Are leaders born or made?
The idea that leaders are born requires that there is a specific leadership gene.
But if we look into history, we see leaders arise in all kind of places and all kind of status stature, from the rich to the poor, from the smart to the less smart without their ancestors or parents having been great leaders. Further, we see plenty of evidence that the children of great leaders e.g. Kings and Queens can be poor leaders. The bottom line is that there is no evidence that leadership comes in the form of gene and the continued belief that leadership has particular biological origin is a superstition. Though we see that certain groups tend to generate leaders e.g. political dynasties, this is because of the way in which the children are raised rather than a biological blessing.
More modern research has focused on the idea of traits; to be a leader you must demonstrate a certain trait. Sometimes this approach is presented as "the answer" because there have been many studies and papers written on the subject but this is more out of desperation and exasperation than truth. After decades of research there is NO universally accepted leadership trait, sometimes there is even disagreement on what leadership actually is let alone how it works. Though traits can be important for some leaders, they are not a universal truth.
For us, the most interesting approach is to consider leadership as a social phenomenon i.e. an organized pattern of behavior exhibited in social groups. We prefer this approach because we think it is the most useful as it focuses on what leadership actually does (the technical term is ‘complexity leadership’). The idea is that leadership is a particular behavioral pattern that is exhibited by an organization to ensure its continued viability. In other words, leadership is a set of activities that any social system (e.g. organization, team, community, country, city etc.) must continuously perform in order to ensure its continued survival and success. These 3 activities are as follows:
The reason why we like this approach is that it moves away from the naïve idea of the "heroic leader" who is successful because they are perfect. Though we idealise our leaders, in reality they are just normal people with great strengths and very human limitations. By understanding leadership as a phenomenon, we can focus on the activity of leadership not on the leader. This is crucial because it allows us to focus on the leadership activities that must be performed to maintain the viability of the organization and not be distracted by the individual detail of each leader. This approach is also empowering because it means everyone can lead because everyone can contribute to the 3 key activities listed above. This is extremely important because today most leaders are crippled by an overwhelming amount of workload. Distributing leadership activity throughout the organization by understanding it as a social a phenomenon reduces the workload on the formal leaders i.e. those who are formally designed in the social system as leaders and gives them more time to focus on the really important things. This gives them the time and space to make better decisions ultimately improving overall performance in the organization.
IN SUMMARY, we believe leadership is not about how you are born, it’s about how individual and groups organize their patterns of behavior to describe what a better future looks like, how they influence each other to work together to create that better future, and how they work to preserve the unity of their community in the face of challenging change.