Are Leaders Born or Made?

Table of Content

1**Leadership itself, has been accompanied throughout time, by numerous theories, all claiming to answer the question, Are leaders born or made? Those who accept the verdict, that leaders are born and not made, maintain,

“… that there are certain inborn qualities such as initiative, courage, intelligence and humour, which altogether pre-destine a man to be a leader … the essential pattern is given at birth”

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

Two leadership theories which concentrate on this point, are the Great man/great woman and theTrait theories. The great man/great woman theory, accordingly to Wrightsman, involves its followers believing that major events, both nationally and internationally, are influenced by those persons in power.

“A sudden act by a great man could, according to this theory, change the fate of the nation”

The trait theory expands further on this conjecture, by concentrating on the personal characteristics of the leader. The theory, which until the mid-1940s formed the basis of most leadership research, cited traits believed to be characteristic of leaders, the list of which grew in length over the years, to include all manner of physical, personality and cognitive factors, including height, intelligence and communication skills. However, few traits emerged to conclusively differentiate leaders from non-leaders. The traits an individual has may, increase the probability that a person will become a leader, though whether such leadership is guaranteed, is uncertain. Nevertheless, it can be seen to be true that some people are more likely than others to assume leadership positions.

“The research on trait theories of leadership has shown that many other factors are important in determining leader success, and that not everyone who possesses these traits will be a leader”

2)*As interest in the trait approach to leadership declined, researchers focussed their attention on the leader’s actions rather than their attributes, which led to the emergence of the behaviourist theories. The most widely publicised exponent of this approach was Robert Blake and Jane Mouton’s Managerial Grid, which attempted to explain that there was one best style of leadership, by various combinations of two factors regarding a concern for production and people. Five leadership styles were determined from this research, of which one, the team management style was deemed as preferable.

3)*Due to the disillusionment with the fore-mentioned trait theory, the situational approach arose, which suggested that the traits required of a leader differed, according to varying situations. The situational approach, which predominated in the 1950s, held that whether a given person became a leader of a group, had nothing to do with his/her personality, but had everything to do with such factors as the flow of events and circumstances surrounding a group. To put it simply, the leader was a person who was in the right place at the right time.

“Rather than a great man causing a great event to happen, the situational approach claims that great events are the product of historical forces that are gong to happen whether specific leaders are present or not ”

Unfortunately, this theory still didnât answer, why one member of a group emerged as the leader, rather than another, or why one particular leader proved to be a better leader in some situations than another.

4)* The emergence of a related theory, the interactionist approach, attempted to explain the existing anomalies.

The interactionist theory, proposed that both the characteristics of the individual, and the situation in which the group found itself, accounted for whom would become the leader. Resulting from this theory, was the view that leaders are both born and made, due to the leader requiring certain abilities and skill, but as the situation and the needs of the group changed, so too the person acceptable as leader changed.

5)*Fiedler’s contingency theory of leadership effectiveness, was one theory which evolved from this interactionist approach. It related the effectiveness of the leader, to aspects of the situation in which the group operated, suggesting that factors such as the task structure, the leaders personal relations with the group and his/her power basis, interact to determine what style of leadership would be effective for the situation, ie a task-oriented or group-oriented approach.

“At one extreme, is the leader who values successful interpersonal relations to the exclusion of task accomplishment. The leader at the other extreme, places the highest value on task accomplishment, at the expense of interpersonal relations”

To determine whether a leader was task-oriented or group-oriented, Fiedler devised a model, which used as its basis, the measurement of a leader’s perceptions and relations to the least preferred co-worker (LPC), with whom he/she has ever worked with. Those with a high score, were deemed group-oriented, while those with a low score, were task-oriented. Fiedler’s research concluded, that a task-orientedapproach was more effective when conditions were either highly favourable (good leader/group relations, strong leadership position and a clear task structure) or, highly unfavourable (poor leader/group relations, weak leadership position and an ambiguous task) A group-oriented approach, was deemed as preferable, when conditions were comparatively stable, so more attention is paid to the preservation of group relationships, to starve off conflict and inefficiency which could eventuate from any disharmony in the group setting.

From this research, we can discern(farketmek,ayýrt etmek) , that there are no necessarily good or bad leadership styles, but their effectiveness depends on how appropriate they are to the group situation. However, Fiedler’s theory had its critics, who questioned its use of a model to measure leadership style and situational favourability, and emphasised, and emphasised its inconclusiveness.

Still, Fiedler’s theory was not the only interactionist theory circulating during the time period concerned, although, each differed slightly in their prime objectives.

6)*Robert House’s path-goal theory proposed a leader ‘s effectiveness was based on a leader’s ability to raise satisfaction and motivation in group members, by use of an incentive scheme to reward or punish those responsible for success or failure in reaching group objectives. In order to accomplish these goals, a leader would be required to adopt differing styles of leadership behavior as the situation dictated.

7)*Varying, but related to this view, is Vroom and Yetton’s normative theory, which focussed on the degree of participation, a leader should allow, in making any given decision, and the selection of an approach which would maximise benefits, and a t the same time, minimise potential obstacles to the groups goals.

An examination of the relationship between leaders and group members, and how different kinds of relationships develop with different individuals, was the main concern of yet another interactionist theory, the verticle dyad linkage theory. Such factors as age, experience and knowledge of the task, can affect a memberâs standing with the leader; ie an older experienced worker with extensive knowledge of a task would be able to work largely unsupervised, whilst, a relatively inexperienced worker, would require a higher degree of supervision.

*****From a review of leadership theories, it is obvious, that there are no best leadership styles. Leaders, are rarely totally group or task-oriented; group members and the situation itself, all influence a leaders effectiveness. The leader needs to be aware of his own behaviour and influence on others, individual differences of group members, group characteristics, task structure, environmental and situational variables, and adjust his leadership style accordingly. Leadership needs to be adaptive.


Cite this page

Are Leaders Born or Made?. (2018, Jul 05). Retrieved from

Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront