Although some individuals are naturally more inclined to become leaders, it should be noted that their early life experience plays a fundamental role in their future life (Mishra & Karen, 2008). All people can become leaders only if they desire and take efforts to do so. In relation to this, it is clear that some people are more empathetic than others, others are more energetic and some are more engaging than others (Mishra & Karen, 2008). This implies that individuals have unique composition of talents, motives and dreams that provide a raw material for getting the best out of everyone around them. Mishra & Karen (2008) state that “leaders who consistently keep their commitments are frank almost to a fault, and perform incredibly, while seeking to better the lives of those around them rather than simply filling their own bank accounts” (p. 4). These people act both humbly and heroically, but they are not superhuman or unbelievable.
According to Avolio (2005), one of the truths held by many people about leadership is that leaders are born to lead and made by some mysterious confluence of events. Most of what leaders have that enables them to lead is learned. Therefore, Avolio (2005) points out that leadership is not a mysterious activity and, thus, the ability to perform complex tasks is widely distributed to people. Many people articulate that leadership is inborn and it has become a truth for them and a part of their mental image or model about leadership. Avolio (2005) further indicates that personal training, a feedback or personal coaching in the world are likely to fall short of achieving its objectives of developing a person’s leadership potential. When we accept that leaders are born to lead, we may avoid being engaged in situations and experiences that trigger ones full potential.
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People may get engaged in those situations and experiences, but fail to derive a deep meaning from those events that enhance an individual’s leadership development (Avolio, 2005). To be in the state of accepting that leaders are made, we must believe that certain things are not fully programmed in advance. Avolio (2005) notes that thinking in terms of becoming a leader is an important part of the mental model that provides each of us with a greater readiness to assume new roles and responsibilities en route to redefining our relationships with others. Therefore, Avolio (2005) asserts that leadership is by no means irrevocably fixed by genetics.
The basis of arguing whether leaders are made or born is clearly one’s predisposition, our genetic base, and with what we are born into this world and what we hopefully fully utilize. Avolio (2005) claims that the aspect of “leaders being made is underestimated if we simply believe that leadership is born and if we fail to accumulate and learn from life experiences that have already been shown to have an impact on leadership development” (p. 3). Avolio adds that even if someone is predisposed to be a leader by some favorable combination of genetics, he or she is not preordained, and learning and leading must go hand in hand for anyone to achieve his or her full leadership potential (2005).
Using the perception that the majority of humans are born positively-programmed, it is reasonable to conclude that they have the ability to inspire others, which is one of the characteristics of leadership (Hennessy, 2004). In support of that argument, leaders can be seen as born rather than made. Hennessy (2004) points out that there are individuals who are born and raised in a negative environment, but seek positive one in every sphere of life. Such people consciously fine-tune their leadership abilities throughout their life and, thus, they are self-made leaders, who strive for bettering themselves at every opportunity. Hennessy (2004) continues commenting that through sheer hard work they eventually reach the point of calm inner resonance and at this point they will know deep inside that they have come into their own. Hennessy (2004) indicates that the notion that leaders are born appears to be a common theme in military organizations, where the promotion to higher ranks is equated to success. This implies that the very notion of being a leader at the bottom of most ranks has been despised until recently.
Leadership is not power. Hennessy (2004) points out that leadership is a vision, delegation and inspiration. Hennessy (2004) gives an example that “to have a leader corporal or a leader midshipman is a far safer and more effective outcome than to say that leadership is reserved for generals and admirals” (p. 111). Avolio (2005) researched that after birth leaders evolve beyond their genetic predisposition, and form a numerator of developing potential. This is because some of us enter life in an easy way and some struggle for their life almost from the very start. The most complex aspect associated with this perception is that even the same events of two people will not actually produce the same leader (Avolio, 2005). In this context we note that the same events experienced by someone who is extremely intelligent will not be processed in the same way, since someone who is of average gets below average intelligence (Avolio, 2005).
Leaders learn how to delegate tasks. According to Leatherman (2008), leaders learn how to command and control and to have personal involvement in the whole process. Leaders are made to be willing to accept risk or uncertainty. The graph below shows how leaders learn to involve themselves in a process (Leatherman, 2008). The graph clearly indicates that effective leaders move up and down along this diagonal line in order to use the approach that best suits an individual who is assigned a delegated task. Leaders also learn how to delegate (see Graph 1).
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Graph 1. Leader’s ongoing involvement.
Delegation can only be learned by leaders. According to the above graph, Leatherman (2008) points out that in directing a leader both delegates tasks and instructs an individual exactly how the task is to be done. Leatherman (2008) says that a leader assumes that being assisted a person is capable of handling some assignments without specific instructions. Leaders learn how to coach and define the expected end results of a particular person. In monitoring, a leader learns how to define the expected end results and then allows an employee to reach them in his or her own way (Leatherman, 2008).
The notion that leaders are made can be derived from the fact that someone open to experiences in terms of his or her personality will derive a different meaning from unexpected events, as opposed to an individual who has no desire to experience anything remotely different from the norm. Avolio (2005) asserts that how made leaders attach to significant life events, and what we do with a meaning, determines what they learn and incorporate into their own leadership developmental potential. In his research, Avolio has concluded that when there are two people with almost similar life experiences, one may end up as a very successful leader and the other neither holds down a job, nor is seen as being someone who can be respected or trusted (2005). It means that an individual must have been naturally born to be a leader. Avolio (2005) indicates that “despite this it is always true in part; it is the interaction between events and an individual that may actually help to explain why only one individual has become an effective leader” (p. 16).
Born or made leaders have less control over a sequence of training events in their life. Avolio (2005) states that what such leaders choose to try, and what they are engage in, learn from or walk away from, shape training events that one confronts in his or her life and in turn his or her leadership development. Besides that, Sims & Quatro (2005) argue that leaders are both born and made, because continually raising the baseline of leadership for everyone and achieving goals make leadership better as a whole. There will always be those who have some advantages physically, mentally or spiritually, and this will in turn spring them to the top by consensus (Sims & Quatro, 2005). In their studies Sims & Quatro (2005) have concluded that whether leaders are born or made is not the point, but nearly all aspiring leaders arrive at their initial formal leadership training with some inherent leadership traits based on their home life, school, sports, boy scouting and other experiences. According to Sims & Quatro (2005) good leaders must be both born and made, which implies that there is a subtle inference of the baseline of leadership, when someone is called a leader and more importantly when a person is called a born leader.
On the other hand, Obialor (2010) argues that leaders are made and not born. He further says that a great leader is not born with all qualities that make a leader, but has to pass through several challenges that model him or her into what he or she is. According to Obialor (2010) many people think that great leaders are born with a leadership quality that makes them successful as a leader. However Obialor (2010) recommends that “leadership like many other similar characteristics can be learned and developed through life” (p. 14). It has been observed that those people who consider themselves introvert and overall followers become successful leaders, when they are faced with an issue they are passionate about. Obialor (2010) states that in the same way as famous leaders one can have typical intelligence, creativity or drive, but he or she has to continually develop that leadership traits through life.
Moreover, scholars have noted that no one emerges from the womb or from adolescence with all skills in place to be an effective leader. Obialor (2010) indicates that “everybody has to learn a process and that is a way, in which leaders are always made not born” (p. 16). Leaders are made because they learn by trying things out and critiquing their own performance. Obialor (2010) emphasizes that leaders are made because they seek out training opportunities that will make a difference in their performance. Leaders are made because they also seek out opportunities that will increase their visibility. Obialor (2010) adds that selecting potential leaders with essential traits, supporting them with training, feedbacks, personal learning and development experiences, and holding them accountable for results will usually result in creating a good leader and, therefore, we come to the conclusion that leaders are made.
According to the information mentioned above, it is clear that leaders are made because there is a lot to learn about interacting with other people (Obialor, 2010). Individual’s leadership begins inside of him or her with self-love, self-assurance in who he or she is and the knowledge of what he or she wants and heads for. On he other hand, Kouzes & Posner (2010) determine that it is a pure myth that only a lucky few can understand the intricacies of leadership. Therefore, they note that leadership is not a gene, and it is not a secret code that cannot be deciphered by ordinary people (Kouzes & Posner, 2010). This means that a leader is a person who has an observable set of skills and abilities that are useful whether one is in an executive suite or on the front line.
In their research Kouzes & Posner note that the fact that leaders can learn to be leaders through self-awareness and efforts opens a possibility for individuals to have a choice about pursuing or ignoring the calling of leadership (2010). As a matter of fact not everyone will be a leader of historical proportions; however, we all can and should assume leadership roles in our regular activities more often than not (Kouzes & Posner, 2010). Therefore, we should liberate a leader in each and every one of us, instead of viewing leadership as an innate set of character traits, a self-fulfilling prophecy that dooms society to having only a few good leaders. Kouzes & Posner (2010) mention that by acknowledging that leadership is made, we can discover how many there are good leaders. Sometimes the leader in us may get the call to take a step forward at school, in the community, the company and the family and, by believing in ourselves and our capacity to learn and lead, we will be surely prepared when that call comes (Kouzes & Posner, 2010).
Leaders are made because they are entailed to learn important aspects of responsibility, team spirit, organizational clarity and rewards. Burnham (2009) indicates that interactive leaders produce high employee morale. A leader should learn to be responsible for what an individual holds on to. Burnham (2009) adds that “leaders should be capable of learning organizational clarity to perceive the direction in which a group is headed” (p. 14). The below graph implies that all leaders and their organizations should aspire new leaders to achieve interactive leadership and should also train and mentor them accordingly (see Graph 2).
Graph 2. Responsibility team organization rewards.
Those people who belong to a born-leader school of thought are generally representatives of the nineteenth century and earlier, including those who believe that certain kings are leaders because of their birthright (Fox, 2011). Fox (2011) says that “since the birthright is no longer recognized as a means of producing leaders in the current society, there are many people born with a leadership potential” (p. 45). Many scholars prefer those people who have personal characteristics that suit leadership and that leadership position helps them if they know and exercise leader traits (Fox, 2011). In addition, Fox believes that we become leaders who are both born and made; however, the deciding factor is a desire of an individual. Fox (2011) indicates that “if we really want to be leaders, we should study traits that make a leader along with the principles of leadership, and observe a positive influence of those who are leaders” (p. 46).
Although many scholars advocate that leaders are made and not born, an individual potential comes to them with their birth for the most part, but one’s childhood environment has a big influence on how he or she later sees his or her role in life and gets along with others and whether or not he or she wants to please or at least be on the positive side of those with whom he or she is involved (Fox, 2011). A personal characteristic that makes a born leader is charisma. Fox (2011) states that leaders with charisma are ahead of the game from the start because they appeal to people. Fox (2011) adds that born leaders catch the eye and collect followers. On the other hand, a person without charisma who desires to be a leader can be one and a good one indeed.
Wick, Pollock & Jefferson (2010) underline that there is no leader who was not born to be such. For example, it is impossible to meet an accountant, artist, athlete, engineer, lawyer, physician and a doctor who were not born with their professional traits. This implies that we were all born with leadership traits, but what we do with what we have before an individual makes difference. Wick, Pollock & Jefferson (2010) argue that leadership is not preordained, not a gene and not a trait. In this context they note that there is no hard evidence to support the assertion that leadership is imprinted in the DNA of only some individuals and the rest of us are missed out and doomed to be clueless (Wick, Pollock & Jefferson, 2010).
According to Wick, Pollock & Jefferson, the truth about leaders is that the best leaders are the best learners. These scholars indicate that “leadership is an observable pattern and behavior and a definable set of skills and abilities” (p. 330). In relation to this, skills can be learned, and when we track the progress of people who participate in leadership development programs, we observe that their personal traits get improved with time. Leaders learn to be better as long as they are engaged in activities that help them learn.
In conclusion, while we articulate that leaders are made, not everyone learns it and not all those who learn it master it (Wick, Pollock & Jefferson, 2010). Considering the fact that leaders are both made and born, leadership can be learned in a variety of ways. Leadership can be learned through experimenting actively, observing others, studying in the classroom or reading books, or simply reflecting on one’s own and others experiences. It is significant to note that everyone is born with leadership traits of character, but the leadership in an individual is nurtured (Wick, Pollock & Jefferson, 2010). As a result, since learning to be a leader comes first, those people who are predisposed to be curios, want to learn something new and are much more likely to get better at it than those who do not become fully engaged. Therefore, leaders are both born and made.
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