Are leaders born or made? This question dominated leadership thinking until the 1940s and, despite the growth in leadership development (particularly since the 1960s and 1970s) is a question that is still frequently asked.
The question (or its answer perhaps) is usually framed in terms of ‘personality’ on one hand and ‘skills and abilities’ on the other. The suggestion is that ‘personality’ is what we are born with, whilst many of our ‘skills and abilities’ can be learned. We can achieve this learning to some degree of effectiveness or another. However , as human beings we have enormously elastic capabilities – our learning is often governed by choice, not just genes.
When I discuss practical leadership – working with people to get things done, I use a simple three-part model – Head, Heart and Guts. An imbalance in one of these three dimensions would make us appear cold, or gushing, or irrational, or inconsistent, or unpredictable, or a steamroller, or someone who bends in every wind (or worse).
Covey talks about balancing ‘consideration’ with ‘courage’ (Heart versus Guts), but we also know we need to balance our ‘rational’ side with ’emotional’ empathy (Head versus Heart), and we also need to balance Guts with Head! If you want to develop as an effective leader, then your skills in planning and decision-making need to be combined with interpersonal skills and the development of sound judgement.
Covey, S. (1989) 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Simon & Shuster, New York, NY.
Jacobs, C.J. (2009) Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn’t Work and Other Surprising Lessons from the Latest Brain Science. Penguin Group Portfolio, NY