Leadership: nature or nurture?

Can good leadership be taught directly or caught by osmosis?

Or are we born with leadership genes?

Or is it a combination of both?

In today’s society we need good leaders. Studies show ‘80% of people do not trust their boss’. A terrible indictment. Eventually employees leave their jobs, where they don’t respect their boss. Good leadership is imperative to employee retention and creating long term organisational success.

Management training companies will endeavour of course to push the belief that everyone can lead, and that deficiencies found can be rectified. Only attribute needed is the desire to lead.

Scientific studies reveal good leaders have the following traits: ambitious, curious, sociable and people of integrity. A high IQ is often accepted as necessary but studies show the correlation is very small < 5% compared to the other traits.

Personality traits effective for leadership are impacted by genetics, which means some are born with a stronger disposition to leadership. Evidently if parents are leaders there is a 24 – 33% chance their offspring will be in leadership positions too. Some say though that openness to education, critical thinking, and developing intellectually can produce leadership qualities as well.

Cambridge University carried out research on this topic calling on a sample of identical & non identical twins to take psychometric tests. Results showed slight variation between the two types but in essence 48 – 59% of leadership traits are passed down through genetics – surprising result!

University College London concluded from their studies, ‘What determines whether an individual occupies a leadership position is the complex product of genetic and environmental influences’ – well put I thought.

In conclusion to this research, I am leaning towards the belief, that good leaders usually have certain personality traits, that are inherited genetically (nature) and observed in others growing up (nurture), and these are further fostered and developed in adulthood through formal education, training, coaching and experience (further nurture).

What have you discovered on this subject?

Hope you have enjoyed the blog

All the best



“My own definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.” – General Montgomery

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