If leaders are born or made is a typical question that surrounds in the context of leadership that’s why for over the years, there has been an argument which resulted in the creation two schools of thought. One school suggests that leaders are made while the other one proposes that leaders are born.
Leaders are made from the selected few that poses the leadership characteristics and abilities – leaders are born. On the other hand, individuals grow, learn, and develop to become leaders. Therefore, leaders are made.
The Myth and the Fact
One of the most dangerous myths I know is believing that leaders are born. This myth declares that there is a genetic factor to leadership which I do not think there is. The biographies of great leaders are often read as if they entered the world with an extraordinary genetic endowment, and their future leadership role was preordained. Never believe it. The fact is that the significant capacities and competencies of leadership can be learned if the underlying desire to learn them exists.
While some genetic qualities can help speed up leadership development, there is no evidence that leadership is in your DNA or the result of personality. If you ask leaders how they became the people they are today; I doubt that they will say that they were born with a unique set of gifts. Instead, they’ll tell you stories of their struggles, hardships and which they had to endure while learning to lead.
I always hear famous speakers say that leaders are made and not born. However, until now, some people agree that leaders are born. To stop the chase, I think the answer is ‘mostly made.’
Based on the behavioral theories I’ve read, people can become leaders by learning and observation, and people can also become leaders through the process of education. The leadership skills that leaders possess are learned through training, practice, perception, and experience. In fact, the vast majority of famous leaders are made not born. They are made through hard work, focused effort, and of course, daily action.
Some Research on Leadership
Let’s go through some research on this topic.
- Leaders around the world come in many sizes and shapes. There are very few characteristics that predict leadership potential. Based on research, people who are adjusted, social, ambitious, and curious are more likely to become leaders while IQ contributed to less than 5% to the likelihood that someone would emerge as a leader.
- Gender plays a minimal role in explaining the differences in leadership potential. Some studies show that women are slightly more effective leaders, but this seems to be the result of higher standards applied when appointing women to leadership positions.
- Leadership behaviors like any other human practice is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Moreover, while some people may be born with leadership qualities, research suggests that anywhere between 30% to 60%, most leadership behaviors are developed over time. At its core, leadership consists of a set of skills and practices that can be learned.
Common Traits of Exceptional Leaders
Whether leaders are made or born, exceptional leaders have qualities in common. Tom Peters, the co-author of In Search of Excellence and A Passion of Excellence, claims that extraordinary leaders have many traits in common. Prominent among them are the following:
- Leaders soak up information and often take notes obsessively, and realize that they can learn from anyone, regardless of their title or position.
- Leaders are continually looking for ways to make things better. They are starving for thousands of tiny improvements. Too them, no idea is too small.
- Leaders delight in the success of others. They never attempt to hog credit. They give credit to where credit is due.
Remember, leadership is the ability to inspire other people to work together as a team under your direction to attain a common objective. It is regardless of whether leaders are made or born.