It’s one of the most common questions when it comes to leadership. Are leaders born or made? Can leadership be developed or do leaders need to be genetically blessed with leadership traits?
Leaders are made, not born. Although some traits of great leaders may appear to be inherent, leadership is a skill that can be learned. Even traits that are considered innate, such as creativity, can be developed and enhanced.
Of course, many leaders do utilise natural, inherent traits. They may have developed key leadership traits via environments they were raised in, or they may simply possess them naturally.
For example, you might have come across leaders who are naturally influential. Without even trying, some leaders are able to inspire others, simply through their demeanour and presence.
But does that mean influencing is an innate skill that leaders must be born with?
No, it doesn’t. It simply means that those who don’t possess the skill have to obtain it in other ways, whether it be through training, mentorship or hands-on leadership experience.
What Are The Key Traits of Leaders?
To get a clearer picture of whether leadership skills are born or made, let’s take a look at the key traits of leaders.
Of course, this is only a brief list of leadership traits. There are many more, but here we’re focusing on what we believe are the five most important leadership traits.
The best leaders are able to influence others. John C. Maxwell, renowned leadership author and speaker, once stated simply ‘leadership is influence’.
While some people may be able to influence others naturally, there are many ways of developing your influencing skills. For example, improving your communication style can improve your ability to build relationships and influence others.
Many leadership training programmes also focus on specific influencing techniques.
Confidence is a trait that most successful leaders have in common. Why? Because confident leaders believe in themselves and their visions, which encourages their followers to do the same.
Confidence is also likely to improve leaders’ communication and relationship building skills, which are both vital when it comes to achieving success.
Of course, confidence is not something that leaders are born with. It’s a trait that is acquired and developed.
The majority of great leaders are also great communicators. This is largely because good communication enables leaders to convey their visions, influence teams and gain trust.
Although communication skills are often developed in the early years of our lives, the ability to communicate effectively is something that we can all develop over time.
In fact, many leadership training providers offer courses that are specifically focused on communication.
Top-tier leaders have a clear vision of their goals and where they want their company or project to go. When communicated effectively, this vision should inspire others to realise it.
Why is vision important for leaders? Because it provides purpose. It shows teams where they’re going and what they’re investing their energy in. When leaders provide an amazing vision, teams are inspired to work towards it.
Vision can be learned and developed. Many leadership courses offer practical exercises to help leaders work on establishing vision and effectively conveying those visions to others.
5. Succeeding Under Pressure
A common skill of many great leaders is the ability to maintain their composure and effectively lead when faced with highly stressful, pressurised situations. When those around them lose faith, the best leaders step up and lead.
This may seem like a skill that is natural, rather than learned. After all, how we respond to pressurised situations is often instinctive.
However, the skills that leaders utilise to succeed under pressure can be learned. For example, leaders can develop their composure by working on certain techniques. The ability to succeed under pressure can also be enhanced by gaining hands-on experience operating in pressurised situations.
How Do Leaders Develop Their Skills?
We’ve established that leadership skills can be developed. But how does one go about acquiring the skills that the best leaders possess?
Mentorship is very beneficial for future leaders as it enables them to walk in the footsteps of great leaders and learn from the best.
Mentees are able to see first-hand how top leaders operate in their daily lives. For example, they can see how they communicate and engage with others. They also have the opportunity to observe specific leadership styles.
Of course, mentees would not be advised to mimic the traits of their mentors. But they do have the opportunity to observe their ways of working and gain valuable insight.
Leadership training programmes and courses enable people to acquire skills required to be effective leaders. There are many different forms of leadership training available, ranging from courses that focus on specific soft skills to diverse programmes that cover all aspects of leadership.
Whether they head large organsiations or they're seeking their first leadership role, trainees’ can reap significant rewards from leadership training programmes and courses.
Some companies offer internal leadership development programmes, which are designed to nurture the next generation of leaders. These can be highly beneficial for both companies and students.
The old saying ‘practise makes perfect’ is very appropriate when it comes to leadership. Gaining hands-on experience and going through the trials and tribulations of leadership is one of the best ways for leaders to improve their capabilities.
Throughout history, people have become great leaders after being thrust into unexpected leadership roles. After assuming positions of great responsibility, they responded to challenges and established themselves as top leaders.
Of course, many of these leader utilised skills that they had obtained previously in their lives. But the hands-on experience enabled them to develop and grow as leaders.
Leaders are made, not born. While many leaders possess traits that come natural to them, or that they developed early in their lives, these traits can be obtained. Leadership courses, mentorship and experience are among the best ways to develop leadership capabilities.
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