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Is Leadership Innate Or Learned?

March 20, 2012

Is leadership innate or learned? Clients ask me this a lot and my answer is that leadership is both innate and learned.

Now, that may not be what you expected to hear from me and maybe an ambiguous answer but here is what I have learned.

There are some people who are born with a willingness to go out and conquer and take control and do things in front of others and for those people I would say that they have some leadership skills innate or there is a desire to be out in front and so that would be a leadership trait that would be innate.

However, typically all of the nuances of being a fantastic leader are learned and I used to make the assumption way back years ago in my early 20’s when I was in first leadership that the best leaders were loud and proud and demanded control and take charge and would conquer all and lead everybody to the golden cup. In fact, what I realized and learned throughout my career was that there are nuances of leadership that when learned can bring more people along with you. So there are certain people that would resonate or be attracted to the command and control and follow the leader style of leadership but there is a larger segment of people who would not be attracted to that.

There are many components of learning to be a fantastic leader. Some of the components of being a leader are understanding strategy, understanding personality types, understanding the different perspectives of the people on your team, execution of plan, project planning and timelines. There are so many different components of being a fantastic leader that in my experience and in my research those things needs to be learned.

For me the best leaders I have seen have a combination of both innate ability and learned skills. They have some instinctual traits that are of high leadership value. So you could be a quiet person and be a phenomenal leader because you have developed all of the leadership attributes that I described earlier. You can be a phenomenal leader who is more social and outgoing but you have had to learn and develop perhaps the tactics, the strategies, and the implementation.

So my answer, is leadership innate or learned? It is both, and I challenge all of you to learn and grow and stretch your knowledge in order to be a more fantastic leader

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