Natural vs Learned Leadership: Let’s Focus On What Matters

Corinna Hagen
6 min readMay 11, 2023

Some believe leadership is an innate skill found in those with exceptional personalities, while others think it can be learned and improved over time. That’s the debate behind natural vs learned leadership. But which one holds true? Does nature or nurture play the strongest role in developing strong leadership skills?

Let’s explore both sides of the argument to better understand natural vs learned leadership. To do this, let’s explore the characteristics of successful leaders and examine approaches for honing non-natural talents, so you can decide where your own leadership abilities reside.

Natural vs Learned Leadership: How Do Leadership Skills Develop?

Natural Leadership Talent

Natural leaders often have an innate ability to lead and make confident decisions that help bring people together in pursuit of a shared goal without any formal training. Oftentimes, these individuals will stand out from the crowd with their remarkable charisma and confidence which commands respect from their peers.

Natural leaders may also simply know instinctively how to mobilize people and handle difficult situations when things don’t go as planned. They often exert leadership presence without conscious effort.

Just as with any natural talent, the world provides numerous examples of ambitious, dedicated, hard-working individuals who applied consistent effort to learning and practicing a skill and have outpaced those with natural abilities. In this case, those who are naturally gifted in leadership may stop investing in learning or participating in leadership training programs and thus fail to become effective leaders when faced with change.

Learned Leadership

Leadership capabilities can often be a combination of natural abilities as well as learning leadership behaviors and skills. Although one may possess the charismatic personality suitable for a leader, without instruction and guidance, it is difficult to hone these natural leadership qualities into effective, real-world applications.

Leadership development programs and workshops can teach individuals how to assume such…

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Corinna Hagen

Founder of Zaradigm.com, an executive communication firm. I write about leadership and business communication 1 x month in the “Leading Choices” newsletter.