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How Are Great Leaders Made?

Nature or Nurture

Thursday, 29th June 2017

By, GBS Corporate Training

#NatureVsNurture #Leadership #SituationalLeadership  @gbscorporate

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A question that continually receives attention, in both research and in media articles, is whether leadership is an innate natural quality. The question of whether Leaders are born or made has been hotly debated for decades, evoking very strong opinions. 

Are some people just born with the right genetic makeup to be Leaders? Some think Leaders are born that way – naturally intelligent, strategic, visionary and charismatic, able to articulate a plan and rally their teams around it.

Or is leadership a skill that a person learns as he or she matures? Many believe that Leaders are made – needing ongoing experience, training, development and coaching/mentoring.

Some say that Leaders are both born and made – naturally intelligent and extroverted, enhanced with education, training, coaching and experience. Dr Paul Hersey, who developed the Situational Leadership® Model argues that like any other skill, leadership effectiveness increases the more you understand and practice the skills.

What does good leadership look like?

Before consideration of the nature-nurture debate, it is important to first define what we mean by leadership in the business environment.

“Leadership is any attempt to influence the behaviour of another individual or group” Dr Paul Hersey, The Center for Leadership Studies, Inc.

Hersey goes on to explain that Leadership refers to situations in which you are working with others; where an effective Leader knows what ought to happen, plans a way to make it happen and takes steps to actually make things happen. Leaders need to get a job done, but they also need to build continuing cooperation between their peers and their employees.

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

Their success has to do not only with how well the job gets done, but also with people’s attitude about performing the work. He argues that some Leaders can be successful in the short-term but ineffective in the long-term if they do not get the balance right.

So does a genetic ‘special something’ exist to shape Leaders?

Richard D Arvey’s report in the Journal of Applied Psychology discusses a research study into the genetic and developmental influences on leadership role from a sample of 178 fraternal and 214 identical female twins. Results indicated that “32% of the variance in leadership role occupancy was associated with heritability”, i.e. leadership only tends to be 32% genetic.

A 2013 study from University College London found a significant association between people’s likelihood to take on managerial responsibilities and their DNA. They concluded that genetics could have more to do with leadership than previously thought. Also using a large sample of twins, this research estimated that “a quarter of the observed variation in leadership behaviour between individuals could be explained by genes passed down from parents”.

So, according to some expert researchers and studies, it appears that up to 70% of leadership can be learnable. 70% of our leadership attributes are gathered completely through experience. Learning as-you-go will enable you to make informed decisions in the future, having had the benefit of hindsight.

So while some may not be born with leadership skills, they may be able to develop them with training and successfully putting that into practice. However, some people may have something in them which the rest of us don’t always have, handed down from their past generations. However, even with this “something”, for them to be great Leaders, they will still have to continue to nurture and further develop their skills.

So what skills are essential to being a great Leader?

Successful business people might start-out with a set of leadership traits that have been associated with strong Leaders, such as ambition, drive, emotional stability, emotional intelligence, and extroverted personalities that can rally support and action. However, just possessing these traits doesn’t mean you’ll be a great Leader.

According to Hersey and the Situational Leadership® Model, there are three core skills that determine whether your leadership attempts will be successful or unsuccessful, effective or ineffective:

Understanding people’s past behaviour

Recognise why people did what they did, what motivated them, what evoked the behaviour that helped or hindered the accomplishment of tasks.

Predicting future behaviour

Understanding why people behaved in a certain way is not enough. You also need to be able to predict how they will behave in the future under the same conditions but in the rapidly changing environment of today’s world.

Directing, changing and controlling behaviour

Understanding past behaviour and future behaviour is still not enough. You must also accept the responsibility for influencing the behaviour of others in accomplishing tasks and reaching goals.

“A GOOD Leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader; a GREAT Leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” Eleanor Roosevelt

So – to be a really great Leader, you must learn from experience, i.e. learn by doing. Understanding what motivates people, predicting how they will behave in response to your leadership attempts, and directing behaviour are all necessary for effective leadership.

According to an article by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in Harvard Business Review, people who are more adjusted, sociable, ambitious, and curious are much more likely to become good Leaders. Great Leaders also show higher levels of integrity, which enables them to create a fair and just culture in their teams and organisations. In addition, effective Leaders are generally more emotionally intelligent, which enables them to stay calm under pressure and have better people skills.

GBS can help you develop your leadership skills

GBS provides a series of Situational Leadership training courses related to different applications of the model. We help Leaders to learn to appropriately balance their task direction with proper relationship behaviour, which helps to maintain high levels of consistent performance across team members.

Situational Leadership®: Building Leaders is our two-day, instructor-led workshop that emphasises active learning through application-based activities and participant interaction to ensure learner engagement in the classroom.

5th – 6th September 2017, London. Find more details here

Situational Leadership® - Accreditation is designed to equip trainers with the necessary skills and knowledge to deliver licensed Situational Leadership® within their own organisation.

The first part of the accreditation process involves experiencing the two-day Situational Leadership®: Building Leaders programme as a participant. Then you attend an additional ‘teach-back’ day, where you will prepare and deliver an agreed section of the Situational Leadership® programme. Accurate demonstration of knowledge and understanding of the model will result in your accreditation. A licensed ‘Administration Resource Kit’ is provided for each successful accredited trainer to deliver Situational Leadership® training in-house.

5th – 7th September 2017, London. Find more details here