Are Great Leaders Born or Developed?

I love this debate and it always comes up in Leadership Skills sessions that I have ran in the past – are great Leaders born or Developed?

I like the fact that everyone has an opinion or an argument either way, but I truly believe in what I have written below.

For me personally great leaders are not born they are developed. I understand all of the arguments that people make against it saying it’s genetic or that we are cut from a certain cloth that a long line of brilliant leaders have come from, but I still disagree that jut because people come from a line of such people they are automatically good leaders.

If someone does come from a line of great leaders then I see they have a better change of becoming a good leader, but this is nothing to do with genetics, it’s more to do with the influence they have had from good leaders and they values that the leader they have grown up with has instilled in them. Or, it may be that they haven’t had that sort of upbringing and they have decided to revolt against their upbringing and the values they have had forced upon them and have gone off to do something very different – maybe just to prove a point to someone. Look at the story of Duncan Bannatyne and you will see exactly what I mean by this.

One thing I agree with is that most of us are lucky enough to be born with the tools that are needed to be an effective leader, these being eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. However, even if we are not luck enough to have all of these things people can be an effective leader as not only do we need these, there is something else that a great leader needs which is drive and determination.

Those things listed above means we are born with the tools to do pretty much anything we want – play the piano, play football, write books, travel the world, what ever we want to do. But, in order to do those things we must learn a distinct set of skills and behaviours in order to make those things happen.

This is very much like leadership. Leadership is a distinct set of behaviours and skills that make a leader effective. They need to be learnt, developed and practised in order to become better.

However, without that drive and determination I mentioned earlier none of this is possible. Again, this is behavioural or attitudinal, we have to want to become a great leader, it’snot just going to be given to us on a plate.

Over the course of the next few weeks I will write a series of posts that looks at some of the core things needed in order to be an effective leader. This will cover such things as Listening, Assessing, Communicating, Negotiating, Decision Making, Ambition and Forming a Team.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Are great Leaders Born or Developed. I would love to hear your comments.


Looking for more information on becoming an effective leader? We run a number of leadership development programmes that introduce the key skills required to be an effective leader. Take a look at our one day Leadership Skills Course or our Intensive Weekend Leadership Development Programme for more information.