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Born or Made

Leadership is the potential of an individual or a group of individuals to influence followers. It involves creating
a clear vision, making sound decisions, creating clear goals and providing followers with the necessary tools
and knowledge to achieve the set goals. On the other hand, a leader is an individual in charge. The person has
the ability to convince people to follow him or her. A great leader is an inspiration and a source of confidence
to other people and moves them to action.
While are some leaders termed successful while others are referred to as failures? This questions leads to the
discussion to whether leaders are born or made. However, there is no magic combination of characteristics that
make up a great leader. The truth is, in different circumstances, different characteristics matter. For this reason,
you need to understand the various leadership approaches, so that you determine the right approach to a certain
situation. One way to do this is learning and understanding the core leadership theories that form the backbone
of understanding of the current leadership (Manktelow, Jackson, Swift, Edwards, Bishop, Mugridge, and
Robinson, 2018).
Many theories about leadership exist but for this article, discussion is based on trait theories of leadership,
behavioural theories of leadership and contingency theories of leadership. The trait theory of leadership
focuses on identifying personality traits that build up a great leader in a variety of scenarios. This research
was motivated by a need to understand the nature of effective leadership (Cherry, 2018). The trait theory is
tied to the great theory of leadership proposed by Thomas Carlyle. (Carlyle, 1840) argues that history is made
by extraordinary men. He suggests that these men can change the world because they are naturally skilled.
Carlyle’s ideas are based on the assumption inheritable traits. He argues that certain behaviour patterns are as a
result of certain traits and that patterns are consistent across varied situations.
In addition, early trait theories conclude that people are born with leadership traits. These theories bring to
attention the traits and qualities that make great leaders like; integrity, perseverance, empathy, decisiveness,
courage and resolution among others. However, the success of a leader is not depended on any of this traits or a
certain combination of them. Our external behaviours form traits and emerge from the things going on in our
minds. These processes and internal beliefs are the essential things for effective leadership (Manktelow,
Jackson, Swift, Edwards, Bishop, L., Mugridge, and Robinson, 2018).
Behaviour theories concentrate on leaders behaviours. Human behaviours refer to a range of mannerisms
influenced by ethics, authority, culture, values, attitudes, emotions and genetics. Behaviours can be either
learned or innate. The behavioural theory of leadership focuses on the reactions and actions of leaders in certain
situation. Behaviour theories are based on the belief that leaders are made and not born and that successful
leadership is as a result of learnable, definable behaviour. According to behavioural theorists, the best predictor
and determinant for a successful and influential leadership; is the leader’s behaviour (Derue, Nahrgang,
Wellman, and Humphrey, 2011).
Thankfully, as a result of the behavioural theories there is shift from the idea that leaders are born and not made
and focusing more on learning on how to develop leadership qualities. The argument that leadership capabilities
can be learned rather than be inherent. Leadership success assessment by creating a correlation between actions
and success of leaders forms the background of the behavioural theories. The best leaders have the ability to be
flexible with their behavioural styles and match the right style with a specific situation. Through observation
and teaching people learn to become leaders (Manktelow, Jackson, Swift, Edwards, Bishop, Mugridge, and
Robinson, 2018).
The realization that no perfect type of leader exists lead to theories that suggest that best leadership style
depends on the situation. The contingency theory of leadership states that a leader is termed effective if a
situation matches his or her leadership style. That implies, one has to find the situation and leadership style he
or she thrives in. The concerns that form the basis of this theory is that; there is no one style of leadership and
that a leader is effective if his or her style of leadership fits a situation. The assumption made in this theory is
that styles are fixed and cannot be modified. When a situation or environment around a leader matches the
attributes and leadership styles of that leader, then he or she is enabled to be effective in leadership (McKenzie,
and Love(McKenzie, and Love, 2015)
According to the contingency theory the important thing to do is to discover what style a leader has. The theory
is not concerned with the leader’s adaptability to a situation rather it is focused on compatibility of the leader’s
style of leadership with a given situation. The theory attempts to match leaders to the situation they would best
thrive in using the least preferred co-worker scale. Leaders are grouped into two categories; people oriented and
task oriented. Task oriented thrive best when both the positional power and task structure is high. People
oriented perform best when relationship levels between themselves and others are in their greatest point. In the
contingency theory three factors are combined to form a situation in which a leader’s style is termed effective
or ineffective. These factors are; interaction between the leader and the employee, how the leader sets up tasks
and lastly the power a leader exercises over his or her followers (McKenzie, and Love, 2015).
Among the three discussed, it is only the traits theory that suggests leaders are born and not made. In
conclusion, it is evident that the development area of a person and how fast they develop is influenced by the
person’s preference. Incase one has natural interests considered to be leadership traits and is interested in
developing and building this skills, then there is a high probability of him or her been effective in leadership.
There is a small percentage of leaders whose individual traits are considered leadership traits but all in all
leadership can be learned and developed by committed individuals whose goal is to become great and effective
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Leadership Theories–Learning the Foundations of Leadership. Mind Tools.[Online]. Available: http://www.
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McKenzie, L. and Love, K., 15 Contingency theory of leadership.
Derue D.S., Nahrgang, J.D., Wellman, N.E.D. and Humphrey, S.E., 2011. Trait and behavioural theories of
leadership: An integration and meta‚Äźanalytic test of their relative validity. Personnel psychology, 64(1),
Brungardt, C., 1996. The making of leaders: A review of the research in leadership development and
education. Journal of Leadership studies, 3(3), pp.81-95.
Tessone, M., 2011. Haftarat Shemot (as per Sephardim): Are leaders born or self made?. NY: the Michael
Scharf Publication Trust of Yeshiva University Press..
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