Are Leaders Born or Made?
By David Garic
age-old question continues to raise its ugly head: Are leaders born to
lead, or are they made? Does
Leadership DNA exist? We
often point to one person or the other and say, “Now, he’s a
leader,” without giving a lot of thought to how this person became a
leader in the first place. Sometimes
it is easy to simply conclude that some of us have the leadership gene
and some of us do not. Those
who do get to lead, while those who do not are forever assigned to the
sidelines while leaders have all the fun, make all the decisions, and
cover themselves in glory. This
comes as rather unsettling news for those of us who fear we may get
the opportunity to lead. What
hope do we have that we can ever aspire to lead people, teams,
companies, organizations, even our children?
not, there is hope for the rest of us because here is some very good
news: Leadership DNA is a
myth. There is no such
thing as a natural ability to lead that exists within some of us while
remaining absent in others. A
closer examination of those leaders we often hold in high regard,
those we refer to as role models, will reveal one common
characteristic among all of them.
They all have a burning desire to lead, to be influential,
motivational, and take responsibility for themselves and others.
What makes these leaders effective is not a natural
ability; it is their desire to lead people, combined with a set of
learned skills that they apply as leaders.
The only real ingredient in the leadership recipe that they
possessed when they began leading was desire.
They learned the rest of it.
The desire to lead was the motivational ingredient that drove
them to lead; the skills
they learned along the way are what allowed them to lead people.
there are some people who demonstrate a greater ability for leading
people than others demonstrate. They
are Leadership All-Stars. They
are the best leaders among us and have become the best by practicing
and learning from their practice.
Nearly all of them would recall the key experiences in their
life from which they learn the practice of leadership.
Nearly all of them would say the starting point for their
leadership journey began at the intersection of a desire to lead and
learning how to lead.
Equipped with the desire to lead, the absence of the leadership
gene is irrelevant.
Leadership is nothing more than a collection of skills, that
when employed, produce results.
create the motivational environment for their followers that cause
them to want to achieve.
are able to easily identify the needs of their followers and direct
them on the pathway to success.
can skillfully strike the balance between attending to the needs of
their followers while accomplishing the tasks required of them.
can learn leadership skills in a variety of ways (training,
self-study, observing other leaders) but unless these skills are
practiced in realistic and meaningful experiences they are forgotten.
is the key that unlocks the leadership gateway.
It is the continuous increase in skills and abilities that
occurs over time. It is
the result of continuously learning through life’s experiences,
coupled with reflective practice-taking a hard look at oneself in the
context of those experiences. It
is the practice of reflecting upon one’s experiences, usually
facilitated by experts, which produces leaders who produce results.
evidence that supports development as the pathway to leadership is
substantial, and it is nothing new.
Some of the premier institutions in the United States
are based on
the principle that by reflective practice, people can
be developed into leaders.
All three of the nation’s military academies and all four of
the nation’s military services subscribe to the principle that
almost anyone who possesses a desire to lead can become a
fundamentally sound leader. Universities
throughout the United States
standing up bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, awarding
degrees in leadership. Numerous
companies in the private sector have been developing their own brand
of leader, designed to meet their needs.
Companies like General Electric, Southwest Airlines and Dell
place significant emphasis on developing leaders and they have reaped
the rewards from their efforts. Institutions
and organizations like these believe that leadership can be learned,
and more importantly, leaders can be developed.
day soon, the argument will end. Until then, for those of us who may
be wondering, “Do I have it or don’t I,” not to fear. It can be
done. Start with desire. We can learn the rest.
Read other articles and learn more about
[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis.
Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and