Leadership and Adversity – Are Leaders Made Or Are Leaders Born? A Definitive Answer to the Question

The great debate for the last century has been over whether “leaders are born, or leaders are made.” There have been are biographies, books and articles, and more recently movies and television coverage about good and bad leadership. The media has provided insights into the lives of leaders, how they led, what their successes and failure were, and how some overcame obstacles or dealt with adversity. These early influences laid the foundation for the admiration of those who succeeded despite having to overcome obstacles, tragedy, or adversity. A combination of externice senior leadership experience and strong business background all led me to write this article on the topic, are Leaders Made or Born?

The leadership research specifically focused defining leadership and on the way certain events, obstacles, or adversity affected and shaped prominent leaders. This is a hermeneutic phenomenological investigation that concentrated on the lived experiences of sixteen prominent leaders, all of whom overcame adversity and grew as leaders in the process. I sought from the these sixteen leaders their deepest thoughts, true stories, and their real-life examples.

The research interview questions were designed to draw out the participants’ experiences on a range of interests. I encouraged the sixteen prominent leaders that I personally interviewed to identify the most important events in their lives. I asked them specifically to share the effects of the events, obstacle, or adversity in their youth and adult lives that shaped them. They were called upon reveal the resources within themselves that they drew upon to overcome obstacles. Finally, I questioned them as to whether their experiences with overcoming adversity in any way impacted their development, specifically their development as a leader.

This leadership research probed just how events, obstacles, or adversity shaped the sixteen prominent leaders. Ascertaining the respective participants’ mental model was an important step, but it does not alone answer the question of “what makes a leader.”

The concept of shaping leaders may be described as analogous to the refining of metals to remove impurities, a process requiring great heat and great stress on the raw material. The literature is replete with stories of individuals who have been shaped into great leaders after having been subjected to the refining fires of what I call the “crucible of adversity.”

The follow information from major leadership scholars and best selling author for the interested reader that seems to back my position and conclusion: Leaderare made, not born.

The Leaders Are Born versus Leaders Are Made Controversy Literature review summary:

Professor John W. Gardner, agreed emphatically with me that leaders are not born. In his well received book entitled “On Leadership” he totally agreed with my conclusion that Leaders are Made.

Gardner’s response to the question of whether Leaders are Born was clear, direct and totally unequivocal: “Nonsense!”

John Gardner, addressed the underlying issus of Nature versus Nurture is foundational to the question are Leaders made, or are leaders born. He was candid, direct and well documented in his arguments and eveident that Leaders are not born, but made.

The conclusion that Leaders are Made and that Leaders are Not Born is also support by two well respected academic leadership scholars, and best selling authors: University of Southern California, Marshall Graduate School of Business, Professor Dr. Warren Bennis, and Harvard University Graduate School of Business Professor (Emeritus) Dr. John Kotter. Bennis and Kotter have both agreed with me and they have both made similar comments that they believed that leaders are made not born.

Professor James Kouzes, in his peer debriefing of this leadership and adversity research findings and conclusions that when he indicted to me agreement with my finding that leaders view challenges as opportunities. Jim Kouzes offered this specific comment on my findings from my leadership research, which was part of my Doctoral dissertation on leadership.

Professor Kouzes comment below is part of his academic scholarly peer debriefing of my leadership dissertation research. He made the following comment on one of my leadership research finding on the importance of overcoming adversity, or major challenges, in the shaping and development of prominent leaders: “Challenge/adversity was and is part of every case we have gathered on personal best leadership experiences.”

In addition to Professor Kouzes review of this leadership and adversity research, this research got an academic peer debriefing from noted leadership scholar and multiple time best selling author, Harvard University, Graduate School of Business Professor Emeritus Dr. John Kotter. Professor Kotter specifically mentioned during our interview the quote by Nietzsche, that which does not kill you makes you stronger. He have found that idea has a lot of merit and that theme resounded throughout all sixteen interviews with the prominent leaders on how they overcame adversity, it’s impact on their becoming a successful leader, and what events specifically helped to made them a Leader.

Dr. Kotter commented on the findings from the leadrship research that overcoming adversity had impact of the shaping and development of prominent leaders, to which he said: “It’s a classic insight that seems to have much validity.”

He mentioned that he had written a biography on Konosuke Matsushita, the very successful Japanese Entrepreneur. While Matsushita’s name my not be well-known in the United States, everyone is certainly familiar with the product lines he has created, such as: Panasonic, JVC, Quaser, National, Technics.

Konosuke Matsushita is a real national hero in Japan. Matsushita has a heart warming life story, which is truly incredible. His story of success is really all about his dealing with major hardships and overcoming adversity. Dr. Kotter summed up his story about Konosuke Matsushita, with the comment: “His many problems didn’t drive him down. They lifted him up.” Kotter then summed up his thoughts on this aspect with the comment that he thought the importance of overcoming adversity or hardships “is very important.”

My selected comments from two of the five academic peer debriefings, by two major leadership scholars, Dr. John Kotter and Professor James Kouzes, have provided solid their party support for my information and arguments in this article.

Leaders are Made, not born!

Howard Edward Haller, Ph.D.

Chief Enlightenment Officer

The Leadership Success Institute



Howard Edward Haller, Ph.D., is an accomplished serial entrepreneur, successful serial intrapreneur, seasoned senior corporate executive, university professor, university board trustee, former university board president, academic scholar, an award winning published author, screenwriter (Member, WGAw), and Professional Speaker (Member of NSA) delivering Keynote Speeches and Seminars on Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Intrapreneurship, Servant-Leadership, Leadership and Adversity, and Innovation.

The sixteen prominent leaders who overcame adversity interviewed included: Dr. Tony Bonanzino, Jack Canfield, William Draper III, Mark Victor Hansen, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, Monzer Hourani, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, J. Terrence Lanni, Dr. John Malone, Angelo Mozilo, Larry Pino, Dr. Nido Qubein, U.S. Army Major General Sid Shachnow (Ret.), Dr. John Sperling, Dr. Blenda Wilson, and Zig Ziglar.

Five well respected leadership scholars reviewed Dr. Hallers research findings: Dr. Ken Blanchard, Professor James Kouzes, Dr. John Kotter, Dr. Paul Stoltz, and Dr. Meg Wheatley.

Dr. Haller is the Chief Enlightenment Officer of The Leadership Success Institute and Founder/CEO of the Entrepreneurial Success Boot Camp.

Dr. Haller is the author of two books: “Leadership and Adversity” 2008 & Intrapreneurship Secrets” 2009, both published by VDM Verlag Dr Muller AG & CoKG.


Article Source: https://EzineArticles.com/expert/Dr_Howard_Edward_Haller/25413

Share this: