Are leaders born or made?

Question: Are the best leaders born or made?

Tom Stewart: I think they’re made.  And actually, Jeff Sonenfeld who’s at Yale has done some very interesting research about the attitudes of leaders who have flamed out in often morally reprehensible ways.  And they tend to believe that leaders are born.  They tend to believe that … that … that leadership is a right.  That they have been endowed by their creator with certain exceptional abilities, and that therefore you and I should shut up and follow.  You know, clearly there are important attributes of anything that are inherited.  And clearly, for example, some people …  I mean emotional intelligence, empathy, things like this are important things that leaders have.  And some of it comes from your parenting.  And, you know, some of it, I think, is innate.  But whatever your endowment in these areas is, I think people can get better at it.  And certainly there are, you know, people who rise to leadership occasions who are entirely … entirely unexpectedly.  I do think that the most important aspects of this are … are … are things that you … that you can teach yourself or be taught by life to … to obtain.

Recorded on: 6/22/07

The worst leaders are those with attitudes of natural superiority.

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