Answering the Age Old Question: Are Leaders Born or Made?

Are Leaders Born or Made

The question, “is a leader born or made?” has been debated for centuries. Previous generation thought leaders are only born. They believed a person could only become a leader if they had the leadership gene or DNA. In one of my previous job positions an older gentleman always went on and on about how a leader is born and could never be made. I heard him but always felt uneasy from his opinion on the topic.

Recent generations say a person can be trained or developed into a leader. They believe leadership is not a special gene or innate ability given at birth to a select few but is a skill which can be learned by anyone.

The answer to the question is leaders are born (everyone reading this has been born) and anyone can be or become a leader because leadership is a learned set of skills. In The Leadership Challenge authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner provide this information on being or becoming a leader:

“It’s just pure myth that only a lucky few can ever understand the intricacies of leadership. Leadership is not a gene, and it’s not a secret code that can’t be deciphered by ordinary people. The truth is that leadership is an observable set of skills and abilities that are useful whether one is in the executive suite or on the front line, on Wall Street or Main Street, in any campus, community, or corporation. And any skill can be strengthened, honed, and enhanced, given the motivation and desire, along with practice and feedback, role models, and coaching.”

This offers a convincing argument that anyone can become a leader. My life was an example of a person who was at one time defiantly not a leader or person of influence. While in High School I started to join the wrong group of people who wanted to party, were substance abusers, skipped school, and participated in a variety of criminal activities. My bad choices were either leading me to jail or the grave.

By chance or luck a couple of mentor figures came into my life and directed me toward a new path of right living. I started to move from making bad choices to better and wiser choices. During this time I heard a John Maxwell leadership CD which sparked my desire and passion to learn about the topic of leadership. Reading my first John Maxwell book and later other books on the topic of leadership fueled my passion for leadership. My later teens and early 20s set me on a journey of learning and gaining hands on leadership experience. While at one time I never saw or possessed leadership skills, I stated to see myself in a new light, as a leader. Over time my desire and learning positioned me to develop my leadership skills and abilities.

Anyone can be or become a leader. A significant step to being a leader is in your desire. Napoleon Hill said, “The starting point of all achievement is desire.” When you have the desire to be a leader you will be motivated to take the steps to develop your leadership skills and abilities. In time you will begin to act, behave, and talk like a leader. Leaders are made.

Question: Do you agree or disagree with leaders being made verses born?

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Dan, great personal testimony you share here. It’s a testament to the fact that we can change and develop into leaders. I believe most people simply don’t want the responsibility of leadership, and unfortunately they fail to develop the leader within.

    • Glad to share a little about myself. No one can deny a personal testimony or experience. Thank you for sharing.

  • I think there are people who are born with a more natural tendency towards leadership, or a natural charisma that draws people in. However I agree that regardless of whether you have this natural charisma or not you can be a leader. In fact everyone is a leader in some fashion it is just a matter of whether we realize it and are conscious about how we are leading.

    • Hi Matthew,

      I agree with your thoughts. Some people have more of a natural bent toward leading while others need to work on developing the skill. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  • Great post Dan. I think it is more natural for some to lead then others. However, everyone can and should become a better leader. Love your take on this. Have a great week buddy.

    • I agree! Thank you for adding your thoughts.

  • I do agree that leadership is a learned skill. However, I also believe some have a more natural ability with those skills. I think of it sort of like sports or music. Anyone can learn how to do them, but some people have more natural ability. Not a perfect analogy, I know, but it illustrates the point fairly well. My personality makes leadership more difficult, but I have learned many of the skills of being a capable leader. Desire does play a role for sure.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts and developing your leadership skills! I always enjoy hearing from you.

  • DS

    We all lead – some poorly, some in an average way, and others excel. It begins with ourselves, what we choose to do, how we act/react, what we learn or don’t learn. We may influence for good or may influence for bad. While genetics seems to play some role, it appears to me that those we are surrounded by, the environment we grow up in (and the environment we chose later), and the information we choose to be exposed to greatly impact our development as people and leaders.

    • I especially love your first sentence, I totally agree! Great additional points. Our environment definitely does shape and impact us. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  • I agree with Kari. I think leaders can develop, but it comes more easily to some than others. Some have to be dragged into it, kicking and screaming. :-)

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    • Thank you:) Glad you enjoyed the post.