• shane@countryexec.com
  • Seguin, Texas
Are Great Social Leaders Derived From Nature Or Nurture?

Are Great Social Leaders Derived From Nature Or Nurture?

Have you ever worked for a manager that was memorable? Perhaps someone that changed your life for the better, someone that believed in and motivated you to grow professionally? If great leaders were born of nature versus nurture?

Ever wonder how that individual became so influential? Someone that could infuse their thoughts and experience in a meaningful capacity directly into your psyche? Are great social leaders derived from nature or nurture?

Knowledge Is Power

I have, and I have actively attempted to determine what made these people so influential in my life. How could that person’s essence provide such meaningful guidance? Establish a conduit for me to leverage their knowledge so I may be more apt to pursue my own dreams?

It’s a powerful thought. Perhaps a powerful skill. I wanted to be influential like my own mentors, to be a positive presence for someone else. Pay it forward. I decided to do what I always do, I researched it. Seeking knowledge as to how I could be more inspirational for others, I realized I was looking for the answer to a simple question.

My Mentorship

I give credit to a handful of mentors through the years that helped guide me to where I am currently. Had I not been so fortunate to cross paths with them early on I likely would not be in my current role today.

When the first mentor came into my life, I was content in being who I was in a professional capacity. Far removed from any form of leadership role; I was a worker bee and took no issue with existing within that plane. Who I was as a person, the drive I possessed to educate myself and embrace change to the extent no professional task was too much to ask put me in a position to lead peers.

Mentorship was the catalyst that prepared me for future roles. It guided me to embracing external opportunities. It was one of those mentors in LA that offered his advice in accepting a new organizational opportunity in the Bay Area that eventually led me back to Texas.

Much of the good in my life I enjoy today originated from the decision to accept that opportunity. My mentor guided me to the proper state of mind to do so.

Are great leaders derived from nature or nurture?

What The Experts Say

In a Psychology Today article written by Dr. Ronald Riggio in 2009, it was stated leaders are primarily made sixty-six percent of the time over those born with natural leadership tendencies. Two thirds of people in leadership roles were nurtured to hopefully possess the requisite professional attributes. They were not necessarily born with the full scope of natural leadership qualities per say.

I view this as a positive because I believe there to be a general dearth of leadership in the world today. If good leaders can be created, it serves to reason that the leadership shortage can be overcome through education and experience. Here’s the thing though, some components of leadership cannot be taught by lecture or books. Some of it has to come from the individuals beating heart and mind.

The Qualities

In a 2016 Inc.com article Peter Economy offered five qualities that will make leaders successful. The qualities were clarity, decisiveness, courage, passion, and humility. Certainly, those are outstanding characteristics to possess in a leadership capacity.

I would argue one could not be successful without some combination of the five. While I do not disagree with the sentiment as to the value of those characteristics, I feel the one characteristic that was lacking relevant to where we are today as a society is empathy.


Logically speaking, every human soul is different. Personalities vary. If a leader is expected to bring the best out of their assigned staff, there is no one stop shop for how to do so when it comes to varying personalities. I believe empathy to be the beating heart element of leadership.

Empathy could also be construed as relatability, caring, or emotional intelligence. A leader must understand employees have lives, problems, good times and bad. And that leader must be amenable to the individualized ebb and flow relevant to each staff member.

There may be a big project looming in the office, but if your team member is dealing with a sick relative clearly they may be consumed with that element of their personal life adding a layer of complexity that may be difficult to overcome.

A good leader communicates, listens, but knows when not to press. Possessing the emotional intelligence to understand assigned staff as the individuals they are and being what it is they need their manager to be at various times is difficult to teach out of a book.

My Personal Experience

It has long been my duty as a leader to be what my employees need me to be for them to be successful. I am perfectly comfortable with that mindset. This is far from the “my way or the highway” type manager prevalent in years past.

I take no issue with the humility necessary to hire intelligent people that are better than me in their respective roles. These high performers compensate for the many things I am no longer proficient at.

As some of you reading may know, I am the Director of IT for a small city in rural Texas. Comically, I told our mayor a couple of years ago that relatively speaking I was not that good with technology anymore. His reaction was priceless with an emphatic “don’t tell me that!”

My statement was true per my perspective though. In my opinion technology has passed me by. I can no longer work on high level technology infrastructure devices to the same degree I once could.

Leadership: Nature vs Nurture

Conceptually technology still works in a similar fashion at a high level. The manner in which hardware and software is manipulated has evolved beyond what I was doing in engineering roles ten plus years ago. That’s ok though, I have an outstanding staff that is substantially better at administering technology in today’s environment. Hire smart, motivated people and allow them to do what they do best.

Today it is my responsibility to empower staff and provide them the tools and means necessary to be successful in their respective roles. In my opinion that is what a good leader is supposed to do. Challenge and elevate others to be the best versions of themselves. Degrees and certifications did not teach me that, and I did not learn it through trial and error.

It is my personality to seek out highly motivated intelligent staff with a high level of character and have them take ownership of their respective responsibilities. I refer to it as an empowered work center, the antithesis of micromanagement. Every team I have managed was some version of this, and I know it works!

The Chicken vs The Egg

Circling back to my original question the answer to are great social leaders derived from nature or nurture is confounding. It’s similar to the chicken versus the egg debate. I don’t believe you can clearly state it is one way or the other. I believe the definitive answer is high quality leaders derive from both.

Certainly your environment plays a substantial role in who you are as a person. And subsequently who you are as a leader. Those fortunate enough to be surrounded by strong minded mentors willing to share their experience and knowledge have a leg up on other future leaders that may have to find their own way.

Some people just get it. Then there are others that have it in them but require external mechanisms and/or educational conduits to bring it out.

Leaders Nature vs Nurture Conclusion

There is nothing wrong not being born with natural leadership qualities. I could make the argument it is more extraordinary to be a successfully nurtured versus natural born leader. It shows the commitment required to attain that position in life.

Nurtured leaders wanted what they achieved. Anyone can be a leader, and there is a myriad of ways to be the example for others to follow. I hope there are impactful future leaders reading this now. And I hope this message resonates with those that may feel leadership is not in them. I beg to differ. You can be that positively influential person in someone else’s life. It doesn’t have to be in a professional context either, you don’t need a job title to positively impact the world around you.

Be a good person, do the right thing. Lead by example. That is all it takes to be a leader of character. Until next time thank you reading, and please take care of yourselves and the ones you love.

Leaders nature nurture
Are great leaders derived from nature or nurture?