Can Leadership Be Learned Or Is It In The Genes?

I recently attended a debate at the Business Forum, hosted by Chartered Accountants ANZ, about whether leadership can be learned or if it’s in the genes.

The argument that leadership is a birthright poured scorn on the booming global leadership industry—that’s worth $45 billion annually—as a complete fallacy, advising the audience not to waste their money on online courses promising to get them to the next rung on the corporate ladder.

While the opposition argued that education is an evolving lifelong process and that most skills are learned. They quipped that leadership can be taught because even girls and kiwis are doing it!

Personality traits have a lot to do with leadership and some people naturally possess those qualities, which are observable from a young age. However, I also believe that skills and talent can be nurtured. And if leadership is about walking your own talk and inspiring others then surely that comes from experience and authenticity rather than birthright? One view that supports the idea of experience is that leadership stems initially from home—with moral values and rules instilled by mothers, who usually set the tone of the household, and to some extent, of course, fathers.

So can anyone be a leader, including an introvert who lacks confidence, charisma conviction and authority? In theory, yes, but not everyone aspires to be a leader and that comes back to personality as well as values, career and lifestyle choice.

In the run up to the US election with the ridiculous likelihood of Donald Trump being elected, and the upcoming Australian election with the uninspiring choice of watery policies from Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten, it poses the question: where the hell are all the charismatic leaders?

I’d love to know what you think about leadership. Let’s continue the debate.

6 thoughts on “Can Leadership Be Learned Or Is It In The Genes?

  1. First of all can I say its nice to hear from you if only on fb~!.think the first rule is to treat people as you like to be treated and its vital to know your business ie no bullshit baffles brains.Whether thats in the genes or learned from experience I dont know. Leadership doesn’t necessarily mean being the best, I played football til I was 39 for many different teams and I was nearly always captain,hardly ever the best player,but nobody tried harder.Maybe its respect?

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    • Great comments. I’m loving hearing everyone’s opinion. Yes, I agree, to be a leader through respect and treating other people as you’d like to be treated is much more valuable than leading through bullying, bossing and fear. So, knowledge and experience are the winning qualities that command respect and make a leader. I like it.

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      • You could sum great leadership up in 2 words Winston Churchill the greatest of all.The reason you,me and the rest of the Western world enjoys its somewhat limited freedom.Do you think he would ever have allowed Britain to be ruled by Brussels and self appointed bureaucrats? Napoleon and Hitler tried it the Brits sent them packing. Now our spineless leaders Cameron & Co,all born with silver spoons in their gobs,oblivious to the migrant problem as they dont live in the stockbroker belt,are urging the country to Remain. Sir Winston will be turning in his grave.Amen

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    • Thanks for your comments, I love hearing other people’s opinions on this. Yes, I agree that leading through respect is really valuable – rather than leading through instilling fear, bossing and bullying. So, knowledge and experience are also winning qualities over being the best at something?

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  2. Leadership skills can be learned. Just because someone is confident, persuasive, intelligent does not make them good leader material. A person becomes a leader when others choose to follow him, not when she decides to promote herself. Everyone should start by being the leader of their own life: accepting responsibility, taking action, accepting feedback etc… Self development is the key to understanding others. When others believe in you and your message they will elevate you to the position of leader. If your team are not supportive, you need to ask YOURSELF why?

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    • Thanks for your response Anne. I’m loving hearing other people’s viewpoints on this fascinating topic. I agree, leadership can be learned and I like the idea of there being many types of leadership, not just in business, particularly of being a leader of your own life. Fantastic! So, leadership is something that is earned (and happens naturally?) firstly through self-belief then through gaining the belief and respect of others?

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