As far back as I can remember, my mother always stressed the importance of being a leader and not a follower. She always suggested that I own every decision that I made, and not simply rely on others to think for me and/or make decisions that will ultimately affect my life, especially if those decisions of others were not conducive to my goals and/or lifestyle. I can honestly say that I have never considered myself to be a follower. The only instances I have gone with the decisions of others is when I had no choice (i.e. – as an employee), or I just harbored feelings of indifference about a particular occurrence.
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When I look at most of my friends who are in leadership positions, either at work, in their community or amongst friends and family, I do recognize similar qualities in each of them. They are go-getters, head strong, driven and self-aware. Though they may seek the counsel of others when needed, they tend to be comfortable in the decisions they make for themselves and others, whether they prove to be wise and effective decisions, or not. Additional characteristics used to describe leaders include: charismatic, energizing, knowledgeable, attractive, and well liked. As there are many terms to describe the traits of leader, I have often wondered if leaders are born or if they are made.
I personally believe leaders are both born that way, and groomed to extend those particular leadership traits.
While matriculating through grade school, high school and college, it was always easy to spot the leaders of the bunch. No matter the type of crowd one chose to associate themselves with during these years of growth, the leaders naturally stood out. Was this because God had poured a little extra confidence onto them, or because their parents started to instill the importance of self-thought and self –discipline at an early age?
According to two independent studies recently published, as it relates to leadership, nature and genetics may be assisting the most with the creation and determination of leaders. Researchers at the University College of London studied 4,000 people to decipher if a gene known as “rs4950” was present in commonly known leaders. The study found that this particular gene was actually found in a surprising number of those who held positions of power or on the supervisory level. Additionally, a study at Wake Forest also determined that leaders display different brain activity in their frontal and prefrontal lobes when compared to those who were not in leadership roles.
Despite the results of these studies suggesting that leaders are born and not made, The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) posed this question to C-level executives of companies in 53 countries. Slightly more than half (53.4%) of the top executives think leaders are made, about a fifth (19.1%) think they are born, and a little more than a quarter (28.5%) think leaders are both born and made. Both groups believe that learning from experience is important for developing leaders. Borns, however, are likely to think that organizations should be selective in who gets developmental opportunities, and offer such opportunities only to those employees judged most likely to benefit from them.
The researchers point out, though, that providing all employees access to developmental experiences, coaching, mentoring, training, and other leadership experiences can improve an organization’s leadership — whether such experiences draw out and boost the natural abilities of Borns or help Mades develop new skills.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.
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