What Is the Leaders Are Born Not Made Debate?

The "leaders are born, not made" debate challenges whether leadership qualities are innate or whether they can be learned. One side of the debate insists that some people are born with certain personality traits and qualities that destine them toward leadership positions, while the other side argues that leadership develops in time as a result of life experience and learned leadership methods.

A major reason that the debate persists is that leadership has different meanings and that some leadership qualities are deemed more valuable depending on the situation. In an emergency situation, valuable leadership qualities include quick thinking and the ability to take control while, in some settings, a more adaptive or collaborative leadership approach is more desirable.

People in leaderships define themselves as both born leaders and made leaders and the definition of leadership is split between the two sides. Born leaders, for example, lean toward a dominant leadership approach while those who identify themselves as made leaders embrace a collaborative approach to leadership where workers are asked for their opinions before the leader makes a decision.

Many believe that while some people may be born with bold personalities that contribute to leadership, much of a person's personality and leadership approach develops in the modeling period between ages 7 to 14. This is more or less when children look to adults for behavior models and really hone in on their interests.

The born not made debate suggests that outgoing, bold personalities are best suited for leadership, but in the changing workforce, increasingly more leaders are self-made even with relatively reclusive personalities. The fact that companies invest so much time and resources in leadership training suggests that there is room for improvement or nurtured development of leadership skills, even among those who identify as born leaders.