They say leaders are made. This is the greatest delusion ever concocted by man. Any leader who is worth his salt is a born leader. Society presents circumstances that enable one to be fashioned or moulded into a leader. That’s the greatest contribution of society to mankind – it identifies a leader from its surroundings.

A distinction has to be made between true leaders and quack leaders. True leaders know that they are born for a purpose. Society is their laboratory. They experiment and display various leadership skills which benefit society as a whole.

There are also true leaders who are a bane to society. They mask themselves as autocrats, dictators and demagogues. Aren’t they born leaders? Hitler is a case in point. He whipped German society into accepting and carrying out his nefarious activities unto the world. The world nearly came to a standstill watching his atrocities.

Autocrats and dictators who have a complete sway consider society as their playground. Citizens are pawns in a great game of chess – the ‘chess of life’. Use one pawn against another to silence opposition or kill foes. The majority are ‘slaves’ or compliant individuals ever ready to do their biddings. Disgruntled and dismayed individuals utter disenchantment and anger only in private.

Good leaders are hard to find. When society collapses, it naturally looks towards a true leader who can save it from its malady. The appearance of this type of leader is mostly in a time of crisis as society has been ‘ripened’ to accept true leadership.

Quack leaders are aplenty in the world today. They have this foolish notion that they are true leaders. But they don’t seem to lead their stated industry in any new form or ideas. Most of it is just picking up from what their predecessors have been doing.

A born leader is possessed with originality of thought. Thoughts that create more benefits to society. Thoughts that inspire and teach others to do the same. Thoughts that jolt others to rethink the usefulness of their present worth.

Most of all, a born leader is imbued with unbounded courage to stick to his views and actions decisively.

Quack leaders are the opposite. They follow the trends of society. They don’t want to upset society from its continual slumber. Contrary and sincere opinions are dangerous. That will mean a dip in their earning power and influence. ‘Just do what others do.’ is their motto.

Quack leaders have a semblance of courage. Appearing to be courageous, they promote their ideas in the form of advice or suggestions. That’s about it. Nothing of great value actually. Follow the norm and everything is fine. These are some of the hallmarks of quack leaders. Can’t you see these quack leaders peddling their wares everywhere?

Leadership institutes are set up to study the art and science of leadership. Investigations as well as studies are made into ‘how’ and ‘why’ leaders behave as they do; furthermore of what qualities leaders are made of. Studies and findings are compiled for posterity.

The hard truth is that nobody ‘really’ knows how and why leaders behave as they do. Nobody can explain who is a leader from a follower. There are no scientific explanations for discovering and choosing a true leader. At best, only patterns of certain behavioural tendencies exhibited by these leaders are established through these findings.

True leaders spring from every nook and cranny of society. There is no set model to determine which direction they are coming from.



  1. jamestollefson says:

    It’s true that leaders can come from anywhere and that the “leadership development” industry has failed spectacularly to produce anything resembling a foolproof method for developing leaders. Leaders vary as widely as do any other group of people, and there is no magic in them. They simply are, and they defy explanation.
    Having said that, however, I am amazed that you make the assertion that leaders cannot be ‘made’, so to speak. Such a statement doesn’t just fly in the face of what almost everyone who studies the field believes – it also directly contradicts many of the great minds of human philosophy from Socrates to Thomas Carlyle to Eric Hoffer. Some people have a greater gift than others, no doubt, but noone becomes a leader without training of some kind.
    I recently shared some thoughts of my own on this subject. I’d love to hear your rebuttal. Debate is the birthplace of wisdom, in my humble opinion.

    • Hello James,

      Thank you for your view on this subject. As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life. We may have differing opinions on any subject matter but it is our prerogative to hold on to our views as we have been shaped by different circumstances that has led us to adopt that kind of belief.

      My article is about ‘true’ leaders who were born with innate capabilities to lead. Yes, I do agree that training of some kind is needed. It is stated in my article that society is the moulder of this type of leaders. There are also ordinary ‘leaders’ in any organisation on the face of this earth who contribute in various ways. But the distinction ends there. ‘Born’ leaders make things happen on a large scale and they leave lasting impressions on our minds. A ‘trained’ leader can’t and won’t equal them in those respects. Churchill and Hitler were not trained in any leadership skills before they were thrust into their respective roles. They had not the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. They did not consult previous case studies as to how to counteract a situation that they were dealing with. Both proved their mettle in trying and challenging circumstances. This is the gist of my article.

  2. I think we need to expand the word “training” to also include exposure. Every leader (including those born to be leaders) need to be exposed. Chuchill and Hitler received their during battle. The former was a Navy Commander and the latter was a Corporal.

    Ultimately, every leaders needs some sort of training, i.e., exposure or input to improve on their leadership capabilities. Even born leaders have to make mistakes and improve, just like the made leaders.

    So ultimately, every leader is made.

    • Hello Pereira,

      You need to re-read my article. It is stated clearly that the circumstances in a society had moulded and fashioned individuals to become true leaders in ages past. There were many other leaders who didn’t receive any set of training before becoming true leaders. It has been proven in the economic, social, political, religious and other fields of endeavour. These individuals didn’t attend any ‘training programmes’ then to mould them into leaders before they chose their vocations. Most of them were thrust into leadership positions by the necessity of circumstances prevalent in their society then. The circumstances that I mentioned in my article was the ‘training ground’ for them to hone their leadership skills. What you refer to as exposure is actually circumstances in my article.

      As for Churchill and Hitler, their military background was just an experience. They needed something more than that – intelligence and courage to perform their tasks to meet the required objectives. Mind you, there are many in the military who are just soldiers obeying orders of their superiors. Being from the military background doesn’t give one the licence to proclaim himself a leader, let alone a born leader.

      Not everyone can become ‘true leaders’. Training sessions on how to become a leader just enables one to acquire the basic skills of leadership. This does not warrant one to become a true leader. True leaders have something extra in them – the innate capability to lead, which surfaces in times of crisis or actual need. True leaders are already uncut diamonds polished to become shining diamonds through circumstances.

      • I’m not sure what the take home message of this article is.

        Is it to explain that leaders are born and not made?

        Is it to inform us that since there’s no way we can determine who can be a leader and who can’t be, just pick anyone for leadership position?

        Either one, I can’t agree with. My own experience over 15 years of developing leaders shows, I can determine who will make good leaders and who won’t. Twice I’ve even gone against indications that someone will be a poor leader and tried to develop the person only to fail.

      • Pereira,

        You are now confounding yourself. If you were not sure about the message of this article, you should not have commented in the first place. My article explains that true leaders are born and I define true leaders as those born with innate capabilities to lead. Nowhere in my article did I state that anyone can be picked as a leader. That is an exaggeration on your part. For that reason, I asked you to re-read my article.

        The message that I intended in my article is crystal clear. When the mantle of leadership is passed to someone during difficult times, most of them will fail even though they have gone through various leadership skills courses. They are just doing what their predecessors had done. Follow a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and you can’t go wrong. But there have been cases where even giants in an industry have collapsed due to the ineptitude of their leaders. This includes nations too.

        A recent example will serve to illustrate this. A bank in Singapore was under performing affecting their market share in the South East Asian region. It began to take a toll and was labelled as a laggard in the banking industry in the SEA region. An individual was quickly hired to helm the bank and turnaround its misfortunes. After two years at the helm, the individual turned the bank around from a laggard into an out-performer in the banking industry. Now, the said Singaporean bank is on a massive drive to purchase other banks in the SEA region. What a transformation after two years. The individual is a ‘true’ leader.

        What about the previous leaders who were helming the bank before he took over? Of course, they too were trained in their respective industry and leadership skills. Why couldn’t they save the bank from becoming a laggard in the industry? What qualities did this particular individual possess that the previous leaders didn’t have? The qualities of a ‘true’ leader – originality of thought and courage to see his plans and actions through.

        That is what my article is all about. TRUE leaders who are born make an impact in whatever vocation they are.

  3. KC Lim says:

    I do share your point of view that true leaders are born not made. True leader need not necessarily possess noble values – case in point your Hitler example. True leaders arise from the situations. A peasant, Zhu Yuanzhang rose from the ranks of peasant insurgents to establish the Ming Dynasty as its first emperor in ancient China. He was extremely poor, uneducated and had no leadership training.

    Leadership training produces managers not leaders. Those who were finally deemed as leaders (maybe for. eg. Jack Welch of GE) already had innate leadership qualities in them.. Then again, despite the leadership or business training (Havard MBAs), managers come with various competency levels from excellent to extremely poor. Again, the competency levels need not relate to their corporate hierarchical positions (for eg, Carly Friorina of HP).

    We are often dazzled and carried away by academic writings.

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