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Are the Best Leaders Born or Made?

There’s an Interview over at Biz Book Talk with Author Bob Prosen who wrote Kiss Theory Goodbye As a trained engineer Prosen uses problem solving skills to break facts down into manageable chunks. His recent book Kiss Theory Goodbye offers tools in bite sizes for leaders who tend to make excuses rather than lead well.

The following highlights came from Jake Cook’s interview with Bob Prosen – over at Biz Book Talk:



1. The classic Nature vs. Nurture question…are leaders born or made?
I think leaders are born to lead. It’s just something in their DNA that propels them to do it. But a great leader possesses two unique skills:
First,  they are fantastic listeners
Second,  they make the decision with the mindset that the buck stops here. People are looking to leaders to make a decisive decision and hold people accountable. Too many leaders make the mistake of not holding people to what needs to be done. Accountability really is a positive thing.


2. What are the similarities, if any, between great sales reps and great leaders?
They both have solid listening skills and a very positive attitude. In addition, they never give up and get past mistakes. They are constantly looking forward and have little time for mulling over the past. However, it’s very rare for a sales rep to rise to a CEO position within an organization.


3. In the book, you mention the importance of an organization running lean. How do you know when you’ve reached that point in a big corporation?
I like the idea of running lean because it forces people to distill what’s important day to day. When people don’t have time to waste they tend to accomplish the truly important aspects of their job first. Usually, you can tell you’ve hit this point when people start to squeak a bit. When there are too many people the important things don’t get done and there is no buzzing about feeling the pinch of time.


4. With very little to differentiate upon regarding price or place, is customer service the last frontier?
The bar has been raised and clients expect a high-level of service from everybody. But it doesn’t have to be complex. The definition of service is very simple: “doing what you say you’re going to do, with no surprises.” Clients absolutely hate surprises. Do everything you can to avoid that. In addition, customers may only give you one shot and if you fail to deliver on that basic definition, they will more than likely be gone.


5. If customer service is so important, why is there such a discourse in compensation between a sales rep and customer service rep? Should the model be flipped on its head?
No. I say offer anybody in customer service to go on a commission based salary and see if they’re up for taking that risk.
However, at the managerial level in customer service, companies are tying compensation back to customer satisfaction but it’s not trickling down to front lines just yet. Customer service people should receive bonuses on things like upsells or resolving problems on the first call, no question. And there should most definitely be a quality improvement plan in place and tracking of all complaints to drive them down. These can all be tied to providing an incentive based program for customer service reps.

Do you agree with Bob Prossen’s take on leadership? I’d be interested to hear your notion of Bob Prosen’s views in light of brain research, for instance,  that states:

What we do daily develops how well we’ll achieve skills for leadership. For instance, the brain rewires each night while we sleep, and builds new neuron pathways based on what we did or developed the previous day. How does that research impact the author’s opening comments about DNA here?

If the research has it right,  the human brain is capable of learning new skills to lead well, even at a very senior age. Has that been your experience?

Is Bob suggesting that he and others he admires came with these skills already rooted in their gene pools and that others cannot attain similar leadership acumen? Should we really kiss brain based theory goodbye, especially when it defines how we succeed as leaders when we develop skills daily? What do you say?

2 Comments/Trackbacks

Ellen - I enjoy your take on leadership and challenge you posed. It amazes me that with all the information available on leadership, the topic still attracts tremendous attention. In fact, of the five courses I teach, leadership remains the most requested. I once heard someone say that some people are born leaders, some become leaders and others have leadership thrust upon them. One is for certain, we all like to work for great leaders!I look forward to reading what you have yet to write.

Hi Ellen,

As I read Kiss Theory Good Bye, I read it from a management perspective and not from a leadership perspective. I like the questions you pose from the highlights you selected from the BizTalk interview.

I just posted an interview with Bob Prosen that you might be interested in: An Interview with Bob Prosen, Author of “Kiss Theory Good Bye” at http://smartlemming.com/blog/index.php/2007/05/an-interview-with-bob-prosen-author-of-kiss-theory-good-bye/

Lori Grant

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