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Leaders: Are they born or made?

“I am a self-aware leader who is a dedicated continuous work in progress!”


I have to say; I’m not really a royalist, although I did hugely respect the late-Queen as someone who was a dedicated leader and clearly stood by her values and what she believed. 

In the run up to the King’s Coronation, a question many have been asking is; are leaders born or made? 

King Charles was literally born into this leadership role. 

We’ve all heard the saying ‘Born Leader’ - someone who rises to the challenge, is logical, eager to learn, assertive, confident, a problem solver, independent… but, in 2014, scientific studies suggest that leadership is 30% genetic and 70% learned. 

These findings propose that leaders are made, not born. Although we can be born with natural leadership abilities, it is crucial that we learn how to lead well too. 

I believe some people are born with leadership qualities and hey, as an-ex Deputy Head teacher, I often knew the young people who had more natural skills and inclination to lead. However, as someone who is passionate about self-development and knowing that we are all ‘continuous works in progress’ – these findings delighted me! 

So, science shows that leaders are not born, but, the idea of leaders being ‘made’, to me, feels too final, complete – it should never be “I’ve made it as a leader, so, job done!” A leader is never complete, as leadership is a skill to be continually nurtured and I believe good leadership always starts with and comes back to, us!

Many of us often think that leadership is all about having a title; King, Queen, President, Manager, SLT… however, this isn’t the case. It’s not about the title – it’s about YOU! You may even be a leader with out realising it – fancy that! 

A recent Forbes article outlined 8 core leadership traits as:

  • Character
  • Courage
  • Change Agility
  • Charge
  • Consistency
  • ‘Cheerleadership’
  • Charm
  • Compassion

And, I have to say, I agree with all of these. However, I believe that ultimately good leadership starts with self-leadership.  We can’t lead others unless we can lead ourselves. Recognising our strengths and developing our weaker areas.

In my own life, from my early twenties, I was driven to be a leader, but if I’m honest, it wasn’t based on any characteristics or traits, nor did I want to lead or manage people… for me, I was driven by a perceived or psychological need that a leadership role would help me feel more safe and secure – it was about money. I saw becoming a manager or a leader as a way I could make more money and buy a flat! But, when you then step into these positions, especially when you are not prepared, you eventually realise that leadership is actually about you first.  

Over time, I have learnt that good leadership is about being mindful, present and living with purpose – continually reflecting on; how do I want to show up and what are the qualities I think are important?

It’s not about control; it’s about supporting people in different ways. Real leaders know when they need to; pivot, learn, develop, allow someone else to take the spotlight… they know when it’s appropriate to take the lead and when it’s best to take a step back and listen. 

I had to learn so much in my first leadership role and, in truth, I am still continuously learning.  

So, as I enjoy champagne during our Coronation picnic, I will raise my glass and wish The King and the country well hoping that he also sees leadership as a development process. 

I will also raise a glass to us all too… may we all continue to be self-aware leaders who are dedicated ‘continuous works in progress’. 


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