'Leaders are born not made. To what extent is this saying justified by current research evidence?'

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Introduction

'Leaders are born not made. To what extent is this saying justified by current research evidence?' The phenomenon of leadership is one of the most extensively researched management processes, and inevitably effective leadership plays a fundamental role in the success of any organisation. The fact that no single style of leadership has been found to be universally effective, suggests not every leader exhibits the same type of leadership behaviour. It is possible that this is a result of leaders' personal choices, or due to innate genetic factors, giving rise to the view that 'leaders are born not made'. Being a leader and leadership itself are however, two very different concepts. Fielder (1995) defined a leader as a person who is "appointed, elected, or informally chosen to direct and co-ordinate the work of others in a group". In contrast, leadership is more of a process, and can be considered to be a combination of personal qualities, behaviours and styles adapted by the leader. It is therefore possible that not all leaders will possess effective leadership skills and attributes. With reference to the statement leaders are 'born not made', it may be that people are born with certain predispositions i.e.

Middle

This development enables leaders to adapt their leadership attributes to context-dependant situations i.e. task function or social-emotional function. This interaction suggests that transformational leadership builds on transaction exchanges (e.g., "augmentation hypothesis" Avolio & Bass, 1995), and may therefore not be mutually exclusive (Bryman, 1992). Bass (1985) developed the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) to assess the different leadership styles, and to investigate the relationship between these styles, work effectiveness and satisfaction. He integrated the transformational and transactional approaches, by recognising that both styles may be linked to the achievement of desired goals and objectives. Within this reasoning, any given manager may be both transactional and transformational. Questions in the MLQ assess the four components of transformational leadership, two components of transactional leadership and laissez-faire leadership. Research findings have suggested a high intercorrelation between transformational factors and contingent reward. Den Hartog et al (1997) found correlations of 0.61 to 0.75 between components of transformational leadership, in ratings of 700 leaders from eight Dutch organisations. Similarly Geyer and Steyrer (1998) also report very high correlations (0.69 to 0.75) in their sample of over 1,400 employees in 20 Austrian banks.

Conclusion

Research into transformational and transactional leadership, suggests that effective leadership may be achieved through a combination of innate and learnt, personality and behavioural characteristics. It may be that individuals are 'born' with genetic predispositions, which need to be shaped by experience to develop effective leadership qualities. Personality or intelligence alone may not be enough, as leaders need flexibility for context-dependent leadership styles as shown in Fielder's Contingency Model (1967). It may be that personality and intelligence are genetically based, but there is potential for them to be influenced by environment, and for individuals to become flexible in their behaviour without compromising their personality and values. This may enable leaders to be more adaptable, and adopt a variety of context-dependent leadership styles i.e. person-orientated (transformational), task-orientated (transactional). In hindsight, it is therefore true that to an extent, leaders are both 'born' and 'made'. Leaders may be born with genetic personality and intellectual predispositions, which give them the potential to become effective leaders. However, it appears to be the development of these predispositions through life experiences and influences, which enables them to achieve effective leadership qualities. It is therefore an interrelation of both genetics and learning, which builds a multi-dimensional leadership approach (Bass, 1998; Yukl, 1998), which creates great leaders.

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