Leadership: Innate or Learned?


Is leadership something we are born with and possess innately or is it a capacity we learn and develop later on in life?

To address this age-old question, we need to agree on what we mean by leadership. I think of a leader as anybody who has to or wants to influence the thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, and choices of another individual without resorting to their own power and status. If we think of leadership in this way, then we’re all leading every day of our lives.

We might be leading our partners in a relationship; we might be leading our children as parents; we might be leading our teams or our customers; we might be salespeople leading our prospects. Any time we try to influence other people, we are drawing on our leadership skills. And the better we are at leadership, the better we’re able to use those skills.

Anybody who has raised children knows that soon after they’re born, children are quite capable of influencing the way we feel and the way we think—our thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, and choices. While leadership is something we innately have, we also need to develop it throughout the course of our lives.

Just as we go to the gym to develop muscles that are already there, in the case of leadership development, we are developing a capacity that is already there. We want to get stronger, better, and become more effective. In leadership development, we work on the innermost parts of our being, because effective leadership is not about developing a box of tricks and a set of skills—it is about finding the greatness within us and learning how to project that greatness and use it to influence, inspire, and uplift other people.

As we develop our leadership skills and go deeper into understanding ourselves—knowing and understanding the greatness that within us—we strengthen the leadership capacity with which we are born. And in doing so, we are able to uplift the lives of others and enable their success.