There is this persistent stereotype of a born leader: A charismatic, assertive, usually white, male individual who dominates the stage. But in today's world, is this really the only representation of a leader? Does our DNA determine our ability to lead, or can leadership be learned?
Over the years, the notion of what constitutes a good leader has shifted dramatically. The traditional image of the leader exerting hierarchical control is gradually giving way to a more human-oriented model, reflecting an expanded understanding of leadership traits and skills. However, recent discoveries in neuroscience and biology suggest that certain leadership traits, like risk-taking, extroversion, and confidence, are at least 50% genetically predetermined. Does that mean those more introverted, less confident, and less risk-taking among us are automatically excluded from the leadership spectrum? Absolutely not!
The Power of Diversity
Consensus and scientific evidence have shown that diverse personalities, perspectives, and leadership styles lead to better results and higher profits in organizations. Just as leadership is not tied to a particular position or role, we are not determined solely by our genes to be leaders or not. As much as 50% of who we are is shaped by our experiences and actions, implying that leadership can be cultivated and nurtured, not just inherited.
Leadership: A Learned Skill
Just as we can learn a new language through continuous study and practice, leadership skills can be developed over time. Regardless of one's natural gift for leadership, the level of leadership proficiency achieved is directly proportional to the amount of effort and the length of time invested in learning and growth.
The Human Element
A leader's role is often associated with execution, setting performance goals, and optimizing operational processes. However, the human element should not be overlooked. A leader interacts with people and inevitably brings their own baggage into these interactions, including insecurities, beliefs, tendencies, values, and past experiences. The leader's capacity to grow and to tackle personal inadequacies will define the success of their leadership journey.
Like it or not: Leadership is a constant process of inner work and maturation. It involves the willingness to confront all aspects of ourselves — the good, the bad, and the ugly. The practice of leadership gently forces us to face these facets of ourselves, encouraging personal growth, healing from old wounds, and discovering our true identity.
In conclusion, being a great leader is not a question of genetics. With conscious effort, anyone, regardless of their gender or background, can develop and hone leadership skills. We all possess unique leadership styles, approaches, and gifts which are an integral part of our individuality. In our diverse world, we need this multiplicity of leadership styles because each unique leadership perspective offers different strategies and solutions, fostering a culture of innovation and creativity. So, let’s remember, leadership is not about fitting into a pre-determined mold, but rather about uncovering and cultivating the leader within you.