"'Leaders are born' and 'leadership skills can be developed' represent two fundamentally different perspectives towards the development of leadership quality. Which perspective would you support, and what implications may this have for management development in organizations?"
Are leaders born or made? This question has grabbed a lot of attention of many authors in the past century. The leadership theories and the ways to study leadership have been evolved over time. The topic of leadership has been of interest to many researchers throughout the 20th century but not in the 19th. As Frank Heller (1997, p.340) notes that in 1896, the US Library of Congress had not one book on the subject of leadership. Alan Bryman, one of the most respected and cited British researcher, has written a review chapter 'Leadership in Organizations' in 1990s. Bryman traces the shifts in the definition of leadership from Trait eras to the New Leadership era (Bryman, 1996). David Day argues that leaders can be developed. He carried out a thorough examination of leadership development from three interrelated perspectives, of theory, practice and research (Day, D. V, 2001). One of his broad findings was that the practice of leadership development offered many procedures for performing programmes for achieving desired goals of leadership development. However, he was able to find little authentication of the connections between the practices and those goals. Day gives a clear picture of one of the ways in which leadership research is mainly complex to study and implement. He first differentiates between leader development and leadership development. Leader development focuses on the individual, and historically was the more important one. Whereas, leadership development shows a broader picture of the overall dynamics of the organizations within which leaders and others perform their work (Rickards and Clark, 2006).
In the following pages, we will be looking at different theories that either supports the 'Born' or 'Made' side of leadership, support the notion that leaders can be developed and talk about how can they be developed and what impact does it have on the management and leadership development in an organization.
Leaders, Born or Made?
Stories from all over the world have promoted the fact of natural leaders, who succeeded without any formal training or whatsoever. Yet, leadership training and development has been a growing field of study. The taken-for-granted belief in the natural born leader was noted in a speech on leadership made by the Bishop of Durham, Dr Herbert H. Hensley at St Andrews University, Scotland in 1930s, in which he noted that:
"It is a fact that some men possess an inbred superiority, which gives them a dominating influence over their contemporaries, and marks them out unmistakeably for leadership . . . [in many walks of life] there are those who with an assured and unquestioned title, take the leading place, and shape the general conduct" (Quoted in Adair J., 1989)
We will now be looking at two proposals by Alan Bryman and David Day. Bryman takes us on a journey through the evolution of leadership theories in the pre-modern times to the rise of trait theory, and an era where trait theories became challenges by more behaviourally oriented ideas. Bryman portrays all these theories as a part of the "old leadership" model and contrasts them with an important model of new leadership. We will now understand how trait theories became central, underpinning beliefs about natural born leaders followed by the decline in the perceived significance of trait theories added to the ultimate rise of interest in leadership developmental possibilities (Rickards and Clark, 2006).
An early definition which was accepted for three decades was by Stogdill in his handbook which says "Leadership may be considered as the process (act) of influencing the activities of a group in efforts towards goal setting and goal achievement" (Stogdill, 1950). Bryman argues that that definition presented by Stogdill indicates how leadership was supposed to operate through a leader persuading the behaviours of the followers. However, he notes that this definition is insufficient for differentiating between leadership and management. He then compares this to a new leadership definition which says "The leader gives a sense of direction and purpose through the articulation of a compelling world-view [the defining characteristic of which is] the active promotion of values which provide shared meanings about the nature of organizations" (Bryman, 1996).
Bryman takes a historian's approach and suggests distinctive eras in leadership theory and research. He notes that the eras are suggestions of periods within which a particular sort of theory had supremacy over the other. He categorises them into 4 eras, the trait era, style era, contingency era and the new leadership era.
The trait era was from 1880s to 1940s. It emphasised on the essential characteristics of a leader which were presumed to be inborn traits like physical traits, abilities like intelligence, communication etc and personality characteristics like self-confidence, extraversion etc.
The style era was from 1940s to 1960s. It refocused on what the leaders did rather than their personal traits. The most dominant organizational studies such as the Ohio State investigations set a style for examining the reports of followers which was even followed in the contingency era. Researchers attempted to condense styles to a few overarching variables, often producing two-dimensional models of people oriented and task oriented.
The contingency era, right after the style era, that was from late 1960s to early 1980s. It can be seen as a more complex style as it incorporates the situational variable. A contingent variable is one whose significance in a theory is dependent on circumstances. A people oriented style may not be appropriate is the level of learning and education of the followers is low. According to Bryman, the contingency theory introduced the 'it all depends' thinking. He identified the model developed by Fred Fiedler and co-workers as the best known of the contingency approaches. This theory suggests that the nature of the leader to favour task or relationships may be assessed by the leaders view of his co-workers and specifically for the least preferred co-worker (LPC). If a leader sees good qualities in his co-workers, he tends to be more relationship oriented, if not then task oriented.
The new leadership era took up in the 1980s and to date. The distinctive features are a shift from the trait, style and contingency models through focus on leadership as a socially constructed process. The second feature was a process of transformational change. This was a clear demarcation from the two previous eras of contingency and style, although the birth of trait theory could also be considered as grounded in leader traits linked with major transformations (Rickards and Clark, 2006).
In 2001, David Day carried out a detailed inspection of leadership development from three interrelated perspectives, of theory, practice and research. One of his broad findings was that the practice of leadership development can give us many ways for conducting programs for accomplishing wanted goals of leadership development. Day illustrates that leadership research is fairly complex to study and execute. He draws a distinction between leader development and leadership development. Leader development focuses on the individual, and historically was the more important one. Whereas, leadership development shows a broader picture of the overall dynamics of the organizations within which leaders and others perform their work (Rickards and Clark, 2006).
According to Day, leadership development holds close the individual focus rather than substitute it. He criticizes on the weak link between theory and practice and developed six of the most influential techniques for leadership development, namely 360-degree feedback, coaching, mentoring, networking, job assignments and actions (Day, D. V, 2001). This we will discuss in detail towards the end of this paper.
Over the years, leadership has been studied broadly in a variety of contexts and theoretical foundations. In some cases, leadership has been illustrated as a process, but most theories and research on leadership look at a person to gain understanding (Bernard, 1926; Blake, Shepard and Mouton, 1964; Drath and Palus, 1994; Fiedler, 1967; and House and Mitchell, 1974). Leadership is in general defined by the traits, qualities, and behaviors of a leader.
(Stogdill, 1974), identified several different categories that arrests the essence of the study of leadership in the twentieth century. The first movement dealt with the attributes of great leaders. Leadership was explained by the internal qualities with which a person is born (Bernard, 1926). The notion was that if the traits that distinguished leaders from followers could be identified, successful leaders could be quickly evaluated and put into positions of leadership. Personality, physical, and mental individualities were examined. This research was based on the idea that leaders were born and not made, and the key to success was simply in recognizing those people who were born to be great leaders. Despite the fact that much research was done to identify the traits, no clear response was found with regard to what traits every time were associated with great leadership. One imperfection with this line of thought was in disregarding the situational and environmental factors that play a role in a leader's level of effectiveness (Horner M., 1997). A second major drive looked at leader behaviors in an effort to conclude what successful leaders do, not how they look to others (Halpin and Winer, 1957; Hemphill and Coons, 1957). These studies began to look at leaders in the framework of the organization, identifying the behaviors leaders' exhibit that increases the efficiency of the company. A third approach in response to the question about the best way to lead dealt with the relations between the leader's traits, the leader's behaviors, and the situation in which the leader exists. These contingency theories make the supposition that the effects of one variable on leadership are contingent on others. Yet another contingency theory deals with an examination of the people who are led by leaders. The significance of the followers in leadership materialized (House and Mitchell, 1974), and leadership was seen as a communication between the goals of the followers and the leader. The path-goal theory proposes that leaders are principally responsible for helping followers build up behaviors that will enable them to attain their goals or preferred outcomes.
Additional leadership theories have come forward over the past ten to fifteen years. This is symbolized by the comparison of transactional and transformational leadership. Transactional leadership stems from more established views of workers and organizations, and it involves the position power of the leader to use followers for task completion (Burns, 1978). Transformational leadership, however, looks on for ways to help motivate followers by fulfilling higher-order needs and more fully appealing them in the process of the work (Bass, 1985). Transformational leaders can commence and deal with change, and they can craft something new out of the old. In this way, these leaders individually evolve while also helping their followers and organizations evolve. They construct strong associations with others while supporting and cheering each individual's development. Manz and Sims also offer a revised, integrative point of view on leadership. Using the term "Super Leadership," they confront the traditional paradigm of leadership as one person doing something to other people (Manz and Sims, 1991). Instead, they propose that another model exists for leadership today: "the most appropriate leader is one who can lead others to lead themselves" (p. 18). According to this view, leadership exists within every individual, and it is not restricted to the limits of formally appointed leaders. They suggest that for leaders to be most successful, they need to assist each individual in the development of leading himself or herself. Leaders become great by unleashing the potential and capabilities of followers, therefore having the knowledge of many people instead of relying exclusively on their own skills and abilities.
Daniel Goleman was the first person to introduce the idea of 'emotional intelligence' in his book with the same title in 1995. In his research of around 200 large companies, he found that apart from the leadership qualities like intelligence, toughness, determination and vision, which are needed to for a leader to be successful; there is also a need for a high level of emotional intelligence which includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. These qualities may sound soft but Goleman discovered strong relationships between emotional intelligence and the firm's performance. According to Goleman, IQ and technical skills are the entry level requirements for any executive positions. But Goleman's research shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership and without it, no matter if the person has the best training in the world, has an analytical mind and a bunch of brilliant ideas, he still wont make a great leader (Goleman, 1998).
Self-awareness is the first element of emotional intelligence, which makes sense when one believe that the Delphic oracle gave the advice to "know thyself" thousands of years ago. Self-awareness means having a deep understanding of one's emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs, and drives. People with strong self-awareness are neither excessively critical nor unrealistically hopeful. Rather, they are honest with themselves and with others. People with a high degree of self- awareness identify how their feelings affect them, the people around them, and their job performance. Thus, a self-aware person who knows that he cant handle tight deadlines, can plans his time cautiously and gets his work done well in advance. Self-awareness extends to a person's accepting of his values and goals (Goleman, 1998).
Self-regulation is the element of emotional intelligence that frees us from being captive of our own feelings. People occupied in such a dialogue feel bad moods and emotional inclination just as everyone else does, but they figure out ways to control them and to even channel them in useful ways. People with self-regulation tend to choose a different path in hard times. They craft words in such a way that the person gets the message without making him or her feel bad about it. People who have control of their feelings and impulses are able to craft an atmosphere of trust and fairness. In such an environment, politics and backbiting are sharply reduced and output is high. Gifted people congregate to the organization and aren't tempted to leave (Goleman, 1998).
Motivation is one trait that all leaders possess. They are driven to achieve beyond expectations. Many of the people are motivated by external factors like higher salary, a prestigious title in the organization or the leading company itself for which they are working. On the other hand, good leaders are motivated by a deeply embedded desire to achieve something just for the sake of achieving it. If one wants to measure the motivational level of the leader, look at the desire and passion for work itself. Such people look for creative challenges and love to learn new things. Empathy can be easily recognized out of all the other dimensions of emotional intelligence. It certainly does not mean adopting others emotions as one's own and try to please them, rather empathy means sympathetically considering employees' feelings along with other factors while making intelligent decisions. Empathy is predominantly essential today as a component of leadership for at least three reasons: the increasing use of teams; the rapid pace of globalization; and the growing need to retain talent (Goleman, 1998).
The first three dimensions of emotional intelligence are self-management skills. The last two, empathy and social skill, deals with a person's talent to manage relationships with others. As an element of emotional intelligence, social skill is not as straightforward as it sounds. It's not just about friendliness, even though people with high levels of social skill are rarely dishonest. Social skill, rather, is openness with a reason: moving people in the direction you want, whether that's agreement on a new marketing strategy or keenness about a new product. Social skill is a conclusion of the other dimensions of emotional intelligence. People tend to be very effectual at managing associations when they can comprehend and control their own emotions and can empathize with the feelings of others. Even motivation supplements to social skill. People who are ambitious to accomplish tend to be optimistic, even in the face of failure. When people are optimistic, their "glow" is cast upon dialogues and other social encounters (Goleman, 1998).
So can emotional intelligence be learned? For decades, people have been arguing about are leaders born or made, and so does about emotional intelligence, are people born with certain levels of empathy, for example, or do they acquire by real life experiences?, the answer is both. Scientific research suggests that there is a genetic component to emotional intelligence and that nature plays a vital role in development of such intelligence. But to what extent, one can not really measure that out. One thing is for sure that emotional intelligence increases as the person grows older but some people still need training to develop emotional intelligence. Every person is born with it, there is a need to find and develop it. Emotional intelligence is born largely in the neurotransmitters of the brains limbic system, which administers feelings, impulses, and drives. Research shows that the limbic system learns best through motivation, extended practice, and feedback. Compare this with the kind of learning that goes on in the neocortex which governs analytical and technical ability. The neocortex grasps concepts and logic. It is the part of the brain that figures out how to use a computer or make a sales call by reading a book. To boost emotional intelligence organizations must redeploy their training to include the limbic system. They must help people break old behavioural habits and set up new ones. That not only takes much more time than conventional training programs it also requires an individualized approach. With dedication, persistence and practice, such a process can have a life long effect. It's important to realize that building ones emotional intelligence cannot and will not take place without sincere desire and concentrated effort. A brief seminar won't help; nor can one buy a how-to manual. It is difficult to learn to empathize, to internalize empathy as a natural response to people, than it is to become proficient at failure analysis. But it can be done. "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm" wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. If your goal is to become a real leader, these words can serve as a guide in your efforts to develop high emotional intelligence (Goleman, 1998).
According to Day, there are six most influential techniques for leadership development, i.e. 360-degree feedback, coaching, mentoring, networking, job assignments and action learning.
360-degree feedback involves assessment processes within which the executives (leaders) gives feedback to the employees (followers) and receive a feedback from them if possible at a higher, equivalent or lower levels in the organization. It is used to gather views from the high-ups and the lower downs. This technique is used by many of the fortune 500 organizations however the leadership development part has attracted some disputes.
Coaching and mentoring are two overlapping means of leadership development. Both these approaches fit well with the concept of passing on the information to the less experienced from the more experienced one. Coaching is a term by and large related with the provision of specific sets of behavioural skills (negotiation, communication, presentation skills would be typical leadership examples). The processes tend to assume that codified knowledge is transferred from the trainer to the trainee.
Mentoring, analogous to coaching, is a classical term to define the relationship between the mentor, the experienced and knowledgeable one, and a less experienced recipient. Unlike coaching, the knowledge transfer is less concerned with specific skills and the acquired knowledge is more likely to be dispersed. Mentoring is thus more clearly developmental, and sometimes called as tacit skills. This feature allows the possibility of informal mentoring relationships.
Networking has been acknowledged within knowledge management research, as having a connectivist basis. This draws a distinction between theories which regard knowledge as inborn in individuals (cognitivist theories) and those concerned with relationships across individuals (connectivist theories). These theories believe that organizational structures are self-structuring, as an outcome of the information flows through several connections (networks) amongst its individual members. The networking approach to leadership development is the most evidently connectivist one.
Job assignments have played a vital part in the field of management development programmes for many years. The simple hypothesis is that individuals learn by being exposed to wide-ranging challenges of importance to current or future jobs. The argument has been widely applied to rationalize business exchanges, foreign delegations, even overseas school trips. It will be noted that a job assignment programme will unavoidably boost a change in networking activities of those occupied, so that the assessment of the one technique against the other is a complex matter.
Action learning is an expression applied to an extensive range of experiential learning processes. The processes tend to involve projects as the driving force for learning; these are often directed towards important business problems. It presents the notion of deliberate involvement. The discovery process comes from the inside of a person. The process comes with a need to work through problems of objectivity and whether results could be generalized or not (Rickards and Clark, 2006).
Apart from these practices and approaches, there are many formal leadership development institutions in the world. The Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL) is considered as one of the most experienced global leadership development organizations in the world. It was founded in 1970 in Greensboro, NC, USA and had developed itself as a world leader with many other facilities in the US, Europe and Asia. Even in the UK, Ashridge Management College built its extensive leadership programmes in the 1980s and 90s with the help of its franchise from CCL. Manchester Business School (MBS) also became a part of the programme for technical leadership over a period of years through its Research & Development Department (Rickards and Clark, 2006).
There is still much of a debate that 'are leaders born or made', in my perception and by looking at a range of articles and books, came to a conclusion that however there is an in-born element involved in the development of leadership, training and development is still in much need to further explore and polish that potential. As Goleman notes that 'It would be foolish to assert that good-old-fashioned IQ and technical ability are not important ingredients in strong leadership. But the recipe would not be complete without emotional intelligence. It was once thought that the components of emotional intelligence were "nice to have" in business leaders. But now we know that, for the sake of performance, these are ingredients that leaders "need to have"' (Goleman, 1998). The techniques identified by David Day are worth noting. Whereas the formal techniques can be used in the development of leadership, many other informal approaches can also be considered. Informal teams can also be setup in an organizations what can give informal but valuable feedback about a persons behaviour which than can be taken care of. A person may be born with leadership skills and may have emotional intelligence to a certain level, but when we look at contingencies, the leader has to be aware of the situations and has to be pro-active rather than being re-active. Leadership development in terms of emotional intelligence is a lengthy and time consuming process but it is worth investing in provided that the learner is open to all sorts of learning and has a passion and enthusiasm for it.