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Are Leaders made or born?

Some of us live our lives under those in charge, others seem destined to command armies or rule the masses. This brings us to the question, what is it exactly that makes a leader, a leader? Is it purely genetic, or is it a skill that takes time and experience to perfect?

Many argue that the ability to lead comes solely from genetics - that the qualities it takes to lead can only stem from naturally-bred intelligence and interpersonal skills.

Take, for example, research published by Leadership Quarterly. In said research, they have discovered a DNA sequence that could be linked to leadership abilities in individuals.

“We have identified a genotype, called rs4950, which appears to be associated with the passing of leadership ability down through generations,” said author Dr. Jan-Emmanuel de Neve, from the University College of London. This data suggests that instead of being able to cultivate leadership abilities through life experiences and pure determination, a leader’s abilities lie within their genetic predispositions.

The alternate argument would be that leadership abilities are not necessarily innate traits. Instead, they are skills that can be acquired by anyone with the determination and drive to do so. It also speculates that the ability to lead is not something that can be attained all at once, nor is it a solitary skill in itself. Often, we think of the term ‘leader’ as a personality trait in itself, when in reality, it is simply a state of being, composed of various preexisting personality traits. These traits could be anything, a few common ones being ‘assertive’, ‘outgoing’, or ‘compassionate’. Therefore, a person cannot be born a leader. Instead, they have to work with the traits they already have (and with those they are able to get) to craft a personalized leadership model.

However, a more plausible theory would argue that a leader is not born, nor is he made. Rather, the truth of the matter lies directly between the two. As human beings, we are each born with a different set of genes and traits. These combine and grow to mold us into the adults we eventually become: some of us shy, some of us assertive; some of us quiet and others roaring loud. And undoubtedly, a number of these personality traits are essential in the making of a good and effective leader. It is entirely up to us to tap into the potential of these traits. If we are born assertive, it is our responsibility to use that assertiveness to our advantage. Otherwise, it may lie dormant. Alternatively, others may be more reserved in nature. Though it is not in their nature, it is entirely possible for one to go out and seek ways to become more assertive and outgoing in nature.

Thus, it is much more reasonable to assume that leaders are neither born nor made, but beings crafted from given traits and cultivated by drive and experience.

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