If you take a young tree when it is sapling, and encourage it to grow the way that you know is best for the tree, pruning it at the right time and giving it the right level of care, it can grow to be anything you want it to be – within the limitations of its own potential. You try and do the same thing to an older tree, and your efforts will be more hit and miss. The tree may have established itself in poor soil, grown in the wrong direction or had little attention. In some cases some TLC and a careful prune will get it in the right direction, but other times the tree will not take to the dramatic change in its environment, and will respond poorly to the change.
The same applies with leadership development.
I have seen young leadership potential turn into amazing leadership skill through care, nurture and honest constructive criticism. You can apply the same model to someone later in life, but they have to be willing to learn. Holding on to old processes, values, relationships or behaviours that are not in accordance with good leadership will make it seem like leadership cannot be taught, but it is more likely a lack of acceptance of the requirement to change.
Therefore I truly believe that leadership can be taught to everyone if you start early enough and have the right environment and skill at your disposal.
What are your thoughts? I would love to hear your opinions on whether you beleive leadership can be taught (or on the appropriateness of the tree metaphor).