Are Leaders Born or Made? Research Paper

Pages: 16 (4787 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Leadership

Leadership: Born or Made?

Sneha & Joshi

Goleman et al.



Kouzes & Posner



Leadership and the Balance Between Inborn Talent and Learned Skill

An effective leader is one who possesses both the innate talents of one who will preside with influence over others and the acquired skills that come with education, training and experience. This natural balance produces some difficulty however in understanding how the effective leader should best be defined. Indeed, the debate is here initiated as to whether leadership is a role for which certain individuals are born or if instead a largely pool of potential leadership candidates may be crafted through proper training measures into effective and even exceptional leaders. Based on the research evidence and theoretical discussion available for our consideration, we are yet a great distance from reaching a resolution on the subject.

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Myriad sources make the case that qualities such as emotional intelligence and unique inner-greatness are a demonstration that leadership is a highly individual trait and that it is largely one with which the best leaders are born. Evidence of their inevitable greatness in business or elsewhere, such research would argue, will have been observable in the individual at younger developmental stages. By contrast, many theorists will put forth the argument that leadership is simply a role which must be filled in many walks of life. Like so many skills, many theorists would argue, leadership skills can be instilled and refined through training, practice and experience. To an extent, the wide spectrum of leadership positions filled in the business world alone suggests that the latter logic applies to hiring and advancement decisions. However, as the research investigation conducted hereafter will show, this is not necessarily an approach which is conducive to the best leadership models and performances. Instead, research will tend to endorse something of a more balanced approach in defining leadership.

Problem Statement:

TOPIC: Research Paper on Are Leaders Born or Made? Assignment

The problem at the center of this discussion is the difficulty of establishing that which qualifies one as an effective leader. In the debate over whether leadership traits are inborn or learned, there are equally compelling arguments to make either case. Reconciling the balance on the subject will serve as the primary objective here. The problem therefore is not to make the argument to one end or the other so much as to qualify both arguments in an open discussion on leadership. Therefore, the literature review presented here below will consider sources that take a diverse spectrum of views on the subject. By presenting these in relation to one another, the examination will attempt to produce some instructive recommendations on how to evaluate leadership in the current business environment.

Literature Review:

As a point of introductory consideration, the text by Sneha & Joshi (2002) provides some basic assessment of that which is meant by leadership. It seems appropriate as a way of initiating this discussion to consider some of the basic definitional assessments of leadership. Particularly, the text considers that if we are to parse through the difficult questions of leadership as being either inborn or learned, "the work 'leadership' is critical to understand. If we look around a little carefully then it would be clear to us that almost all types of animals, which live in a group, invariable have a leader. The history of humankind clearly shows the existence of the leadership in one form or other since time immemorial. The form and types have been changing time and again." (Sneha & Joshi, p. xi-xii)

In a sense, this introductory sentiment only furthers the uncertainty over a debate between the origins of individual leadership qualities. The notion that forms and types of leadership are in a constant state of flux suggests that the preferred qualities of leadership are always shifting. If this is so, it poses an argument in favor of the case that leadership is culturally, socially and contextually driven. This would seem a strong point of advocacy for the case that leadership is learned and that great leaders are made. However, the same sentiment above notes that leadership is found inherently in the animal kingdom, suggesting that certain physiological features make some naturally inclined toward leadership and others more naturally inclined to follow. First, we explore this latter notion that leadership is connected to certain traits which are possessed from birth.

Perhaps one of the strongest arguments in favor of the view that leadership qualities are inborn is that relating to emotional intelligence. Organizational theorists and modern leaders alike have posed the argument that leadership is directly associated with one's emotional intelligence and that certain qualities correlated to a high Emotional Quotient (EQ) are likely to translate into positive leadership traits. This presents itself as an argument in favor of the idea that leadership is in some regard inborn. So states the text by Goleman et al. (2002), which is driven by the presumption that leaders are not so much made as they are born. The titular notion of "primal leadership" suggests that the best leaders are in some way guided by instinct and by a set of core competencies that are a part of individual nature.

The unique composition of traits which constitutes every individual, the text by Goleman et al. argues, has a significant bearing on the way that the individual handles leadership responsibilities, addresses challenges, interacts with others and makes decisions. These demands suggest a leader is one with a certain constitution that makes him particularly suited to handle such responsibilities. Goleman et al. indicate that certain physiological realities must inherently contribute to the particular capabilities that one will possess in the mode of leadership. As the text tells, "perhaps unique among management theories, the primal leadership model builds on links to neurology. Breakthroughs in brain research show why leaders' moods and actions have enormous impact on those they lead, and shed fresh light on the power of emotionally intelligent leadership to inspire, arouse passion and enthusiasm, and keep people motivated and committed. Conversely, we sound a warning about the power of toxic leadership to poison the emotional climate of a workplace." (Goleman, p. x)

Here, Goleman et al. make the case that those same qualities which make one either an excellent leader or a destructive one will necessarily be connected to certain ingrained, inborn and even neurological features that are immutable. This is part and parcel to the theory underlying emotional intelligence as a predictor of leadership competency. In the view taken by Goleman et al., the way that others respond to the leader is a primary effecter and determinant of how competent we may characterize his leadership to be. Certainly, the ability to command respect, delegate effectively and yield the desired impression of one's leadership qualifications to personnel on the whole will be precipitated by the leader's ability to positively impact his followers. Goleman et al. argue that this ability is directly connected to the leader's emotional orientation. Here Goleman et al. indicate, "while most people recognize that a leader's mood -- and how he or she impacts the mood of others -- plays a significant role in any organization, emotions are often seen as too personal or unquantifiable to talk about in a meaningful way. But research in the field of emotion has yielded keen insights into not only how to measure the impact of a leader's emotions but also how the best leaders have found effective ways to understand and improve the way they handle their own and other people's emotions." (Goleman et al., p. 4)

The text by Goleman et al. proceeds toward the overarching conclusion that quite indeed, there are certain personality-driven features of one's emotional intelligence which can neither be learned nor unlearned. These features are denoted in the way that leaders function in the midst of the inherent personnel challenges, workplace crises, organizational transformations and other corporate events that test the mettle and emotional constitution of all parties. As Goleman et al. suggest, the manner in which a leader responds emotionally to any such circumstances will have a determinant impact on how personnel respond. This, in turn will have a determinant impact on how well challenges are met, crises are overcome, transformations are effectively implemented and objectives are ultimately met. It is thus that the text by Goleman et al. seems to overwhelmingly support the argument that leadership qualities are inborn and that the best and most effective leaders cannot learn those features which make them so instinctually effective.

Goleman et al. assert that traditional markers of intelligence may also be used to suggest certain inherencies on the neurological level in one suited for leadership. That said, they do so with an explicit caveat to the fact that emotional intelligence is a far greater determinant of how much a leader will stand out in this role. Accordingly, Goleman et al. report that when a "comparison matched star performers against average ones in senior leadership positions, about 85% of the difference in their profiles was attributable to emotional intelligence factors rather… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Are Leaders Born or Made?" Research Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Are Leaders Born or Made?.  (2010, December 19).  Retrieved September 18, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Are Leaders Born or Made?."  19 December 2010.  Web.  18 September 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Are Leaders Born or Made?."  December 19, 2010.  Accessed September 18, 2021.