Leaders: Born or made?

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Have you ever considered whether leaders are born or if they’re made? Which is greater? Put mathematically, is Made Leadership > Born Leadership?

I’d offer that each of us is born with some innate leadership characteristics — a combination of charisma, the ability to inspire followers, the ability to express yourself in meaningful ways and many other traits.

While you can’t change the starting point you were born at, you can chose to either nurture, develop and practice your leadership skills or let them atrophy. This choice represents the “made” part of the equation.

While you may not be able to control the leadership opportunities you are given, there are things you absolutely can control. Some things directly contribute to your development as a leader and improve your toolkit to help you be greater than a “born leader.” I’m referring to opportunities like obtaining your Community College of the Air Force degree, pursuing your bachelor’s or master’s degree, upgrade training, completing your professional military education or progressing from a basic pilot, boom operator or navigator to an instructor and then evaluator, to name just a few.

These opportunities not only make you a better Airman and leader, they also help you be a better spouse, a better teammate, a better father or mother and a better human being. They will set you up for success when you leave the Air Force.

Growing up, I was a follower, not a leader. Today, I am proud, privileged and humbled to lead the amazing men and women of the 22nd Operations Group. I’m here today because I took advantage of the opportunities I could control so I was ready for the leadership opportunities I was given.

You too have a set of “born leadership” characteristics. What you do to nurture and grow those characteristics is up to you. You can be made greater than you were born.

If you would like to explore this topic further, see Bruce J. Avolio’s book, “Leadership Development in Balance: MADE/Born.”