Are leaders born or made?

Are leaders born or made?What do you know about Generation Z? Born in the 1990s, they are beginning to enter the global workforce in greater numbers – and they mean business.

Gen Z arrived into an internet-ruled world, and grew up alongside the first phase of social media. While Generation Y – also known as millennials – were known for their entrepreneurialism, Gen Z are more entrepreneurial and independent than ever.

A large proportion of them want to start their own business, rather than be employees, and most are determined to turn their hobbies into full-time jobs.

In a world where everyone advertises their success on their social networks, they feel pressured to gain professional experience at a young age and they often hop between jobs.

The introduction of smartphones and tablets has made them the first digitally innate generation – and they regularly multitask across five screens. They are high in self-esteem, eager to network, and have an intense interest in new communication technologies.

The question is are you ready for generation Z leadership?

McKinsey & Company, the premier management consultancy firm in the country, were insisting that corporate success today requires a talented mindset. Just as there are naturals in sports, they maintained there are naturals in business.

As the saying goes, some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

Now a new study claims to have proven the theory that great leaders are all born – not made.

Research by a leading military academic claims to have put the debate on whether it is nature or nurture which creates greatness to bed after finding the most effective really are a breed apart, and have brains that are wired differently to most.

The discovery could revolutionise how organisations assess and develop leaders, with brain scans being used to identify those with the ‘leadership gene’ early and train them accordingly.

leadershipIt seems the most successful have more grey matter in places that control decision making and memory, giving them a vital edge when it comes to making the right call.

When Warren Bennis, interviewed great leaders, they all agreed leaders are made, not born, and made more by themselves than by any external means. Bennis concurred: ‘I believe that everyone, of whatever age and circumstance, is capable of self-transformation.’ Not that everyone will become a leader.

In the world we operate within globally we see managers and even CEO’s become bosses, not leaders. They wield power instead of transforming themselves, their workers, and their organisations.​

Management expert Professor Sean Hannah, of Wake Forest University in the United States, said: ‘Once we have confirmed how the brain works in these leaders, we can create an ‘expert’ profileThis profile can help us develop brain training methods to enhance brain functioning in leaders, such as the neurofeedback techniques that have been successfully used with elite athletes, concert musicians, and financial traders. The discovery could revolutionise how organisations assess and develop leaders, with brain scans being used to identify those with the ‘leadership gene.’ The study was published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Applied Psychology.

Leaders who had a more complex sense of their leadership skills and greater neurological complexity were found to be more adaptive and effective leaders in these scenarios.

Prof Hannah, a retired Colonel with 26 years of experience in the U.S. Army, said the results are a step toward finding out how effective and adaptable leaders not only think and act, but how their brains are wired to lead.

So are we ready for the new generation Z to breed their new profound strategy’s of how to manage billion dollar corporations from 5 screens or will leaders continue to be born or made?

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One Reply to “Are leaders born or made?”

  1. Thanks Geoff, interesting and thought provoking.

    A couple of observations.

    Firstly, I agree with your views of the new generation, and would add that in many cases they are fragile, i.e. they have grown up in an era where they could have everything that they wanted. Maybe the older generation could support them in gaining resilience but not seeking to change them.

    Secondly, the research makes a powerful case. What I would add is that we require a new form of leader, one I have heard described as the Anti-Hero ( which references thos eable to operate in complex (read wicked problems or messes) situations (see also the latter stages of the seven stages of leadership from Hartill, ) which seems to indicate a Made position.


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