Is there any such thing as a natural leader? For centuries people have been debating whether leaders are born or made. So lets look at this in the context of business leaders. I asked this very simple question to a HR Director (my wife) and her answer was a quick and definative “They are made”, yet when you read the biographies of great business leaders you always get the impression that they were destined from great things from birth.

So lets start at the beginning

A useful set of competencies that define leaders according to William S Frank are

  • Visionary
  • Inspirational
  • Strategic
  • Tactical
  • Focused
  • Persuasive
  • Likeable
  • Decisive
  • Ethical
  • Open to feedback and dedicated to lifelong learning

All of these competencies can be learned but not all of them can be taught. Leadership is an apprenticeship and leaders learn most of their craft on the job.

So to answer the question Leaders are first born and then made.

The birth of a leader can happen at any time. For many of the great leaders that we read about this happens in childhood years, but this can also occur much later in life.

The birth of a leader occurs when an individual first starts to dream of creating something bigger than themselves and realises that they need others to help them achieve this vision. This can happen in childhood when you want to build a treehouse, or take your sporting team to the finals, or can happen later in life when meet a leader that inspires you, or move into an environment or position that needs to you to stretch to meet your goals. Once a leader is born, they go on a lifelong quest to learn, grow and strive to fulfil and ever growing vision.

Leader are made over time from the sum of all their experiences, good and bad, and the continual development of skills. To develop leaders you need to create an environment where they can grow exhibit their initiative and make mentors available to them that can guide their growth.

So to sum it all up, leaders are made, but they have to be born first.


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