Are Leaders Made or Are Leaders Born?

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The age old question. Are leaders made or are they born? My belief on this – I believe that a leader is made, not born. Why do I say that? Before going further, lets be clear on one distinction – when we say a leader is made, it does not mean that someone can be taught to become a leader by attending leadership courses. While it helps, it is not enough. Warren Bennis (a leading leadership researcher) believes that one cannot be taught to become a leader but one can learn to become a leader over the years through life and work experiences, through mentors, personal reflection, etc.

What is a leader by the way? For the purpose of this discussion, lets define it as someone with formal leadership authority in an organization. There is another form of leadership which is not about the position, but a quality, but we will not delve into that for now.

Marcus Buckingham wrote a very interesting and widely informative book called “The One thing you need to know… about Great Managing, Great Leading and Sustained Individual Success”. It’s a great read – I highly recommend it. In it he proposes that a leader is born, and not made because of two characteristics which are only peculiar to leaders. These 2 characteristics are innate and are part of one’s personality and therefore, one cannot learn to develop such character traits.

The first trait is optimism or having an optimistic outlook, always focusing on the possibilities. With this disposition, one believes that challenges can be overcome and they can forge ahead.

The second trait is what he calls ego or self-assurance. Another term that comes to mind is self-efficacy. A person with this trait has a strong belief in himself. Self-assurance is not the same as being optimistic, although you can see that being optimistic helps and reinforces one’s sense of self-belief. What is important to note about self-efficacy is the belief that one can control one’s destiny, not whether one actually can or is successful in...
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