The number one problem throughout the world today is sound governance – leadership. In the third world countries where disease, poverty and illiteracy continue to be the norm, leadership gets tested. There is a shortage of well meaning and seasoned leaders. The current upheavals and anti government protests in northern Africa are all a response to failed leadership.
The question of whether leaders must be born or made becomes the centre of the debate. This essay explores the concept of leadership with an intention to disqualify the statement, “leaders must be born and not made.” The assertion in this essay is that, while there are individuals with the innate personality for leadership, acquired leadership skills still account for the larger success of a leader.
How do we define leadership? The most widely acceptable definition of leadership is the ability to motivate and influence people towards a common goal. Leaders make people engage in what they do not want to do by encouraging them to love it (Polelle, 2008). Leadership is the ability to attract and retain loyal and faithful followers. Without a commendable following, there is no leadership.
How does leadership relate with personality? Leadership performance depends to some extent on the personality of the leader. A study on the personality of the former presidents of the United States observes that their performances at the White House got impacted by their personality mix (Rubenzer & Faschingbauer, 2004). Rubenzer and Faschingbauer (2004) observed that individuals who became American presidents had a personality that set them apart from ordinary Americans – whether introverted or extroverted.
The two psychologists concluded that personality alone was not enough to have the presidents lead well. They observed that the presidency involved making extremely difficult decisions for which some personality types – the introverted, did not have the ability. The only possible reason why Wilson Woodrow and John Adams made it during their presidency years had to do with learned/acquired leadership skills. They were introverts. This included adjustment on their individual personalities.
What does leadership require? Leadership has to do with completing the job and developing meaningful relationships. Effective leaders are those who strike a balance between developing rocket rocking friendships and yielding excellent results. This is not an inborn trait – it must be learned. Excellent leaders have the courage to do the impossible. They have the ability to adapt to new trends and balance between extremes. Great leaders exhibit genuine influence on their followers because they possess a visionary approach to relationships, life and work (Caroselli, 2000).
It is essential to note that courage, adaptability; influence and creativity are all learned or acquired skills. The assertion that leaders must be born and not made is shallow and less convincing. This is because prominent leaders have become students of leadership throughout history. Ordinary men and women with enough passion for anything – social justice, politics, arts, science and religion, have all learnt to lead in their respective fields. Leadership comes through a consistent behavior. Individuals who have emerged excellently in leadership have had to rise beyond individual failures. Over the years, people got to learn what they ought to be, know and to do in order to turn the core of their skills into effective leadership (Adair, 1997).
This discussion asserts that the greatest leaders learn to lead. Great leaders get molded. Ordinary life experiences and acquired character develop individuals into outstanding leaders.
Adair, J. (1997). Leadership Skills. Great Britain: Cromwell Press.
Caroselli, M. (2000). Leadership Skills for Mangers. New York: The McGraw Hill Companies, Inc.
Pollele, M.R. (2008). Leadership. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Rubenzer, S.T., & Faschingbauer, T.R. (2004). Personality, Character and Leadership in the White House: Psychologists assess the presidents. Washington, D.C.: Potomac books, Inc.