Are leaders born Craig Johns Nelson Mandela

ARE LEADERS BORN?

nelson-mandela
Nelson Mandela – Photo Credit: Seattle Globalist

ARE LEADERS BORN?

Nature (our DNA) and nurture (environmental influences) both need to be taken into consideration when trying to understand how a leader is formed. The way I like to look at whether leaders are Born or Made, is by looking at leadership capability through the concept of a bell-curve.

At the bottom of the curve, there are ~10% of people that will struggle, no matter how hard they try, to be a good leader. Their DNA is just not wired to lead and every amount of training is unlikely to get them to a position where they can lead effectively. On the top of the bell curve are the ~10% of people who are born to lead. They are born with an innate instinct to lead. As they grow and develop they tend to continue getting better and better.

The other ~80% of people in the middle have the potential to be good leaders, if not great leaders. They have to be prepared to work really hard on their leadership skills, especially self-awareness. This involves learning how to take a ‘birds-eye-view’ of yourself, be open to asking for feedback and developing great listening skills.

However, I do believe that the world’s most exceptional visionary leaders are highly likely to only come from the ~10% of people who are born leaders.

To try and understand some of the discussion points around whether leaders are born or made, let’s look at some of the theories and evidence that support either side of the coin or both sides.

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. They are the one who gets the people to do the greatest things.”

Ronald Reagan (Adapted) 

THEORIES

According to the Great Man Theory, popularised in the 1840’s by Thomas Carlyle and Trait Theory, people inherit certain qualities and traits, which are aligned with leadership. People are born with different qualities that predispose them to be a leader, which is similar to someone who with the natural qualities of a gifted musician or talented athlete. They will naturally excel and thrive when confronted with the appropriate situations, whereas other people will struggle. The most exceptional leaders, don’t become overnight successes, they were leaders from the onset.

Behavioural Theories emphasise that the process of teaching, learning and observation allow people to become leaders. They believe the concept of leadership is something that can be learnt, like a skill through training, practice, perception and making observations over a period of time. But, to what level can a person achieve, from a leadership point of view, if they don’t have the natural charisma, ability to influence, natural integrity, and ability to motivate and inspire?

“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”

VINCE LOMBARDI

SITUATION

Some people are very good leaders in certain environments, but not others. They may lead well when they know and trust a small team they are working with, whereas they struggle in a larger team of people they don’t know so well. Even exceptional leaders are only effective when they are in specific locations or environments, for example they could be in a family, societal, community, national, or global environment.

Leaders, sometimes, don’t always stand out from the crowd. They are the quiet achievers, who have an uncanny ability lead people away from the limelight and in a very subtle way. Their quiet, softly spoken and under-the-radar approach may have a profound effect on the way people behave, how they perform and decisions they make.

“Leadership is not magnetic personality – that could just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people’, that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”

PETER DRUCKER

GENETIC

There are bodies of research that imply that 30% of leadership is genetic and 70% is learned. Although the percentage of genetic versus learned is likely to vary quite a lot between individual leaders, but it still implies that there is a major learning component to leadership.

Many leaders, tend to have an extroversion trait. They also tend to have high levels of empathy as well as social and emotional intelligence, whereas IQ is not always an important characteristic for a leader. As I discussed earlier, introverts can also be great leaders.

“Leadership is an observable, learnable set of practices. Leadership is not something mystical and ethereal that cannot be understood by ordinary people. Given the opportunity for feedback and practice, those with the desire and persistence to lead can substantially improve their abilities to do so.”

JAMES KOUZES & BARRY POSNER

GROWTH

Great leaders tend to be in constant growth, as they aim to improve every day. They tend to seek new experiences and a greater understanding of themselves.

People who are adjusted, social, ambitious and curious are more likely to become leaders. Their curious nature leads them to learn through mediums such as books, informal training from coaches or mentors, interpretations of life experiences, websites, observations, listening and formal training in an academic type setting.

“The leader must be able to know what followers want, when they want it, and what prevents them from getting what they want.”

BERNARD BASS

FINAL THOUGHTS

Leadership is a reflection of who you are and how you want to improve the world for the better. No matter whether leaders have come from a background of hardship and personal struggles or they have endured leadership through an abundance of resources, everyone can continue to develop their leadership skills through deliberate practice and experience.

Developing as a leader is no different to any other expert, where they grow through deliberate practice, struggle, sacrifice, hard work, and regular self-assessment.

Are leaders born?

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Its your story Craig Johns

IT’S YOUR STORY! How do you want to be remembered?

By Craig Johns

It’s your story! The people who stand out from the crowd and change the world we know, are remembered most for breaking the rules. There are those who break rules for evil and there are those who break the rules for good. Obviously, you want to be on the side who breaks the rules that change the way we think, act, live and move for the better.

We were all put on this planet for a purpose. Many people don’t fulfil their purpose, because it is uncomfortable to break the rules and taking the leap into the unknown tests our emotional fortitude.

Life is about realising who you are, trusting that you have what it takes and allowing the fire inside of you to roar loudly. Your inner drive is the key ingredient to your recipe. Without lighting the flame, you will not know if you are cooking at the right temperature.

You need to take charge, put the pen in your hand and begin writing your own story. Too often people live someone else’s dream, or don’t even have a dream to live. It’s all about owning the dream and not allowing other people to interrupt it.

Until you have become the path itself, you cannot travel the path. You must become one with your story and write it with true conviction. Everything you do and say tells the world about what is going on inside of you. Remember, a tiger hunts best when it is hungry!

The most powerful people in the world are the storytellers. A storyteller gets to set the view, the values and the way we achieve it. They get to set the agenda for the way next generation get to live in the future.

If you own your own story, you get to write the ending. If you leave it to others, you can only be the subject. If you believe in it, you get to narrate it.

How do you want to be remembered?

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Friday Fast Five on Gaining A Competitive Edge with Craig Johns

Friday Fast Five with Craig Johns

By Craig Johns – 17 July 2020

Who have you inspired this week? It is time for some inspiration with Friday Fast Five

5 weekly thoughts to spark your curiosity in under 90 seconds

#5 Watched “Leadership is doing what is right when no one is watching.” George Van Valkenburg

#4 Rookie “Imagine a workplace that is filled with employees and teams who are full of energy, enthusiasm, curiosity and an inner drive for gaining a competitive edge. Is that yours?” read on Be A Rookie!

#3 Ripple “Our decisions and actions create a ripple effect that, for the majority of time, we are totally unaware of. We hold a high level of power in our ability, whether you are aware of it or not, to influence the behaviors and actions of others.” Craig Johns

#2 Become “You can’t change what you are but you can change what you become.“ David Lindsay talking about making choices, on the active CEO Podcast.

#1 Accomplishment Productivity is not what you produce, it is what you accomplish!” Productivity starts with happiness, on active CEO Podcast Tune in

Where the ordinary don’t belong!


Craig Johns 

High Performance Leadership

craig@nrg2perform.com
www.craigjohns.com.au 

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