There’s been a long debate whether great leaders are born or made… As pointed out in an article on Forbes, it turns out that both parties are right. A definition of leadership, as suggested by researchers, would be a mixture of some genetics and of a whole lot more hard work and persistence. In fact, one study from The Leadership Quarterly on heritability (that is, the innate skills you bring to the table) and human development (what you learn along the way) estimated that leadership is 24% genetic and 76 percent learned.
However, some people strongly believe that you are brought into this world as a leader – and you cannot do anything about it.
Well, this stands true for a small percentage of the population. As a matter of fact, over the course of history, there were some people that undeniably had the leadership gene imprinted in their DNA. It is the case of those who gained followers due to their sheer presence and charisma: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi are just a few of them. People with a similar kind of gifts are born every day, even if they don’t have the same impact.
Research show that there are two innate traits that are common to the majority of successful leaders: extroversion and conscientiousness.
According to a meta-analysis led by Timothy Judge, Ph.D., a professor at the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, extroversion is the best predictor of leadership effectiveness, followed closely by conscientiousness.
As it is mentioned in an article from Business Insider, “psychologists define extroversion as sociability and enthusiasm, while conscientiousness refers to your organization and work ethic. More recent research has found that conscientiousness is the only major personality trait that consistently predicts success, largely because highly conscientious individuals are good at setting and working toward goals.”
What does this mean for the aspiring leaders? Well, if conscientiousness and extroversion are the only innate traits that commonly predict leadership effectiveness – and even those can be worked upon – then all you have to do is to improve and develop your other skills and behaviours that would make you a great leader. Aside from the well known qualities that have defined great leaders since the beginning of time – the ability to communicate effectively, fairness, foresight and inspiration – the dynamics of today’s business world require leaders to develop a whole new set of skills and abilities if they want to thrive in the VUCA environment that we live in (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity).
Great People Inside through a&dc’ LIVED® model puts forward five elements that leaders need to focus on, in order to deliver tangible business results and shine in the VUCA world: Learning, Intellect, Values, Emotions and Drive. By mastering each of these five dimensions, the leaders will be fully equipped to face the challenges of an increasingly fast paced world of work.
Learning – Willing and able to adapt to new environments and challenges by drawing on learning and feedback from previous experiences.
Intellect – Thinks incisively, deals effectively with complex and ambiguous information, sees issues in the broader context and takes sound decisions based on this analysis.
Values – Acts in an authentic and consistent way, inspires trust and demonstrates integrity, courage and respect for others.
Emotions – Manages own emotions effectively, builds positive relationships and uses emotions to influence and inspire others.
Drive – Sets challenging goals, takes an action oriented approach and shows passion and determination to overcome obstacles, act decisively and achieve results.
These are all aspects that you can improve, and while some people are born with the innate traits that will make their leadership journey easier, none of them will prevail in today’s complex and unpredictable business world without working hard to constantly develop their abilities and without a insatiable hunger for learning.
We have an impressive assessment library with hundreds of dimensions that can be leveraged in creating a custom skills-based assessment that supports your organisation’s specific competencies and unique vision. Please contact us if you need to assess and develop the leaders in your company.