Can anyone be a leader or grow into one?

Just like any other work, leadership can be learned. For insight on transformation, take  a look at the taxi, cell phone and hotel  industries. ”They make you see how your own industry could be changing, too.”

Ilustrations: Tim Lahan

Annukka Oksanen, 25.10.2019

Assistant Professor Timo Vuori cannot name a single characteristic that a leader should definitely have. That’s how many pieces there are in the puzzle.  

”Well I guess you have to be smart. But even that’s not always necessary; sometimes choosing the right strategy is down to luck. And as long as the leader manages to inspire others despite being dumb, it will work”, he provokes. 

Vuori does mention one absolute must for good leadership, though: the CEO needs to fit in with the rest of the organization’s management. That way, the management team can compensate what the CEO might be lacking. 

The leader having the right business, product and service competence for the situation is what matters. Also networks that support the company are beneficial. 

The CEO needs to fit in with the rest of the organization’s management."

”A situational appraisal must be carried out on who can achieve the most in the context”, says Vuori. 

As there are no clear-cut leader personalities, leadership can be learned just like any other job. 

A CEO is no longer an omnipotent go-getter yelling from the corner office, but smart leaders of today are ready to admit they have a lot to learn. 

”Leadership is horribly lonely and extremely difficult. It’s important to have someone to call at nine in the evening after a terrible day. To have someone to turn for help”, says Lauri Järvilehto. 

Järvilehto himself calls Tom Kalinske, an American corporate director and former CEO of for instance toy company Mattel and game company Sega. 

Together, they might discuss work life problems and board work challenges. Järvilehto is currently a board member of company called Filosofian akatemia, specialized in work life issues, and Unicef of Finland.

”We skype at night. He’s an amazing gentleman in his seventies”, Järvilehto praises his mentor. Järvilehto plucked up the courage to ask Kalinske to mentor him when they sat down around the same dinner table in Salt Lake City once. 

Timo Vuori tips that for insight on transformation, you could look at the taxi, cell phone and hotel industries. ”They make you see how your own industry could be changing, too.”

Riitta Lumme-Tuomala from Aalto EE would give people more of a chance to cross organizational boundaries, and, above, all, authority boundaries. 

Leaders only have one tool – themselves."

”I pay attention to the way people ask for help.” Asking for help means exposing yourself and thus says a lot about someone. 

”Leaders only have one tool – themselves. If they don’t know themselves and how they affect others, they have no way of understanding other people”, Lumme-Tuomala says. 

Curious, energetic, empathetic, humble, and sophisticated. Through talent management, all these traits can be analyzed, just like the results of different business segments can be analyzed. 

A good leader works for the company and the company’s employees. 

Lauri Järvilehto describes leadership as follows: 

”Ideally, a leader is like a lens which compresses light into a laser beam. But the light always emanates from people – employees.” 

This story is part of a long form story called "How to choose the best possible leader for different situations?"

Currently reading: Aalto Leaders' Insight: Can anyone be a leader or grow into one?