Are people born leaders?

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
  • Sacrifice
  • A desire to learn
  • Good listening
  • Patience
  • Bravery
  • Humility

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).

Zac's Challenges:

Zac’s tech business is growing rapidly. He’s gone from being a developer with a good idea to now overseeing an ever-expanding team. Zac knows that in order for the business to grow successfully, it needs to stay true to its founding values and his staff need to feel valued and engaged. Zac wants to understand if he and his team are on the same page and he needs to do it quickly and cost effectively.

Zac's PCS Solution

Zac decides to use PCS Lite to get a quick temperature check of how his team are performing and what they think about the business. The PCS Lite report quickly surfaces the fact that his team have lost sight of the organisation’s purpose and goals. Zac realises that he needs to improve his on-boarding processes and help orientate the new team members better in the company culture and vision. 6 months later, Zac uses PCS Lite to check his new onboarding process is working; concludes that the growing team are much better aligned to his vision and are generally operating in a more positive working environment.

Annabel's Challenges:

It’s Annabel’s job to help the Partners in the firm manage their clients and ensure they’re consistently adding value. Recently, Annabel has been asked by one of the Partners to find a tool or framework that the consultants can use to benchmark new clients looking for team and leadership improvement programmes. It needs to be cost-effective, established and reputable and able to be branded with the firm’s own logo.

Annabel's PCS Solution

Annabel recommends PCS Pro to the Senior Partners as it provides an objective measurement of team and leadership climate against which the consultants can build performance improvement programmes. PCS has a good track record, academic validation, excellent training and customer service, so she’s confident that it’s the right tool for the firm’s consultants to use.

Sarah's Challenges:

Sarah has to keep across the multiple training and development needs in the organisation and do it within a tight budget. Recently, Sarah’s been asked to design a L&D programme that improves the staff retention rate and helps staff feel more engaged with the changes happening in the organisation, not least the shift to more flexible working.

Sarah's PCS Solution

Sarah uses PCS to measure how different teams across the organisation are performing and look at any patterns which suggest the need for organisation-wide, leader or team training. Sarah notices that all teams and leaders have a low climate score in the Processes segment. Sarah knows that allocating budget in this area will improve performance. She works with the Senior Management Team to review the organisation’s processes as they transition to more flexible working and designs a training programme to support staff in the transition. She’s helped staff to feel supported, acknowledged and engaged which ultimately drives performance. 

Jim's Challenges:

Jim’s client has a team that’s not performing as well other teams in the organisation. The team has a high staff turnover, sickness and the lack of cohesion is impacting the team’s wellbeing and performance. Jim needs to get to the bottom of why this is happening and design effective coaching interventions which can generate tangible results for his client.

Jim's PCS Solution

Jim uses PCS Pro to measure / benchmark how the team and leader are performing across the 6 segments critical to team performance – Goals, Roles, Processes, Adaptability, Connection and Resilience. He can immediately see the disparity in Goals, Processes and Connection between the leader’s perception and those of her team. He uses this information to build a coaching programme designed align team and leader. After 6 months, the team seems to be more settled and productive. Jim remeasures using PCS Pro – the results show the client the effectiveness of his coaching intervention.