Are leaders born or made?

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other .

— John F Kennedy

Every individual has his own definition of leadership. A homemaker running her house, traffic police managing the traffic, house captain leading his team in school or an elder sibling guiding the younger one in finishing his first science project, a manager instructing his team on designing the next advertising campaign.

All these roles exhibit the traits of a leader :

  • Defining the goals for the team
  • Framing the course of action
  • Supporting the team members
  • Taking responsibility for their action
  • Harnessing the efforts of the team members and channeling it in the right direction

There are certain inborn characteristics that influence people to become leaders. There is a significant difference between being born with a skill and mastering one. Some individuals are naturally good at athletics, while others might be good with writing. Similarly, leadership comes naturally to some people, while others have to acquire it over time through observation and learning.

But had there been born leaders everywhere, then what do you think is the reason behind all the leadership courses and seminars conducted and attended, by eminent personalities, all across the world.

This topic has been debated over for a long period of time and many theories have been designed to define the characteristics and practices of leaders. Following are the most popularly known theories :


This theory came into force around the mid-19th century. As per this theory, as the name suggests only a man could have the characteristic(s) of a great leader. Like every other theory this is also based on certain assumptions as under :

The traits of leadership are intrinsic, that implies leaders are simply born and not made.
Basically, it states that great leaders will rise when confronted with an appropriate situation.

THE TRAIT THEORY (the 1930s–1940s)

This theory states that human beings are either born or are made with certain qualities that will help them excel in leadership roles. That is certain qualities like awareness of the surroundings, sense of responsibility, innovativeness, besides others, exhibit the characteristics of a leader. The trait theory emphasizes on scrutinizing mental, physical, social characteristics in order to identify the set of common characteristics among leaders.


The theory states that it is a processis by which a person collaborates with his peers and is able to create a trustworthy relationship that will, in turn, result in an increase in motivation, both inherent and extraneous, in both leaders and followers.The quintessence of transformational leadership lies in the fact, how the leaders transform their followers through their uplifting nature and appealing. Rules and regulations are adaptable, guided by group norms. These qualities create a sense of belongingness among the followers as they can easily relate with the leader and its purpose.


Participative leadership also called democratic leadership, is one of the four participative leadership styles where bosses invite employees to take part in a hierarchical leadership style. While this is not commonly followed in the corporate world, few professions do require this type of attitude, e.g., social workers, negotiators, group therapists, and facilitators. Some of the most famous examples of participative leaders in the corporate world include Donald Trump and Bill Gates, besides others.


This leadership style has been designed and studied by Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey. Situational leadership alludes to the situation when the leader or manager of an organization must modify his style to fit the improvement level of the followers he is trying to influence. With situational leadership, it is up to the leader to change his style, not the follower to adapt to the leader’s style. In situational leadership, the style might change consistently to address the requirements of others in the organization based on the situation.


Transactional leadership is a style of leadership wherein leaders promote amenability by followers through both mechanisms — rewards and punishments. Through a rewards and punishments framework, transactional leaders can keep their employees motivated in the short run.


Every style of leadership has its own uniqueness and significance, and it should be chosen in accordance with the domain of the company and its goals. Though some theories claim that leaders are born, while others claim otherwise, leadership is a trait that can be learned with the right strategy and practice.


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