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Leaders: Born or Made?

Leaders: Born or Made?

"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

The above quote by Vince Lombardi strongly agrees that leaders are not born but made. A leader is a person with a vision who can drive with a commitment to achieve the vision and use the skills to make the achievement happen in real. 1 Furthermore, Reh explains that without a vision a person cannot be a leader and just having a vision the problem is not solved. Along with a vision a person needs to act and should take the right steps at the right time. For example:

A leader has a vision. Leaders see a problem that needs to be fixed or a goal that needs to be achieved. It may be something that no one else sees or simply something that no one else wants to tackle. Whatever it is, it is the focus of the leader's attention and they attack it with a single-minded determination. It is not enough to just have a vision. Lots of people see things that should be done, things that should be fixed, great step forward that could be taken. What makes leaders different is that they act. They take the steps to achieve their vision. 2

In 1930’s, some social scientists had begun to examine leadership and through their studies it was determined that leadership is something that people do. After that research, a premise was developed that leadership was possibly something people also can learn to do. 3 Every company wants to hire an effective leader who has the capability of operating costs for an organization. If a leader does not have high leadership skill and fails to monitor other employees in the workplace it can cost the company financially and morally. For example, there will be poor productivity and turnover of more employees will take place which will lead to less effectiveness within an organization. Then an organization will need higher costs to move further.

Furthermore, there has always been an argument about whether the leaders are born or made. To be a leader hard work plays a vital role. Society, influence, attitude, choice, etc. a lot of factors come into the picture when talking about leaders. Leaders are created through their hard work that can influence easily to others. In addition, nothing happens all of a sudden.

The book defines leadership as, “Rather than leadership being perceives as a natural inherent trait, leadership behaviors need to be identified, developed, and taught in order to produce strong

  1. Reh, John F. What is a Leader? (Retrieved July 22,2020).
  2. Reh, John F. What is a Leader? (Retrieved July 22,2020).
  3. Are Leaders Born or Made?’ (Retrieved July 22,2020).

business leaders. It also suggests that to develop a successful corporate campaign enterprise should follow the two key principles:

Principle 1. Highly effective leaders are made, not born.

Principle 2. There are many paths to an effective leadership strategy.

The research came up with the conclusion that the philosophy of traditional corporate that leaders are born does not apply anymore now. The research studies have pointed out that in any prospective leadership candidate be well trained at the corporate to become a highly effective leader. One does not need to have that quality by birth.

Furthermore, leadership skills can be gained with training and by using that training in their real life. Even though some research says that leaders are by birth, a person is born with the character of a leader but not as a real leader. To be a real leader a person needs to have that spirit to face any kind of challenges or failure in life. A person who has some qualities of a leader by birth can lose their way if they are unable to cope with these circumstances. The quality of leadership is developed and nurtured in a person and it is not necessary that a person must be born with that quality. The more experience a person has in his/her life, the greater the leadership skills a person can have. On the other hand, leadership is a behavior, where being a leader we take responsibility for our actions and consequences for those actions. When we become a leader, we take that responsibility of guiding others because when a person thinks about a leader, a person has a vision that a leader is educated, professional, and more experienced.

Research explains that all of us are born with one trait in common and that is a potential. The research further says that “Of course there are much potential, but the key in dealing with potential is the stimulus and environment that brings it out. In this way, you can look at all of the members of your organization as potential leaders.”

The former U.S. secretary of State Colin Powell had told to a Business School audience that, “Leadership is all about people…and getting the most out of people. It is about conveying a sense of purpose in a selfless manner and creating conditions of trust while displaying moral and physical courage. Never show fear or anger.” Powell further said that it is necessary to have a sense of optimism and being in a troop a leader must train his/her troop. Training is not only one thing to do but trust also plays a vital role to let those troops get on with their work. He also added that the best leader can be defined as a person who can communicate upward the fears and desires of their subordinates and always willing to fight for what is needed. He concluded by saying that if these things do not happen then at any time organization can weaken or crumble.

In addition, Powell mentioned that effective leaders are made not born and they learn from their trial, error, and their experiences; if something fails a true leader learns from the experience and puts it behind him/her. A good leader must know to reward that succeed and also know when to

  1. “True CorporaTe Leaders are Made, NoT BorN.” Behavioral Considerations for Business Leadership Development Center for Leadership Studies Situational Leadership.(2010): (Retrieved July 15, 2020).
  2. ‘Are Leaders Born or Made?’ (Retrieved July 22,2020).

retrain, move, or fire to ineffective staff. As Powell mentions when all these things happen, and you know that people follow you out of curiosity then we will realize that we are a good leader.

People say that if we give good training and proper education then anyone can be a good leader. Anyone can lead but everyone does not have that patience to lead in times of hardships or stress. Furthermore, everyone does not have the human characteristics of facing any kind of worst situation with a smile or have the courage to stand behind the decision without knowing a fact that it might succeed or fail. Even though it is believed that a person with special knowledge and power can lead, but only a person with special and unique abilities and characteristics can be a leader and that characteristics can be gained with training and experience. In addition, a person does not need to have those unique abilities by birth, or to be a leader a person does not need to be unique by birth. As there is a famous saying, “practice makes a man perfect” yes it does. Practice and motivation can make a person be successful and a great leader.

According to the survey done by Gentry & et. al (2012) during their research to find the view of the employee and the employer whether the leaders are born or made, all groups overwhelmingly agreed that people become leaders in large part as a result of experiences that help them learn how to be a leader. For example, when a company wants to hire a new employee, it does not go for whether the person has talent by birth or not. Instead, a company looks for his/her experience, skills and in some cases references. For instance, Gentry & et. al (2012) mention that, “Even Justice Scalia, who said he would not hire a clerk who isn’t from a top school, acknowledged that some people can develop to be as good as – or better than – their peers who appear to have more innate talent.” 7 This shows that even when a company hires an employee, a company looks for how well trained a person is.

According to Brookmire (2012), “Center for Creative Leadership, a research firm, surveyed top leaders globally and found that the majority (52.4%) believed leaders were made, believing that leadership is more than just “genetics.” A minority (19.1%) believed that leaders were simply born.”  8 Additionally, Brookmire also mentions that it is helpful to be born with the leadership qualities but that is the only a part of the equation for success. But hiring the best leader by providing ongoing development can be helpful to make the best leader for the company.

Another research was done by UCL (University College of London) along with an international a research team from Harvard, NYU, and the University of California, “More than once that leadership is still a skill to be developed and that it can be cultivated in people, as long as we allow them to remain true to the person they are, and align with their own natural style.” 9

  1. ‘Good Leaders Are Made, Not Born, Says Colin Powel.’ (November 1,2005) (Retrieved July 22,2020).
  2. Gentry, William & et. al. ‘Are Leaders Born or Made? Center for Creative Leadership. (March 2012). (Retrieved July 22,2020)
  3. Brookmire, David. Are Leaders Born or Made? (December 13, 2012). leaders-born-or-made (Retrieved July 22, 2020).
  4. Elmore, Tim. Are Leaders Born or Made? (January 25, 2013). leaders-born-or-made/ (Retrieved July 19, 2020).

On the other hand, according to Great Man theory, “A leader is born and cannot be made. This theory believed that leaders are people who have inborn exceptional qualities and are destined to lead.” 10 Mutua (2011) further gives the example of Prince William of England, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei and Emperor Akihito of Japan as a leader who is born into power. Leaders are born not made can be true but only in a certain extent. For example, “Regardless of their characteristics or personality, these people were born into positions of leadership. They are exposed to various leadership situations, causing them to be influential and in their own rights.” 11

Furthermore, the article from confirms that “It is true that people can be trained through leadership programs; however, these trained personnel will often pale in comparison with those who have in-born characteristics that allow them to excel in leadership roles.” 12 To be a leader one must have that characteristic so that a person can well develop the born talent and skills to be a good leader.

Riggio (2012) also says, “The executives who believe that leaders are born, give less attention to leader development, both their own personal development as well the development of those they lead. They are focused on selecting leaders with the ‘right stuff,’ and expecting that those leaders’ natural abilities will mean organizational success. But nothing could be further from the truth.” Riggo also says the selection is important but it is more important for the development of a good leader. 13

The debate about whether the leaders are born or made is still going on. Some people believe leaders are born and a person who is born with a leadership quality can be a good leader. Some people believe that leaders are made, and nothing is by birth. You learn everything after your birth. We learn everything throughout our life, and we try doing things in a perfect way through the day to day practice. Most of the research and real-life examples clearly prove that leaders are made not born. There are theories from researchers that to be a leader a person can learn through life and work experiences through personal reflection. People can learn leadership skills and choose to become a leader. Past experiences, education, training, and learning from past mistakes helps to shape a true leader.

The true leader is not the one who takes responsibilities when an organization succeeds, true leader takes responsibilities no matter what the outcome is. Good leaders are made from experience and a deep understanding of different fields. They are visionaries and have a fixed mission. Good leaders are influencers and motivators for others. A good leadership skill does not come by birth but through experience and hard work as well as commitment.

True leader willing to share in rewards with colleagues can be viewed as one of the great qualities of leadership.

  1. Anthony, Mutua “Leaders are born and not made.” (February 3, 2011). (Retrieved July 15,2020).
  2. Anthony, Mutua “Leaders are born and not made.” (February 3, 2011). (Retrieved July 18,2020).
  3. Leaders Are Born Not Made. (June 25,2010). (Retrieved July 22,2020).
  4. Riggio, Dr. Ronald E. ‘Leadership 101: Are leaders born or made? (May 10, 2012). (Retrieved July 22,2020).


(Note: All the papers listed below are quoted, directly or indirectly, in the article.)

Anthony, Mutua “Leaders are born and not made.” (February 3, 2011).

‘Are Leaders Born or Made?’ Brookmire, David. Are Leaders Born or Made? (December 13, 2012).

Elmore, Tim. Are Leaders Born or Made? (January 25, 2013).

Gentry, William & et. al. ‘Are Leaders Born or Made? Center for Creative Leadership. (March 2012).

‘Good Leaders Are Made, Not Born, Says Colin Powel.’ (November 1, 2005)

‘Leaders Are Born Not Made.’ (June 25, 2010).

Reh, John F. ‘What is a Leader?’

“True CorporaTe Leaders are Made, NoT BorN.” Behavioral Considerations for Business Leadership Development Center for Leadership Studies Situational Leadership. (2010):4.

Author: Gita Poudel || Sr. HR & Compliance Manager || Maganti IT Resources, LLC