March 10, 2016 Youth Impact

Leadership – Genetic or teachable?

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This is a very common question and over the years it has been answered in a variety of ways. It really depends on whose point of view you think has fully answered the question. I will try my best to ensure that my point of view is sufficient for you.

Instead of beating around the bush, let’s get straight to the point. Is leadership genetic? Yes and no. Well, so much for getting straight to the point. To be honest, this is question cannot be answered by a simple yes or a simple no. The shortest answer I can give is, as I said, yes and no.

Let’s break it down a little. There are many examples of leaders who emerge out their packs naturally and the rest follow them. Alexander the Great serves as one of the best examples. But there have also been leaders who have learned their craft, for example Abraham Lincoln. Mystery still unsolved.

A survey by a research firm showed that the 52.4% of all the people in leadership roles believed that leaders were made, 19.1% thought that leadership is a born trait and the rest of the 28.5% believed that it was a combination of both.

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I believe that the 28.4% of these leaders are right. My way of thinking is that yes, some part of the leadership traits of the leader that you follow has been inherited by him/her, some of it was part of his/her primary socialization (learning that takes place at an early age, normally before schooling starts), and the rest was learned. Through my experience, I would break down the above three categories like this: The best leadership genetics can take a leader as far as 20% in the leadership role, primary socialization, 30% and the actual formal learning, 50%. So all in all, genetics: 20%, Learning: 80%.

To justify my way of thinking, I will list the main qualities that the leader has to have. They need to be intelligent, charismatic, visionaries, strategic and they should be able to express their vision clearly to their followers. Furthermore, if need be, the have to be able to rally their followers for an important cause and probably the most important of all, when the times are difficult, they need to be the person to go to, the biggest source of motivation. They should be the living breathing example of the saying, “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.”

Now take another look at all of the above listed qualities of a leader. What is there that is not achievable by a normal person? Theoretically, is it possible for anyone to achieve all of the above? Yes, it is definitely possible for absolutely anyone to learn the above mentioned traits. It’s not like a leader has to have blue eyes. It’s not like a leader has to be over 6 feet tall. These are examples of purely genetic traits. Leadership is not like that.

But what about the 20% of leadership that was inherited? All that is, my friends, is a head start. Yes, the person who is born a 20% leader will stick out more than you in a pack if you don’t have that 20%. But if that person becomes a leader and his/her followers start to increase, that person will have to polish his/her leadership skills. Otherwise, there will be a point when that person will see his/her demise as a leader. Let’s suppose you did not have that 20%, but start to work hard to become a leader, you will eventually overtake that person and become a better leader.

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I hope I have convinced at least a small population out there. Because believing that leadership can be learned, is the first step in starting the learning process, and eventually becoming the leader.

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