Are Leaders Made or Are They Born?

By Rob ODonnell
March 7, 2012

On our radio show, we started a really good discussion about leadership at all levels: leading people, leading projects, etc. Afterwards we received a great deal of buzz from our listeners. People sent in numerous responses and the most popular question was, “Are leaders made or are they born?” I have found through research and also through my own experiences, that it’s actually a little bit of both.

Leaders are both made and born. I think you have to be presented with the right situation in order to sometimes have your leadership skills rise to the surface, but you can also develop a lot of these skills. With the various kinds of intelligences that we as humans have, there is this sense that your IQ is everything, but there are a number of intelligences. There is spatial intelligence, mechanical intelligence and there is this term, which you may have heard, called emotional intelligence, or EQ.

A gentleman by the name of Dr. Daniel Goldman coined the name “EQ” and I worked very closely with one of his associates, Dr. Druskat. She is from the University of New Hampshire and she collaborated with me on one of the chapters in my book, Gen Y NOW. I learned a great deal from her about this sense of EQ. One of the differences between EQ and some of the other kinds of intelligences is that emotional intelligence can be developed, meaning it can be learned. There are certain elements that we can incorporate into our day-to-day situations and conversations and it can simply be developed along the way. In my experience of having worked with so many leaders and businesses, from start-up to Fortune 500, it is important to focus on the fundamental steps of leadership:

Leaders build momentum around that vision. They have the vision, they create that alignment and they build that momentum. A leader’s job is to build that momentum, create a framework, and to put structure around how you go from point A to point B. Focusing on, “How does this thing continue to move forward?” Also, it’s their job to build those feedback mechanisms that are so critical within organizations.

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