AUTHOR: AYODELE OLATOYE
SUMMARY: The essay refutes the viewpoint that leaders are born not made, and seeks to establish through valid arguments, illustrations and documented evidence that leaders are actually made and not born WORD COUNT: 1920
LEADERS ARE BORN NOT MADE
Folklore has lulled us into believing that some people are born leaders while others are not. Regardless of tribe, ethnicity or race, most people can trace their origins back to a monarchical or feudal system where the offspring of the reigning family found themselves thrust into leadership positions regardless of their inclinations to rule or not. To further impress this upon our collective psyches, the legends of such royal ancestors are interwoven with thrilling notions of romantic adventure and grandeur, and we unwittingly find ourselves mentally acquiescing to the untruth that some people are born to lead while others are destined to merely follow. History has however proven otherwise; leaders are made not born. The fall of monarchical systems of government occurred slowly but surely over centuries, as it became apparent to all that leadership is to be earned, and is not a birthright. Nobility was no longer a question of bloodline but of courage, strength of character and the ability to motivate your peers to follow you in achieving a common goal. Some critics would argue that the most prominent features of leaders such as courage, charisma and strength are personality traits which are inherited and cannot be taught (Colleen 2012). Research has however shown that the human personality is extremely malleable, and under the right tutelage and exposure to carefully calibrated exercises, leadership attributes can be developed by anyone who is willing to invest the required amount of time and energy to achieve these results (Parks 2005). It has also been argued that another key requirement for leadership is pleasant good looks which are an inherited feature (Colleen 2012). This is however an unsubstantiated assumption and perhaps is only relevant in the realm of politics where the ability to assume an office is often indicative of a strong political machinery backing you, and not your ability to lead and motivate. True leadership is not an office but a lifestyle. Mahatma Ghandi may not have qualified as a prospect for GQ’s cover page but he is undisputedly one of the most influential leaders in modern history. Perhaps it would be instructive to clarify who a leader is before proceeding further. ‘A leader is a person who influences a group of people towards the achievement of a certain goal’ (Merriam-Webster n.d.). Leaders exist in almost every facet and sphere of life we may choose to examine; the family unit, schools, religious organisations, business institutions and states. The manner in which they influence people varies from individual to individual. One of the areas which has witnessed the most review and analysis is the business environment, where the efficacy of a leader could determine whether an organisation thrives or goes under, and with it the fates of staff, shareholders and other stakeholders whose livelihoods are inexorably linked to the business. We will therefore restrict our review to the attributes of a successful business leader and an analysis of whether such traits are inherited or cultivated. One key trait which most of the literature written on great business leaders agree on as a required characteristic is excellent communication skills. A leader must be able to clearly communicate his vision in compelling terms that will motivate his team to follow him into the thick of the fray, be it the floor of the New York Stock exchange or into the last quarter of the year where the sales figures will determine whether the organisation sinks or swims. Is the ability to communicate convincingly an inborn trait? History would lead us to believe otherwise. According to folklore, Demosthenes was...