With any debate over whether certain traits are the result of nature or nurture. There are almost endless answers to the question ‘Is leadership a skill?’. While there are good arguments and plenty of supporting evidence on each side, there is, unfortunately, no clear cut winner. It seems in this case that a combination of both inherent ability and training. These are the best way to become a successful leader.
What traits make a good leader?
The depth to which leadership has been studied means that there is plenty of conflicting data out there. Fortunately, it also means that we have a relatively clear idea. Especially, of what traits come together to make an effective leader. According to a variety of studies, individuals who possess the following eight traits are most suited to leadership:
- High energy levels – both physical stamina and the ability to remain motivated
- Tolerant of stress – the ability to manage and work under pressure
- Internal focus of control orientation – proactiveness, discipline and the tendency to take responsibility for one’s own actions
- Emotional maturity – an orientation towards self-awareness and self-improvement
- Personal integrity – strong moral values and behaviour that is aligned with these
- Socialised power motivation – a desire to hold a position of authority
- Moderately high achievement orientation – the drive to achieve goals
- Moderately high self-confidence. Having good evaluation of their own worth or value. Driving individuals to set challenging objectives for themselves and be receptive to feedback
- Moderately low need for affiliation – the ability to build personal relationships but not rely on social validation
Is leadership a skill? And can it be learnt?
Leadership is difficult to define, and its equally as difficult to teach. However, many industrial and organisational psychologists agree that the traits that make a good leader can indeed be developed. According to Harvard Business School Professor of Leadership Emeritus John Kotter, leadership has little do to with innate traits. Everything that is required to lead can be learnt.
Famed management consultant Peter Drucker works helping to lay the foundations of the modern corporation. He also believes that personality is a minor factor in determining whether someone will be a good leader. According to his studies, there are massive variances in the personalities, values and personal strengths of effective leaders.
Factors that leads them to become good leaders is their self-discipline (internal focus of control orientation). Also, dedication to practise (achievement orientation). These two personality traits, he says, are the characteristics that are needed to gain the knowledge. Such is the knowledge you need to make great decisions and achieve success. They can also, both be acquired.
The debate over whether leadership is a skill that anyone can learn or whether it is an innate ability that only some are born with rages on. There are various studies that give those of us who aren’t necessarily ‘natural’ leaders hope. While various personality traits have been highlighted as creating great leadership potential. Moreover, there are signs that leadership has little to do with personality. Self-discipline and dedication to your craft are far more important that being naturally energetic or friendly.