Business and Technology Leadership

Are leaders born or made? The definitive answer.

Leaders are both born and made. No matter what innate abilities you possess, you have the capacity to be a great leader.

“Are Leaders born or made” is a philosophical question for not much more than fodder for classroom conversation. The answer is simply, they are born and made. The error lies within the statement’s binary nature implying the answer is one nor the other, however, it is both.
There is also a flaw in the assumption that a person is either “a leader” or “not a leader”. Nearly every person has some innate leadership ability, some are just better leaders than others. The variance on this spectrum is quite large, and there is a lot you can do to make yourself a better leader, even if you have only natural ability.

It is true that leaders must be born with a certain aptitude for leadership, but it’s not “you have it” or “you don’t have it”. It’s a spectrum of natural ability, and once past a certain threshold, the additional attributes hold negligible value. Many people believe that certain born traits such as intelligence, confidence, extraversion, and charisma are necessary for a leader, however, that is simply not true. There are good leaders that lack all of these attributes, and there are bad leaders that have each one in spades.

On the other hand, leaders must be made through a combination of education, mentoring, reflection, and experience. One of the aforementioned does not negate one’s ability to be a leader, but each one helps an individual person become a leader. It’s not to say that a leader cannot lead without these, but most people are the best versions of themselves when they work to improve these four areas.

Education: The most important part of this is a commitment to lifelong learning. This can be either formal or informal education. In this day and age, with information so readily available, it is quite possible to teach yourself just about anything. Some jobs may require a level of education that are hard to quantify if one is self-taught, or one may prefer the experience of a classroom. Do not limit your education directly to the work you do, try learning things outside of that scope. You will be surprised how your brain starts to teach itself how to think differently.

Experience: This is familiarity with certain fields and skills over years of interactions. It is not only important to have depth of experience, but you must also have a breadth of experience. Your biggest developmental experiences will occur when you take yourself out of a comfort zone. Is a job opening up in a new and unfamiliar sector at your company? If it’s a lateral or upwards move, you would be wise to take it. Learn Why Failure Makes Us Stronger

Mentorship: Most mentees seek out their mentor. This person should be someone you admire and aspire to be. They can help you get there, and provide valuable feedback. If you do not have a mentor, do your best to find one. You’ll be surprised at how many people are willing to give their time to someone who is trying to improve themselves.

Reflection: Take time to apply serious thought to your leadership ability and how the above three tenants have affected you. Be open to criticism from your managers, peers, and even your subordinates. Take multi-rater feedbacks when available. It is very important to be self-aware as a leader. Understanding how your actions effect other people will enable you to lead people better. Want To Gain more Self Awareness?

Leader Development Model

Everyone is born with a certain ability level, but very few reach their full potential. Wherever you are in your journey, you have the ability to be a good leader. It takes deliberate effort, and honesty with yourself. If you are not happy where you are, start making changes today by working on small improvements in education, mentoring, reflection, and experience. Today, you can start on a path towards being great leader. Best of luck!
*This article is an adaptation of the Leader Growth Model taught to cadets at The United States Military Academy. 

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