Leadership: Is It Born or Made?

It’s the age-old question that comes back to nature vs nurture – is leadership something you are born with, or is it something you can develop?

Research estimates just over a third of leadership behavior can be attributed to genetic factors[1]. This supports other in-depth studies which have found stable personality traits (e.g. sociability & conscientiousness) can be predictive of leadership emergence[2].

However, genetics and personality traits only account for part of the equation. They make it easier to develop as a leader, but they’re not a requirement. This is great news for those of us with lofty ambitions, but what are the implications for organizations?

To effectively identify and develop effective leaders, organizations must take a holistic approach.  They should implement two inter-connected processes – the first to recruit and place candidates with leadership predispositions (nature), and the second to develop their leadership capabilities to their maximum potential (nurture).

Psychometric assessments can be used for the first process (nature) to create high performance role benchmarks which capture the behavioral and cognitive success patterns that drive the top performing leaders in an organization. Candidates can be compared against these benchmarks to assess their fit to leadership positions, to predict enhanced performance and engagement. The resulting Leadership Approach report can then provide further insight into how they would perform in the roles.

Our MultiRater Surveys can be used for the second process (nurture), to drive leadership development. This platform enables efficient administration of 180, 360 and Pulse surveys to relevant employee groups in order to gather feedback on leadership styles and performance in a confidential environment. Results are instantly updated, and reports are automatically generated to user requirements, enabling timely implementation of feedback into targeted leadership recommendations.

Leadership is central to the success of any organization, yet despite this, its identification and development often remains a low priority[3]. Implementing leadership initiatives within your organization thus represents a competitive advantage, and can drive stronger performance at individual, team, and organizational levels.

[1] De Neve, J., Mikhaylov, S., Dawes, C.T., Christakis, N.A., & Fowler, J.H. (2013). Born to Lead? A Twin Design and Genetic Association Study of Leadership Role Occupancy. Leadership Quarterly, 24(1), 45-60. DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.08.001

[2] Colbert, A.E., Judge, T.A., Choi, D., & Wang, G. (2012). Assessing the trait theory of leadership using self and observer ratings of personality: The mediating role of contributions to group success. The Leadership Quarterly, 23(4), 670-685. DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.03.00 

[3] The Australian. (2019). Build leaders, not robots. Retrieved from: https://tinyurl.com/y3d4h5c3