Leadership. Born or Bred?

As a student of leadership theory I often wonder if leadership is something that you’re born with or bred for.  There are people with personalities that seem to make them natural leaders. Or is it that these certain people pay attention to the actions that are effective and continue to hone those skills and traits to make them more effective?

This current thought was prompted by a conversation with a young man I had several days ago.  He’s in his early 20’s and through sheer force of will has started a non-profit organization. It’s in its infancy, less than a year old. He has been interested in doing this work for the past 10 years or so. Recently he decided to jump completely into his passion and make it a real entity.  It is a real organization; it has structure, a rock solid vision and mission statement, advisory board, departments, marketing, etc.

The conversation center around the challenges and difficulties of staying organized and managing the 20 to 25 people who are part of this organization.  Clearly driven by his passion and commitment, he has assembled this group and is leading them towards vision of his mission statement.  I won’t say he has all the makings of a leader, he is a leader.

The challenges he has faced and continues to face, he handles in a decisive way, but in a manner that is not abrupt, demeaning, or inconsiderate.

The conversation was based around my trying to assist him with some of the challenges he is facing. My intent was to share my own experience as a leader/manager over the last 20 years or so.

I have always felt my own experience grew out of nurture. I was fortunate enough to have had excellent mentors early on in my career, those who took the time to invest and share with me their experiences and wisdom. I have also always invested in continued self education where I could.

The question still remains born or bred?  Did others see in me what I see in this young man? Maybe? Did they decide to share what they could with me the same way I’m trying to in this situation? Is it a case of nurture?   On the other hand, the determination and self driving will of force to create something as substantial as he has in such a short time at such a young age seems to indicate that nature is the reason here.

My take is that it’s a balance of both.   The basic will to open yourself up to the things you have to do to learn and grow is something that’s your born with. The wisdom of others must be consumed to learn enough to be effective in time enough to make a real impact as a leader.

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