"Leaders are born and not made."  Explain this.

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This statement implies that leadership is a matter of personality; that it is an art rather than a science.  It says that a person must be born with innate characteristics that allow them to lead.

The idea behind this statement is that leadership is not a matter of technique or learned skills.  Instead, it is a matter of having some personal characteristics that make other people want to follow where you lead.  This implies that there is no way to take a person who does not have these innate characteristics and teach them to be an effective leader.

This statement, then, argues that the major aspect of leadership is personality.

tamarakh's profile pic

Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Many psychological, neurological, and sociological tests have been conducted by scientists to discover if leadership truly can be a learned trait, and studies generally indicate that leaders truly are born with different personality traits and different thinking skills that make them leaders rather than followers.

Geneticists at the University College London experimented on 4,000 individuals to find that those who are supervisors all have the rs4950 gene. Also, psychologists and neuroscientists at the Wake Forest University, North Carolina, discovered that those in leadership positions have more brain activity in their frontal and prefrontal lobes. The frontal lobe is responsible for cognitive skills, such as expressing emotions, solving problems, the ability to judge, and the ability to retain memory and use language skills. The prefrontal lobe is involved in even more complex cognitive skills, such as making decisions, regulating social behavior, and expressing personality. All of the above skills are critical for leadership roles.

In addition, a joint sociology and animal behavior study on stickleback fish at the University of Cambridge showed that the leadership role cannot be learned. Stickleback fish are group animals, and within the group, different fish show different levels of boldness; the bolder fish initiate an activity, such as coming out of hiding to forage, while the shyer fish follow. The scientists took pairs of shy and bold fish and used food rewards to try and change the behavior of both the leader and the follower. What they found is that, while the leader could be trained to learn to follow, the follower could never be trained to be bold enough to lead.

Hence, though some scientists still question if leadership skills can truly be learned, other scientists conclude that while some leadership skills can be learned, there will always be certain people for whom those skills come more easily, just like math skills come easily to certain individuals while language skills come more easily to others. All people, within limits, can be taught to learn more math and language skills, but those who are weak in math or language will always struggle more with the subject. The same holds true for leaders. We can learn leadership skills, but it's not the skills alone that make us actual leaders.

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gsenviro's profile pic

gsenviro | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

"Leaders are born not made" simply implies that one cannot be taught to be a leader; either one is born with the skills to be a leader or not.

The assumption here is that leadership is inherently a matter of traits that cannot be transferred or taught and are innate. The assumption also incorporates the idea that leadership is not based on a set of rules and skills that can be imparted to another person. Leadership is a sum total of personal characteristics that a person has or develops without any aid over time and it is this skill set that enables the leader to lead people. This is akin to people having high IQ or innate skills in certain areas (athletics, etc.).

This statement rules out leadership as a learnt quality or skill. 

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