Leaders Born or Created?

The few days back, I saw a tweet go out that asked are leaders born or can they be made. Just two days ago, I overheard a discussion at the local Starbucks on this topic. I have heard many different arguments over the years. I go with both! When I was coaching youth sports, I get the opportunity to witness first hand those young folks that are born into leading. The experience that I am going to share comes from coaching youth hockey ages 7-10. There was always one or two players that just stand out from the other players as leaders. Many of my peer coaches would say that they are their best players and lead by example. Which probably is the case more times than not, but I had a few rare players that were not the best players but were the best communicators and team mates. At those ages, they did not really have any time to learn how to do that, they just did it. It comes natural. When I look back and then look towards today – those leaders are still leaders, just doing it in different places.

I do think that some training and coaching of people to be leaders is possible. In the workplace, you get to interact with many different folks, some standout for their potential in leading a team. From  my experience I have seen both sides of the spectrum. Those folks that have the ability, but really want nothing to do with leading. They prefer to just do what they are doing. Other folks want to be leaders, but frankly, don’t really demonstrate the initial abilities or characteristics necessary. Having discussions with both sets of folks is interesting. For me, I want to make sure that my teams are set up with secession plans. I want to develop my folks to help them achieve their dreams. Here is where I believe that training and mentoring comes into play. Everyone has a blind spot or two that needs attention. When you step into a management role and really want to do well, you need some training. You really need someone to help you with highlighting those blind spots and putting focus on the “right” areas. Training and follow-up will help lessen the blind spot. For me, leadership is something that is a life-long learning experience. There is always something new to learn or find out about yourself.

Leaders need to be honest, have a demonstrated track record of success, be excellent communicators, place an emphasis on serving those they lead, be fluid in their approach, have laser focus with a bias toward action. Some of those items come natural. Others can be helped along. So, when I hear or see that question about are leaders born or created, I go with both…

  • I’ve got to agree with all your points Steve . . . and I agree with both born and trained.  I too have seen the same things, when it comes to kids.  The sad thing I see today, is the born leaders don’t want to lead, they want to follow life.  They waste their potential and can’t see what they could have done, had they chosen to be a leader.

    It doesn’t help when you  look at today’s leaders either.  Obama given the Nobel Peace Prize, not for something he did (because he didn’t do anything to earn it), but because he had/has the potential to do something to earn it.  We also see it in our pro sports.  We see players that would be prime examples for leaders, blow it time and time again, yet reward them when it’s contract time.  

    We also have born leaders that we handicap, by putting them in positions they don’t want to be in, at that time in their life or by the surroundings they are raised in.  An example would be to take a born leader in Portland or Oakland/Berkley,  while raising them in the local surroundings, the leadership potential will be stymied.

  • Steve – thanks for commenting.

    There is big disappointment when someone that can do a great job leading and makes the choice not. Most of the time, I understand the reasons (really want to keep spending time with my family, completing school priority #1 right now, that is not my long-term goals). As long as I communicate to them, that they would do great, I have done all I can.

    Today’s “leaders” in almost every arena have their good and bad. It is easy to see the very public figures that are lacking – as the news and other media make sure to show us those examples. I only chose to follow those leaders that are true leaders. The bad examples are my shining stars on what not to do…