Leadership: Nature or Nurture?
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Are leaders born or made? According to a study of twins published in the September 2012 issue of The Leadership Quarterly, if your biological parents held leadership positions, you have a 24 percent likelihood to inherit a predisposition to do so as well, indicating that being the offspring of leaders may give you an edge. However, the vast majority of leadership skills are developed through training over time.
"There are some studies that say as much as a third of what it takes to be a good leader is inherited," says Angelo Kinicki, organizational culture expert and professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. However, he says most traits can be improved with environment and training. The bottom line is that the majority of what it takes to be a good leader is not inherited. He counsels entrepreneurs looking to hire people with leadership potential to seek out these skills and attributes, both inherited and enhanced by environment and focus.
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If you're lucky enough to be born into a smart family, you have an edge in this area, Kinicki says. However, emphasis on education, critical thinking and developing intellectually makes all the difference. Ask prospective candidates about their education and how they have sought out new subjects to learn. Look for those who keep up with industry education and also seek out new areas of learning.
It's unclear whether problem-solving ability is inherited, says Kinicki, but it can be greatly developed by early environmental factors like parenting and schooling. Ask questions about the toughest problems the candidate ever solved and look for those who have overcome major challenges. People who have exhibited a combination of problem-solving ability and the resilience necessary to overcome tragedy or major setbacks like the death of a parent or a business failure often make great leaders because of their experience and empathy, he says.
Take Charge Personality.
Factors like extroversion are inherited and strongly correlated with leadership ability, along with sociability. However, introverts can make great leaders, too. The key is to determine the individual's leadership style. Ask for examples of times he or she has been a leader on a project or in the work environment and how he or she motivated and inspired others.
Some people are naturally more reserved and in control than others, but one thing you don't want in a leadership candidate is someone who lacks control, Kinicki says.
"People who can delay immediate gratification for long-term success tend to make the best leaders," he says.
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