Are Leaders Born or Made?

Vince Lombardi

This is always a hot topic in leadership. Is a good leader born or made?

There are certain attributes that some naturally have, such as the gift of negotiation and debate. Those with the quick wit in sticky situations, i.e., Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop. The point is, everything can be learned with the right effort and practice. There is no limit to what one can achieve with the right tools, training and support. However, to know whether one was born a leader, is it even relevant today?

Psychologist have said this is a dangerous question, born or made. The idea is that the focus on a leaders’ natural ability lessens the focus on leadership development and training. In the down economy the development programs are often in the first budget cuts. Current research suggests that experience on the job plays an important catalyst for unlocking leader behavior. There is no substitute for learning through doing, making mistakes and improving with time. Maybe the question is dangerous because the definition of leadership is variable depending on who you ask.

Leaders – are individuals who establish direction for a working group of individuals, who gain commitment from these group members to this direction, and who then motivate these members to achieve the direction’s outcomes.

This definition is broad enough to allow for a wide variety of leader behavior. For example, setting direction can range from establishing strategic direction for the organization to setting daily target goals for a team or individuals. Secondly, a leader need not exercise all three elements to be a leader in the eyes of others. Leaders can be found all over organizations fulfilling one or all of these roles.

I advise that organizations don’t be seduced by someones past success. You see it often that organizations bring in new leadership based on that leaders past success in other companies to bypass in-house development. Certainly there is good reason to bring new leadership from the outside for fresh ideas and to energize an organization, just don’t short change internal leadership development in the process. Whether a person outwardly shows leadership attributes or not, an organization is smart to focus on the leadership development first then selection of the ‘natural’ leader second.

I know where Vince Lombardi sits. Where do you sit on this topic? Comment or Tweet me, looking forward to hearing from you!!

“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” –Vince Lombardi

2 thoughts on “Are Leaders Born or Made?”

  1. I’ve been thinking about this lately, so I think it’s funny I’ve stumbled across your post. Have you read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers? I think you’ll find a lot of insight on the topic there.

    Like

    1. I haven’t read the Outlier’s yet, been on the “to read” list for some time, so thanks for the reminder! So in your pondering of this recently where do you stand – born vs. made?

      Like

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