Are Great Leaders Born or Made?

Aug 13, 2020

Before we discuss whether leaders are born or made it is important to understand the concept of leadership. Although social scientists have been studying leadership since the beginning of the 20th century there is yet to be a consensus for the definition of leadership . Senge defines leadership as  

the capacity of a human community to shape its future’. 

I believe that there are two aspects to this definition that are very useful, first it emphasises on the collective rather than an individual and secondly, on influencing the future. If we look back in history not all great feats have been accomplished by individuals rather they have been a collective effort. Human beings have always had a creative orientation to shape their future according to their own needs and wants. This makes leadership slightly paradoxical. 

The timeless question, ‘Are great leaders born or made?’ 

Apparently Marshall responds, ‘Great leaders are born, then made’. 

This answer signifies the importance of a continuous process of life-long learning for ourselves and the people around us. Our assumption that great leaders can be made signifies that this us a developmental process. Understanding this idea can save organisations from just picking people to attend to a particular leadership role. Even if we hire the most talented individuals and disable their ability to learn and grow they will fail in their job. The most important aspects to understand are, how do people grow and develop within organisations, how can we create an environment and culture where people can continually grow and develop and how do we make new leaders. 


Leadership and Culture: 

Leadership and culture are two sides of the same coin, and neither can be really understood by itself. The only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture, and it is important for the people function to recognize the centrality of managing culture as one of their strategic initiatives. Understanding organizational culture can assist you to explain many organizational phenomena, as culture can either aid or hinder organizational effectiveness. It is important to understand that leadership is the fundamental process by which organizational cultures are formed, changed or destroyed. 

What is Organisational Culture?

Culture is a complex topic, and yet is somewhat of a vague term. Culture is the set of behaviours, values, artefacts, reward systems and rituals that make up your organization, and therefore shapes the way it operates. Some define it as “what happens when nobody is looking”. You can “feel” culture when you visit an organization, because it is often evident through people’s behaviour, enthusiasm and the space that they work in. However you define culture, it is increasingly becoming an important subject that executives and senior leaders are looking at. 

The late management guru Peter Drucker is believed to have made the commonly quoted observation: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Drucker certainly believed that an organization’s culture normally thwarts any attempt to create or enforce a strategy that is incompatible with that culture.  

Today, most business leaders would like to see data being insightfully used throughout their whole organizations, especially as enormous amounts of data are being collected every day. If you look at successful data-savvy organizations such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, you can see why leaders want to replicate some of the competitive gains and advantages that they have demonstrated. Their ability to establish and cultivate a data- driven culture, one that leverages data whenever and wherever possible, has enhanced their business efficiency and effectiveness. 



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