Are Leaders Born or Made?
The answer to this debate lies in the middle: while some display characteristics of good leaders in their early childhood years, others develop these traits through life experiences. One type isn’t inherently better than the other. In fact, natural-born leaders and leaders born through experience offer valuable lessons in entrepreneurship and beyond.
A person deemed a ‘natural leader’ displays certain traits which can be cultivated into excellent leadership skills, whereas others will have to learn how to incorporate these traits as they step into leadership roles. In this way, they display which personality traits to look out for in a good leader and how to develop them.
9 Characteristics of a Natural Leader:
Hard work is the backbone of success, and this applies to leadership. A natural leader is not only good at what he or she does, but continuously puts forth the effort to do better. As leadership communication expert Narges Nirumvala puts it: “Great leaders are committed to everyday excellence. They put 100% into every task for ultimate success.”
- Courage in the Face of Adversity
Taking on a leadership role entails committing to a load of responsibilities, often in return for little acknowledgement or gratitude. Leaders must tackle challenges head-on, even welcoming them as opportunities for growth. By promoting a positive attitude in the workplace, they inspire their subordinates to adopt the same.
- Generous with Time and Resources
A leader understands the value of the time, effort and resources put into their work. Chris Proulx of Humentum further defines generosity in leadership as ‘the practice of using your organisation as a means of giving freely to the world around you—without expectation of getting anything in return’. Regardless of the scale of giving, a good leader is sincere about their intentions to benefit their workplace and/or community.
- Focused on their Goals
Several studies have shown that successful people know how to stay focused on their long-term goals. The best-selling book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, states that “the key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Hence, a good leader has not only narrowed down their most important goals, but also sharpened their focus on achieving them.
Patience and resilience are essential traits to maintain in a volatile, unpredictable environment, such as the business world. Leaders will have learnt how to nurture these characteristics along with courage, optimism and a single-minded focus on accomplishing their goals.
- Far-sighted in Setting Objectives
Just as successful leaders are focused on achieving their goals, they possess a knack for envisioning what they want to accomplish in the long run. Long-term goals ensure that they and their businesses are set to work for a long period towards a shared vision.
- Empathetic Towards their Teammates
The ability to understand and connect with the people they work with is a hallmark of excellent leadership. An analysis conducted by Daniel Goldman revealed that nearly 90% of success from good leaders was attributable to emotional intelligence over cognitive skills. Empathy enables leaders to tap into their subordinates’ mindsets and helps them utilise their individual strengths for the benefit of the organisation.
- Adept at Conflict Management
A high degree of emotional intelligence is a useful skill in negotiation. When a conflict arises, a leader should be able to see all sides of the argument and use their judgement to provide an appropriate resolution. While it’s impossible to please everyone involved at all times, it’s important for a leader to determine the most reasonable solution for the entire team’s benefit in the long run.
- Set on Self-Improvement
As the adage goes, ‘learning never stops’, even if formal education does. A good leader is the embodiment of this philosophy, as they continuously seek knowledge to grow in their role and, by extension, to grow their business. Whether it’s through higher education or experience in their respective field, a natural leader always knows that self-improvement is an ongoing, lifelong process.
How to Become a Natural Leader:
Looking inwards is the first step in identifying individual strengths and weaknesses. Once done, it is up to the leader to create a plan to nurture their strengths and overcome their shortcomings. It helps to keep this plan as a written blueprint or typed document, so it serves as a reminder of the leader’s goals.
Practice What You Preach
By reading self-help books or listening to TED Talks and podcasts, aspiring leaders can learn from the best in their industries. There is no single route to success, so a learner can choose to emulate one accomplished leader or pick and adapt habits and tips from many.
Find a Mentor
An experienced mentor within the same field or even the same workplace can ease the transition into a leadership role. By shadowing them on the job, mentees can see how their skills can be put to practical use and also note how they can accordingly adopt their mentor’s skill set for their own career path.
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Challenges spark growth. An aspiring leader must embrace them as opportunities to sharpen their skills and gain new ones. They practise their leadership skills by taking the lead in on smaller projects within their organisation and gradually work towards more challenging roles.
Listen to Feedback
A leader must not only take advice from their peers in similar roles, but also from their subordinates. Constructive criticism and feedback fill in the gaps of their knowledge, giving them a wider view of the big picture. This presents another opportunity for growth and to correct mistakes.
While some natural leaders are born, not all of them receive the opportunities and resources to cultivate their skills. With guidance, anyone who aspires to become a leader can grow into one. All it takes is a growth mindset to adopt and nurture the right characteristics.