Are Great Leaders Born or Made?

Alyssa Gregory
Alyssa Gregory

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