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How Leaders are Made and Not Born - Research Paper Example

6 pages
1609 words
Sewanee University of the South
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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The topic of "what makes a leader" has raised a lot of debates regarding the organizational leadership practices. Some researchers argue that leaders are made while others claim that leaders are born. Behavioral and trait theories are trying to prove both views on what makes a leader (Clinton, 2017). There is more evidence to support the view of making leaders than having individuals born with leadership skills as demonstrated in this research. The paper will focus on expressing the opinion that leaders are made and not born.

Literature Review

Scholars have researched on the debate of whether leaders are made or born. There are various researches on the argument of making leaders or individuals born as leaders. Moreover, behavioral and trait theories try to suggest if effective leadership is through development or inheritance

Bolman and Deal (2017) found out that leaders are made and not born because leadership requires skills and training. Leaders need essential skills like communication and decision-making. Even if leaders are not born with skills, acquisition of leadership capabilities occurs through development practices like training. Bolman and Deal (2017) also showed that inherited traits of an individual might make them sound leaders, but further training and development allows them to acquire leadership skills. Efficiency in leadership relies on the level of activities put in place to acquire and practice various leadership styles (Clinton, 2017). Even if individuals were born with leadership skills, without the improvement through training, such leaders would not be effective enough.

A study by Day, Fleenor, Atwater, Sturm and McKee (2014) indicated that leaders are made because leadership skills are ever changing and thus require frequent training. The world is changing and requires an update in the leadership skills in leaders with no dependence on the genes of an individual. Moreover, Day et al., 2014 revealed that communication skills needed in the current business world include the use of the information technology which is not part of one's inherited traits; therefore, making of leaders happens through training (Pandya, Dirks & Kwok, 2017). Acquire, and utilization of leadership skills through training is essential because people are not born leadership capability.

Research by Sethuraman and Suresh (2014) found that successful leaders require experience. Experienced leaders perform better because of the acquired knowledge at the place of work. A leader will offer quality services if there is an experience in the tasks assigned. An individual with experience in a leadership position has the capability of providing quality services to an organization. Sethuraman and Suresh (2014) also illustrated that gaining experience is one way of making successful leaders rather than reliance on the nature of individuals. Moreover, leaders are made through experience because experienced managers are familiar with trends. Though a leader might be born with high intellectual capacity, without knowledge of business trends, the manager becomes ineffective (Pandya et al., 2017). As a result, leaders are made by the acquisition of experience at the place of work.

According to investigations by Sethuraman and Suresh (2014), leadership requires diversification of tasks in taking up roles for high-quality delivery. New roles within the organization improve the experience in handling various leadership roles like supervision and mentorship. Experience in accomplishing responsibilities in a diversified manner leads to making efficient leaders (Clinton, 2017). Also, allowing leaders to perform roles that are diverse helps in the gain of experience in different areas of leadership (Pandya et al., 2017). Therefore, leaders are made through acquired expertise in different areas of leadership through experience.

In their study, Bolman and Deal (2017) argued that leaders are not born, but they are made through mentorship programs. Making leaders by mentorship is a common way of preparing individuals to take up leadership roles. Mentorship helps an inexperienced leader to receive leadership skills from a more knowledgeable and experienced one (Sethuraman & Suresh, 2014). Current managers who are successful prepare future leaders through mentorship programs. The process leads to the acquisition of leadership skills for better delivery of leadership duties. An upcoming leader (mentee) develops leadership skills by receiving social capital, knowledge as well as psychosocial support from an experienced one (mentor) (Pandya et al., 2017). Mentoring makes leaders by enhancing performance and commitment in accomplishing the role of leadership by future leaders using knowledge gained from experienced ones.

Clinton (2017) stated that mentorship is one of the best ways of making leaders in the world today. Mentees can acquire and develop leadership competencies from the interaction with their mentors. Mentorship leads to knowledgeable and experienced leaders by the transition of leadership skills from mentors to mentees (Bolman, & Deal, 2017). The best-known leaders in the world succeeded in leadership because of mentorship. For example, Bill Campbell was the mentor for Steve Jobs (Day et al., 2014). Since the best leaders in World have resulted from mentorship programs, leaders are not born, they are made.


The search for information to defend the argument that leaders are made and not born was by an intensive literature review. The process of searching information to answer the research question focused on factors that contribute to leadership development in organizations today. Also, desk research had a focus on leadership development mechanisms like training, knowledge, experience, mentorship as well as skills.

The data collection involved searching from the relevant articles from Google Scholar. The keywords used in the research are leaders, making, born, development as well as leadership. The search involved the selection of articles with a publication within last five years (2013-2018). In total, the search led to the identification of 23 articles having information that support the view of leaders being made and not born. The 23 identified articles underwent selection after screening to arrive at five that were most suitable for answering the research question. The argument of this paper has used information from five articles.


From the literature review above, the first outcome of this study is that leaders are made through education and knowledge. Information gained by education and knowledge is important in empowering leaders. Uneducated and uninformed leaders on subjects like leadership roles or challenges will be unsuccessful in handling leadership functions (Clinton, 2017). Through education and the knowledge acquired in schools and colleges about leadership, a leader becomes capable of taking up tasks. Uneducated leaders will face a challenge of leading due to the inadequate knowledge required in leadership.

The other outcome of the study is that education and knowledge acquisition makes competent leaders. The results of the study concur with Day et al., (2014) research that found out that knowledge acquired increases the competence of leaders. When in the position of leadership, an individual puts into practice the facts learned in class about leadership. More knowledge of leadership occurs through continued studies, but not from the traits an individual is born with, like gender or intellectual capability. When leaders take studies relating to leadership, they become knowledgeable in their operations (Pandya et al., 2017). For example, a human resource manager who opts for further studies will gain more knowledge on how to manage personnel. Education and knowledge contribute to effective leadership hence supporting the argument that leaders are not born but are made.


The support of the fact that leaders are not born but are made is true because training has yielded to successful leadership practices. Training is significant in making leaders, as leadership is ever changing regarding duties (Sethuraman & Suresh, 2014). Through training, such as conferences and seminars, leaders become aware of the current leadership styles, duties as well as challenges facing them. Updating individuals on the matters required in leadership lead to making competent leaders. Organizations that invest in training leaders on the emerging issues in business make successful leadership (Clinton, 2017). For example, training leaders on transformational leadership lead to having managers who encourage employees' motivation. The notion of having individuals born as leaders is not true because training is important in informing leaders about their duties and challenges facing them.

Additionally, leaders are not born but made through training to empower individuals on their duties and challenges facing them. Training leads to making leaders who are aware of their duties (Sethuraman & Suresh, 2014). When there is an assumption that leaders are born, there will be no training of leaders. But training occurs because leaders are made by having sessions like seminars for empowerment on their duties and how to solve challenges facing them. Bolman and Deal (2017) stated that organizations are investing a lot in training employee about leadership skills, and the outcome. So, leaders are not born, but they are made through coaching.


From the findings of this research, it is evident that leaders are made and not born. The first fact supporting the idea of leaders being made and not born is the need for skills in leadership. Secondly, leaders are made because leadership skills are ever changing, requiring frequent training to update those in management on how to carry out duties. Moreover, leaders are not born, but they are made through education and knowledge. Therefore, leaders are not born, as everybody is born with a unique endowment, but the effort of developing inherited leadership skills is what makes a difference in becoming successful leaders.


Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (2017). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and leadership. John Wiley & Sons.

Clinton, J. R. (2017). The making of a leader: Recognizing the lessons and stages of leadership development. Two Words Publishing, LLC.

Day, D. V., Fleenor, J. W., Atwater, L. E., Sturm, R. E., & McKee, R. A. (2014). Advances in leader and leadership development: A review of 25 years of research and theory. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(1), 63-82.

Pandya, T., Dirks, R., & Kwok, A. (2017). Leaders are Made, Not Born: A Leadership Development Curriculum for General Surgery Residents. Journal of the American College of Surgeons, 225(4), e154-e155.

Sethuraman, K., & Suresh, J. (2014). Effective leadership styles. International Business Research, 7(9), 165.

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