Who Can Be a Leader?

May 6, 2019 / Travis Tasset

Now that we’ve established what leadership is, who can be a leader? If we accept that it is the act of leading that makes someone a leader then logic dictates that anyone who is engaged in this way is by definition a leader.

For years, people have debated whether leaders are born (nature) or made (nurture). While there has yet to be a universally accepted, definitive answer, the truth seems to be … both. Some people meet the criteria for being “natural born leaders.” At the other end of the spectrum, some people who showed no aptitude or inclination for leadership early in life have developed it and become very effective. Some leaders are born and some leaders are made. Both can be true. In fact, F. Scott Fitzgerald said that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

What is universally true, though, is that every person has the potential to be a leader. We can help others develop their leadership potential by coaching, guiding, and supporting them. In this way, we draw out their unique leadership abilities and create the foundation for developing new leadership capacities. Thomas J. Colligan, Vice Dean and Director of The Wharton School’s Aresty Institute of Executive Education, explains this concept as the 60/20/20 Rule: Twenty percent of people will fail no matter what. Twenty percent of people will succeed no matter what. The remaining 60% will succeed, if you do the right thing.

The next time you hear someone say that an organization is lacking leadership, consider that, if the 60/20/20 Rule is right, over 60% of the organization could become leaders if given the right tools and support. That’s a tremendous opportunity. The questions worth asking are: What is your organization doing to nurture the 60%? What are you doing to help others “become what they are capable of becoming?”