Are Leaders Born Or Made?

I was brought up with an understanding that leaders were ‘born’ not ‘made’. 

With this belief firmly planted in my mind at an early age, I always looked up to people who had lots of followers and a great deal of confidence and natural ability. I thought I could never aspire to ‘greatness’ as they had. At the time, I accepted this as normal and acceptable and continued to carry on with my life. However, how wrong I was.

I often reflect back now and wonder why I thought they were great or why they thought they were great!  

Was it because they were confident and had the ability to attract others to follow them? 

Was it their natural ability to achieve? 

Was it their popularity and sense of humour that caused attention? 

Or was it adults for example teachers and parents placing them on a pedal stool? I think all of these behaviours existed and probably continue to exist and there is still a clear distinction around who people perceive as born leaders and those who are not.

To be fair, I’m not interested in people who think they are born leaders as I’ve seen many of them peter out due to a lack of stamina and determination. I’m more interested in finding out what makes a true leader and my WHY is that I have proven that I fall into this category with what I have achieved in my life. 

If I went back in time to my local high school, I am sure many of the teachers who had the privilege of educating me would fall off their seats if they knew I went onto lead a large educational organisation. The few that had the most powerful influence on me and inspired me the most will not! 

I have just finished reading Seth Godin’s book ‘Tribes – We Need You to Lead Us’. He challenges us to question this whole notion of charismatic leaders. You know, the people who want and need to be seen at the front. He states that being charismatic does not make you a leader. Being a leader makes you charismatic. He references great leaders who have speech impediments and fear of public speaking however can still have charisma. George VI was a good example of this.

Unfortunately, there are a number of great people who fall out of the leadership stakes when they see the charisma tick box because they start comparing themselves to others. I can see how this happens and without self-belief and determination along my journey, I could have quite easily fallen into this category. What they often fail to see is that confident, charismatic people are not born that way. Charisma Godin states is a choice, not a gift! 

Lolly Daskal is an amazing thought leader who also challenges us around true leadership. She too believes that the image we create around what constitutes a leader can be very false. True leadership is not about status nor position. We should not hold leaders in high regard because of their position. We admire them because they have held themselves to such a high standard, and by doing so, they have inspired us to do the same. She makes it very clear that leaders are not great because they have power. Leaders are great because they can empower others.

True leadership I believe is about self-belief and self-awareness. We also need to understand that true leadership is about acknowledging and understanding who we are. As Daskal states the good and the bad, the successes and the shadows. 

“Leaders are not born, they are made. They are made like everything else is made through values, virtues, principles and character”.

Lolly Daskin

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