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Do You have What it Takes to be a True Leader – pt1



leadership diversity

(Editor’s note: Almost every enterprise rises and falls on the quality of the leadership guiding it forward. This four part series explores some contemporary views about the concept of leadership – where it’s been, how it has changed and how it is changing. Also look at the end of the post for some free stuff you’ll only get here at

Leaders Born or Made

what does it take to be a leader

Are Leaders born or made?

For decades now, this one question has been a subject of considerable debate, which means plenty of people have given it plenty of thought.

After scouring through some of the current literature surrounding this matter, we came to realize it’s a difficult question to answer, in part perhaps, because it’s the wrong question to ask. Insofar as it limits the response to choosing either one or the other, it diverts attention from the possibility of a still better answer floating about.

But not everyone is so inclined to leave it at that.

re-framing strategy
By re-framing the original question, longtime business author and consultant Erika Andersen cracked open the door to probing this query with a fresh pair of eyes. As a result, she arrived at a decidedly different conclusion, one which suggests the right answer is both.

leadership capability bell curve

Andersen contends that some leaders are born while others are made, and that leadership capability can be represented with a bell curve.

At one extreme, you have about 10-15% of people who, no matter how hard they try, aren’t ever going to be very good leaders. They just don’t have the necessary wiring. Shown as blunder blue in the bell curve above, they embody high hopes with misplaced optimism.

At the other extreme, there’s about 10-15% of people who are natural born leaders. Andersen believes these folks start out as good leaders and tend to get even better as they go along. They simply have a knack for taking the reins, sometimes characterized as a “force of nature” type personality. They’re shown in vibrant green.

Finally, there’s the big middle of the curve, where roughly 70% of people reside. This represents the pool of potential leaders, the ones who are not natural born leaders but can be made into leaders.

They usually start off by showing some evidence of having the “it” factor — at least a hint of raw leadership talent — but the “it” needs to be nurtured and guided before it can bloom. In some cases it will blossom, in others it won’t. When it does blossom, these folks can become very good or even great leaders. Because this group is well-advised to carefully proceed — with humility, integrity, grace and persistence — it’s shown in traffic-light yellow.

leadership capability

So, what characterizes good leadership skills?

In part 2, we’ll look at what some of the brightest minds in the field have to say about this.

The good news for now is that you need not be born a good leader to become a good leader.

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