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Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em. -Shakespeare

Are Leaders Born or Made?

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Have you ever heard someone state, “she’s a natural leader” or “he was born for this role”?

We’ve all met those people who seem to be perfect for the leadership role – it appears to come so easy for them. But other people end up becoming excellent leaders even though they never anticipated it.

In this episode, we discuss the age old debate of whether leaders are born or made. Do some people have an advantage in the leadership department, or does everyone have the potential to be a leader?

We talk about some of the research out there about whether leaders are born or developed. We also discuss our experience with this issue and some examples of leaders in the Bible. Finally, we wrap up with 6 tips for you to become a better leader.

The Research:

1. Leaders: Born or Made? by Ronald E Riggio Ph.D. – Psychology Today

Key points:

  • About ⅓ of leaders are born and ⅔ are made.
  • There are some traits are are consistently associated with obtaining leadership positions:
    • Extraversion
    • Social intelligence – understanding social situations and processes
    • Empathy – ability to know followers

2. Asking Whether Leaders Are Born or Made Is the Wrong Question by Connson Chou Locke – Harvard Business Review

Key point:

  • Natural traits might be more predictive of whether someone gets chosen for a leadership role, but they do not predict a leader’s effectiveness.

3. Are Leaders Born Or Made? by Erika Andersen – Forbes

Key points:

  • Leadership falls on a bell curve.
  • The majority of people have the potential to develop and become a leader.
  • The most powerful way to grow as a leader is to become truly self-aware.

Becoming truly self-aware means to cultivate, on a daily basis, an accurate sense of how you show up in the world and what motivates you. – Erika Andersen

  • Erika provides some really good questions to ask as examples of how to become self-aware:
    • What are your actual strengths and weaknesses as a leader and as a person?  
    • What impact do you have on others?
    • What do you care most about?  
    • What’s your moral compass, and do you use it as a guidance system?  
    • How closely do your actions line up with your promises?
  • Only about 25% of leaders are truly self-aware, but the vast majority believe they are self-aware.

4. The Center for Creative Leadership study by: William Gentry, Ph.D., Jennifer J. Deal, Ph.D., Sarah Stawiski, Ph.D., and Marian Ruderman, Ph.D.

Key points:

  • 19% of top level executives believed that leaders are born, 52% believed they are made, and 28% believed it’s a combination of both.
  • The 3 major factors in creating a leader are: traits, experiences, and training. These factors all impact our leadership ability, but there’s definitely disagreement about which factors weigh more heavily.

The God Factor:

Holly and I discuss our own perspectives around this topic and share our take on the question of whether leaders are born or made. We also bring up a 4th factor in creating a leader: the God factor.

God has a way of making leaders out of very unlikely candidates, and we don’t have to look very far in the Bible to find examples of that.

God has a way of making leaders out of very unlikely candidates. Click To Tweet

We also share 2 examples from the Bible of leaders who God used in powerful ways.

Holly’s example is Joseph from the book of Genesis. Holly shared about Joseph’s story and noted that some of this story was clearly God promoting Joseph beyond his experience. But Joseph also took the opportunities he was given and did a lot of “on the job” learning. He is a great example of the idea the leaders are both born and made.  

My example is Queen Esther from the book of Esther. I about the life of Esther, who was a Jewish orphan being raised by her cousin Mordecai. The story of Esther is an example of an unlikely candidate being raised up to a leadership position they never expected. It’s also reminds us of the importance of having a mentor. Mordecai encouraged her to speak up even when it didn’t seem wise, and as a result, the Jewish nation was saved.

God can elevate someone into a leadership position regardless of what traits they are born with. And in the end, if we are listening and obeying God’s leading in our lives, he can do what he wants with our willingness. 

God can elevate someone into a leadership position regardless of what traits they are born with. Click To Tweet

6 Tips to Becoming a Better Leader:

1. Just do it! Take action.  The more experience you have the more you will learn.  “On the job training”

2. Find a mentor

3. Be obedient even when it doesn’t make sense.

4. Become more self-aware (more on this topic in the future)

5. Do a Bible study on some of the unlikely leaders in the Bible  – this helps you to see that God can and will use anyone who is willing

6. Join our Purposeful Leadership Facebook Group – we’re there to support you in your leadership journey!

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