Nature or Nurture: Are Leaders Born or Made?

Every year many companies send their management staff to attend leadership courses. So what is the likelihood of success of turning someone into an effective leader by sending him or her to one of these courses?

Every now and then someone comes up with a new leadership theory, model or framework. These studies provide the basis for developing another leadership course. Here are some of these theories:

Paul Hersey Situational Leadership
Robert K Greenleaf Servant Leadership
Mike & Karen Gosling Emotional Leadership
Introduced by James MacGregor Burns Expanded by Bernard M.Bass Transformational Leadership
Introduced by Max Weber

Expanded by Bernard M.Bass

Transactional Leadership


Because there are so many theories, people begin to develop categories for them. One way is to categorise them into great man theories, traits theories, contingency theories, situational theory, behavioural theory, participative theory, management theory, relationship theory.


Leadership styles have been categorised in many different ways. Here are some of these categories.

Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee 6 emotional leadership styles : Visionary, coaching, affiliate, democratic, pace-setting, commanding
Kurt Lewin 3 major leadership styles: autocratic or authoritarian, participative or democratic, delegative or laissez-faire


However for businesses, the concern is not about behavioural studies but about having effective leadership to steer the business. The thought that if one can figure out what makes a leader, we can duplicate the same qualities in another person is debatable but the debate is not a business concern. The concern is also not about whether leaders are born or made but finding a person with the leadership personality and abilities to deal with the challenges of the present and take the business into the future.


If we can agree that no two persons is alike, then we can agree that leadership qualities are tied to the person and business time, efforts and costs should be focused on finding the suitable person.