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Can Leadership Be Learned?

Reasons for Choosing the Topic

Leadership has been a topic of interest for millennia. A seemingly perennial question keeps occupying the center of these discussions; is leadership an innate or learned skill, like all skills? I chose this topic partly because of its intriguing nature and partly to contribute to the ever-growing body of research on the topic.

Explanation of the Topic Question

Researchers are sharply divided on the issue of leadership. Some fully support its innate nature, while others vehemently disagree, holding that leadership is a skill and can be learned. As a result, researchers have developed several theories of leadership. Two of these theories argue that leadership is innate—that leaders are born. These are the Great man theory and the trait theory of leadership.

The great man theory is illustrated by the infamous statement that the world’s history is nothing more than bibliographic entries of great men. His definition of a leader is someone who stands out from the crowd. The theory gained popularity after several great leaders rose to prominence, including Alexander the great, Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth I. According to the theory, some characteristics are innately endowed upon certain people to distinguish them as leaders (Rogers, 2009). The theory holds that powerful people are deserving by birth. Its central claim is that these traits transcend time and social groups. Great leaders have always had these traits, regardless of time, place, or role. This perspective is also a central idea of the trait theory of leadership.

On the other hand, four of the six major leadership theories hold that leadership can be learned. These include situational, transactional, behavioural and transformational theories of leadership. The behavioral theory looks at leadership as the behavior of leaders. Thus, anyone can copy these behaviors and become a great leader (Brooks & Chapman, 2018). The rest of the theory revolves around this idea, managing human relationships, and rewarding or punishing appropriately to inspire change—as all leaders do.

Presentation of the (Other Author’s) Position

Supporters of the trait and great man theories doggedly support the idea that leradership cannot be learned—that one has to be born a leader or not. These claims are backed by legendary leaders who appear to have been natural leaders, and a growing scientific research into the gene responsible for character traits.

Central Ideas and Problems of the (Other) Author’s Position

According to a study conducted by DeNeve and colleagues, a twins’ shared environment had a 10 percent correlation with leadership role occupancy, while the genetic component had a 24 percent correlation. Twin studies have consistently found that leadership is passed down from generation to generation.

It has been discovered that the rs4950 genetic marker on chromosome 8 is a SNP in the neuronal acetylcholine receptor gene, which is associated with the occupation of a leadership role. Because of the presence of the neuronal acetylcholine receptor gene, there is a link between leadership roles and personality characteristics. Character traits such as self-honesty and tenacity as a professional are emphasized in the book Good to Great as important for leaders at all levels of the organization. They distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack due to the genetics of exceptional leadership.

In practice, it is possible to pinpoint twins who have demonstrated significant leadership abilities. Twins Scott and Mark Kelly, both former captains of the United States Navy and current NASA astronauts, are pioneers in deep space exploration. The Castro brothers, Julian and Joaquin, are identical twins from Texas. While Joaquin is a member of the United States House of Representatives, Julian served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for the United States of America (Boerma et al., 2017). Through twin studies, researchers can better understand how their ancestry influences their leadership characteristics. The inherent leadership qualities of the twins could blossom into full-fledged leaders if they are provided with the necessary support. The evidence shows a consistent positive relationship between certain genetic material (personality traits) and lead. Conclusively, leaders are not made but born.

Introduction of My Position

In my opinion, leaders are made. Leadership is nothing more than a skill, and therefore it can be learned if only the learner has the right motivation and is willing to learn. Corporations around the globe are spending billions of dollars on training their employees to be leaders and to hold leadership positions within specific organizations. This spending is supported by a wealth of research and has consistently born fruits. Junior staff have taken on major leadership roles and excelled at them. Thus, leadership is a skill that can be learned.


This topic has received a great deal of attention in recent years, with researchers statistically analyzing variations between paired twins to establish how much influence genetic or environmental factors have on differences between the pairs. The combined results of twin studies consistently estimate that only 30 percent of leadership role occupancy is genetically determined, with the remaining 70 percent influenced by environmental factors. In molecular genetics studies, researchers discovered a link between the rs4950 genotype and leadership role occupancy, indicating that only 24 percent of leadership is passed down through the generational line. Even if someone is in charge, this does not imply an effective leader.

In twin studies, the assumption that identical and fraternal twin pairs grow up in roughly equal environments is a significant limitation because it can lead to unexpected results. (EEA).) People see, hear, and internalize their surroundings in various ways distinct from one another. As a result, because twin studies are a disproportionate representative sample of the human population, the findings of twin studies cannot be directly applied to the general population.

On the other hand, these very studies seem to endorse the environment as having greater influence on shaping leadership. Leadership does not come naturally to us in the same way that blue eyes or a red hairdo. To achieve the status of an exceptional leader, one must devote the necessary time and effort.

If one believes in genetics, they hold that great leaders are the offspring of great parents. Extraordinary leaders are not required to invest the time and effort necessary to improve their leadership abilities. According to numerous historical examples, both of these statements are false.

An ordinary family of four siblings, a failure of a father in matters business, and an unassuming mother were the foundations upon which Walt Disney was built. Walt’s father actively attempted to discourage him from engaging in artistic endeavors because he was so critical of them even though Walt was 29 years old (Boerma et al., 2017). His tenacity, ability to learn from his mistakes, and ability to rally a group of people around a single idea propelled him to prominence as a pioneer in the field of animated filmmaking.

Similar to this, John D. Rockefeller Sr., the wealthiest American of all time, was born into a family that was anything but idyllic when he was young. Rockefeller founded and expanded Standard Oil, despite his “pedigree” not allowing him to do so. Instead of being born with a predetermined set of innate leadership abilities, Rockefeller’s fortune was built through hard work and the willingness to take risks.

Other notable leaders with less-than-stellar parental backgrounds include President Eisenhower and Roman Emperor Augustus, to name a few. As a result of the guidance of mentors and the experience of their peers, these individuals developed into effective leaders throughout their careers.

Summary of the Argumentation

While research shows a 24% support for certain genetically acquired traits that directly impact a person’s leadership abilities, a keen analysis of successful leaders of our time have had non-leader parents and siblings. On the other hand, environmental factors, personal exposure to situations, and the will to excel have produced history’s greatest leaders. Thus, while genetics may play a slight role, learning truly distinguishes a leader.


In the last 30 years, many twin studies have assessed leadership heritability. As a control, twin studies can assess born and made leaders. Identical or monozygotic twins share 100% of their DNA, unlike fraternal or dizygotic twins, who share 50%. Leadership is genetic, say twin studies. A series of studies examined twin leaders’ genetics and shared or unique environmental experiences. A generation to generation variation in genetic influence on leadership personality traits can reach 30%. Twins’ shared environment had a 10% correlation with leadership role occupancy and a 24% correlation with a genetic component—twin studies how leadership is inherited. SNP rs4950 on chromosome 8 is linked to leadership and the NAC gene. The nAChR gene connects leadership to personality. The book Good to Great emphasizes honesty and professional tenacity. Their leadership genetics set them apart.

Walt Disney was built with four siblings, an entrepreneurial father who failed miserably at most of his business ventures and an unassuming mother. Walt’s father actively discouraged him from artistic pursuits. Walt created Mickey Mouse at 29. His tenacity, ability to learn from mistakes, and ability to rally a team made him a pioneer in animated filmmaking. The wealthiest American, John D. Rockefeller Sr., grew up in a less than ideal family. The Father of John’s was a bigamist who left his family young. Despite his ” pedigree, he founded and expanded Standard Oil, the world’s largest refinery, despite his “pedigree.” Rockefeller’s fortune was earned through hard work and risk-taking. Among others, President Eisenhower and Roman Emperor Augustus had poor parental backgrounds. Mentorship and peer experience helped these individuals grow into effective leaders. This shows overwhelming support for the position that leadership is learned.


Boerma, M., Coyle, E. A., Dietrich, M. A., Dintzner, M. R., Drayton, S. J., Early, J. L., … & Williams, N. T. (2017). Point/counterpoint: Are outstanding leaders born or made?. American journal of pharmaceutical education81(3).

Brooks, B., & Chapman, N. H. (2018). Leadership is learned—Journal of Leadership Studies.

Rogers, K. B. (2009). Leadership Giftedness: Is It Innate or Can It Be Developed? In International handbook on giftedness (pp. 633-645). Springer, Dordrecht.


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