Leadership Traits: Born or Made?

Yes! Is the answer. Some leadership traits are born and some made and remade.

Ever wonder why some leaders are:

  • Great at relationships but don’t hold people accountable?
  • Can’t make a decision because heart and head don’t agree?
  • Are perceived as cold and unapproachable?
  • Seem to naturally engage people?

The current brain science research addresses all of those issues and more. It enlightens why those issues recur and how to understand what to do about them. The very biological structure of our brain is the source of those dilemmas.

While most people tend to be stronger in one side of their brain or the other, next generation leaders must learn to use both sides for optimum problem solving and people solving. In addition:

  • Spindle cells may be the secret of the speed of social interaction
  • Mirror neurons establish the biological need for leaders to model behavior. Mirror neurons dispose people to copy behavior. Followers copy leaders. The message for leaders is: you get what you do
  • Neuroplasticity gives us a brain designed to change in response to experience. Humans, to varying degrees, are learning machines. Choose what you learn.
  • The greatest predictor of leadership success is EQ? IQ? Personality? Behavioral traits? Are you sure about your answer?

Leadership Traits: It's the "And"

While "either or" continues to be the focus of opinion and large consulting fees from self-proclaimed gurus, "and" is the correct answer. Leaders are born and made. Based on science, rather than entertaining debate, here is leadership plain talk.

  • EQ and IQ matter about equally. While EQ is the darling of the HR world, IQ still matters and generally we do expect the leaders to be a few steps ahead which translates into a fairly predictable 10 IQ points above the average of the workgroup.
  • Leadership behavior can be learned and therefore leadership development matters
  • The comfort level leaders will have with various behaviors differs and does the ability to execute on the behaviors. Regardless, behaviors can be learned.
  • Leaders do well to understand their strengths, learn how to use their strengths appropriately in the situation and to mitigate behaviors they dislike and perform only adequately.
  • Leaders who focus on doing more of what they do well often discover that the best way to mitigate what they don't do well is hire people for whom that is a strength.

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