Leaders are Made
Throughout history, the world has seen a number of great leaders including Alexander the Great, Mohandas Gandhi, Adolf Hitler and Martin Luther King Jr. These leaders possessed strong leadership characteristics that left an impact to the world’s history even after their era has passed. Contrary to the previous notions that their greatness has been born with them, in reality, their leadership skills and traits have been developed and harnessed by their rich experiences in life.
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Leadership skills do not come in nature with a person. Rather, leadership is something that people learn through life, all of which largely influence one’s inner beliefs and traits. Such characteristics do not come in an instant, however, it is still not impossible for an individual to possess leadership skills even at an early age (Camiel, 2003, p.88). The process of learning how to lead is not as easy as it seems, because one has to be a learner and a follower before he or she can lead other people. Through this process, a person can be made a leader. A made leader connotes someone who has undergone training in order to improve his or her leadership skills and abilities. In addition, a made leader must be ready and open to gain more knowledge in order to further improve his or her skills (Adelekan, 2007, p.7). Other authors have also suggested that “most of what leaders have that enables them to lead is learned” (cited in Avolio, 2005, p.2).
Furthermore, the people who think they are inclined to become leaders because of inborn leadership traits are not preordained. This means that there are still many things that they have to learn in order to have that leadership potential (Avolio, 2005, p. 5). They have to experience a lot of things, which is the foundation in forming their beliefs and stand on important matters. Experience is not something that one has or gets when he or she is born. As one grows up, experience becomes a staple part of his or her personality that can affect leadership abilities.
This is the case with the great leaders within the world’s history. They have experienced oppression, inequality, and other events which contributed to their conquest of becoming great leaders. These leaders gained their experiences from observing the people and taking note of the events that created great impacts on how these leaders viewed the world. For instance, Gandhi was influenced by his mother. In fact, Gandhi’s mother was the “strongest formative influence” when he was still young. His technique of appealing to the mass through self-suffering is something that he got from his mother (Mahatma Gandhi, n.d.). Furthermore, Alexander the Great was also influenced by the people surrounding him, such as his mother and his mentors, notably Aristotle (Watkins, n.d.). In his case, the notion that leaders are born cannot be applied because Alexander also started from being an inexperienced person, especially when it comes to battles (Kets de Vries and Engellau, 2004).
Martin Luther King, on the other hand, was influenced by the inequality that was rampant when he was young. He could see how people from the white race treated the blacks. He grew up knowing that there are certain privileges that black people cannot have just because of their ethnicity and color (Eastern Illinois University, n.d.). Likewise, Hitler was influenced by the sad experiences he had during his childhood. Although Hitler could be viewed as a reincarnation of evil, he was a very powerful leader during his time (Wiesel, 1998). His experiences shaped his beliefs and hatred against the Jewish people (Think Quest, n.d.).
Except from Hitler and other powerful leaders that resorted to evil ways to achieve their goals, leaders possess positive emotions and qualities and personality traits that guided them through the rough times (Siegel, 2006, pp. 8-9). These qualities are not born with them, because people tend to be influenced by people or by incidents as they grow up. A certain person’s ideas about the world can be changed by events which caused him or her to accept the opposite of his or her initial beliefs. As an individual undergoes different experiences, it can change him or her and further establish and strengthen his or her leadership capabilities.
- Adelekan, A.A. (2007). Essentials of church leadership and management: A must for all church workers and theological students. U.S.: AuthorHouse.
- Avolio, B.J. (2005). Leadership development in balance: Made/born. U.S.: Routledge.
- Camiel, R. (2003). Sweetness of the struggle. U.S.: iUniverse.
- Eastern Illinois University. (n.d.). The childhood of Martin Luther King, Jr. Retrieved March 5, 2009, from http://www.eiu.edu/~amheroes/mlkchildhood.html
- Kets de Vries, M.F.R., and Engellau, E. (2004). Are leaders born or are they made?: The Case of Alexander the Great. U.S.: Karnac Books.
- Mahatma Gandhi. (n.d). Childhood. Retrieved March 5, 2009, from http://www.mkgandhi.org/biography/chldhood.htm
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- Think Quest. (n.d). Adolf Hitler’s Childhood. Retrieved March 6, 2009, from http://library.thinkquest.org/J0112264/Hitler1.html
- Watkins, T. (n.d.). Alexander of Macedonia. San Jose State University. Retrieved March 6, 2009, from http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/alexandergreat.htm
- Wiesel, E. (1998). Adolf Hitler. Time Inc. Retrieved March 6, 2009, from http://www.time.com/time/time100/leaders/profile/hitler.html
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