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Are Leaders Born Or Made?

June 05, 2014 Silvia Damiano

When it comes to leadership, one of the questions that still gets tossed around is ‘Are leaders born or made?’ Many still believe that leadership is something unattainable and that the learning of certain traits, behaviours or attitudes cannot be done. 


In my experience, after years of seeing people learning, growing and developing, this belief cannot be further from the truth. As our brain changes throughout life, our attitudes and behaviours can also change and these include ‘leadership behaviours’.

Having said this, it is also true that some people are born with innate leadership abilities, in the same way that others are born with an amazing musical gift.

Nonetheless, this doesn’t prevent people who are born without these leadership abilities from growing into someone who can lead a project team, start a business or be an inspiration to others by leading a charity campaign.

In these examples, those who are willing to have a go and not shy away from leadership may realise that they can influence people and achieve an outcome if they are willing to learn and polish the skills they need to do this successfully.

David A. Waldman, a management professor at Arizona State University, has been investigating if leaders have distinctive brains. Using a qEEG machine, Waldman was able to map out the electrical activity of the brains of senior managers and successful entrepreneurs rated as “inspirational” by their employees.

Part of his conclusion was that these leaders showed higher levels of coherence in the right frontal part of the brain – the area that provides us with the social skills we need to interact well with others.

Waldman believes that it is possible to teach this part of the brain to operate more effectively through the use of neuro-feedback training – a well-known technique that has been used to improve autism, depression, ADD and other ailments for several decades now.

Waldman and his team are endeavouring to unravel how this technique can be implemented to assist the average person to hone in on his or her leadership abilities by enhancing their brain functioning.

Excerpt from book "Leadership is Upside Down"
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Silvia Damiano

Silvia Damiano

Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist and filmmaker. Silvia is the Founder & CEO of the About my Brain Institute, creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology, author of ‘Leadership is Upside Down’ and director of the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’.

Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.

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