Is there such a thing as a natural born leader or should leadership be nurtured through mentoring?
It’s no lie that our genetics and past experiences heavily influence our personality and aptitude for certain paths in life – one of those arguably being leadership. Many people think that leadership is something that is solely learnt, however genetic research on fraternal and identical twins has shown that our genetics account for around a 40% difference in the views that we hold surrounding leadership. From our interest in leadership to our potential to lead a team, many of the characteristics and skills necessary are found in our genetic make-up.
Such characteristics and skills include:
- Will power
- A desire to learn
- Good listening
Of course, that is not to say that a predisposition for leadership cannot also be guiding in an individual’s desire to become a leader. in one study, nearly two thirds of a sample of leaders had held an elected or voluntary leadership position early in life, for example as a club president or sports team captain. Of that same sample, 44% had parents who worked as leaders and 14% grew up in a family business. With these statistics in mind, it is hard to dismiss the concept that leadership tendencies are either innate within us or can be learnt and nurtured from a young age.
These early life experiences have been shown to significantly influence a person’s decision to follow a career in leadership later in life – in fact one leader working in a Fortune 500 company cited that her parents’ provision of lessons in how people should be treated moulded her character, perhaps making her more susceptible to an awareness of what makes a strong, fair leader. However, mentorship in later life has also been shown to provide a considerable amount of value when developing leaders – be it in the form of leaders giving mentorship or receiving guidance themselves.
For the mentee, mentoring provides:
- An increased self-confidence
- A chance to take better control of their career
- An awareness of how to speak up and be heard
- Training on how to accept feedback in important areas i.e. communication, change management, leadership skills
- An important networking contact
For the mentor, mentoring provides:
- A chance to ‘give back’
- A reminder to listen actively to others
- A chance to share knowledge – leading to an increased sense of self worth
- A strengthening of their interpersonal skills
Despite all these benefits, research has shown that 77% of millennials at all employment levels would describe their company’s ability to provide leadership development as “weak”. With another study finding that more than twice as many millennials (35%) as boomers (17%) claimed that a lack of mentors or sponsors has been a barrier to their own career success.
Whether or not you believe that leadership is an inherent quality in a person, it pays to nurture any leadership aspirations in order to retain, develop and mould strong leaders within your business. Even if leadership is clearly a key skill of an individual, “[l]eadership and learning are indispensable to each other” (John F. Kennedy).