We are always asked the question: “Are leaders born or is leadership learned?” Well, let's address the obvious first, all leaders have to have been born at some point in order to be alive! So, now let's get into the not-so obvious!. Consider leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington, even Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan, and many others, why were they able to influence others? Where did they get their knowledge, skills, and abilities to do that? Were they born with them, or were they learned behaviors?
We believe that leadership is learned, just like an artists may learn how to use colors, or vanishing points, or shading to create a masterpiece, there are specific skills that can be learned. However, just like an artist, you can learn how to use the skill or apply the technique, but it takes practice and the artful application to truly create a leadership masterpiece.
Consider the color wheel. What colors are primary colors, and secondary colors, or tertiary colors
and why? What makes the colors different? What primary colors do I mix to get secondary colors and tertiary colors? And how is it that we see colors? What part of light is the visible light spectrum? Now we have to consider how the light is brought into our eyes and perceived by our brain? Whoa! Wait a minute!
Look, I just want to know what colors I need to use to paint a picture, why do I need to know all of this stuff, just to paint a picture? The honest answer... No, you don't need to know all this stuff to use colors to paint a picture, just like you don't need to know the science of leadership to be put in charge and be the leader. You can just start painting and see how it turns out, but isn't that how a lot of leaders started being leaders, they just start leading and see how it turns out? And isn't that why we have a lot of bad paintings, and a lot of bad leaders in leadership positions?
Now consider, if the person wanting to paint a picture learned how to use vanishing points to show perspective, colors to show various shades and, and shading to show light and shadows in their painting. Maybe they would have to spend more time learning how to make their picture look better, but maybe they would also have created a better product?
Leadership, just like learning how to make a painting or drawing requires learning about how to influence people, because leadership is methods of influencing behavior of individuals, teams, and organizations, to achieve organizational goals. So, the more "methods of influencing" that are learned, just like learning more painting techniques, the easier it will be to influence others to achieve the goals. In essence, the easier it will be to paint the picture.
And by learning the science of leadership we mean that you need to learn some specific leadership theories from psychology, behavior and social sciences, communication, and team dynamics. Things
like how do I create a cohesive team? What happens in socialization when I get a new person in the organization? How do I know when my team is actually performing as it should? What happens when things go bad and we start to look for the cause, should we always blame the leader?
Many of these questions are very easily answered by those who know the science of leadership, and who practice using the science of leadership in the artful application process. Because learning leadership isn't very difficult, it's almost like learning a new language, or how to spell, or puzzle-building, or any other thing that takes some level of thought. But applying it is much more involved because just like drawing a picture or making a painting, it takes applying the science in an artful manner in order to create effective leadership.
Putting it all together:
So, are leaders born or is leadership learned? Yes, both! leaders have to be born at some point, and yes, leadership is learned, just like almost everything else in life. If you want to learn more about how to learn the science of leadership, check out our training classes and/or arrange to have us come to your organization. Find us at www.cmfleadership.com.
About the Author: Dr. Chris Fuzie is the author of "S.C.O.R.E. Performance Counseling: Save the Relationship, Change the Behavior," and Owner of CMF Leadership Consulting. Chris is a developer/trainer/consultant for leadership of public, private, profit, and non-profit organizations. Chris holds a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D), M.A. and B.A. in Organizational Leadership, and has graduate certificates in Human Resources and Criminal Justice Education. Chris is honorably retired from the Modesto Police Department after 28 years of public service where he last served as the Assistant Division Commander of Investigations.