Born a loser?


Whether a person is born a leader or develops skills and abilities to become a good leader is open for debate. One can debate on this topic endlessly and can end up in no result because there no correct answer to it. How often we hear "She/he is a born leader?" There are few characteristics that are found in good leaders but these can be developed or be naturally part of one's personality. There are arguments that if leaders are selected on the basis of blood line (British Royalty) then the leaders are 'born' whilst if leaders are selected on any other basis than blood relation then they are made, American presidential history is the best example of made leaders.

This is really a controversial theory but yes 'Born' leaders have genetic qualities, the will to lead comes from within; they are simply born with the DNA to lead which increase the chances of them becoming a leader, as also explained in the Trait's theory (Shead 2007). In contrary some says that there are 'No born leaders' as we all are born with unique qualities and strength which helps us in the journey of leadership, they are inside us and for most of us it remains inside. Leadership is a skill that improves with practice as we move forward in our lives. There are many well educated and motivated people who lack the knowledge of how to lead others. Before we move further let's understand, what Leadership is all about?

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Defining Leadership is challenging as it is situational and changes frequently depending on the situation. Some says leadership is a capacity of leaders to listen and observe and others say that it is a process whereby one individual influences a group of individuals to achieve and accomplish a common goal. Leadership is an athletic ability (G. Bernier), no matter how well you can learn to play basketball but you can't become Michael Jordon until you improve your skills to that level. Leadership is a skill that can be learned and practice over time (G. Krstulovic). Leadership is about setting and not just responding or reacting to the list of things to be dealt with (agenda). It is a trust; if others do not trust you they will not follow you.

In favour, we have the traditional approach which attempted to identify physical characteristics in human "The Trait's theory" which clearly states that people are born with inbuilt traits or qualities which are specifically designed for leadership. According to it, if you can recognise people with the correct traits, you have identified an individual with leadership potential. This theory assumes that there are born leaders and not made. Trait's theory also focused on the characteristics of good leaders which are: Honesty, Inspiring and Competent. Few qualities of born leaders are that they can picture the future that we want to see (Peter Senge) that makes them visionary as they give us directions which helps us in making decision and moreover motivates us when required. Vision is derived from "Passion" as without it an individual will have least impact as a leader. Ability to understand makes him "Intelligent" and ability to control and take risk shows he has "courage".

In against this theory was challenged by universalism which says that leadership is universal and can be adopted, "The behavioural theory" stating that all the characteristics can be learnt and it is not necessary that they have to be within you since birth. It might be difficult to learn and adopt such traits but it is not impossible. The three C model can help any individual to learn the leadership qualities: Challenge the status quo, build Confidence in others and provide Coaching to the people on how to do the things correctly."The culture factor" which says that a type of leadership might be successful in U.S.A but that same technique might not be effective in India or any other country. In this modern era more and more companies are spending huge amount of money on hiring professional so that they can train their manager's on attaining good leadership qualities in order to get better results. His strong willingness to be a leader, curiosity, ability to learn from success and failure, a non-defensive approach to negative feedback, urge to experiment new things, making positive statements can help any individual in becoming an effective leader.

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Leadership traits are the best when discovered during childhood but skills are adapted at the later stage. Better way to understand the difference is to compare them. The below mentioned table will make a more clear picture.

Leadership Traits

Adaptable to situation Alert to social environment Ambitious and achievement oriented Assertive Cooperative Decisive Dependable Dominant Energetic Persistent Self confident Tolerance of stress Willing to take responsibility Leadership skills Clever Conceptually skilled Creative Diplomatic and tactful Fluent Knowledge about group Organized Persuasive Socially skilled

Now let's understand discuss types of Leadership.

1. Autocratic: This style of leadership is very aggressive as leader makes decision without consulting anyone else. It has its own advantages and disadvantages. Where this type of leadership is adopted, a high level of dependency is created and also creates de-motivation among staff members. Autocratic style of leadership comes handy when there is a need to make decisions quickly.

2. Democratic: This type of leadership promotes decision making from different perspectives which can be either consultative or persuasive. It means that leader will consult before taking any decision and after taking any decision they seek to persuade others that the decision is correct. This style influences motivation and workers feel involvement of their ideas in the firm. The only drawback of democratic leadership is that it leads to delay in decision making because of its lengthier procedure.

3. Laissez-Faire: It's a French word which means 'Let it be'. This style of leadership is highly motivational as it is people centric. In this an individual gets to control his working life and this style is very helpful when you are running a business which involves creativity of ideas. It totally depends on interpersonal skills and good teamwork but is considered as time consuming.

4. Paternalistic: This approach is straight forward. As the name suggests, in this style of leadership the leader acts as a father which allows him to take decisions and it totally depends upon himself to consult the same with others or not. They believe in supporting the staff workers which makes them a motivational approach/style of leadership.

Leadership depends on various factors such as risk and the nature of business or the culture of the organisation. As a leader you have the power to influence motivation. There is a thin line between manger and a leader. Managing and leading are two different ways of organising people. The manager uses a formal, rational method whilst the leader uses passion and stirs emotions. Manger is the one who uses his management skills and the resources given to him, to manage people. Mangers generally follow orders from the leader. The difference between them can be explained by the below given picture. It clearly states that the leader is the one who shows the direction and managers make it possible so that rest can follow leader's path including managers.

Leader's vs. Managers

Think radically Think incrementally Do the right thing Do the things right Follow their own intuition Do the things by the book and follow company policy Use passion and emotions to organise people Use formal rational method to organise people Decision are taken for long term perspectives Decisions are taken for short term perspectives Are the architects Are the builders Are inspiring and motivating Are problem solving Focuses on outcomes Focuses on mechanics Are more emotional Less emotional People naturally follow them Must be obeyed May have no organisational skills Have organisational skills May be born or made Are made Have followers Have employees Have a vision Have a mission Develops Maintains

After understanding the table one can clearly distinguish the leaders from the managers.

Anyone can learn the qualities of a leader but not every leader can become successful. One of the top qualities of a good successful leader is, Motivation: It is a blend of desire and energy that aims at achieving goal. Influencing someone means getting the work done your way. A person's motivation may depend upon forces such as beliefs, values, interest and fear. This can further be divided into two parts:

a. External forces: Danger, The environment, Pressure from loved ones

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b. Internal forces: Work pressure, TAT(turn around time) for task etc

There are particular needs of a person and no two persons can be motivated by the same skill: This can be explained as you are hungry, but you must have to complete a task as the deadline is approaching. In case of starvation you will eat, but if you are not hungry then you will finish the task first and then eat the food. Taking a certain action will help satisfy those needs. In this you have two different needs - the urge to complete the task and the desire to go to lunch. Now it is your perception that will determine how you see the two needs and prioritise them. If you can be fired for not completing the task, you will skip lunch and will focus on task and if you think that you will not get into trouble if given task is not finished on time, then you are more likely to go to lunch.

"There is no simple formula for motivation -- you must keep an open viewpoint on human nature"

How Leaders use motivation to become successful?

A. Match the needs of your team with the needs of the organization. B. Rewards and recognition: A certificate or letter is an appropriate way to reward but it should be done promptly and on a specific time since it can turn out to be a powerful motivator. C. Setting an example for others, since you have to be a role model and rest has to follow you. D. Developing morale and maintaining sprit E. Allow everyone to be a part of the planning and resolve the problem collectively F. Be Empathetic not Sympathetic G. Strong communication among the team H. Make their jobs exciting, and meaningful.

Tested and trusted qualities of a good leader are: 1. Respect for employees 2. Self-Awareness 3. Credibility- Credible leaders are shares a straightforward relationship with their subordinates and in turn they earns the subordinates' respect and trust. 4. Empathy 5. Trustworthy 6. Enthusiasm towards their work 7. Confidence towards objective 8. Tolerance and calm 9. Encouraging and Influencing 10. Intelligent risk taker.

Having said that, I personally believe that leaders are born to be made or in a different way it's a little of both. No one emerges from the womb with the leadership skills, everybody has to learn the skills and apply wherever necessary. Leaders learn by experimenting. An effective leader will always look for training programme that will help him develop specific skills. Genetics and same family background also plays an important role in developing the personality that motivates the person to lead, but today's fast growing world deny this fact by saying that this has gone beyond the gene factor and it's all about the hardship, work experience, education which makes a effective leader. Even born leaders have to work on their skills. Effective leaders may not be the smartest person but they have to be smart enough to perform the job effectively. By the time a person becomes an adult we can tell if they can help others to achieve the result, after all this is the main work of leader (help subordinates grow and develop). One can also tell if they are capable enough to lead and are willing to make decisions or not. Leadership can be learned by the basics and by making mistakes and learning from it but it can't be taught. Leaders learn from watching other leaders and adjusting their behaviour accordingly, they improve by getting feedbacks and applying them cleverly.