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GIIS Curator November 01, 2017

Is Leadership Taught or Inborn?

Groundbreaking ideas sometimes stem from controversies. In this blog post, we dare challenge our community to the age-old debate of nature versus nurture. Hear the different sides of the debate, and put your thinking cap on! Here is the question: Is leadership taught or inborn?

Some feedback from our community of students, parents and academic staffs.

"Viewed from a neutral perspective it can be safely assumed that leadership is actually a quality, which some are born with and some acquire through diligence and hard work. Thus, though not everyone is Justin Trudeau or Winston Churchill, one can always aspire to scale the highest peaks of ambitions and hone skills, which lie dormant or unexplored.

A leader, in my opinion, will not only rely on his/her inborn talents but continue to add on to his/her distinctive qualities by acquiring all the repository of knowledge that lies in the collective consciousness of the human mind. And therein comes the contribution of a good teacher someone who can serve as a friend, philosopher and guide to nurture the best of minds and create a leader who rules not only through merit but also by wisdom.

Tales from the ancient past of humanity reflect the same ideals who can forget the role of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates in crafting the future of Alexander the Great? Who can contest the idea that it was Dronacharya who honed the skills of Arjuna as the best archer of the times? Both Alexander and Arjuna were men with innate qualities of leadership but they were also taught how to use their talents to the best of effects."

Suchandra Roychowdhury
GIIS Queenstown, Singapore


"In my 15 years of experience in the financial services sector, I have been on several leadership courses where the above question on leadership is always asked to the audience. In the early years, I would categorically answer that leaders are born they just land up on earth with all the right skills to lead. But years of observation of peers and superiors at work now makes me believe that like many other things in life, leadership skills across people follows a normal bell curve. There are those on top of the curve who are possibly the born leaders who influence and grow stronger with time. Those at the bottom just do not make it. But those in the middle are the ones who can be developed with the right kind of exposure and training. This middle tier of people typically would have a few innate leadership traits that organisations can hone by coaching, follow up and experience.

Leadership requires one to be honest, positive, hardworking, decisive, creative, influential, communicative and empathetic. If you are born with some of these qualities, you could be closer to the top of that bell curve, but there are no shortcuts, as development needs deliberate practice."

Ms Kavita Raman
GIIS Queenstown, Singapore



"Are leaders born or are they made? History has seen many leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Alexander. Were they made or was it in their DNA? Yes, I would say, they acquired leadership skills through their circumstance and experience. Leaders are made. Leadership is an experience that prepares us to deal with successes and failures. Leadership is often confused with management. Leadership is a skill and it doesnt need a title. It is not bound by an organisational chart. We can develop leadership qualities in children from early childhood. It starts from giving freedom of thought and expression to children where the brains capacity is enhanced to think beyond boundaries. It also helps them to unlearn, innovate and change. Are you ready to break a habit? Are you motivated to keep your job, to hit a mark then you are all set to become a leader."

Lalithambika Rama
Primary Coordinator
GIIS Balestier, Singapore 


"Good leadership requires expertise in a subject domain, critical reasoning ability, ability to be decisive, ability to connect the dots across disparate areas, ability to work hard, be passionate about the task at hand, and the openness to learn constantly. All of these abilities can be learnt and honed with a well-rounded education, an environment that is conducive for risk-taking and where there is a fine balance of discipline and freedom.

In fact, there is plentiful evidence that leadership abilities can be learnt. The fact that a higher proportion of corporate leaders are from Ivy League schools is solid proof that the right training improves the chances of being a leader. This balance of an inherent ability and the right training is the winning formula for any human accomplishment, whether its in the field of arts, science or leadership."

Vikram Bansal
Parent of Pratyush Bansal, Class 6A
GIIS Balestier, Singapore 


"Leadership is not everyones cup of tea. Thus, it is difficult to list out the exact qualities that a leader must possess. Leadership comes naturally to a few, but I would like to point here that the worlds best leaders are those with substance who dared to do things differently. Being a leader and getting accepted and loved as a leader are two different things. The ones who have it in them, can do this task with much more comfort than others. Then there is another set of people who are fast learners, keen observers and ambitious hard-workers. Such people can be leaders with a little bit of guidance and they can prove to be stable, adaptive and a peoples leader!"

Ms Ami Betai
GIIS Ahmedabad, India


"Leadership cannot be taught. It is an inborn quality which is either inherited or is an innate quality of a person. The most important trait of a leader is believing in teamwork. No one player can win a match alone. Teamwork is required along with patience, courage and diligence. Perhaps all these qualities can be learnt to become a better team player but they cannot be mastered to become a leader. Leaders can be students, professionals, politicians, businessmen; someone whom people trust. They are organised, focused and fearless. People who become great leaders never doubted themselves because if you doubt yourself who else will trust you?"

Tanish Patel, Class 8
GIIS Ahmedabad, India


"Leadership is the ability to lead others even when you are scared. These days many classes and people claim that they can teach you how to act like a leader in a week, if given a certain amount of money. Thats all well and good but in my opinion, leadership doesnt come from intensive crash courses, but from within. When we face a fight or flight situation, or when we face a catastrophe and everyone is staring at you, waiting for your order, the decision you take to face the problem or to run away from it, comes from within.

This inner voice which prompts you to defend your friends or to save yourself is all it takes to determine if you are a leader. But, remember, there is always a difference between bravery and recklessness a true feeling of wanting to protect your friends or a feeling of showing off and not thinking about the dangers of a situation before running head-first into it. All it takes is a moment, when you listen to your inner voice and decide: to fight or to take flight. In other words, it is inborn. How else could so many kings protect their countries? Going for a week-long crash course? I dont think so."

Rishik, Class 7A
GIIS Bangalore, India



"People are born with leadership skills but they need a platform to develop and nurture it just like any other skill. It is an art that enriches with education, training and experience.

Educational programmes and training can teach you styles and techniques but when it is put into practice, many people fail at being a good leader. Leadership is inborn but gets polished with real world experiences. Understanding ones core is the key along with being aware of ones abilities, strength and weaknesses. Self-awareness does not mean self-involved. There is a difference. As a leader you need to understand your strengths and weaknesses and see how closely your promise matches with your actions. You need to empathise with people so that you can understand what they want and then lead them on the right path. True leaders listen, motivate and are open to feedback."

Ms Aanubbhaa Jhhaa
Pre-Primary Main Teacher
GIIS Bangalore, India

"In my humble opinion, leadership works best when it is based on a strong foundation of self-development. Also, understanding and putting the needs of others before one's own personal needs make for a leader who can be accepted and looked up to. A true leader is one who has courage to stand up for what he or she believes in, even in the face of criticism and questions. In that sense, these are qualities that can be taught and developed in an individual with guidance from parents and teachers. Even if an individual is born with an innate ability to lead, his or her area of focus should not just be the act of leading but the process of deriving lessons from life and from interactions with others."

Ms Soma B. Chowdhury
Mother of Ishani Chowdhury, Class IV
GIIS Noida, India


"There are many myths related to leadership. For me the best leaders I have seen have a combination of both inborn ability and learnt skills. They have some traits that are of high leadership value.

I would like to quote Shakespeare's thoughts on leadership: Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them."

To me, leadership is a skill and a habit. Like most skills, practice makes perfect. As one becomes more skilled, the habit takes over. In hindsight, it is therefore clear that leaders are both born and made."

Ms Amatullah Muchhala
Mother Teacher
GIIS Surat, India


"Leaders come by their talents partly through genetics but mostly through hard work and persistence. Some people are born with innate qualities that predispose them as leaders. However, for those of us who arent naturally gifted with leadership, wisdom can help to acquire it. To be an effective leader we first need the motivation to lead, the willingness to learn, the skills necessary to practice, and finally we need the opportunity to express those skills by actually leading. To conclude, leadership isnt a race, its a marathon thats ran in stages throughout life."

Mr Satish Tiwari
Father of Aarav Tiwari, Class 4B
GIIS Surat, India


"The issue is an old one. Almost 2500 years ago, the thinker Socrates debated the question with his fellow Athenians. Socrates' position was clear: leadership consists of knowing what we must to do in a given situation and such knowledge can be taught.

While some may be born with certain traits and talents, only those who develop those skills and practice can learn to master the art of leadership. Leadership learning is a lifetime activity and hence one is certainly not a leader by birth but surely can become one through the process of teaching, learning and observation. Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.
One such example can be given of Mahatma Gandhi. He was not a leader by birth but he became one by his own free will and led our country to its freedom."

Prof. Gourav Rawal
Parent of Param Rawal, Class 7
GIIS Indore, India


"We often hear how someone seem destined to do great things, how they are admired by all for their leadership skills and their ability to finish projects with ease. People say leadership skills cant be taught as it is not a subject but a personality trait. On the other hand, it is easy to learn leadership skills with the right motivation and guidance. Anyone can be an effective leader.

The most significant aspect of leadership is that every leader has different style of leadership attitudes and skills. So think strategically all you need is a vision of where you want to be and nurture that dream."

Mr Samiul Hussain
Parent of Arbab Hussain Zaidi, Class 5B
GIIS Abu Dhabi, UAE


"Leadership is an inborn quality that can be nurtured and guided. Leaders usually stand out from a crowd, some might show leadership qualities right from their formative years, but some develop this quality with the passage of time. The school, teachers, educators, mentors, parents, and society play an important role in the development of a leader. It is these driving forces that actually inculcate the values of being a good leader in a child. Therefore in my opinion, leaders are woven marvels of a gifted quality that is cultivated in the right direction."

Mrs Santana Fernandes
Kindergarten Teacher
GIIS Abu Dhabi, UAE


"A leader is a person who has integrity, self-awareness, great communication skills, confidence, commitment, positive attitude, creativity, intuition and who can delegate and inspire others. Whereas, leadership is the art of leading others to deliberately create a result that wouldnt have happened otherwise.

Leadership skills can be applied in any situation where you need someone to take the lead be it socially, professionally or even at family functions.

Though leadership skills come naturally for some, it can be acquired as well, with the right motivation and guidance. Research shows that, through training and job experience, people can become great leaders. The most significant aspect of leadership is that aspirants who can motivate others, have a positive outlook of life and are popular prove to be excellent leaders. Every leader has his own distinct style of leadership attitudes and skills. So to be a great leader all you need is a vision of where you want to be and nurture that dream."

Mrs.Carol Fernandes
Primary Teacher
GIIS Abu Dhabi, UAE


"Leadership is exercising of influence over others for accomplishment of aims or goals. Leaders are not made, they are born with leadership qualities. The thoughts and firmness in achieving a righteous path makes the leaders with exceptional leadership qualities, a strong and determined leader.

The students from their initial stages should be inculcated with the individual expressive thoughts to make themselves more open minded. Many behavioural theories believe that people become leaders through the process of teaching, learning and observation. These qualities will make leaders.

Leadership learning is a life-long activity. The skills can be learned by training, perception, practice and experience over time. Not everyone can become a leader. Leadership is often a choice. A leader is a person who comes forward to take the challenge. To be a leader in structured environment, one needs formal training. School is the best place to nurture these qualities and make every child remarkable leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela etc."

Aashrith, Class 3B
GIIS Abu Dhabi, UAE

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