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Ask the Experts: Are Leaders Born or Made?

September 28, 2010

Anne Crowe KrogerTime for Advice from an Expert! A month ago, you asked Anne Crowe Kroger, MBA, CPSM, a few questions. Anne is the business development director for the Boston office of parking consulting firm Walker Parking Consultants, and has 20 years of marketing/business development experience. Anne will answer two of your questions: today, you can read her thoughts on leadership. Tomorrow, you’ll hear about how to “work a room.”

What is your style of leadership at your company? How did you develop it and how has it evolved over the years?

The first question we need to address is: Are leaders are born or made? I’m from the school that strongly believes that the best leaders are born. These individuals have certain inherent traits that make them succeed as leaders. Leadership becomes second nature to them. It is part of their soul. “Made” leaders can study leadership traits and learn best practices. Leadership, however, will never be second nature to them.

My leadership traits showed themselves early. Just ask my brother! As a child, I was always the one to set the goals/direction and he would carry out the plan. Early signs of a commander!

Leadership styles are situational. Different situations call for different styles to get the job done. For example, when I took the reigns of SMPS Maine in 2006 it was a time of dramatic change. The chapter was struggling to stay afloat in all areas. We only had 18 members, $3,000 in the bank, and poor non-domain educational programming. In order to set the chapter on solid footing and achieve significant goals, it needed a commander. Someone who wasn’t afraid of the tough decisions. Someone who could set a vision and inspire the troops to follow. A commander is quick, decisive, confident, and forward-thinking. This type of leader needs troops that believe in the vision and are willing to press on for the common good. In tough times, sometimes you find that you don’t have the right troops and you need to part ways with some and move on. For SMPS Maine, the commander-style of leadership was exactly what was needed to achieve amazing results. We resuscitated the chapter from the brink of extinction. By the end of the year, with some adjustment in the troops, we boasted over $15,000 in the bank, a solid sponsorship program, two-track educational programming, multiple social events (including member-free events), and membership numbers upwards to 80. Strong leaders are needed in tough times.

With my staff at Walker Parking Consultants, I am definitely the coach. The coach is a teacher. They are concerned with growing and inspiring confidence. The coach has expertise and knowledge which the team or staff needs. As a coach, I’m mentoring my staff and developing them to work independently in the future. My staff of marketing coordinators and marketing assistants needs to learn about marketing, business development, and the business of Walker. They need a teacher who will encourage them to learn. At Walker, I lead by example. I provide my staff and colleagues the tools they need to succeed. I show them how to use those tools and then I let them fly. As a former marketing coordinator said of my leadership skills, “The reason we worked so well together is that you were very instrumental in providing me with guidance and mentorship, but you also believed in my skills enough to let me take a shot at doing things on my own and giving me constructive feedback.” This is the definition of a good coach.

I believe even the best leaders can become better. I’m constantly reading about leadership and honing my own skills.

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