Is leadership a trait or a process? The question of whether outstanding leaders are born or made has been debated for decades. There are numerous examples of historical figures who were naturally drawn to leadership, while others developed leadership skills through persistence and experience.

To understand leadership, both nature (inherited traits) and nurture (life experiences) must be considered. According to a 2017 study, Point/Counterpoint: Are Outstanding Leaders Born or Made?, the answer is likely to be not just one viewpoint or the other, but rather a combination of both. The study found that 30% of leadership traits may be ascribed to genetics or an inherited predisposition, but that the majority of leadership skills are developed through training over time.

Rather than asking whether a person “has what it takes”, it is far more valuable therefore to ask what training and mentoring should be provided to help them develop the skills and attributes that will help them to lead effectively.

How important is a university qualification?
Learning to be a leader is not a simple academic undertaking; it’s a lifelong process that benefits from guidance and structure.

However, leadership does involve networking and dealing with people. For someone who has been exposed to a university education, part of the learning process involves interacting with others, and that requires a degree of adaptability and open-mindedness. It provides people with a good grounding.

Leadership acceleration programmes offer opportunities for personal and professional development. They can give individuals the boost they need to enhance their leadership and management potential, enabling them to authentically build their strengths, experiences and aspirations, become better communicators and negotiators, and be more prepared to deal with conflict, challenges and change.

Working with different personalities
Great leaders need to learn the skills for building good relationships in the workplace. According to American coach and business strategist Tony Robbins, whether you own a business, manage one or are employed by one, knowing how to manage a team with different personalities is critical. “When you know how to deal with different personalities in the workplace, you’re able to achieve your goals, maintain your peace of mind and create a company culture that’s representative of your brand,” he says.

That’s because the most successful teams are formed when a leader understands each employee’s strengths and weaknesses, knows how to leverage each member’s talents, and encourages everyone to work together.

The importance of EQ in leadership
Emotional intelligence or EQ is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as recognise and influence the emotions of those around you.

According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, “The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but…they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions.”

No matter what leaders set out to do, it is how they do it that will determine success. When employees feel appreciated and respected – as well as emotionally supported – their performance and productivity are enhanced. Teams too are happier and more productive because they develop a sense of harmony, positivity and success that makes them work harder and more effectively together.

People who like people
Celebrated writer and poet Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Leaders who appreciate others will find that their relationships are stronger, and their career and business successes are more significant. At the same time, some of the biggest challenges in the workplace come from working with a diverse group of people. Dealing with people successfully is probably the most significant element that determines whether a leader will have the impact and influence they need to accomplish their objectives. appreciating people is a skill that can be learned, just like many others.

Employers should be encouraged to provide employees and junior leaders with the training and learning opportunities they need to become successful at dealing with people at work. The good news is that most of us do have the ability to train ourselves to be leaders. It’s just a question of how determined we are to better ourselves and learn how to lead.


[Photo bAckley Road Photos on AdobeStock]