Leaders Are Born Not Made


The factual analysis about leader ship in this essay is based on results published in Journals and books published in various time-periods and by a variety of respected people belonging to the Psychological societies around the world. The fact being that no Leader is identical to an other so deriving a conclusion from any particular theory has always been a question mark. Although one may comment about the innate genetic factors which has given raise to “Born Leaders” and the “Made Leaders” by their choice and opportunities to improve their skills and work towards a goal.

Born and Made Concept:

According to “Fielder”, leader is defined as a person who is “appointed, elected, or informally chosen to direct and co-ordinate the work of others in a group”. So one has to understand leader and leader-ship are two very different concepts. With reference to the statement leaders are “born not made”, certain predispositions such as personality characteristics, could add an additional advantage of being a leader. The other factors such as family genes which one may procure are definitely cannot be argued upon. Intelligence, religion-growth-status, society, education, training, job etc… remain as external factors influencing ones Leadership. Therefore a change and a conflict is simply evident. The recent break through of a concept called “Cloning” has stirred a wider controversy about replicating a “LEADER”. Although the research is banned in most countries, a possibility of “BORN” leader in every Human mind is very much an innate quality.

According to William A Cohen (Cohen, 1998), “Lack of leadership ability” can most of the time be corrected with training and a little motivation. An other interesting article about leadership published by the American Psychological Association (June 94), about how a leader is made? Is an intresting topic to discuss upon. Lets take an example for a cause is “Freedom” , wars where fought from stonage to industial age under this concept, a person who had a “Vision to Liberate” became a leader. So one may even draw to a conclusion that a Leader can just persuade to make another leader or in a sense LEADER makes an OTHER LEADER.


The approach which has been used in the Psychological field in the early 1940’s is called the “Greatman’s” approach . It significantly emphasis a non-factual idea which was believed to be correct until Stogdill’s (1948) litrature gave a new pradigm shift to abandon the “Greatman’s approach” to innate leadership approach.

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The current leadership studies is about Transformational and Transactional leadership , this study is broadly based on interpersonal and interactions about people (Burns 1978). These Transformational leadership behaviour comprises of four main components : Inspirational motivation, Idealised infulence, Individualised consideration and Intellectual stimulation. A charismatic Model of leadership gave birth from the first two of the components (Max Weber).

Five Factor Model : Developed in the 1990’s suggests that a person’s is unlikely to change much so a new theory of elements came into place. The elements are classified as follows

  • Extroversion
  • Emotionality
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Openess to experience

According to this model it became to some extent that Leaders where born with TRAITS. The openess to experience moulds a person according to his surroundings.

Posner published “The Leadership Challenge” to address issues they uncovered in research on ordinary people achieving individual leadership standards of excellence. Where he says a novel way of a leader to motivate for a cause and to understand and accept his failure for his miscalculations.

Sir Richard Branson- “having a personality of caring about people is important,” says Branson. “You can’t be a good leader unless you generally like people. That is how you bring out the best in them.”
A Person like Sir Branson with absolutely no education as a Manager is a very efficient manager, but he accepted the criticism which he faced of being a lousy manager has turned him into a good leader during his time frame of his success. So a good leader even accepts his own flaws and understands his need to change himself according to the circumstances.

House and Podsakoff(1994) managed to analyse the behaviours and approaches of “outstanding leaders” that they obtained from some of the above mentioned theories and research findings. There findings and summarisation is not based on one’s Leadership skills, but an effective or most effective styles of leaders and managers of today. The listed leadership “styles” cover, Some of the examples of leader ship styles used by the leader I have used is highlighted across each skills,

Vision – “I have a Dream” – Martin Luther King

Passion and self-sacrifice. – “Apartheid” – Sir. Nelson Mandela

Confidence, – “Freedom struggle” – Mahatma Gandhi

Image-building, – “Mac Donald’s” – Dick and Mac McDonald

Role-modelling, – Nobel Laureates

External representation (spokes person) – Sir Winston Churchill

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Expectations of and confidence in followers – Jesus Christ

Selective motive-arousal – Adolf Hitler

Frame alignment – Barack Obama – “Change You Can Trust”

Inspirational communication – Mother Theresa – “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless”

The examples of leaders I have mentioned does not predominantly mean a Leader’s style, but the character which persuaded their followers on their style depends on their sole uniqueness.

(Adopted from: (Podsakoff, 1994).

Whilist keeping the above in mind, lets analyse some of the Leadership skills present in the shipping industry:

A person in a position or office – “Maersk Mc-kinney Moller”-A.P.Moller Group Founder

A person with associated expertise, skill or experience – ship’s captain, a chief engineer.

A group of person in the forefront in any movement, field, activity.- A Naval Admiral

Global Head of Marine Technology for Lloyds – “Mr.John Carlton”

The earlier theories of leadership rejected the idea of Leaders where born, because they identified the leadership with the ability to influence and their styles to persuade others. A creative adventurous part of a leader is considered if he either has it or not?. If a blood analysis by Gene is carried out to findout if a person is a leader or not?, one would fail miserably in the analysis taking into account the complexity of the human mind to learn and develop itself, is well beyond science to slove in an equation.

Howerver a guidelines can be prescribed as :Developing people, being able to influence others, encouraging team work, empowering poeople, using multiple options of thinking, taking intelligent risks, being passonate about work, having a strong and clear vision, streaching one’s personal creativity. So it is very much possible for a person to learn such skills in any enviornment which could be in a classroom, in a society, in a business, or in a work-place. The only obstacle is his or her mindset to learn and develop his or her skills.

“ Born to Lead” is a correct assesment, If everyone is born in a Royal Family, an elite group of people who thinks like scientists could become scientists, who thinks like Doctors could become Doctors, who thinks like LEADERS would become LEADERS. All one needs is the drive and motivation from their parents, societies and the urge to become a leader.To conclude my analysis : I would like to quote Vincent Lombardi (Football coach), “ Winners expect to win and losers expect to loose”, to compare and contrast a Born or a Made Leader is expected to win but not to loose. It is the skill of a leader which attracts his followers. So Leader- ship is taught “Made” but Leaders to some extent are “Born”, keeping the innate personalities that one may posses.

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Everyone is born with a ability to lead, the question is, to what level we can take our ability?. For example a mother bringing up a child is an ultimate form of leadership, where rearing, managing and instilling values in a child to some extent is leadership. So one may see leadership could some extent is very clear that it is born with a person.

Leadership can be learnt, the question of Leadership whether it can be taught to a person is a critical to be analysed upon!. The responsibilities lies within each indivial to learn leadership. So everyday a leader is born, keeping in mind every child who is born on Earth is a leader. Each one of them has to learn how to develop their skills of being a leader and learn where to apply the ability to lead and in what circumstances?.

A King or Queen who rules a monarch, would consider leadership in their blood. People have been accepting them as their rulers based on their blood line. I would like to quote Shakespeare’s thoughts of leadership

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” – William Shakespeare

I would like to end my essay saying that the “born” argument doesnot take into account the effect that experience and learning has on personalities, behaviours and on our inner selves. Leadership is a skill and a habit. Like most skills “Practice makes man perfect”. As one becomes more skilled, the habit takes over. In hindsight, it is therefore clear that leaders are both born and made. Leaders may be born with genetic personality and intellectual predispositions, which give them the potential to become an effective leader. However as I have mentioned earlier a greatness of leadership can be derived from practicing the above mentioned skills. It is therfore clear that an interrelation of both genetics and learning, which builds a muliti dimentional leadership approach(Bass 1998: Yukl 1998), which creates leaders.

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