Are leaders born or made?

 In Perspective

Since the early days of human studies, many people have tried to answer the simple yet difficult question: “Are leaders born or made?” There is an abundance of conflicting thought supporting both. It’s a hot topic still asked in every business conversation, particularly when there is a discussion about company culture. In this article, I will dive into the question, “Are leaders born or made?”

To start, we should differentiate between the word “Leader” and the word “Leadership”. “Leader” refers the position of power, where the individual has the authority or the right to give an order or direction in the organization. Organizations cannot have more than one leader from a position-and-authority perspective, and known as leader-by-authority. For example, a country cannot have more than one president at a time. Similarly, when we talk about companies, the highest-titled position in the company – whether it’s the CEO, Executive Director or General Manager – is the leader, whether or not he has the skills to lead and deliver results.

Leadership is the skills and capabilities a person needs to perform these duties. It is reflected in the style, methods and practices used to manage a group of individuals, and the use of these characteristics or attributes that leader should have to deliver results.

The question is this: What leadership skills should a successful leader have? What skills does a leader need to possess in order to be able to react to various situations?

Leader needs to have the skills to create and develop a performance culture that can move the company forward, and who has the credibility to set a clear direction. Leader needs to be able to create a motivating environment, and align employees to willfully follow and execute a plan, while delivering results that pertain to the organization’s goals.

Significant research attempts to define the characteristics and attributes that are needed to help a leader’s performance excel and deliver optimum results, which are known as leadership skills.

If a leader is a position on the ladder, and leadership is a set of skills required to perform optimally, then the question should be: Is the individual born with leadership skills—inherited skills—or can the individual learn or acquire such skills?

Inherited Skills: Every individual is born with specific characteristics and inherited skills. These characteristics influence an individual’s personality, and influence how they perform certain tasks.

Some of these inherited characteristics are leadership characteristics. If an individual is born with some of those characteristics, the individual type will be labeled based on the dominated characteristic and will have an advantage when executing a task involving those particular skills that they have inherited. Examples of inherited skills are strategic, visionary, charismatic, motivator, disrupter, relationship-builder, re-builders, stress threshold, conscientiousness, etc.

As individuals, we should define our inherited skills, and further develop them. At the same time, we should understand the required skills for any job we need to engage in, and develop those required skills, accordingly. Optimally, when we find the alignment between the role and the inherited skills, there is a higher likelihood of delivering better results.

Acquired Skills: Individuals are influenced by a lot of factors throughout their lives that lead to the need to acquire additional skills, or develop existing skills, to stay current, relevant—and marketable. An individual’s leadership style is driven by the result of those acquired skills. Examples of acquired characteristics are if a person demonstrates an autocratic leadership style, which means they retain all power—in their hands. If they demonstrate a democratic leadership style, they welcome and value employees’ input. If they demonstrate a bureaucratic leadership style, such are leaders perform duties under hierarchy of authority and highly regulated environments. Finally, there is the laissez-faire style leader who delegates their responsibility, and allows employees to make decisions.

It might be, at some point, that leaders will need to demonstrate a mix of all of these leadership styles in order to adapt to the needs of different situations and frameworks which is known as situational leadership.

In summary, leading and managing organizations requires a number of leadership skills. Whether the individual is born with one or more leadership characteristics, the individual is still required to develop both the inherited and acquired skills that are needed to be able to further develop both themselves, and the organization’s strategy—and align company employees to execute the plan successfully. The leader’s key objective is to develop the required skills in order to always be a better version of themselves.

This is why A leader is born, and THE leader is made.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Dr. Youssef A. Youssef
    Reply

    A question that has been around for a long time Bilal, are leaders born or made? I liked your approach to this very interesting topic. I believe that leaders are not born! Leadership is a set of skills that can be developed based on the context and the situation. Servant leadership is still the best way to inspire followers..great article.

  • Nedal
    Reply

    Great article – as always.

  • Affaf Z.
    Reply

    “This is why A leader is born, and THE leader is made.” –> Very well said.

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