Leaders born or made?

In one of the comments on yesterday’s blog, Venkat asked me whether I thought that leaders are born or are created.

There is a lot of debate and study on this and the evidence doesn’t seem overly conclusive.

It’s difficult for me to comment on anyone else, I don’t have the required information to be able to answer that, but what I can comment on is my own life, my own development.

Some of the things which I think make me a good leader, such as my determination and my competitiveness, are certain characteristics that I was born with. These are not something I was taught, nor were they nurtured in me by my parents. It’s just the way I am and always have been.

My honesty and integrity, are things that were nurtured within me by my parents, especially my father. But maybe there is something in the character that I was born with, that helped make these grow through nurturing.

My understanding of how teams work together, the value of teamwork, and team spirit came to me through my love of sports, this is clearly something that I learned and not something I was born with.

Being able to inspire people, make people want to follow me, much of this comes from my personality, something I was lucky enough to be born with.

However, creating an inspiring vision, coming up with plans and approaches which allow my natural skills to flourish have all been taught to me, via leadership courses and coaching.

My leadership approach has changed and evolved over time, it has become less directive and more empowering. This is something that I have learned from experience, trial and error, and through feedback from the teams that I have led.

I have read countless books on leadership, all of which have helped give me insight into different styles and approaches, from which I have been able to pick and choose things that I have added to my own style.

One of the books I have read, Good to Great by Jim Collins, talks about level 5 leadership as the highest level of leadership, and two of the characteristics of level 5 leadership are humility and fierce determination.

I would say that humility can be taught, or at least learned, whereas fierce determination is a natural characteristic, which is difficult to teach – trust me I have tried 🙂

I think leaders can be made, especially self-made and I think some characteristics I was born with help me be a better leader.

There are also leaders who have achieved great things without formal leadership training, who just stepped up and did what they thought was the right thing, things that just came naturally.

So in answer to this, I think it’s both – some people are born leaders, and others develop leadership through nurturing, training and experience.

I think it’s wrong for us to say leaders are just born, and cannot be made.

This would put people off taking up leadership or developing their leadership if they didn’t feel they were born leaders, which in itself is bad leadership.

Many people, without great natural talents, in many walks of life: business; sports; the arts; have all been able to develop expertise and go on to achieve great things.

One of the things I have always believed is, don’t listen to anyone who says it can’t be done.

So if you don’t you believe you were born a natural leader, take up the challenge, and prove to all those doubters who think a leader can’t be made, that they are wrong!