Suzanna Kirk

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LeadershipIs a Learned Behavior, Not an Inborn Trait

Variousemerging challenges have compelled organizations to start thinking ofstrategies to sustain their productivity. For instance, businessesare experiencing productivity problems amidst growing marketuncertainties, characterized by increased competition, shiftingconsumer demands, increasing regulations, financial downturns and adynamic human resource, which firms must consider. This scenario haselicited the question of just how the players can address theseissues. While several suggestions have been made, nurturingleadership is perhaps the most advocated strategy. Indeed, success ofthe institutions overly relies on leadership, and that firms that donot heed by cultivating it are doomed to fail. However, the broadacknowledgment of leadership as a critical success factor has onlyaroused discussions on just how companies can successfully achievedesirable leadership. Two competing views have characterized theissue. On one hand, it is asserted that that leadership is inborn andthat organizations can do better to seek and hire people endowed withthe talent. On the contrary is the competing notion that leadershipis learned, and that companies should focus on training anddevelopment to nurture it. Thus, the question of intrigue is whetherleadership is nurtured or inborn. True leaders are not always bornbut taught — they will typically take the initiative of “teaching”themselves through observation, reflection, and planning.

First,the discussions of how people become successful leaders aredocumented and mainly highlight three critical processes:observation, reflection, and planning. [email protected] (23) discusses,observation entails examining, experiencing, and taking note of whatcould work or fail. In essence, observation creates the allowance forone to gain knowledge by adopting only what works. For instance,through observation, one may learn the coercive may not be as usefulfor mobilizing the workforce as motivation techniques. There, basedon this experience, one proceeds to embrace the motivationtechniques, thereby becoming a real leader. Reflection involveslooking back to one’s courses of action. Ideally, this processcreates the allowance to question whether a mission would have beenaccomplishedbest using alternative or the adopted approaches (Kets,Manfred, and Elisabet 45). Reflection usually generates questions andanswers on what if certain courses of actions had to be taken. As anideal example of reflection process, a leader stops to contemplate onwhat could have gone wrong to result in a project failure. Suchthinking consequently goes a long way in enabling one to gain newinsights to apply to future problem scenarios. Lastly, planninginvolves detailing strategies to address tasks (Rajbhandar, Man,Singh, and Rajbhandar 3). The skills in planning mainly setapart theabilities of one individual from the other, while the extent of howone’s plan resonates with the group’s desired goals presents himas the most excellent leader. These leaders tend to be highlyfocused, driven by the plans and the strategies they have set for theentire team’s mission. It also occurs that even that planning andstrategizing skill are learned, rather than inborn (Rajbhandar, Man,Singh, and Rajbhandar 3).

Secondly,the skill of leadership is influenced by the intervening environment.Indeed, as Olson asserts, many leaders are born amid challenges andadversity that compels to assume the role of leadership, in theattempt of address them (Olson 1). In other words, this point of viewcreates the allowance to argue that if leadership were an inborntrait, then people would just be leaders without necessarily havingto be influenced by the social environment. This idea lends itself asa plausible one because even exemplary leaders tend to be suited toonly certain problematic scenarios. For example, a person born duringthe community conflicts may turn out to be a good leader in solvingthe squabbles, expediting the necessary conflict resolution skills.Similarly, only a person born during the time of technologyadvancements will likely to be equipped with technical skills thatcould make him an exemplary leader in the field. Moreover, only anindividual who has been brought up in the time of social approval ofdemocratic government will likely to possess democratic skills. Inall the cases, the capability to develop the leadership skills restson the capacity of the environment to provide opportunities forobserving, reflecting, and mastering the art of planning to addressthe challenges and adversity (Kets, Manfred, and Elisabet45). In thisregard, leaders arguably have different timelines and areas that suitthem.

Nevertheless, environmental factors do notexclusively determine the extent that one to become a good leader.Indeed, this view is supported by Hughes,Robert, and Gordon, whoassert that if environmental factors were the only key determinantsof leadership traits, then one would expect all the individualsraised under the same conditions to exhibit more or less the sameleadership achievements. However, this is not always the case.Otherwise, the authors presuppose that, for such differences tooccur, there must be one confounding factor that serves as an impetus(Hughes, Robert, and Gordon 56).Dale acknowledges this view andconcurs on the possibility of genetic factors to be influential, butdo not override the role of environmental factors. It has beensuggested that the degree by which genetic factors could influenceleadership traits in an individual in only way less than 30 percent(Dale 78). The genetic factors only tend to be asignificantfactor inaccounting for differences in leadership outcomes among people raisedin the same conditions.

Leadership potential is mediated by threefactors largely influenced by the intervening social environment:knowledge, integrity, and commitment. Leaders need to be endowed withknowledge about task environment to be able to function effectively.In this case, Knowledge refers to having awareness, understanding, orfamiliarity of an issue, and achievable through experience, learning,perceiving, or education (Hughes,Robert and Gordon 134). Knowledgemay be practical or theoretical, and encompasses complex cognitiveprocesses such as reasoning, communicating and perceiving.

Secondly, leaders also need to have integritypotential. According to Olson (7), integrity is seen as a trait thatreflects honesty and desirable moral standards. Integrity is apersonal choice that an individual makes to follow moral and ethicalrequirements, which is synonymous with truthfulness. In this regard,a leader will be said to have acted with integrity if he exhibitsinternal consistencies to cling to ethical ideals as the guidingvirtues, and which enables them to shun from engaging in thepractices that amount to conflict of interests.

Commitment is the engagement or involvement intasks or obligations. Leaders are required to be dedicated to grouptasks to enable others to have confidence in them. They need to befully aware of the missions and visions of the group and beparticularly involved in meeting them by leading others. Whilethere are various definitions of leadership, the most concurred viewis that leading is the process of creating followership (Kostanyan34). To create followership, exemplaryleadership is judged by three elements: behaviors, the consequence ofactions and growth. In this case, the aspect of behaviors entailstaking responsibility for the group issues, and empowering people tocreate followership. According to Oehlkeand Wuppermann, leaders are needed tolead by example through practicing what they preach.

Asfar as the impacts of actions are concerned, leaders will bejudgedregarding how they can impart a positive influence on theorganization or teams. Leaders also alignpeople inside and outside the organization with the set mission.They also communicate the vision,mission, and direction frequently and consistently to the employees.Also, they establish informal networksdepending on timing and needs (Kostanyan56). According to Mellorand Barnes, such alignment brings aboutthe unity that encourages cohesion and unity.According to Mellor and Barnes, leaders also create and sustain anorganizational culture. They dealin coordination and division of work,for instance, organizing of work and recruiting staffs, delegatingresponsibility and authority and implementingthe vision. They motivateand inspire employees to work. This type of motivation includescommunicating a vision that aligns with people’s values, involvingindividuals in decision making, supporting efforts, and recognizingemployees’ successes. They energize employees to overcome barriersto change. Leaders participate incontrolling processes and solve problemsto make work efficiently and efficiently. They ensure that everythingis working smoothly based on time, budget, and set quality. They alsomonitor results, while guiding people based on influence and the ideaof persuasion (Mellor and Barnes 43).

Lastly, the aspect of growth is informed by thenotion that the work environment is always changing and leaders needto be involved in growth and development process, which is consideredas a way of increasing the capacity to keep abreast the emergingissues. The roles of leaders have been widely discussed. Forinstance, leadership plays a crucial role in supporting organizationsto realize their goals, setting itself apart from management. Leadersset the overall direction of an organization and create the vision.They also develop strategies, for instance, ensuring that the generaldirection the team takes is realistic.Leaders play the managerial role of planning. Thus, they ensure thatresources are allocated efficiently to achieve the organizationalgoals, ensuring that the resources are also within the budget (Oehlkeand Wuppermann 78).

The factthat leadership skills are acquired means that organizations cannurture the skills through training programs. The training processwill need to be tailored towards psychological, sociological, anddesirable leadership competencies. The significance of thepsychological aspect follows that leaders often deal with humansubjects who have mental demands. One of the interest of contemporaryleaders is how they could motivate employees, especially in thecurrent workplaces where rewards are not an option, and staffis underpressure to deliver desirable results. Motivation in the contemporaryorganization is also challenging because of different priorities andmindsets of various organization administrations. Furthermore,different motivational issues are also a common problem with thedifferent workplace environments, and this includes poorly definedjobs that make it difficult for employees to focus. Employees insmall organizations feel being disconnected with the vast world andfail to discern the importance of being committed to theorganization, and lack of opportunities for career advancement. Thework environment is characterized by work-life conflicts that makeemployees be stressed with work and fail to give their best. Indeed,Kempster has reported that workplace stress is now an epidemic, withas many as 65 percent of employeesreporting anxiety, stress, and depression, among other indicators ofwork-life imbalance. Some professions have a high prevalence ofwork-related stress and depression than others, for instance,ambulance drivers and teachers are the highly stressed employees(Kempster 112).Many employees have even been observed to quit jobs or seek sickleave because of work-related stress. Severalstudies have further noted incidences of employee stress are risingand are having significant health implications on the wellbeing ofemployees (Dale 43). Leaders need to be trained to deal with thesevarious psychological challenges to command followership and supportproductivity process. Considering motivation is one of the approachesfor stimulating followership and addressing the mental problems,leaders will need to be equipped with knowledge on the motivationalstrategies that work best.

Thesociological aspect of training acknowledges that leaders work in anenvironment with different social demands that leaders should beaware. Notable of these requirements is that every society has idealsthat must be respected. Leadership practices align with theseprinciples through ethical behaviors and social responsibilitypractices, which include observing the rule of law, exercisingintegrity, having good morals, and learning how to interact with eachother. Indeed, as Rajbhandar, Man, Singh, and Rajbhandar (2) note,leaders command followership by exhibiting ethical behaviors andresponsibilities.

Trainingcould focus on various outstanding competencies that define exemplaryleadership, which include social intelligence,interpersonal/emotional skills, courage, conflict management,political skills, and influence skills. Social intelligence describesthe capability of an individual to get along well with other peoplearound him. The social information attribute aims at minimizingconflicts between the leader and followers, creating anenvironmentfor influence. Interpersonal skills describe the abilities of anindividual to interact or communicate with other people effectively,both at personal and group level. Interpersonal skills are not onlyimportant for personal life but also professional life. Combined withsocial intelligence, interpersonal skills are essential in helpingleaders avoid conflicts with their followers while influencing them.Leadership training could focus on nurturing attributes ofinterpersonal skills such as empathy and sympathy, among others.

Courage is the capacity to face challenges withconfidence, which eventually translates to success. The aspect ofcourage is particularly required to help firms to face risk andleverage competitive advantage. Leaders that do not have courage willshy away from attempting to try new strategies, creating chances tobe overtaken by the competitors. An elaborate training would be thekind that is oriented towards making leaders aware that facingchallenges is part of organization success and seek to encouragefuture leaders to nurture strength to take risks (Oehlke andWuppermann 32). Conflict management involves leading the people,taking precautionary measures to avoid conflicts, and expeditingresolution strategies to deal with already existent conflicts. Theessence of focusing on this aspect hinges on the view that the socialenvironment is characterizing by growing interactions of people fromdifferent backgrounds along dimensions such as gender, sexualorientation, ethnicity, age, religion, and race, which implies thatrelation problems are always expected. Therefore, training leaderswith such skills play a crucial role in avoiding conflicts related todiversity management.

Political skills describe the capacity to move,liaise, or engage a mass of people. This ability requires one to begenuine, straightforward, and sincere. Indeed, as Olson suggests,leaders possessing political skills need to be masters of goodbehaviors be able to network, show sincerity, exhibit socialastuteness and know what, when and how to say to people. Thepolitical expertise is essential to enable leadership engagefollowers and avoid challenges that are typical of organizationmanagement such as strikes and demonstrations (Olson 91). Lastly,influence skill refers to the power to command followers by usinglegitimate forms of authority, without being harsh, coercive, oroppressive. The significance of this strength follows from the viewthat team environments work best under the strategic influence,rather coercion (Kempster 98).

Inconclusion, the focus of this discussion has been on whetherleadership is a learned or an inborn trait. The sensitivity of thesubject comes at the backdrop of the broad acknowledgment of thecritical importance of leadership and growing debates concerning howorganizations can increase the leadership capacity. It has beensuccessful argued that the true leaders are not always but taught —they will always take the initiative of “teaching” themselvesthrough observation, reflection, and planning. Observation entailsexamining, experiencing, and taking note of what could work or fail,creating the allowance for one to gain knowledge by adopting whatworks and. Reflection involves looking back to one’s actions, athinking goes a long way in enabling one to learn new insights toapply to future leadership scenarios. Lastly, planning involvesdetailing strategies to address what the future holds. Leadership isalso nurtured because the intervening environment often mediates it.Many leaders are born amid challenges and adversity that compels toassume the role of leadership. In other words, this point of viewcreates the allowance to argue that if it were an inborn trait, thenpeople would just be leaders without necessarily having to beinfluenced by the intervening environment. Nevertheless,environmental factors do not exclusively determine the extent thatone to become a good leader because not all individuals brought up inthe same environment have same leadership achievements. It has beensuggested that the degree in which genetic factors could influence aperson`s leadership traits is less than 30 percent. Thus, fact thatleadership skills are acquired means that organizations shouldnurture the skills through training programs. The training processwill need to be tailored towards psychological, sociological, anddesirable leadership competencies. Leadership is essentially aprocess of creating followership and judgedby three elements — behaviors, consequence of actions and growth.


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Kostanyan, Anush. &quot10 Principles ofEffective and Authentic Leadership.&quot The Huffington, 18 Aug. 20154. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.

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Dale Farris. &quotToo Many Bosses Too FewLeaders: The Three Essential Principles You Need to Become AnExtraordinary Leader.&quot Library Journal 78th ser. 136.14 (2011):n. pag. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.

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@PsychToday. &quotCan Leadership Be Learned orAre You Born with It?&quot PsychologyToday. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept.2016.

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