This easy will review four concepts of theories of leadership from organisational contexts and access the perceived statement that “Leaders are born not made”. It has been argued that leaders are born with traits and are not made. This means that the culture, the environment, and the people leaders lived with had nothing to contribute to their leadership. It should however be noted that the Great Man and the Traits theories that share the view that leaders are born but not made are contested against the leaders are made theories of Behavioural and Contingency theories.
There are so many definitions associated with leadership. Leadership has no fixed meaning. Pardey (2007) defines leadership as the ability to inspire fellowship, bring about change, make decision, provide direction, and that this skills and qualities can be developed. In the olden days of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, leadership was related to the military but not with the organisation. Braveness and the ability to take initiative were considered as leadership in the military. According to Bennis, W. (2007)
Leadership can be understood in relation to the position in which it is discharged.
Organisations require a leader as it is an integral part of an organisations management. Leadership is seen in organisations such as families, political Institutions, businesses, military, academic institutions, religious bodies, entertainment and sports. The four theories of leadership selected out of various theories will be reviewed with some examples from organisational contexts in relation to the statement that “Leaders are born not made”. These theories include the Great man theory, the Traits theory, the Contingency theory and the Behavioural theory.
The Great man theory assumes that leaders are born and not made. It also believes that great leaders will come out from the society to solve a particular problem which the society is facing within a particular time. This theory was based on the study of people who had already attained great leadership. Examples of these Great men include Jesus, Moses, Mohammed and the Buddah.
One advantage of the Great man theory is that it had been able to identify some of the Great leaders in the olden days. However, gender issues were not discussed under the great man theory and women were hardly given the opportunity to assume these roles. The theory could also not mention some great leaders in modern day corporate organisation.
In my view, the great man theory did not consider the olden day's great leaders like Jesus from their childhood. This prevented the theory from identifying the influence the environment, the culture and the people had on the development of these Great leaders from their youthful days. From this, the statement that” Leaders are born not made” is not wholly true.
Again, the trait theory also states that people are born with inherited talents. It also assumes that these talents are particularly suited to leadership. The theory relates good leadership to people who have the right combination of natural traits and talents. Stogdill (1974) also states the following traits and skills in relation to leadership under traits as ability to change to suit certain situations, aware of the culture needs of the society , achievement-oriented , ambitious, assertive, team player, decisive, reliable, desire to influence his followers, energetic ,persistent, self-confident, stress tolerant and willingness to assume responsibility. He also mentioned skills such as knowledgeable and intelligent, creative, conceptually skilled, diplomatic, fluent in speaking and tactful, intelligent about group task, administrative ability, persuasive and socially skilled.
Another contributor to the trait theory, Jago (1982) states leader traits under groupings as physical and constitutional factors, personality characteristics, social characteristics, skills and ability. Again, the traits can be classified as trait-like and state-like attributes. The trait-like refers to Galton's idea of inherited, genetic traits. Zaccaro (2007) adds that, state-like traits are more skilled traits and can be developed and adapted to various circumstances.
The contingency theory talks about the concepts and the frameworks that are able to take into account both differences in leaders and differences in situations. Here, there is no one best way to lead. For example, the leader consults the followers if there is enough time available and commands his followers if they are difficult to be controlled or there is an emergency. Contingency theory assumes that the leader's ability to lead is based on various situational factors including their preferred styles, capabilities and attitude of their followers. Avery (2004) also argues that leader's behaviour, styles and actions may change to suit the demands of the situation at hand.
Behavioural theory is one of the theories under leadership that assumes that leaders can be made, but are not born. It also adds that successful leadership are based on definable and learnable behaviour.
This leadership theory does not seek inborn traits or capabilities. Instead, they look at what leaders actually do. Jago (1982) puts it that frequency of processes, activities and behaviours leads to effectiveness of leadership.
The Great man theory assumes that leaders are born and not made as it argues that Great leaders will rise when there is the need for a leader. There is always a time when the relentless need for a leader can be seen within a particular situation. Leaders such as Jesus Christ of Nazareth and Sampson are leaders who came about when there was a need for a leader. When God wanted to reconcile with man, he had to give away his son who will lead and will be the only way man can find himself with God again. Jesus Christ was born into the world to lead and teach Christians the right way to get to God. Matthew 1:17-25. Sampson on the other had to be born into the world to save the Israelites from the Philistines when God forgave them their sins and wanted to deliver them from the hands of their enemies. Judges 13: 1-24.
It can be seen here from both stories from the Bible that there was a need for a leader to deliver a group of people or organisation from some form of crisis and leaders had to be born to solve the problem at hand. These leaders had what it takes to perform the task ahead of them because they were actually born to be the right tool for the right job. The leaders however came when the need for a leader was triggered. From this perspective of viewing leadership is seen in this context, one can say leaders are born not made.
Trait theory's perception about leadership is quiet exceptional. It views leaders as People who inherited leadership traits and based on the fact that the people they succeeded were leaders, and as such, they will also be good leaders because they posses traits of previous leaders. The question to be asked here is with respect to how this theory sees leadership is whose traits did the very first leader inherit? In the kingship of Saudi Arabia for instance, Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud) was the first king and was succeeded by King Saud who was also succeeded by King Faisal and all other kings who were crowned king in Saudi Arabia were made kings because they inherited the kingship with the traits of their fathers. The Saudi kingship is based on the traits theory and traits are inherited.
Another leader who sprang up in the history of the United States of America was George W. Bush, who became the leader base on the ideologies behind the traits theory. Although it's a political arena, he was voted into power because of the successful reign of his father George W. H. Bush. It was assumes his term will be as successful as that of his father.
In my view, the basis upon which leadership came about in this context is quiet unsatisfactory because, If George W. Bush, the recent Ex President of the United States of America succeeded his father, George H.W. Bush and King Saud inherited the kingship of his father Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud) then the traits theory needs to be amended because whose traits did George H.W. Bush and Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud) inherit?. The traits theory stands on the view of leaders are born, because they are born with traits inherited from their successors.
Behavioural theory assumes that leaders are made, rather than are born. It also adds that successful leadership are based on definable and learnable behaviour. This means that leaders are made through a learning process and followers are aspired by their leaders. It also sees leaders as people with exceptional qualities, characteristics and behaviours. Once and individual is able to exhibit qualities of leadership, they are seen as leaders even if there is no particular need for a leader.
In sports people like Tiger Woods, Usain Bolt, Mohammed Ali and Valentino Rosi have successfully proved to be leaders in their various sectors of play. In the entertainment world, Michael Jackson and Madonna became leaders by exhibiting behavioural traits that influenced the music and dance industry today. In politics Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and President Barrack Obama have exhibited exceptional qualities that lead to their ability to lead their followers.
The contingency theory is not too different from the Great Man theories in my view but differs in the sense that the leaders are made and not born. It goes ahead by taking into account both differences in leaders and differences in situations that trigger the need for a leader. Here, there is no one best way to lead. The leader consults the followers if there is enough time available and commands his followers if they are difficult to be controlled or there is an emergency. The contingency theory type of leadership, focus on situation at hand, other than the leader himself. It assumes a leader can be successful in an area and may not be successful in other areas.
Yaa Asantewaa and Dr Kwame Nkrumah can be seen as leaders who fall under the contingency theory of leadership. Yaa Asantewaa was the Queen Mother of Ejisu, a traditional community within the Ashanti Kingdom. After the British concurred the Ashanti in 1873. Ashanti became a part of the British colony after they were unable to prevent European colonisation. The British concurred, sacked Kumasi and confiscated the wealth of the Ashanti's including its artistic treasures and wanted the Golden Stool which is the symbol and unity of the Ashanti Kingdom. Yaa Asantewaa was bold enough to lead the warriors of the Ashanti kingdom who were willing and able to fight the British to protect the identity of the Kingdom to prevent a series of unfortunate events that could lead to the fall of the Ashanti Kingdom.
Dr Kwame Nkrumah on the other hand was made a leader after several attempts to gain independence after soldiers of the Ghana, then the Gold Coast had been sent to Burma on a peace keeping and realised the need to have independence and self governance. Dr Kwame Nkrumah was called upon to lead the Gold Coast to independence. He formed a political party called the Conventions People's Party (CPP) and led the people of Gold Coast to fight for independence. With the above mentioned leaders, there was a situation at hand that called for the existence of a leader. This leadership theory is commonly seen in situations where people wanted to fight for their rights.
In conclusion, I will like to say that I do not stand for or against the notion that “leaders are born not made” but will say that leaders can be born or made. To a further extent of being made, even leaders who are born have to be made leaders through training to developing traits that have been inherited. Leaders without leadership traits who become leaders based on the need for a leader will also have to go through the same development cycle involving the people around him, the culture and the environment in which he lives to become successful leaders. However, a leader may not be able to succeed in all aspects of life as he is in a particular field which happens to be his domain.
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