Are Leaders Born or Made?

Several people believe that a true leader is someone who is born into the role. Leaders are people who excel at everything throughout their lives. They don’t have to be told how to be a leader as they just do what comes naturally to them.

Others feel that leadership can be learned. There are certainly many seminars and management schools that teach people how to become better leaders. Over the years, leaders in every walk of life have been observed, and the techniques on how leaders emerge are well-documented.

Some people gravitate towards leadership. While it may seem natural to them, behind the scenes, it is likely they either studied on how to be a good leader, or they had strong role models in their lives that helped shaped them to be the leaders they have become. This isn’t to say it’s not possible for people to have natural leadership ability. However, it’s not the only way people become leaders.

People do fail at management. This solidifies the thinking of those on the leader-are-born camp. However, much of the 1980s and 1990s were spent promoting people who had no business being promoted. Middle managers were created faster than people cared to imagine. This was done as incentives to keep people happy.

You may have heard the term the Peter Principle, so named after management consultant Peter Drucker. The principle states that managers will continue to be promoted to a position they are not qualified for. You can have all the training in the world, and even those who have a natural leadership ability will not be able to account for moving too fast up the corporate ladder.

Several leaders do have qualities they were born with. For instance, many leaders tend to be outgoing and contain above-average intelligence. However, there certainly have been plenty of people with these two traits who have failed as leaders. Conversely, there are people with average intelligence and less outgoing who have become great leaders. 

It’s not unheard of for people to change their personalities, too. People who considered themselves as introverted when they were younger are now more outgoing. Therefore, a personality trait is not always set in stone. People have the capacity for change. Therefore, if there are traits that are attributable to certain personality types, people can align with those traits. It’s been done before, and others will continue to do so in the future.