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Are leaders born or made?

Leadership is my passion and I love to ask this question from time to time to gauge the responses and reconfirm my own beliefs. Please share your insights as to how you would answer that question . Thanks and Regards, Bud Kulesza

Answers

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Both.

Made leaders may have different qualities than born leaders and may be leaders in different areas, have unique attributes and at the end of the day have an overt impact on those around them.

Whether born or taught, if the skillset is practiced, refined and utilized it can be a great force for good or evil; and there are plenty of example of both in our world.

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

Yeah. Jim Jones and Adolf Hitler were leaders. But so were Thomas Jefferson and George Patton.

I don't think there is a right and wrong answer to this question.

Shauna Overbeek
Title: ICA Project Lead
Company: Philips
(ICA Project Lead, Philips) |

Hi, I am studying leadership for my MBA - Leadership & Sustainability.

There are so many different types of leadership - from the great man theory through to servant/host leadership.

I think that the majority of us are born with the qualities to lead in one way or another, business leadership skills don't mean that you will automatically be a good social leader - and of course management skills are definitely not leadership skills.

Whether or not you choose to be a leader is an interesting point, many famous current day hero's were neither born nor trained to be great leaders, however their personal actions meant that they were seen as great leaders (Nelson M & St. Teresa), yet neither of them set out to be seen as leaders in status - perhaps though leaders in life / practice.

Hitler was a dictator - this is not a leader - there were consequences of not following his instruction.

One school of thought is that you can only lead if you have ( free-of-choice) followers. The internet serves as a vehicle for online comments which is a source of market intelligence for businesses as well as somewhere your reputation can be brought into account.

Listening to your customers has resulted in the traditional leadership pyramid with the HIPPO on the top has now become inverted in many consumer focused industries with the customer on top and CEO on the bottom.

Not all ego's can deal with this shift, which has seen a move towards including more servant-leadership style leaders ...enter the female leader!

I don't think that there is a clear yes or academic answer to the question you pose!

Great question though!

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Shauna - your paragraph on Hitler and then the "free-of-choice" follow-up are in contradiction to history.

Hitler had a rise to power, supported by unfortunately too many misguided and angry people. That by definition is leadership; evil, psychotic or any other words you choose to describe this person, but leadership nonetheless.

A leader or a despot only stays in power as long as he/she is leading those who support them. That is why there are coup d'etat.

Life is not black and white but shades of gray in a monochrome world (I guess hues and pastels in color). One needs to look past the academic reality and see the many realities. One of my favourite sayings is perception is reality, not the other way around.

Shauna Overbeek
Title: ICA Project Lead
Company: Philips
(ICA Project Lead, Philips) |

Wayne, I can understand that you may think its a contradiction.

Leadership has many definitions - and is constantly changing and also depends from what perspective you are looking at it from.

I am currently working on my thesis - on the topic of :

which leadership styles / concepts are involved in sustainable changes within multinationals

It has thrown up hilarious results - my desktop research 'academic books/theories etc' ... have been contradicted in the majority of real life cases encountered during my research interviews with C-suite exceutives of those companies.

The result is so interesting I am planning to write a book on it.

However it really does depend from business to business what the strategy is and what I have learnt is - that the only real business leader is the one successfully achieving profits for its shareholders.

Perspective is all important when it comes to leadership!

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

While your thesis is slightly different then your first answer (what styles vs absolute leader or not) I agree with your conclusion (at least if one were to try to get column inches in a publication), a business leader is only a leader while the business is winning.

But, that isn't really correct (in the larger sense), because a leader is a leader. One can lead an army with vision, strategy and nimbleness, have the dying (sorry for the pun) loyalty of their troops and still be defeated by circumstances. The contrary can also be true, a leader who is despised wins by guile, avarice and cunning.

Shauna Overbeek
Title: ICA Project Lead
Company: Philips
(ICA Project Lead, Philips) |

Wayne, you raise an interesting point about 'guile'etc.

The world overtly started asking for a different sort of leadership post-credit crisis.

Resources are becoming more scarce, people more exhausted by changing technology and the must-have-now culture, who can we trust is the big question?

Short-term view leadership is on the out and long-term on the up.

However the interesting point in this area is how do we train our current business leadership to change to a sustainable - long term view when this possibly conflicts with the business strategy?

Maybe the shareholder needs to accept some responsibility regarding profits?

Don't exhaust staff or resources, accept a little less profit for a bit more happiness ...rebuild trust.

Is it even possible to retrain a business leader to become a social leader and achieve success on both fronts?

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

How to change?

Change the values of Wall Street from extremely short-term (almost daily or even hourly) to a long-term view.

This would go a long-way, but it is the height of naivety to think that it would change; as recurring issues in different guises are continuing plaguing the street.

Also, while it is very easy to point at Wall Street, those pointers have a compass rose of targets that are also responsible; from "a" to "z", Apple, Congress, Microsoft, Corporate Raiders, Private Equity, Venture Capital, Fund Managers, and so on.

What will ultimately cause a change? Cataclysm, Armageddon, Cathartic experiences?

I'd just like to know the right numbers for Powerball and Mega Millions when the jackpot goes insane the next time!

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  • Anne Wheeler
    Title: Owner of CS Process Flows - Consulting a..
    Company: CS Process Flows, LLC
    LinkedIn Profile
    (Owner of CS Process Flows - Consulting and Project Management, CS Process Flows, LLC) |

    I believe leaders are made but that the process starts in early childhood and needs to be nurtured in order to continue building the self confidence it takes to valued decisions.

    C S Bud Kulesza
    Title: "The Man of Many Hats"
    Company: Budkulesza.com
    LinkedIn Profile
    ("The Man of Many Hats" , Budkulesza.com) |

    I appreciate the on going comments please keep the dialogue coming. To expand on my original question. Do you believe that individuals are born with characteristics that cause them to be natural leaders? For those who are not born with those characteristics can leadership be learned? Thanks again. Bud

    Lynn Fountain
    Title: MBA CGMA CRMA, Past Chief Audit Executiv..
    Company: Business Consultant
    LinkedIn Profile
    (MBA CGMA CRMA, Past Chief Audit Executive, Business Consultant) |

    I have a webinar on Proformative called "Finding The Leader Within". I also wrote a blog on Leadership. I believe anyone can be a leader. They just have to have the desire, passion and fortitude.

    ArLyne Diamond
    Title: Owner - President
    Company: Diamond Associates
    LinkedIn Profile
    (Owner - President, Diamond Associates) |

    I think the potential is innate - the skills are learned.,
    But the character and personality factors - innate - play a huge role in the willingness to stand up for what one believes, to take risks, to be in the limelight, and to take responsibility for self and others.

    I discuss many aspects of Leadership in my book: Leading and Managing A Global Workforce.

    EMERSON GALFO
    Title: CFO
    Company: C-Suite Services
    LinkedIn Profile
    (CFO, C-Suite Services) |

    My opinion....

    No...it is NOT in the DNA (born). Leadership is a product of environment and circumstances. So, they are "made".

    Children brought up in the right environment and circumstance learn the skills necessary to lead. My son delayed (well, not delayed but his bday was after the cut-off date) entering preschool through the recommendation of a psychologist friend of mine. She said that kids experiencing to "lead" at an early age (which by "age default" my son would lead the younger kids) tend to learn the skills very early.

    I believe this is the same with adults. Provide the necessary environment and circumstance and they will learn the skills.

    Len Green
    Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
    Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
    LinkedIn Profile
    (Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

    I am not sure I agree. Some people take to leadership because of their talents to acquire leadership skills. Others shun leadership opportunities and maybe it's because their talents lead them to creativity, innovation, research, etc.

    We are not all leaders. Some lead, others become experts in other fields and in other roles. I think the intersection of INTEREST and SKILLS determines where you succeed.

    Mike Haile
    Title: Founder
    Company: Haile Consulting Solutions
    (Founder, Haile Consulting Solutions) |

    Coincidentally, I just read a linked in article relating to this subject. Link below. Unsurprisingly the answer is..... both

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leaders-born-made-heres-whats-coachable-definitely-jack-welch

    EMERSON GALFO
    Title: CFO
    Company: C-Suite Services
    LinkedIn Profile
    (CFO, C-Suite Services) |

    Eating my words.....(not conclusive, but "closely" associated)

    "This is the first study to identify a specific genotype associated with the tendency to occupy a leadership position. The results suggest that what determines whether an individual occupies a leadership position is the complex product of genetic and environmental influences; with a particular role for rs4950."

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583370/

    Kenneth Nyeko
    Title: CFO
    Company: CBC
    (CFO, CBC) |

    Very interesting question Bud....I love the on-going discussion. Here’s my two cents on the same.
    a) We tend to correlate leadership to success; once we have a successful story (*not before), the person at the helm is then appraised for their leadership.
    b) Like most things human there’s an extent to which one is a leader. We have broken it down as "Natural born leaders" these will be defined as visionary, charismatic etc. Robinhood is a good example of this (i use that example deliberately) Nurtured leaders may be described as insightful, resilient etc. (I nominate Warren Buffet deliberately too for this category). The later don’t need power to be followed while the latter may rely on power and structure to propel them.
    I am bound to believe that leadership is both nature and nurture.
    The jury is still out there on this though...

    I agree with a lot of arguments put out there on this too..

    Darryl Delwo, CPA, CMA
    Title: Controller
    Company: Sulvaris Inc
    (Controller, Sulvaris Inc) |

    A leader does not know they are a leader until they experience, positive or negative, situations which the individual calls upon themselves to action. Based on the individuals early results to these experiences, the individual then makes conscious decisions based on emotion (e.g. love, fear, passion, anger, etc). The individuals environment (parents, siblings, other family, school, etc) all have a role to play in creating circumstances and developing situations to build/enlighten/teach individuals where leadership can be experienced.

    Does this mean leadership is learned or born? It may suggest the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg!

    Kate West
    Title: Consulting CFO
    Company: The C Corps
    (Consulting CFO, The C Corps) |

    Like so many others before me, I think leadership has components of both nature and nurture. I'll shamelessly use my two youngest children as examples.

    The baby in the family just turned eight: she's a happy, outgoing, independent girl, and she knows exactly what she likes and what she wants all the time. She has no qualms about taking the lead in any situation, and she doesn't worry about being a poor leader. The other kids tend to call her bossy, and I correct them by saying, "she's not bossy; she's just a natural-born leader."

    The second-youngest in our family is our 10-year-old son. He's very smart, analytical, conservative in thoughts and actions. It takes him forever to make a decision because he wants to evaluate all the options to ensure he's making the best choice. He believes that it takes courage to be a leader, and he understands that leadership means being accountable for bad decisions as well as good. As parents we have to create opportunities for him to be a leader because he's less likely to take charge without having thought through all the possibilities - which is often too late for action.

    We enjoy hiking as a family, and this gives us the perfect opportunity to allow the children to be leaders at different times. Both children enjoy opportunities to be the leader; however, their styles are completely different because of their personalities. As parents, it's our responsibility to help each member of the family to realize the personality aspects that make for good leadership qualities and to help them grow in those areas. Likewise, it's our responsibility to help them understand their weaknesses, too, and to work on improving those areas or avoiding pitfalls associated with them.

    It's a less academic observation, but you can apply the same principles in a business setting. It's our responsibility to help each other learn and grow along the journey.

    Robin Goldsmith
    Title: President
    Company: Go Pro Management, Inc.
    (President, Go Pro Management, Inc.) |

    Leadership is learned, but generally very gradually over a lifetime, so that it can appear born. Leadership is not learned through traditional educational training. Rather, leadership is developed, which can be facilitated by learning about leadership behaviors. The military builds leadership by putting trainees in situations requiring them to act as leaders. My Making You a Leader seminar applies special proven techniques for changing lifetime behaviors and habits of thought in ways that the participant feels will serve his/her leadership development needs.

    C S Bud Kulesza
    Title: "The Man of Many Hats"
    Company: Budkulesza.com
    LinkedIn Profile
    ("The Man of Many Hats" , Budkulesza.com) |

    Thanks to all for your responses!

    As I noted when I asked this question "I love to ask this question from time to time to gauge the responses and reconfirm my own beliefs."

    I anticipated the varied responses and have confirmed my own beliefs.

    Which is that our leadership skills are a combination of traits or characteristic we inherit ( Nature) combined with our past and ongoing experiences ( Nurture).

    Many of you indicated similar thoughts in your own words.

    Specific situations impact the exercise of our leadership skills ( as it should there is no one approach).

    The good news is that we can learn how to improve our leadership skills as we assess our skills and seek to learn more about leadership approaches that lend themselves to improving our own leadership skills.

    We all can and should strive to be better leaders.

    Again Thanks for sharing your insights and I wish you success in becoming a better leader. Regards, Bud

    Matthew Butler
    Title: International Treasury
    Company: Undeclared
    (International Treasury, Undeclared) |

    I'd like to contribute my perspective. Plain and simple...Leaders are born but Leadership needs development. Natural born characteristics are inherent aptitude to think and operate in certain frameworks. Finding out those characteristics and developing them through assessment and targeted programs is the path to create leadership skills. I'm interested in writing more about this topic but I want to read some responses and let you run with this first.

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