Effective leadership is essential in determining an organization’s ability to address common challenges affecting the business environment. Leaders make the final decisions relating to their organization and are usually looked upon by their subordinates for their counsel. Leaders have the power to influence the actions of their subordinates, develop values and beliefs within their organization, and control the interaction between their workers and clients. While there are many leaders who have been born in families associated with leadership, the character traits of leaders can be acquired through learning experiences and interaction with other leaders. The argument on whether leaders are born or made relies on the different perceptions that people have regarding what leadership is, whether it is a process or trait, and the characteristics that they associate with leadership.
Leadership does not have a specific definition that can be used to generalize leaders in different sectors. Leadership can be defined as a process where a specific individual inspires or influences the actions of other individuals within the same setting to achieve a common objective. It can also be described as the process of exerting intentional influence over other people as a way of guiding them and facilitating activities and relationships within the group. Almaki and his colleagues pointed out a different definition of leadership as being something related to articulation of visions, expressing values, and creating the perfect environment to promote accomplishment of the visions (Almaki, Silong, Idris, & Wahat, 2016). The definition of leadership held by many scholars relies on factors like the need to motivate a group of people, inspire others to pursue common goals, and exerting social influence on others. Generally, the concept of leadership involves guiding others to ensure that cohesive and coherent approaches are used to achieve certain goals (Aline & Ramkumar, 2018; Giulio, 2014). Leadership essentially involves ability to develop roadmaps for people to follow.
Is Leadership a Trait or Process?
Based on the different definitions of leadership, it can be described as being a process as opposed to being a trait. Leadership is described as the process of working towards accomplishing certain goals by implementing strategies that support the end goal and influencing other people within the team or organization to work towards the same goal. Some of the aspects that illustrate how leadership is a process include the involvement of leaders in decision-making, working closely with others, promoting learning, and shaping the organization culture. Leaders are required to assess different factors related to their organization, research the advantages and disadvantages of certain strategies, and identify opportunities that would be profitable to them after careful considerations of different variables. This factor suggests that leadership does not necessary rely on a specific trait but the ability to evaluate the opinions, opportunities, or evidence presented to them. Leadership is done in collaboration with other people to ensure that the needs of the organization or clients are met (Hao & Yazdanifard, 2015). It involves continuous interactions between the leaders, management, and the staff working directly with the clients to ensure that organizations are run successfully.
Leadership as a process entails promoting learning, the constant development of skills, and changing of organization cultures to suit the needs of the organization and address the needs of the clients. Leaders are constantly involved in the process of shaping the organization culture within their workplace by assessing the behaviors and conducts of their employees and establishing beliefs and values that should be upheld within the organization to promote effective interaction between employees, managers, customers, and leaders (Hao & Yazdanifard, 2015). These practices are viewed as processes because they are changed constantly to meet the needs of the organization. While some leaders might possess similar character traits, leadership cannot be defined as a trait because different people working in leadership positions have a wide range of character traits that differentiate them. Some of the character traits possessed by some leaders might not be applicable in different leadership situation, which rules out the perception of viewing leadership as a trait.
Similarities between Leaders and Examples of Born Leaders
Some leaders share similar character traits and qualities. According to research, common qualities among leaders include integrity, confidence, ability to inspire others through their actions and commitment to a course, accountability, being influential, effective communication skills, being visionary, and self-aware. They also focus on improving the lives of their communities and the people around them. Leaders like Jack Ma, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett have been involved in numerous philanthropic activities. Most leaders place the needs of those working with them before their own and focus on learning and acquiring more skills to improve themselves. Great leaders avoid compromising their integrity and are honest to themselves and others. They take full responsibility of their decisions and support their team members. They are influential and motivate people to focus on the goal. For instance, leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, who led Indians to fight for their independence and Julius Caesar, who is remembered for his ability to command armies and his political influence, are remembered because of their commitment to their course and their influence (Hossain, 2015).
Many leaders obtained their positions because of circumstances or being born into families affiliated with leaders. The members of the British royal family are examples of individuals born into leadership. The members of the royal family follow a line of succession that determines the next person who will sit on the throne in case of the death of the current queen. Most of the members of the royal family have also been given different leadership duties within the country to prepare them for possible succession of the throne. Other individuals like Theodore Roosevelt Jr, George W. Bush, and Martin Luther King Jr. and can also be seen as born leader because they followed the footsteps of their parents (Hossain, 2015). For instance, while Martin Luther King Sr. was an American Baptist missionary, pastor and a supporter of the early civil rights movement, his son, Martin Luther King Jr. was also a minister and an activist. Even born leaders were taught or learned their skills from their role models.
Leadership Skills and Leadership Positions
There are certain skills associated with leaders, which assists leaders to excel in their work. Some of the skills common among leaders include having a vision, being passionate about their work and the welfare of those working with them, motivation, maintaining a positive attitude in all circumstances, effective communication skills, defined goals, and being a role model to others. Having a clear vision entail having a picture of the organization’s goals and being able to share the vision with employees. Employees look up to their leaders for guidance. Leaders who are not passionate about their organization or work would be incapable of offering effective guidance to their subordinates (Aline & Ramkumar, 2018). Leaders also possess the skill of motivating others and serving as a role model by recognizing their employees’ values and encouraging them to pursue both organizational and personal goals.
Most leaders possess certain leadership skills that makes it easier for people to work with them. Communication is a critical leadership skill as it assists leaders to communicate the vision, intentions, expectations, and needs to others, while at the same time ensuring that leaders can also listen to the concerns of their staff. Effective leaders also relies on leaders capabilities to a positive attitude even in the midst of adversities to ensure that they control and guide others properly during emergencies or when faced with uncertainties (Aline & Ramkumar, 2018). Leaders who do not possess some of these skills can learn them through leadership programs and books. Leaders can also learn these skills by studying the approaches used by other leaders and adopting similar approaches in their organizations.
Identifying certain characteristics of an individuals and matching them with a certain position can be challenging, as leadership is not just based on the character traits of a person. Unless the individuals have obtained the necessary skills and have invested in learning about the leadership position, selecting individuals for leadership position based on their character traits might not produce the desired effect. In cases where the individual has the right skills and qualifications for the leadership position, certain character traits might make them more suitable for the position when compared with colleagues who have the same qualification but lack the desired traits. Some of the traits that might make an individual stand out include confidence, integrity, having effective communication skills, ability to work in teams, and accountability (Hossain, 2015). These characteristics along with necessary education or work-related qualification can be used to match individuals with certain leadership positions.
Leaders are made and not born. While there are leaders who were born and raised in royalty or families associated with leaders, these leaders were still trained and taught leadership skills throughout their lives, thereby suggesting that they molded to take up the leadership positions. Leadership is a process and involves the acquisition of qualities and skills associated with leadership continuously. Most leaders might possess the same skills and qualities because of the training they have undergone or their depiction of what leadership represents. Even born leaders are taught how to conduct their roles.
Aline, I., & Ramkumar, S. (2018). Leaders are not born, they are made. International Journal of Applied Research, 4(5), 94-96. Retrieved from http://www.allresearchjournal.com/archives/2018/vol4issue5/PartB/4-5-7-194.pdf.
Almaki, S. H., Silong, A. D., Idris, K., & Wahat, N. W. (2016). Understanding of the Meaning of Leadership from the Perspective of Muslim Women Academic Leaders. Journal of Educational and Social Research, 6(2), 225-236.
Giulio, J. V. (2014). Are leaders born or made? Leadrship and Business Acumen, Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/270684591_Are_leaders_born_or_made.
Hao, M. J., & Yazdanifard, R. (2015). How effective leadership can facilitate change in organizations through improvement and innovation. Global Journal of Management and Busieness Research: A Administration and Management, 15(9), 1-5. Retrieved from https://globaljournals.org/GJMBR_Volume15/1-How-Effective-Leadership.pdf.
Hossain, K. A. (2015). Leadership qualities for 21st century leaders. Pearl Journal of Management, Social Science and Humanities, 1(1), 18-29. Retrieved from http://www.pearlresearchjournals.org/journals/pjmssh/archive/2015/May/PDF/Hossain%20.pdf.