Are Leaders Made or Born?

Are Leaders Made or Born?

By Ted Hill

It is a trick question. The answer is both.

LeadershipThere does seem to be born leaders and most of us have met several. There does seem to be people with the right combination of intelligence and personality that seem to be able to get people to follow them and get others to do what the leader wants them to do. They seem to have learned these techniques in childhood or maybe in their teen years.

But can you create effective leaders? The answer is definitely yes. Military organizations have proved beyond any doubt that you can train effective leaders and you can do it in ninety days. That does not mean that anybody can successfully become a leader. The military officer training programs and the service academies tend to be highly selective. And the ninety day training programs tend to have a significant dropout rate.

I attended the United States Air Force Officer Training School and despite rigorous prescreening we lost about one third of the class before graduation. However, those that graduated were very successful in assuming leadership roles. In less than three years I was a squadron commander with over 1600 people reporting to me.

Business organizations such as General Electric and IBM have been exceptionally successful training effective leaders and managers. Even small and medium-size organizations have successfully utilized leadership development programs.

Leadership does not depend on personality styles or charisma. There are relatively simple and fundamental techniques for dealing with other people. It is not difficult to learn what truly motivates people. Most people can learn to be effective communicators at a personal level. Thousands of people who never considered a leadership role have learned to become effective leaders by applying basic leadership techniques.

To summarize we can confidently say:

  • There are people who are born leaders.
  • Not everyone can learn to be a leader.
  • A large majority of reasonably intelligent people can learn to be effective leaders.

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