Are Great Leaders Born or Made?

leaderSome people believe that leaders are born with the necessary qualities that make them successful as a leader. While others believe that leadership, like many other similar characteristics, can be learned and developed through life. For me, I think much of the debate depends on how you define leadership.

Defining Leadership

Let’s assume leadership means having an ability and desire to inspire and influence others. Based on that definition, I can certainly see the argument that leaders are born with leading qualities when I see my daughter using her inherent ability to influence her little brother (and sometimes her parents) to do the things she wants them to do.

If leadership means being courageous and willing to speak out for the betterment of those around you, I would think that leaders do not have to be born as such. I have seen people who consider themselves introverts and overall followers become successful leaders when faced with an issue they are passionate about.

If we define leadership as having atypical intelligence, creativity and/or drive, then I am back to believing that it’s a trait you’re born with, although you may or may not continue to develop that trait through your life.

So what does all this mean?

Anyone Can Be a Leader

We all have areas of our lives where we have talent and propensity for success. If this is also an area you feel passionate about, you may exude qualities that are absent from other areas of your life. So while you may not be a natural born leader in the strictest sense, you can certainly overcome many obstacles and develop a desire and ability to lead when you are inspired to do so.

Let’s look at an example.

Say you are an animal lover, and you volunteer for an animal rescue group in your free time. The group is planning a huge fundraiser but lacks the direction necessary to execute it effectively. Without a leader in place, the event is destined for failure. You may not be completely comfortable talking in front of others, making decisions for a group and managing others, but you feel so strongly about the need for the fundraiser that you are willing to overcome these challenges. With the support of several volunteers who are experienced in various areas (marketing, event planning, community outreach, etc.), and your knowledge of the group and the background of the fundraiser, you successfully manage the group and event. Possible? Absolutely.

Developing Leadership

Aside from having a passion that translates into action, there are several ways you can develop your own leadership skills:

  • Work on improving your communication ability, especially your ability to listen to others
  • Be willing to take risks
  • Network and look for ways to expand your contacts
  • Focus on working and living with integrity and respect for others
  • Encourage those around you to find their own leadership qualities
  • Be confident in yourself and your abilities
  • Know your strengths and be ready to ask for support in areas where you are lacking
  • Create a vision and share your vision to inspire others
  • Think positively and commit to reaching your goals

What do you think? Are leaders born or made?

Image credit: Ruth Livingstone

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  • Simon

    Good article – I totally agree with your view on leadership development.

  • Anthony Eden

    I think the best leaders are the ones which start off doing what they enjoy. It may be through a volunteer position, for example, which they just do the things they enjoy, and then over time are given more official positions, and work their way up until they are classed as a “leader”. Sometimes this happens without you ever realising, as is the case with me :)

    No one is “born” a leader – you have to work for it. It’s just that some people’s personalities are more suited to leadership roles.

    Cheers,
    Anthony.

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more,you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

    Born leaders are so rare in my view, but yes, some people are born with a leadership gift. It is solely in their power to choose to use this gift. :)

  • http://www.studio-gecko.com/ XLCowBoy

    Sadly, being a many-times-over parent, I have to say that nature does affect your chances.

    Not every kid is born with the smarts needed, and a lot of personalities are inherent (patience, tempers, etc.) and directly affect your chances at succeeding in anything.

    There’s no doubt that anyone and everyone can improve, but some people are simply born a bit more “blessed” than others.

  • http://www.evanbot.com ETbyrne

    It is my personal opinion that leaders are made, not born. But I also think that some people are born with more leader-like traits than others.

    With that said, Jesus was born a leader… Bring on the inflammatory comments about my hypocrisy! :-D

  • Ryan

    I think leaders can be made but most of the time it is inherited by family. We can only have 1 leader per group. Otherwise everyone of us would have been a leader. LOL

  • sarah

    Sometimes i strongly hope that i can be endowed with the leadership,haw~

  • http://www.evanbot.com ETbyrne

    @Ryan, actually you can have many leaders in a group of people. Being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean you are in charge of everyone else, but rather you are influencing them. Take a look at this quote from Wikipedia:

    Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”

    So basically being a leader means that you influence others and gain support from them to accomplish something.

    I suggest you take a look in particular at this one part of the Wikipedia article on leaders: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leader#Leadership_versus_management

  • nizel bedeo

    for me a leader is made because a person becomes a leader through life and work experiences,through mentors and personal reflection.
    Leader takes time to develop and they were made just like anything else, thriugh hard work..

  • Ezana Shimelis

    In my opinion leaders are made. In borne qualities are little influence on leadership.

  • r p nyagope

    as for me,i think leaders are made not born,though there are traits one is born with.for a person to be a leader,he has to be educated so as to influence others.

  • al’amin sheyto

    i feel it is 75% made and 25% born! i belive any body can be a leader if equpied with the tools of influence.

  • BAWA ZEINAB

    Effective leaders are made not born because they learn from triat and error and from experience.

  • john david(2 Agric)

    A leader can be anyone,because even Jesus Christ was a son of a furniture maker(Joseph) but he was chosen by God to be a great leader.and also by John Quincy Adams,he said “if your action inspire others to dream more,learn more, do more,and become more,u are a leader.”

  • http://comebird boateng simon

    leaders are made because, in leadership one can acquire skills through education to control an organization.

  • Jenna Biotch

    I liked it and thought it was a good point