Leadership development is to a small extent determined by one’s personality, intellect, and emotional intelligence. Personality and intelligence are to some degree but not all genetically transferred from one generation to the next. Yet it is widely accepted that evidence from personality research indicates that about 50% of the similarity in personalities with identical twins is attributable to heritability, whilst 50% is not attributable to heritability. Rather it is influenced by environment. We can therefore conclude that we have at least 50% of the person to work with to develop them to be a great leader.
To what extent though do YOU personally, think leaders are born or made? There’s an implicit model of leadership in your head that guides your thinking before you can even think about it. It’s about how strong a theory you personally have about what can be made and what is born? Answer the following questions – which of the following statements is True or False about you?
- The kind of leader someone is, is something basic about them, and it cannot be changed very much
- Leaders can do things differently, but the important parts of who they are as leaders cannot really be changed.
- Everyone is a certain kind of leader, and there is not much that they can do to really change that.
- Leaders cannot really change their deepest attitudes.
The more your answered true items the more you lean toward born versus made. Of course, even if you lean more toward born versus made, this does not necessarily mean that you cannot learn, grow and develop into an outstanding leader. I would say that personality plays a significant role – e.g. high levels of openness and conscientiousness alone and will predispose an individual to a greater likelihood that leadership growth and development will occur.
General Colin Powell, former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chief of Staff and Secretary of State, once said: “I think leaders can be shaped. You have to have the fundamental instincts for working with people. But the instinct can be improved upon through training and education, so that you understand what works for you”.
Source of True and False questions: Adapted from “Stereotype formation and endorsement: The role of implicit theories.” By S. R. Levy, S. J. Stoessner, & C. S. Dweck, 1998, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74 (6), 1421 – 1436.