Leadership ~ Nature vs. Nurture?

We’ve often heard it debated as to whether leaders are born or developed, which I find to be an interesting conversation. While I do believe that you can be born with certain leadership “characteristics”, that in no way means that you will become a leader. Let’s take for example, the person who has been extremely extroverted and charismatic their entire life, but lacks the vision and discipline necessary to lead. Conversely, there have been many people who have conquered their fear of public speaking or social anxiety or some great tragedy to lead a movement because of how much it meant to them.

One of my favorite leadership mentors, Robin Sharma, defines leadership in a way that I really connected with. He said, “Leadership is really about using the authentic power that resides within you to go out in the world every day and leave things better than you found them. I think that is really the ultimate definition of leadership. No matter what your station is in life, whether you are a taxi driver or a street sweeper or a poet or a CEO or a wildly successful entrepreneur, the best leaders have this ability to always be delivering what I call ABDOV, Always Be Delivering Outrageous Value.”

I believe leadership is something we all possess and can access to varying degrees. Whether you call it leadership, personal potential, authentic power or anything else, it is discovering and actualizing the power and greatness that lies inside of you. It’s about consciously choosing to never play small, because you know that you would not have the dreams you have unless you had the corresponding ability to make those dreams happen!

So whether born with or developed, here are 10 attributes I believe are essential to truly great leadership:

1. Integrity ~ Great leaders have impeccable integrity. They are crystal clear about their core values, and always operate with sound judgment and strength of character. Integrity exists when your inner values and outward actions are aligned. It’s about knowing what your core values are, and then shaping your life around those values. And I do mean YOUR core values, not some perceived expectation that someone else has placed on you. In fact, another gem I once heard Robin Sharma share, is that “the greatest pain a human being can suffer is the gap between who you truly are and who you currently are in the world.” He called it the “integrity gap”, or the gap between your authentic self and the social self that you’ve adopted through the years based on the limiting beliefs, behaviors and assumptions of the world around you. Ultimately, leadership is all about closing that gap.

2. Vision ~ Leaders have the ability to look ahead and see possibility. They have absolute clarity of vision. Yet it’s not enough to just have vision … Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric Co., said, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion.” Great leadership requires masterful communication that is clear, passionate, purposeful and contagious! The vision has to be more than just inspiring, it has to light a fire and inspire a Movement!

3. Self Mastery ~ You must be very clear as to what you intend to create, and then spend time every single day seeing those things as if they have already been fulfilled. Great leaders lock in on that vision every day, and build their mission and action plan accordingly. World class results require daily, purposeful practices that you integrate into your life to serve as your constant reminder of your vision.

For me, it is focusing on things that fuel my body, mind and spirit that allow me to serve on a greater and greater level. Activities such as daily meditation, exercise, yoga, organic and sustainable food, inspirational reading or listening, seminars and choosing to surround myself with like-minded, positive people who are supportive and also actively pursuing great things in their lives.

4. Decisiveness ~ Leaders never suffers from ‘analysis paralysis’. They get the facts, weigh them against one another, and calmly and quickly make sound decision. Leaders are deeply grounded in their core values, and therefore, decisiveness is second nature. Because of their integrity, vision and self-mastery, leaders are not prone to unpredictable actions. Decisiveness is what moves the vision forward, and while there will be times that a leader receives additional information that causes them to change their decision, it is important that their community respects them as someone who typically makes excellent decisions and stands by them.

5. Positive Expectancy ~ Great leaders are optimistic. I wrote a post about The Optimist’s Creed, which embodies the principles that great leaders live by. Leaders always see the glass half-full, because they operate from a place of faith, not fear. Positive Expectancy is all about faith in action! This quote from Brian Tracy highlights what this concept is all about. “Feeling confident and hopeful puts forth an invisible and powerful influence that causes people and situations to work out as planned. When you believe in the likelihood of positive outcomes, your performance will lead to favorable result. Once you believe that it is impossible to fail, you will act in spite of your fears and uncertainties.”

6. Selfless Service ~ Great leaders are not motivated by their own agenda, but the well-being of the collective team, community or group being led. Their joy comes from serving others and raising them up! The new model of leadership is very much about collaboration, and creating a place where people feel heard, supported, guided and safe. Great leaders build communities where people feel respected and cherished, and it is because of the leadership that the tribe trusts that this is a place to grow and prosper.

7. Unwavering Commitment ~ Leaders dedication is simply not questioned, because their vision is so clear and so great. Time and energy are ALWAYS available, and their enthusiasm can move mountains! This insatiable appetite comes from an understanding that they will never “arrive”, and that there is always more work to be done and a bigger difference that can be made. This “unscratchable itch” is what provides the level and quality of focus that is required of great leaders.

8. Adaptability ~ Leaders are great listeners and open to possibility that there could be a better way. They are non-reactive, yet as I mentioned, they know when it’s time to make a decision and can make it! Leaders can adapt to change because they have the keen ability to find openings where others see walls, as well as see opportunity before it arrives. And of course, they always have a team of trusted advisors or mastermind group to call on for opinions, but in the end, it is the leader who makes the final decision, which is then fully supported whether the group actually agrees with it or not.

9. Humility ~ Unfortunately, humility is one of those leadership traits you do not see as frequently as you should. It is often perceived as a weakness when, in fact, it can be a tremendous asset. The humble leader rarely allows the power of their position to cloud their judgment. Leaders give themselves permission to be human! They know not just their strengths but their weaknesses, and understand that they cannot lead an organization in an evolving world without evolving themselves. By recognizing their own imperfections and focusing on their own personal growth, the humble leader creates an environment where others feel comfortable taking chances and making mistakes.

10. Perseverance ~ I wrote a post a while back about the Power of Perseverance, where I shared a great story called “Shake It Off and Step Up”. Leaders possess this capacity! They have the fortitude to overcome any obstacles, perceived or real, because of the strength of their mindset and vision. Leaders understand that failure is part of the process, and use the hardships as lessons on the path to greatness.

So which of these traits do you feel you were born with, and which have you either intentionally cultivated, or know that you’d need to in order to step fully into the leadership necessary to achieve your dreams?

If you’d like, share in the comments, as I’m sure we can create a lively discussion on this topic! And as always, if you’ve benefited from this post, use the buttons at the top to share with you friends and followers on the various social sites.

To the Leader Within You!

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook

85 Responses to “Leadership ~ Nature vs. Nurture?”

  1. Thanks Yasser! I love John C. Maxwell as well….but definitely check Robin Sharma out. He is so grounded and zen about his approach to leadership and life and I think you’d really enjoy him based on what I know about you. :) And while I’m an adrenaline junkie, I’m not the behind the wheel kind (be safe please!), I”m more the jump out of planes and off bridges type. 😉 Ah the thrill of the flight!

    [Reply]

  2. Thanks Cheolsu, glad you found the post helpful and thanks for stopping by!

    [Reply]

  3. Thanks Debi, glad you enjoyed it and glad to hear you’re working at improving and owning your own leadership skills! Keep rockin! :)

    [Reply]

  4. I think you may have missed something. What about resourcefulness?

    You have covered it a bit in adaptability, but it’s more to do with people.

    What about seeing opportunities as they come, rather than planning them out in advance as you say with “vision”?

    [Reply]

    bethallen Reply:

    Hi Michelle ~ I’m sure there are many other great attributes of leadership that I could have added, this was just my top 10. :) But yes, resourcefulness is essential, and I do think it fits in with adaptability. It’s about having creative ways to adjust to a given scenario ~ about using what’s available to you and seeking that which is not so that you can overcome obstacles and best serve and support your tribe. Thanks for your contribution!

    [Reply]

  5. Brandon Wraith 21. Jun, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Hey Beth,

    Although I do believe leadership can be groomed into a person from birth. That does not take away from the fact that you can wire it into your own way of life.

    I myself am becoming more leadership oriented by instilling the 7 habits of highly effective people into my life. It will be quite a journey.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Brandon Wraith
    Knowledge is POWER

    [Reply]

    bethallen Reply:

    Yes, I believe it’s about taking what we are given and committing to become more and better each and every day. The 7 habits are proven to take you far….you are so wise for your age and I’m thrilled to know you as you move along your journey, Brandon! :)

    [Reply]

  6. Hi Beth:

    I believe I was born with #6 Selfless service. I truly love serving people.

    The one that I have had to be more intentional about is #3 self-mastery. With the help of a life coach I have been growing in this area.

    Thanks for this excellent post!
    Kevin

    [Reply]

    bethallen Reply:

    That is an awesome one to be born with, Kevin! We all know that when we operate from a place of service, EVERYTHING in our life becomes more abundant and vibrant. :) Glad to hear you are taking on the self-mastery….I have always worked with coaches for this area as well for the accountablity and fresh perspective. Service and self- mastery….watch out world! :)

    [Reply]

  7. Hi Beth,
    Nice post.I like the traits of a leader you mentioned.I think leaders are not born but there are people who have potential.For me the most important part of a leader is having Man-Management skill and since it is a skill,so this means it can be acquired with practice and experience.

    [Reply]

    bethallen Reply:

    Thanks Shivam. I’m assuming you just mean management skills? not man-management …. that would be an entirely different conversation! 😉 Yes, that is definitely a skill that comes with practice and experience. I do agree that whatever level we are born with these traits innately within us, that does not mean leadership will result. It deifnitely sets a person up for an easier journey to make the difference they desire to make should they accept the role of a leader, but you are right, it is only potential that must be acted upon. Thanks for contributing your thoughts!

    [Reply]

  8. Hi Beth,

    What a beautiful picture of leadership! There were several things I thoroughly appreciated about your post. Among them was the quote that a leader goes out into the world every day to make it better, and does not work simply for self, but for others. Sounds like a calling to me!

    I also love the optimistic trait. We can certainly gain more by being optimistic and grateful, than we can by being pessimistic and driving people away.

    [Reply]

    bethallen Reply:

    Thank you Pastor Sherry! Yes, I love that quote as well, and truly believe great leaders DO act based on a calling bigger than themselves. Absolutely! I also love the optimistic part ~ you should really check out the optimist’s creed I referenced, it’s wonderful. :) Thanks for visiting!

    [Reply]

  9. Beth…totally love this post. I agree people can be nurtured into being leaders. While some may have a little more outgoing personality, like you wrote – they may lack the vision to truly be a leader.

    I also love and will carry with me ABDOV – awesome quick way to come back to the center/core of being authentic. Wow, I have so many other things to say about this post. Your top 10 was awesome and on of the characteristics that I feel is the critical in live and business is Integrity. It is a value I place highly in my life.

    I can’t wait to come back and visit. VaNessa

    [Reply]

    bethallen Reply:

    Awesome, glad to hear it VaNessa! I love what you said about ABDOV ~ it really is a great acronym, almost a mantra of sorts, to say and ground ourselves in the present moment of our authenticity, and we know the more often we operate from that place, the more results and fulfillment we’ll achieve. :) And yes, placing integrity at the center of it all is, in my opinion, where it begins and where it ends. Thanks for stopping by!

    [Reply]

  10. I like the Sharma quote. Anybody… actually EVERYBODY can be a leader.

    It’s not about an elite group of overachievers “leading” everybody else around by the nose. It’s about leaders being leaders by doing all the things you listed here, and then encouraging anybody who wants to duplicate their actions to do the same in their own unique way.

    The ideal is that if everyone’s a leader, we don’t have… or need… followers.

    Thanks for the thoughtful list of leadership qualities, Beth. It’s always helpful to be reminded of the best ways to go about “doing” what it is that makes us all leaders.

    [Reply]

    bethallen Reply:

    Yes, Robin Sharma is an awesome and inspiring man and leader for sure. That’s interesting what you say about not needing followers if everyone’s a leader. I’d love to hear more about your thoughts on that. At first read, I don’t agree. I think everyone can lead, and everyone should also be followers of causes and such they believe in and want to rally to support. I’m glad you enjoyed this list, David, and great to see you again! :)

    [Reply]

  11. Excellent post Beth.

    I too have spent a lot of time in this topic, as have so many who have commented before me.

    Another book that I have found very helpful and inspiring is Dr John Maxwell, “Talent is Never Enough”. In this book he outlines how to maximize your talents and become even better!

    [Reply]

  12. Smashing post Beth,

    I think our own sense of responsibility and holding ourselves accountable has a lot to do with leadership too. The skills of leadership can be learn as with all skills…

    Enjoy the rest of the week, we have beautiful sunshine here… this week I am in England :)

    [Reply]

  13. Great post, Beth! I think that my strongest leadership trait is perseverance. I can stick with things to a fault, but I’ve been a big believer in the adage that it’s better to stick with something too long than not long enough. I think that positive expectancy is definitely my weakest point, but it is one where I have gotten a lot better. Like Stephen Covey reminds us in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, once you learn these, and start to apply them, you have to keep doing it. This way, you will start with a better and better base each time you do, so you will continue to grow.

    [Reply]

  14. Hi Beth,

    Wow, what a comprehensive list! I agree with Peter in that if one were to look at this list from the perspective of starting from scratch, it would seem quite daunting.
    I also believe however, that many of the traits you discuss are developed from youth. That is not to say that we can’t learn to enhance or further develop inherent leadership skills but that it is perhaps more challenging for those who haven’t had the nurture or environment to support them.

    [Reply]

  15. Hi Beth!

    There are so many article about leadership, and your article had great help for me…Thank you for sharing with us…Love to hear more from you…

    [Reply]

  16. Integrity, I think, is the quality in which all leaders should be founded on. We get to acquire this at a very young age. And it’s very hard to adapt this if we grew up with the wrong practices. So in a way, leaders are born. It’s up to the person if he or she decides to develop the other qualities in order to become a true leader.

    [Reply]

  17. Hi Beth
    This is really good information although somewhat daunting. I will have to read it over a few times and then ponder upon your 10 points to see how I measure up. thanks for writing such a good article.

    [Reply]

    bethallen Reply:

    Yes, this can seem daunting, but when you re-read it, think about all the places you already do embody each trait. You might be surprised to see that some you already excel at! And then others might need a little work, and yet others a lot …. but at least you’ll have a clear picture of where you’re at and what you can work on to continue growing as the leader you are. :) Thanks for stopping by Jenna!

    [Reply]

  18. Hi Beth,
    It is very nice and inspiring post on leadership.Thanks for sharing 10 attributes that are essential for great leadership.This post is helpful for many readers/.
    waterpearls´s last blog post ..VisiVite Coupon

    [Reply]

  19. Hi Beth,
    I found your post very informative on leadership and the attributes you have shared are very helpful in achieving good leadership.Thanks for sharing your post with us.
    Pete Goumas´s last blog post ..Puritan Coupon – Review

    [Reply]

  20. Really interesting post, and the nature vs nurture question has always intrigued me not just with respect to leadership but to many other things! I know personally I find it hard to show leadership as I am quite introverted but I shall bear some of these in mind. Btw you haven’t posted for a while hope you post again soon!

    [Reply]

  21. My dad was a natural-born leader. He was the youngest of six children, but all my life he was the person who others looked up to and relied on to get things moving. The only trait he did not have was adaptability, and this actually harmed him in a few circumstances.
    alanc230´s last blog post ..Multiple Streams of Income From a Single Great Idea

    [Reply]

  22. A great leader must have passion. If you don’t have passion for your vision, you need to recreate your vision or reframe your description of your vision so it’s connected to your passion.

    [Reply]

  23. Wow Beth!Totally informative post.I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!!I have bookmarked it already.

    [Reply]

  24. It is the difference between having potential & realising that potential. Many are born with talent and never use it. Yet sheer hard work can lift us above average even though our innate talent may not be so great.

    [Reply]

    bethallen Reply:

    Absolutely, Charlie! Thanks for stopping by. :)

    [Reply]

  25. I believe an attribute one can learn is vision. If you boil this down it is a series of cause and effect relationships. Many of us watch tv and movies so it becomes easier to see how things might develop over time.

    On the other hand, perseverance is an attribute I believe you are born with as you really are not taught this skill in any fashion other than possibly experience. I believe in the end this is an attribute that is engrained.
    David´s last blog post ..The Road to Effective Communication

    [Reply]

    bethallen Reply:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, David! I definitely agree that by experiencing the world, vision is inspired. I’d say the same is true with perserverance. I think when people are moved enough, they will do what it takes to make great things happen. I think all of these traits I talk about regarding leadership can be intentionally cultivated, but I also believe that there is greater ease for some than others based on genetics. Doesn’t mean it’s not possible for those that have to work harder…just means, well, that they have to work harder! 😉

    [Reply]

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

css.phpDisclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”