can find a fair proportion of leaders who eventually set the mission or define the mission or promote3 an idea so it becomes the mission of lots of people.

These are just a few examples of how leaders make a difference in the work environment, but as mentioned earlier, people who are born with the abilities to grow in such leaders require first to understand and accept the leadership. So we do not need to recognize the potential of leadership in others, rather we need to allow individuals with such traits to grow into great leaders. We don’t need to search for people who might be good cases for promotion to leadership positions, we rather need to keep our eyes open to realize the discontent of someone in their today’s positions and realize that what they are doing is leadership ...

Hardening the natural process of growing into great leaders by today's society

I think in today’s societies there are two trends which work against this natural path of development of those leaders. Before introducing these two trends, let’s take a look at yet another phenomena which occurs in people who have the ability to become great leaders. Children who are more gifted in leadership attitudes are less likely to realize the meaning and importance of leadership during their adolescence [I rather mean mental and emotional adolescence, than any other aspect and type of it]. It may sound strange, but these phenomena don’t occur just with people who are more gifted in leadership attitudes. For example, young authors usually tend to believe that what they write, their ideas and the stories that they have in their mind are not interesting, yet for others, these stories are really interesting. Why is it this way? Because a person who is more gifted in storytelling and literature attitudes is able to realize all the mistakes, all the shortcomings, all failures ... They are not usually just harsh toward their own writings, if you could catch them in their private moments when they don’t try to be polite and avoid hurting others, they would tell you, that they think lots of books out there are not really worthy. Nevertheless, all these unworthy books are so valuable in the eyes of their readers ...

People who are grown up with more leadership attitudes than it is usual for average people perhaps would have never felt any need for leadership in their period of adolescence, not because their lack of intelligence or social skills but because usually intentionally or unintentionally they have had the position of leader. A side result of such phoneme is the importance of others for us to realize who we are. A person who has always been a leader and nobody has told him anything about himself, don’t know what a leader is or, even more surprising, they don’t even understand the need for leaders in groups.

The most obvious examples of these phenomena [regarding leadership] become observable by first-time entrepreneurs who are also first-time leaders. These people come up with an idea, and as they become confident enough in the mighty success of the idea, they would start to build a team to start building a product, but in at same time, they usually intentionally and unintentionally insist on not having a leader in the organization. The natural course of events afterward is people begin to feel humiliated, left alone, lose their motivation and faith in the startup and the business starts to collapse ... unless someone makes this entrepreneur realize that if they don’t need a leader and they don’t even feel any need for such a position in their startup, others deeply wish to have a leader present in the organization ...

So, let’s go back to the two trends which, I think, make the process of realizing the need for leadership for the first-time leaders even more impossible:

Trend 1. Disestablishment of lifelong attachment/love relationships

The first trend is the extinction of family life. We marry people out of unreasonable justifications, even though marriage itself is also becoming rare too, we divorce out of wrong reasons4, we have single parents, or even more parents which both works full-time but in separate locations on totally irrelevant topics, in addition to that lots of us don’t have more than one child and on top of all these children should go to school.

Children are rarely exposed to experience and observe the dynamic of group life as it would have been the case in the past, where couples worked the whole time together ... let’s go back too[!] far away, some decades ago, all occupations have been family occupations. The mother and father have not been separated from each other because they worked for different employers, considering today it is not rare that father and mothers working even in different countries, and children spent most of their times with people who mattered to them, their parents and their younger and older siblings.

Schools are not the same as growing up with your siblings. The group dynamic between siblings children with age differences is far different from the group dynamics we forcefully try to teach to the children who are in the same class based on their age similarity5.

In those times, siblings were the one you would have spent all your days and nights time with them and not only 5 to 8 hours school time ... So the children of our times miss the opportunity of spending time with someone for a continuous period of time without interruption, which is of tremendous importance when it comes to psychological themes6.

Whether you believe in the value of family life, emotional bonds and having experience of lifelong companionship with a handful of individuals or not, as this would be the case in family life, or what is called the "true love" by Hollywood style cultural products or not, the presence of such conditions in individuals’ lives are not only important for those individuals but on the large scale they leave their results deep-embedded in our societies.

These shifts and trends have caused lots of undesirable situations in our lives7, one of which is that children with the ability to become leaders don’t really grow into a great leader as they should have because they have had never had the chance to observe a natural group dynamic and they were never exposed to a caring and loving leader. A school teacher doesn’t treat all the children as his or her own child, so whatever he or she does, it is nearly impossible to meet the expectations of a real father or mother ...

Trend 2. Promotion the fake idea of enhanced team functionality in absence of leaders

The second trend is the conscious and unconscious promotion of the belief that leaders are evil and that in fact, we don’t need them. I am not talking about cultures like German where the word "Führer", the English translation of leader, is a political taboo, because of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi period in the German national history. Willingly or unwillingly we force ourselves and others to think of leadership roles and tasks as the evil in the society and we believe we can make an evolutional step past the need for leadership. It would be the same as thinking we can make an evolutional step over sex, like some works of science-fiction which tried to imagine a future where people are free from sex, cause sexual desires are the cause of lots of evil in the world, jealousy, unwanted pregnancy, betrayal, adultery, murder and even great wars between nations ... I talk about these phenomena about leadership as a trend because you can observe them in lots of different areas and totally different domains, for example:

Extreme form of democracy could be considered as a method of diminishing the role of leaders and managers from the socio-political scene or some of extreme feminist activists try to promote the idea that there is no need for a husband, by which they plainly mean someone who fill the position of leader and manager in the family, or even the concept of Holocracy which promote the idea that their books of rules and their practices could fill the empty place of leaders and managers —in their case CEOs— from the organizations and companies, better than any human CEO. I am not against the values, which the follower of each of these movements are aimed to achieve through their methods and practices —a better and more just socio-political society, or a far more loving, satisfying and fulfilling relationship and family life, where there is no one superior to someone else, or way much more innovative and productive organizations or companies where there would be no CEO, as we know him or her— but what all these extreme concepts don’t understand is that there has never been a superiority of status for governors against normal citizens, nor even men had ever had a given superiority and authority over the rest of family members [especially women], nor CEOs against the rest of his or her subordinates. The reality is that our media, our publications, our culture are full of mistaken beliefs and assumptions for the superiority of such individuals over others, in order to justify their mistakes without being questioned. What these extremist theorists are aimed to achieve is that in order to have more just, happy and loving society, family or organization, we should delete the role of leader and manager, instead of realizing the truth that it is not the role or duty or the tasks which causes a society to be unjust or unhappy or not that much loving but it is the mistakes and wrongdoings of people who have been gifted with the tasks of fulfilling those positions. The reality that persons who are put in such positions are in no way necessarily better than others, doesn’t mean that having such positions and roles are wrong. Quite rarely it is the case that a CEO has better ideas about innovations within his company or organization, therefore, we never use the words CEO and inventor for the same persons [even though it could be a possibility that a CEO be an inventor as well] but a company needs both of these qualities to function as best as possible; or as a common example by feminism’s beliefs suggest that it is always men who decide when the couples should sleep with each other and when not, but the solution is not to have men and women fighting with each other about whom should have the right to initiate desires for sex, instead the receipt for a fulfilling, loving life is to have the couple understanding each other’s signals and symptoms about when the other party is full of sexual desires and when they don’t and having one of them8 making the decision for initiating sexual intercourse9.

Any hope?

So if we want to have great leaders, we need those who are highly gifted in leadership attitudes to understand their personality and do the job they are meant to do. We can approach this issue from two different levels. On personal and individual level and on the society as a whole. On the society level, we need to tackle these two trends. The first trend is a complex issue and if Peter F. Drucker was still alive, he would have told, it could only be handled by entrepreneurs. We need entrepreneurs who introduce new models of life, work, and family life into the society, alternatively, we can continue with how we are living today, till there would be great wars and revolutions, alternatively, we might destroy the human race in the earth, so a new way of life evolves from the ashes of our civilization, in the past usually the God has sent prophets to change or shift trends in the society and in case people didn’t turn back, He would have destroyed every single one of that folk or civilization, alternatively, we can go back to religious life and I don’t mean the nonsense constitutional religion groups who rather collect money than doing anything else, but going back to a life where what mattered was doing the good things, rather than increasing profits, or say it plainly running after incentives or any other alternatives ... but at least, we should be aware of what we are doing, and in best case making the right decisions rather than doing what the past folks did towards their prophets ...

About the second trend, we should be patient with people who are going to say nasty words, because we are not feminist, or really in favor of democracy or because we are old and don’t understand the benefits of Holacracy ... if we are going to stand against these trends, we are going to face a lot of nasty responses, especially from the very smart guys and girls ... but we need to tell the truth that what is wrong is not the existence of leaders and leadership but poor leaders and leadership and instead of trying to diminish leaders from everyday life, we should promote great leadership in the society. We don’t need to publicize the idea that men just want that one thing from women, we rather need to promote how we can love each other ...

Fostering natural process of growing into great leaders on the individual level

Even though as discussed before, it looks like we are in really bad conditions as a society for individuals who are naturally extra gifted in leadership attitudes to grow into individuals they are meant to be, but I think there are also possibilities to help yourself fostering these automatic, unconscious and natural process of self-growth at least for yourself, before making great shifts in the societies cultures and trends.

There is a basic principle behind the possible methods to enhance and foster the process of growing into great leaders:

The best conditions to grow into individuals you are meant to be, is to be surrounded by people whom you love and they love you too10.

There is a tremendous amount of psychological insights behind what I am claiming here, and a series of lecture in a university would have been a more suitable place to introduce you to these insights, but let’s try our best a put everything in one sentence:

The natural process of growing11 happens through the process of "reflection" and the process of reflection gives the best results when it is inside the extreme intimate relationship of human beings with one another, which is called "love" in some instances. Therefore, individuals who are highly gifted in leadership attitudes need to be reflected by others, with whom they have an emotional bond as being a "leader"12.

To put this into action plans for such individuals, I can introduce you to three means how could you perform such things:

Like water which is believed to be the key cause of living on the Earth, love could be seen as the key element of the individual's growth and development. Please don’t fake every sexual relationship as love in your beliefs. It is undeniable that the existence and presence of one significant other in your life which both of you share a deep emotional bond, will naturally (out of the blue) empowers, motivates, guides, leads, encourages, and etc. you toward fulfillment of all your physical and spiritual potentials13.

In the same way [but to a lesser intensive degree], it is great and very useful to be understood and recognized as the leader by persons around you, whom their view of you matters to you because of on an emotional bond or mutual understanding and respect between two of you and not because of any written hierarchy, like a first grade family member, best friends, heroes or even bosses or colleagues with whom you also share mutual emotions14.

My last suggestion would be to get insights from the personal and professional lives of great leaders. Whether from today or even ancient or fictional film or story characters [as long as the author, screenwriter, director, or etc has been able to depict a true picture of a leader or manager]. The principle behind this pathway is a bit different from both prior ones which were totally based on an emotional bond [read it, love]. As in "The Ugly Duckling" by Hans C. Andersen, as long as you don’t come in contact with personalities of the same kind as you, you may grow up unaware of the beauty of your unique qualities. Therefore, it could be useful to read biographies, blogs, stories, articles, analyzes of leaders, whom you like based on their personal characteristics or the beauty of the team they led. For sure even better than an indirect insight into someone's life would be to socialize with the ones which are alive.

Endnotes and Acknowledgements

Before ending this essay, let’s look at two short version of the implementation of the thoughts presented here:

Leaders in the entrepreneurship’s scene

I believe, at their core, a good portion of these failed start-ups have something in common, which is the lack of a great leader.

The lack of great leadership that I am talking about here doesn’t come from the conditions where no one in the founder team has picked up the duty of the leader. It is extremely rare to find such cases because an idea will not come into life, [provided that it is really something that nobody ever did before], unless there is someone with leadership attitudes available at the place.

The reason that these leadership attitudes, which are pre-existing in one or more of the members of the founder team would not realize in having a leader inside the team, is not that nobody has picked up the role of a "great leader" in the founder team, but that the person in the founder team who was destined to be the leader didn’t accept this role within his or her heart. [You can call it that they are not in peace with themselves, or that they do not live a wholehearted life, different people from different backgrounds tend to describe such situation with different terms, but they are all trying to point out the same problem.]

My example [& possible conflict of interests]

Till two years ago, I was always in denial about the necessity of leadership in achieving goals15. I had also made the experience of work in groups in competitions at school; nowadays when I look back to those memories, I can see that I was the person who would have decided whom should do what. I see that the competitions were designed in that particular form, so we could practice teamwork, but in reality, it was anything other than practicing teamwork. First, some years after graduating from high school as I tried to work on an idea with two very good friends of mine was when I realized there is something missing in our relationships. It wasn’t me how realized it, it was those amazing friends, who reminded me that this is not the way that things work, they can’t feel where we are going and why we should do the things which we were doing back then ... It took a long while till I realized what they were requesting for, was the leader and nothing else. I would like to thank Amirhossein and Shirin Farzam, those early members of the team.

It was A. S. calm acceptance of the idea that I don’t fit in the typical idea of being an employee that set peace to my heart and soul and enabled me to embrace my identity rather than hiding myself from it because it is a harmful feature. Even though she never asked anything in response, it is hard to imagine to give her something back on my side as thanks.


I would like to thank Dr. Attila A.Shelley for explaining the typical concept of understanding the "transition to first-time managers" which was the trigger of writing this response to such way of misunderstanding the concept of growing into great leaders.

The worshippers’ thanksgiving and Adoration is due only to Allah: The Creator and Nurturer of the worlds [And their inhabitants];


  • Johnson, L., 2013. Start it up. Portfolio, London.

  • Hill, L.A., 2003. Becoming a Manager: How New Managers Master the Challenges of Leadership, [WWW Document]. Harvard Business Review. URL

  • Robertson, B., 2015. Holacracy: A Radical New Approach to Management, YouTube | TEDxTalks. URL

  1. Lots of features, attitudes, abilities, say it generally lots of gifts in human beings are this way.

    For example, you can take the process of adolescence:

    Every baby boy and girl has these incredible abilities for reproduction built in inside their bones and flesh, inside their genes, —based on how you want to understand humans— but till adolescence, they have no idea about it and it is first after the birth of the first child that they really understand how things work together, and some people even after that don’t really understand how things work together ... ↩︎

  2. Even though it is not a good example, cause this television series emphasizes on entertainment instead of a realistic depiction of the development of an extraordinary Newsnight and the newsroom behind that show, but I like to pick up "Charlie Skinner" from "The Newsroom" as an example of such leader. He is not the man who decides the new mission for the Newsnight, neither he is the man who indicates the essential change for the show. The main thing he does is just hiring a new executive producer for the show, and with the new executive producer, the Newsnight turns into "the Newsnight 2.0". He is not the man who indicates this idea, he is the man who brings the woman, who has this idea in the show and persists against all resistance to enable her pursuing her dream. ↩︎

  3. Promoting an idea and getting the attention of people towards it and making a group of people becomes aware of an issue, a solution, a product and etc are studied as different abilities of human beings that the "leadership" ability, for example, there is the trend of calling such activities "marketing" by "business school" scholars. In my opinion, "marketing" is a misleading term rather than a useful one, for what these scholars are aimed to describe ... ↩︎

  4. Cause usually the divorces are not because the partnership has been wrong from the beginning but rather because the couple is not willing to face their problems, individuals tend rather to ignore tough situations than to address them ... ↩︎

  5. Just consider this obvious loss: a child is forced to see all other children have the same need as him or her. It is no more, that the brother is worried about his exam and the sister about her boyfriend, which aren't the matter of a younger child, and in the same while, it is no more, that the younger sibling is mad over his broken toy, as if it would be the biggest problem in the world, or that you keep an eye on him or her while he or she is trying to cut fruits for the first time and the satisfied look in the patrons faces for such a banal achievement in the eyes of older siblings. The losses are deeper than these few examples, but that is the much to tell in one single paragraph if you are totally in denial about this ... ↩︎

  6. Consider this example, drops of waters will leave their mark even on a hard stones surfaces, if they drop continuously over a long period of time, rather than all at once. ↩︎

  7. The one which easier to comprehend is their results on the society on a large scale but coming at individual level, these trends are also responsible for lots of harms, there would be a lot to name but a simple one would can be the fact that we walk with dogs on the streets, instead of humans. You can discuss whether having a pet has benefits or not, but to forget that humans are better taking care for humans and sharing their lives with humans and animals with animals won’t be a matter of philosophy or psychology, but a thing that even animals are able to comprehend ... ↩︎

  8. which in the majority of couples are the male part, while in the majority of relationships with a man being younger it is the female part ↩︎

  9. it is understandable that people who have been the objects of superior power of an individual human being in an unjust way believe that being the manager or leader means that you are the one who rules out what is needed to be done in any given situation but the truth is that real, good managers and leaders quite rarely make a decision by themselves, what they do is rather initiating, encouraging and leading what is needed to be done, not that they are the ones who decide what is necessary to be done. Imagine a young couple spending time with each other and the moment when sexual desires are at their greatest level, it is neither the male side nor the female side who has made the decision that right now and at this moment we must wish to sleep together, it is the natural designs in our bodies, the way we grow up, our environments, and lots of other factors, which causes the two of them be turned on, and quite none of them have made active decisions about any of these factors beforehand, maybe just how to dress, or where to meet, or what to eat and it is quite necessary that either one of them make the first step, otherwise, it will be like, "I waited for him to put his lips on mine", "I waited for her to come closer to me" and you know after a long while the whole sexual wishes could easily turn to frustration on both sides. ↩︎

  10. it is impossible to love someone and not being loved by that person or vice versa, but unfortunately, the great mistake in the majorities people’s understanding of love forces me to mention explicitly, that the love I mean is mutual. ↩︎

  11. and it is not only about leadership but about any other gifts too ... ↩︎

  12. If you are interested to know more around this theme, you could read the "Psychology, psychotherapy and giftedness ..." article, the part with the title "naturally gifted "Why does your heart want such thing?" ... ↩︎

  13. Hopefully for the good ↩︎

  14. You can call this another face of love as well, no problem. But careful not to mix the things, or falsely believe this can take the place of a stronger and deeper degree love with only one individual. ↩︎

  15. There is a real trick here, which is to understand that leaders are not there, so we can achieve goals, leaders are a necessity for human beings to work with each other. ↩︎


  • Author: Scrappy Nobody

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