Natural Born or Not, All Great Leaders Can Be Taught

There’s no dearth of bad boss horror stories. A quick Google search yields millions of hits for exposè articles, shocking videos, and snarky tweets about managers gone bad.  But incompetent leaders aren’t necessarily born that way. Neither are great ones. The challenge is figuring out how to bring out the best in whoever’s in charge. This is not a ‘soft’ topic. In an age of unprecedented rapid innovation and change, getting the most out of your people is pivotal to success. What’s more, the latest generation of young workers expects much more than a paycheck. They demand a connection to a higher purpose, something that only a great leader can provide.

That’s the impetus behind a new EMEA manager communications program at SAP slated for 2013. Designed to groom would-be leaders for greatness, it’s based on one concept: bring the right information to the right employees at the right time. The strategy is to reduce ‘top down’ emails, and replace them with timely communication that matters most to each individual. Employees get information where and when they want it. It’s mobile and social. A mobile app brings real-time news to an employee’s iPad. Blogs encourage employees to engage with managers in ongoing, interactive discussions across locations. Online and in-person networking allows employees and managers to exchange experiences, promoting cross-departmental understanding.

Rebecca Nicholson is Director of Employee Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility at SAP AG, Germany. In an article recently published by Melcrum, she talked about why leaders need to make communication a priority.

“Employees view managers as role models, especially those who walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk, and are more likely to respect a manager who they perceive to take the leadership role seriously,” she said. Call it what you will—an open door policy, regular one-on-one conversations, or role modeling work/life balance. Nicholson believes every conversation with a manager should leave employees energized with a sense of direction, prioritization, and opportunity. Employees who know how their daily work impacts the company’s overall strategy are empowered to go the extra mile.

Although economic uncertainty persists, now is not the time to hunker down to preserve the status quo. Now is the time to nurture leaders whose articulation of purpose will make your company a mecca for top talent. Let’s move the Google conversation away from negative characterizations to programs that build strong leaders. Natural born or not, leaders are the lifeline to everyone’s future.

This post originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.