Are Leaders Born or Made?

We all know that one person who has been considered a “leader” for what seems like eternity. They were the line leader in elementary school, a club president in middle school, and the class president in high school. After that, they started a non-profit and wrote several books!!

Although this example may be a bit of a stretch, I am sure that we can all think of someone like that. Let’s call this person Luke. Our mind probably jumps to the conclusion that he was just “born a leader”, because those characteristics showed up at such a young age. You also may know someone who was just the opposite as a child, let’s call this person Sherry. She was  incredibly reserved and not involved in activities outside of school. Sherry always followed other’s lead on things.

This brings us to the question: are leaders born or made?

However, the part of the story that I left out, is that one day Sherry had a boss who believed in her. Her boss began to give her projects that brought out different qualities that she didn’t know that she had – leadership being one of them. Then, Sherry began to view herself as a leader as she gained more responsibilities and confidence. This would be an example of leaders being made.

Erika Andersen, author of this Forbes article, describes this idea with a bell chart. She describes that 10-15% of the population starts out very good with regards to leadership abilities, and just tends to get better (think back to Luke). Another “10-15% of people, who, no matter how hard they try, simply aren’t ever going to be very good leaders. They just don’t have the innate wiring.”

Standard Bell Curve

This leaves the middle section of the bar chart, which is where most people fall. The people in this category do not have strong innate leadership abilities, yet at the same time, have the ability to have leadership qualities. This group is where people like Sherry would fall. Due to the fact that somebody believed in her and invested in her, she was able to become a leader. People like Sherry are the ones that leaders need to spend their time investing in. The “Luke’s” of the group do not need as much support, as they are already confident in their leadership skills and abilities.

So the answer to the question? Leaders can either be born or made! If people fall into that extraordinary 10-15%, they are born leaders and do not need as much guidance to become one. The 68% of us in the middle have the opportunity to become leaders, we may just need guidance from someone who believes in us and gives us the correct opportunities to develop these skills.

What do you think? Have you met people like Luke or Sherry? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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