For some people it is argued whether leaders are born or developed. This conversation in particular is a very difficult question to answer outright. Personally, I try not to think of this as a situation where the answer can only be one of the two, but more so that it is the intertwining of how an individual is born and also his surrounding environment throughout life. While this general brainteaser question can have many people in a long discussion, one concrete fact for leadership is that an individual’s personality can have a significant influence on the effectiveness of their leadership and what parts of leadership come easiest for different personality types. In leadership, an individual’s personality is the gateway for how they express their ideas, interact with those around them, and complete tasks within the group. Regardless of someone being born a leader outright or developing into a leader throughout life, their personality ultimately acts as the quintessential viewpoint from how others will perceive you.
I have seen a variety of leaders, who are good in their own way, based almost purely from their personality traits. My predecessor as president of the National Association of Black Accountants had a personality that was very organized, goal and task-oriented, and calculated. I was under his leadership for two years as an executive board member, and in leading the organization his personality was very necessary because he used his traits to build a stronger structure for the organization and its processes. With his natural personality traits and his ability to be disciplined about the role of president, he was able to have great accomplishments and bring the organization to a higher status. In contrast, the Chief of Staff for Personal Lines at AIG, with whom I have a very good relationship, has a personality that is people-oriented, optimistic, and particularly extroverted. While working alongside him over the summer at AIG, I took note of how he was able to lead his part of the organization efficiently by creating a healthy working culture and having relationships with so many of the people he was leading. Again, his inherent personality characteristics coupled with his discipline, makes him a great leader. Both individuals were able to use their own personality traits to be a great leader, and others will remember them for how they were able to interact with those around them and further the organization.
Personally, I have taken many personality tests in the past to distinguish my tendencies towards one sole personality type. While the results do waver from time to time, my overall personality type is that focuses on harmony within people and groups, having a respectful and courteous disposition, and generally staying with time-proven methods with little unpredictability. As a president of an organization, I think that I am able to use my personality to help build relationships across campus with other organizations and listen effectively to the needs of my membership to improve the club towards a more productive goal. Throughout my time as president, my hope is that those who are within my organization will also describe me as a good leader for my personality and accomplishments.
Even with my personality traits and natural tendencies, there is room for improvement as a leader. As a leader improving upon the inherent style can make you and your actions more effective with the entire group. Each personality style has several strengths and weaknesses. It is imperative for any good leader to continually work on those weaknesses so that they are not a liability of leadership in the long term. For example, a flaw in my personality is that sometimes I am so intent to keep the group in harmony and feel compelled to check with each executive board member before making decisions for the group that I end up impeding productivity for the group and for the overall organization. To combat this weakness of mine, I have been more intent to not repeatedly ask how the group feels about an issue and take solace in the idea that my executive board will speak up when they believe something can be added or adjusted. Improving upon my own personality style will allow me to be a better leader and work with my suite of characteristics towards the best leadership possible.
An individual’s personality will inevitably have a significant effect on how an organization is led. And so, referring back to the original question, whether a leader is born or developed is not the right question at all. The better question is, “How can someone born with a set of personality traits be developed into a great leader?” With any effective and beloved leader, people will always reflect back to your personality and how that made you great. Learning how to utilize those personality traits is the key to successful leadership.