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Are Leaders Made Or Born

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Are Leaders born or made?

The debate of whether leaders are born or made dates back many centuries. In today's modern society, we are seeing a rapid decline of heredity leadership and a significant rise in role models being business or political leaders. Daniel Goleman argued in Social Intelligence on the topic (chapter 10) and points out that the debate turns out to be pointless, as it assumes that our genes and our environment are independent of each other.

For business leaders, it's a question worthy of exploration. When we ask whether someone can be "brought up," as a leader is fundamentally questioning whether we can train people to be leaders, regardless of their personal attributes. The very idea of "developing" leaders suggests that there is a skill set to be developed. Furthermore, it is the right mix of experience, traits, skills and the organizational environment that makes great leaders. Identifying those characteristics that can and cannot be developed is clearly important as organizations endeavor to inhabit their talent pools for critical leadership positions.

We have seen many great leaders in the twentieth century. The names that come to mind are Margaret Thatcher, Abraham Lincoln, Golda Meir, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Adolf Hitler just to name a few. Researchers have tried to analyze cases and the debate still goes on. In my personal opinion, I believe that a leader is born with certain qualities, which, when honed through nurture brings about his/her success.

Successful leaders have the intrinsic ability to have others in a group to accept and follow their directives or command. This ability takes a strong, dominant extrovert personality and oodles of charisma. Studies have shown that these are psychological and character traits that the person who emerges into adulthood from adolescence will demonstrate for the rest of their life. Technical knowledge is acquired through schooling, training and experience and is thus developed. Of course, intelligence sets the stage and influences the extent, retention and ability to leverage learning. The more complicated the learning material, the greater the level of intelligence needed to master and retain the material.

While intelligence is generally thought to be inborn, its characterization and dimensions have been subjects of great debates. Overlooking the arguments about whether intelligence is culturally defined, successful leaders do not need to be geniuses. What they need to possess are strong enough skills in critical thinking, judgment and verbal reasoning to develop and leverage the body of knowledge that is required for their particular area. While the extent to which individuals can develop these skills might be genetically determined, it is likely each of them can be developed and refined through experience and education.

In addition, personality characteristics such as being charismatic, dynamic, conscientious, extroverted and creative are commonly associated with effective leaders. Although there is some disagreement over how much one's personality is shaped after birth, there is general agreement that personality stabilizes and is "set" by the time an individual first enters the workplace. Someone who possesses this mix of characteristics is more in line with what a "born" leader -- one whom others are naturally drawn to rally behind. Clearly, certain innate traits might make effective leadership more likely, while other key leadership competencies can be developed. The mix of innate qualities and developed skills truly is what defines an individual's leadership style. These include self-awareness, self-confidence, systemic thinking, interpersonal/social skills, creative thinking and the ability to learn from experience.

Leaders must also have a vision and a capability to inspire others. When we say that a leader has vision, we refer to the ability to see the present as it is and formulate a future that grows out of and improves upon the present. A leader with vision is able to see into the future without being far-sighted and remain rooted in the present without being near-sighted. To stimulate others into action the leader has



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