Organizational Behaviour - Leaders Are Born Not Made

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Leaders are born and not made

This essay aims to provide a discussion about the statement “leaders are born, not made”. According to Stogdill (1950) leadership is the process of influencing the activities of an organised group in its efforts toward goal setting and goal achievement (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2010). In any organised field there is the necessity to recognize the distinguished figure of a leader, wheter it is the animal kingdom or the human modern society. Businesses and firms (but even hospitals, politicians, schools, military, sports…) requiere a strong figure able to inspire and being a role model to follow. In order to accomplish the purpose of the essay, it will be first introduced the Great Man theory about leaders' traits, and its relevant criticism. Secondly, it will be argued the behaviour theories of leadership exposed by the University of Michigan and the Ohio State University, followed by the contingency theory of leadership that negates both the trait and behavioural theories. Last, a conclusion will be held about to how far the assertion “leaders are born, not made” is true.

To cite Buchanan and Huczynski (2010) for the first half of twentieth century, researchers assumed that they could identify the personal traits and other attributes of leaders. It would then be possible to select individuals who possessed those markers, and to promote them to leadership positions. This search for the qualities of good leaders was influenced by the Great Man theory. According to Gordon (1999) the Great Man theory suggests that leaders have such personality, social, and physical characteristics traits. Firts introduced in the 1940s and 1950s, trait theory originally proposed that some individuals were born to be leaders. More than 100 early studies on leaders traits showed that leaders differed from non-leaders in their intelligence, initiative, persistence in dealing with problems, self-confidence, alertness to others' needs, understanding the task, desire to accept responsibility, and preference for a position of control and dominance. Leaders also differed from non-leaders in their drive (achievement, ambition, energy, and tenacity), desire to lead, honesty and integrity, self-confidence, cognitive ability, and knowledge of business. However, Ellis and Dick (2000) observe that one difficulty with this theory is that the list grows ever longer the more succesful leaders are considered. Eventually, it becomes so cumbersome that you begin to ask yourself if any one person can ever possess all the qualities they need to become a great leader. There are also a number of contradictions if we start to compare leaders from different fields of endeavour. For example, the qualities needed for a professional sports' team leader or coach or manager are very different from those that would be needed for a leader from the Church or the leader of an orchestra. Taking a look back on history, it is possible to recognise different figures that we can consider leaders and that have influenced the course of the events: Mao Tze Tung, Hitler, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, but also Gandhi, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Martin Luther King. Looking on this list, it is possible to come to the conclusion that they were leaders who did not share same ideals and poin of views, and most important, that did not have same traits and characteristics.

According to Champoux (2000) leadership reserchers eventually realised that traits alone did not full explain leadership effectiveness. As a result, they turned to studying leader behaviour in the late 1950s. Two complementary behavioural theories of leadership were designed to describe the behaviour that distinguished leaders of effective and ineffective work groups. One set of researchers was the University of Michigan Studies; they conceptualised two dimension of leadership behaviour: Production-centered focus and Employee-centered behaviour. Production-centered leaders focus on putting...
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