Are Leadership Qualities Learned Or Innate?

2 min read
Dec 30, 2014

iStock_000013969569_SmallSometimes it feels like people are just born good at math. Or good at learning languages. And no matter how many times we try to roll our tongues to make that Spanish “r” sound or practice our quadratic equations, we just never get there.

We don’t know how much actual science is behind this theory, but it does seem like some colleagues or family members are innately talented in certain areas, while others learn the skills needed to succeed. This idea made us think about the leaders in our lives. Are leaders born or made? Are the characteristics of a good leader learned or instinctive?

We broke this theory down and looked at some leadership qualities from both sides:

Innate Characteristics Of A Leader

Empathy: This powerful quality allows leaders to connect with their employees on a deeper level and understand how they’re feeling. It’s about putting yourself in other people’s shoes and spending more time listening, rather than talking. When you have this level of understanding, you can make better decisions for everyone.

Passion: We’ve all known a leader who is so in love with what he or she does and who believes so deeply in an idea or cause. It’s contagious! And passion sure can’t be faked. Passion is what motivates employees to go the extra mile, and most of the time, you’re either passionate about something or you’re not. There’s not a lot of middle ground.

Humbleness: A humble leader is one who gives credit to others when deserved, who calls on colleagues for help, and who realizes that the success of the company depends on all employees, not just the big boss. Ego is not something that develops overnight; the level of your ego is usually a part of your innate personality.

Characteristics Of A Leader That Can Be Learned

Communication skills: An effective communicator clearly explains tasks, deadlines, and expectations, while inspiring and motivating a workforce. Sure, some people are naturally more articulate or communicative than others, but being a skilled communicator takes time and practice.

Transparency: It may be easier to have tough conversations behind closed doors, but employees want to know what is going on. The best leaders share where the company is headed, what is going right or wrong, and what needs to be improved.

Trustworthiness: If this were an innate quality, we would surely have more trust in the world. Unfortunately, building trust is one of the hardest things to do and it takes a lot of time to foster personal relationships, act on promises, and show that you are someone of your word.

So are leaders born or made? There isn’t really a clear-cut answer, and it seems to be a mixture of both. A healthy balance of natural capabilities coupled with the desire to learn seems to produce the best leaders.

So does this mean if you’re not humble nor a skilled communicator you will never be destined for leadership? Of course not. Even the innate qualities we listed can be developed and worked on. And even the infamous Spanish “r” sound or the quadratic can be achieved.



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