Nature vs. Nurture: Are Leaders Born or Developed?
The question of whether leaders are born or developed is a hot button issue that often draws a line in the sand forming two camps: Nature vs. Nurture. I see it fitting right up there with politics and religion as a topic to avoid at a party if you don’t want to engage in a heated discussion.
I find the question fascinating when it is posed on an organizational level. The answer determines a lot about the company’s culture, and says something about the institution as a whole.
Here’s why: if your organization thinks leaders are born, then they believe there are ready-made leaders waiting to rise through the appropriate ranks and land themselves in leadership positions.
If your organization thinks leaders are developed, then they believe they need to offer leadership development and training programs so those who wish to become leaders can obtain the skills necessary to grow into leadership roles.
Culturally these are two very different companies.
One culture will show a consistent pattern to promote from within, the other will reveal a company that consistently hires from the outside. It directly informs whether a company will offer continuing development options for their workers, or rather have the mentality that their employees are fully formed and require no additional learning.
I would make the argument that believing there are natural born leaders is a very passive way of viewing leadership. And while I think many companies in the past held this point of view, they often saw their best and their brightest revolve in and then out of their front doors.
The idea of a natural born leader is stagnant and one dimensional. Your best and brightest employees are your best and brightest because they are continuous learners. They’ve stayed curious, and continue to push the envelope.
A culture that views leadership on a flat level won’t keep these kind of innovative employees, because their trajectory is both up and down, and they seek out organizations who will partner with them when they are developing their course.
If you asked this right now of your organization how would they answer? The next question would be: are you happy with the response you get back?