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Are Business Leaders Made or Born?

By Edited Apr 30, 2015 0 0

"Are leaders made or are they born?" It's one of the most frequently asked questions that is asked in the discipline of leadership.

There probably isn't a definitive answer to the question, even with decades of learning donated to leadership and with many people tackling the question. Why? Arguably, leaders aren't 100% made or born either way. They're a little bit of each.

If that is the case, then why is the question even asked? Why don't people ask "are marketers/builders/wedding planners made or born?" as much as they ask the question about leaders in particular? It can be argued that this is because leadership is seen not only to be hard to do, but it is very difficult to get right. Therefore, people expect that only a particular type of individual can successfully assume a leadership role - whether in politics, business or whatever else - and the individual needs to be born to fill the position more than crafted and created for it.

If leaders are born...

Following on from the previous point, leaders are indeed born insofar as they are born with the ideal qualities and characteristics. Admittedly, for instance, an extrovert is more likely to fill a leadership role than an introvert, mostly due to the fact that they could be more confident and more personable, hence looking like they're "born" to do the position. Of course, there's nothing at all guaranteeing that they will definitely be a great leader or that they will do better in leadership than their introverted confidante.

This may be where the thinking behind "natural born leaders" originates from - traits such as charisma, confidence and intelligence can definitely help a person to be a leader, but they're not the leadership be-all and end-all. Not only that but there is nothing saying that individuals lacking these types of characteristics early on in life are not able to work on and cultivate them at a later time in their lives.

A leader is created...

Unconvinced that a leader is 100% born? The argument for made leaders is much more plausible. Whatever it is that we do, we all need to work on and hone our skills. A "born" leader hurled into their first ever leadership role who does not hold any real or hands-on experience could very well fall at the first hurdle. Meanwhile, an individual is much more likely to be created a leader and "made" one, with help from the correct people managing them and with the correct leadership development and training in place.

However, not everyone is able to be made into a leader. What's the saying? "Lead a horse to water..." If someone's not willing to donate their time and themselves to developing leadership then it is unlikely that they'll ever become a great leader, no matter how much money's spent on leadership training for them. Particular qualities - perhaps those that they are born with - will certainly help to influence whether or not someone is willing and able to do the position, such as intelligence and charisma. After all, the person in question mightn't want to do it, period. If so, what can you do about that?

Developing leadership, whether it's born or made

So, "are leaders born or are they made?" What is the answer to this question? Is it really one or the other? A bit of both?

In the long run, is it really something to think about that much?

People who are hiring a leader should focus less on whether they're born or made that way and focus on the person: their knowhow, their experience, their intelligence, their skills... Unfortunately, to figure out if someone's right for a leadership position, there is no straightforward "yes/no" scoring system out there somewhere. When recruiting for managers or leaders, they need to base their judgement on the person - the individual as a leader.



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