To be or not to be a leader

What I have noticed is that people often make statements like: “she is a natural leader” or “he is a born leader”. This implies a limitation, i.e. you either have it or you do not. Are leaders born? Absolutely! Where else would they come from? Are they made? Absolutely! However, it means one needs to make a conscious choice to become leader.

The authors of the article “Born to lead?” (De Neve et al., The Leadership Quarterly 2013) describe a genotype, rs4950, which appears to explain that 25% of variations seen in leadership behavior are passed down from generations. The interesting suggestion they make is that their findings may assist in identifying what the environmental factors are that support development of leadership skills.

In “The Making of an Expert”, published in 2007 in Harvard Business Review, Ericsson et al. concluded that to become an expert in anything one has to practice, practice correctly, and practice with a coach. This applies just as much to those who aspire to be experts at leadership.

Therefore, even if there is some genetic impact, rather than seeing that as a limiting factor, the real question is how to create the conditions as early as possible for people to start practicing leadership skills. Have a look at what we have initiated at YIELD (Youth Institute for Excellence in Leadership Development) – www.yield-association.org – and let me know what you think.

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