Are Leaders Born or Made?

For as long as I can remember, there’s been a debate about whether entrepreneurs are born or made. Are the traits of tenacity, vision, optimism, and coping with ambiguity innate? Or can one acquire them over time?

Interestingly, I rarely hear a similar discussion about leadership, much less a debate. But I’m going to guess that, like entrepreneurship, there are many people out there who think that leaders are born not made.

I disagree, and here’s why.

  1. It’s well-accepted that empathy is the core attribute of successful leadership.
  2. Empathy is a key component of emotional intelligence (EQ), defined as “the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups.”
  3. Daniel Goleman, the “godfather” of EQ, has long argued (based on scientific evidence) that emotional intelligence can be learned or acquired over time.
  4. If EQ can be acquired, so can empathy. Therefore, one can learn the core attribute of being a successful leader.

Of course, that in itself does not make one a successful leader. But it does cause me to believe that leaders can be made…just like entrepreneurs.


  1. Jan Dean

    And that, your last words are the keys to your answer. Using Aspergers syndrome as an example, the degree to which humans can empathize varies per individual. One answer does not fit all.

  2. Pingback: Recap of Posts from May 2012 | ramanations

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