In today’s society, we are often asked the question, are we born to be a leader or a follower. We have been asked to contemplate the question, “were we born with leadership traits?” There have been countless studies by countless doctors, groups, and research firms and all the answers point to the answer maybe. According to the trait approach, the five central traits of a leader are intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity, and sociability (Northouse, 2016, p. 23).
If we take these five traits and break them down to determine if we were born with them, or can they be learned, we will find that it is both. For example, if we take intelligence, some individuals are natural prodigies. These individuals have the born characteristics of being intelligent, but on the other hand, we have those individuals that study and learn and become wise. Northouse (2016, p. 24) described intelligence as “having a positive impact on an individual’s capacity for effective leadership.” So regardless if you were born a prodigy, or you have learned over time using what you know to further lead would be a leadership trait.
Moving onto self-confidence, this is one of the essential traits of a leader. Over time, the English aphorism, “fake it till you make it,” has been used by leaders. As Northouse (2016, p. 24) described, leadership is about influencing others. With high self-confidence, it allows you as a leader to sell your ideas to an individual, or a group of people. If we look back at some of the greatest leaders, while we may not all agree to their agenda’s, they were able to get a mass amount of people to follow their paths. Some examples of these individuals were Alexander the Great, President Reagan, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Charles Manson, Jim Jones, etc.
One thing that leaders have in common is the desire to get the job done no matter the means; this is determination. They welcome the challenge that each encounter presents. Leaders also use determination in getting followers to move towards the goal, keeping an eye on the prize. Amid all the action, a good leader must be honest and fair. Followers must have faith in a leader and know that they have integrity; otherwise, a leader will lose their flock. Lastly, a talented leader must be relatable. They must be able to build relations with their peers and followers. Followers need to know that a leader is one of them and not some person who dictates from the top with no connection to what is happening in the real world.
After researching the trait approach, what comes to mind for me was why people stay working for a company they dislike. It is a rather simple concept; employees stay with companies for bosses they like, they don’t leave good companies, they leave bad bosses (Hyacinth, 2018). Great leaders turn into great bosses, regardless if they are born with exceptional leadership skills or they acquire them. If I think back through my career, I can relate to this exact scenario. I stayed working for large corporations because of the person I worked for and vice versa; I left great companies because of the person I worked for. So, looking back at the original question, “are we born with it,” the answer is yes and no, leadership skills an evolving door that needs constant grease to ensure that it is working to the best of its abilities.
- (2018, July 23). A good boss is better than a good company! Retrieved September 16, 2019, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/good-boss-better-than-company-brigette-hyacinth
- Northouse, P. G. (2016). Chapter 2: Trait approach. In Leadership: Theory and practice (pp. 19-42). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.