Leaders Are They Born or Made?

This morning I was watching the film Gattaca, which is an interesting film about predetermining what people will be, based on their genetics. If you don’t have the right genetics then your life is limited, the main plot of the film is about one man who decided to see whether he can beat this fate by pretending to be someone he is not.

As I watched the film it made me think about the question are leaders born or made?

I have often wondered about this question, and where it came from.

It’s strange that we never ask this question as frequently in other areas of life such as sports or music where the thought that our ability is predetermined by our genetics. For sure we talk about natural talent, but we never ask the question are musicians born or made as frequently as we do in leadership.

Why not? It’s just as likely that if genetics can determine leadership it can determine other areas of life too.

This makes me ask myself why we question leadership so much more than any other area.

Maybe it’s because of the power that comes with leadership. If you look back through history we have always had a class system which included an elite ruling class.

In Rome it was practically impossible to become a leader unless you were born to the right family. It was always the first born son who would follow his father to become king. There was never any testing done to see which son, or daughter, was best suited to the role, it was always the first born.

From this perspective leaders were born not made, but this was by design, it allowed the elite ruling class to remain elite and remain in power.

Maybe this is where the question comes from and it’s more about protecting the position of those in charge than it is about ensuring that we have the best leaders.

I strongly believe that leaders are made, and not born.

It’s true that some of our natural abilities will help, but just as in sport or music where natural talent is a big help, it isn’t a limiting factor, or a deciding factor.

In my opinion Leadership is a skill, and skills can be learnt, and with sufficient practise we can become experts.

So if someone tells you that leaders are born, and not made, ask yourself why they are asking this question, what’s their motive?


Gordon Tredgold

#leadership principles