Are leaders made or born? I would love to give a direct answer to a direct question but then what fun would blogging be? This question has been asked, theorized, discussed, answered, debated and discussed some more. It is a topic of concern of psychologists, leadership coaches, human resources departments and anyone concerned with leadership and the effects of leadership. The reason this debate is recurring is due to the subjective nature of just how to define leadership. There are so many different approaches and theories to studying leadership that depending on the theory you study will determine (mostly) which team you are likely to fall on. Let’s define both…
Team “made” (Nurture)
Those who fall on the side of leaders being made are of the belief that leadership qualities and abilities are taught/learned via external sources.
Team “born” (Nature)
Those who believe leaders are born have the idea that leadership traits and qualities are a integral part of your makeup and who you are as a person.
I personally fall on the side of team made. I believe that while leadership SKILLS can indeed be developed and honed, there is an innate disposition to lead. Looking at the trait approach to leadership we see that there are certain traits that leaders tend to have in common. (Northouse, 2016) Some of these major leadership traits and personality factors are intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity, and sociability, neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. The correlation between these traits and effective leadership only proves that people are indeed born with qualities that are positively associated with leadership.
This doesn’t say that people can’t build self-confidence, nurture their sociability and increase their intelligence for the leadership role they are in or will assume but leaders that naturally exhibit some of the traits above are more likely to seek out leadership roles or be placed into them. I will use the example of extroversion which has the highest correlation with leadership (Northouse, 2016) Extroverts tend to me more outgoing and seek out social relationships because they are energized by this outward show of sociability whereas introverts tend to seek solace to re-energize. In an environment outward sociability is key to career success like maybe sales, an extrovert may be more likely to score a leadership position than an introvert.
Overall, leaders can be both born and made but having some naturally qualities common with leadership certainly doesn’t hurt the process.
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice (Seventh ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, Inc.