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Are leaders born or made?

The discussion of whether leadership skills are genetic or learnable has been keeping researchers busy for many years. During the 19th century, the Great Man theory of leadership became popular, inspired by leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Julius Caesar, Mahatma Gandhi, and Alexander the Great. According to this theory, one is a born leader - or not (Cherry, 2020).

Leadership can be defined as "exercising influence over others to reach specific goals" (Hrzone, 2019). It is a set of traits perfected over time with training. I am a firm believer that leaders are made - not born.

I have come to believe that many personality traits are formed during childhood. Once incorporated, they can be very difficult to change. People can become leaders through learning, experience, and observation. I also believe everyone can be trained to become a leader; maybe not always a “great” leader, still able to lead sensibly. It is a matter of will.

Some do have personal traits to become leaders. Some have skills, like the ability to create happy motivating environments. Some will argue that a trait like that is naturally born. No, abilities are given to you in your childhood. Your parents and teachers created those traits. Like in the lowest step of Maslow's pyramid, the sense of security in one's upbringing is an essential construction part of our psychic. By that, I argue that growing up in insecurity will form your personality as a person - and as a possible leader.

Severe events in childhood may also influence these traits later in life. But they can be overcome, I have seen it.Some parents will give their children access to better schools and teachers - it is a fact. Here lies the foundation of the "great man" theory - and severe mistakes.

Previously due to class division, especially in England (and many other places), wealthy children had access to elite schools, well, some still do. But they were not "born" leaders - but “born to become leaders.” I believe this is the severe misconception in the "Great man theory." Alexander the Great was not a born leader, but trained for that role his whole life.

The ability to lead and motivate people in business, politics, or sports requires a complex skill set. These skills are acquired through education and experiences (Hrzone, 2019).

Extraverts are often associated with leadership positions and are praised for being influential leaders. Still, introverts can become just as effective. Also, intelligence is often associated with leadership, but many leaders do very well with normal average IQ. I know that to be the case. Social intelligence is essential to leaders, like listening, creating trust, and motivation.

In an interview with the famous tennis player Bjørn Borg, after winning Wimbledon again, he was asked, "How are you able to do that - How can you be so lucky?" He went silent for a while and answered, "Well, I do a lot of training." He added "the more I train, the luckier I get" (Ilic, 2018).

It does take training to become a great leader in whatever you do. Traits, skills, and education are the foundation - after that comes training to become an effective leader.

References (LEARN MORE)

Cherry, K. (2020). The Great Man Theory of Leadership. VeryWellMind.

HRzone. (2019). 5 reasons why leaders are made not born.

Ilic, J. (2018). Bjorn Borg Wimbledon 1976. Tennis World.

Written by: Allan Loumann Lissau MBA, Kommunikationsrådgiver & Recruiter, Facebook specialist, Founder & CEO / Social Image


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