Leaders: Born Or Made
“Here is the ‘nature or nurture’ question on leadership” I looked at Lulu, my parrot. “Tell me, are leaders born or made?”
“Wow! This is the fourth question on leaders and leadership. Our conversation is now going like the Vikram aur Vetal story.” Lulu moved closer and glanced at the question list on my laptop. (Read the previous three here Power And Leaders , Mindset of Great Leaders , Difficult Decisions for Leaders )
“I am not Vetal, Lulu. You are the one who can fly back to the tree! Jokes aside, what do you think? This is an endlessly debated question.” I adjusted my glasses and looked at Lulu.
“Oh, some are gifted persons who are born with ‘leadership’ qualities. But others become leaders. Because they make certain choices.”
“I am sure you would have read about Naseema Hurzuk?”
“I am sorry….”
“Datta ji Iswalkar?”
“Yes, of course! Datta ji Iswalkar was the leader of textile workers in Mumbai whose relentless efforts have resulted in more than twenty thousand workers getting housing in Mumbai. One lakh and twenty thousand more are to be handed over. What a great achievement! ”
“He was a clerk in a Mill. He was not a leader. With destructive aftermath of the textile strike staring in face, Datta ji decided to protect workers’ interests; and he became their leader.”
“I did not know this, Lulu.”
“Naseema Hurzuk was a girl without any disability till she was sixteen. Then the tragedy struck and she was paralysed. She founded the organisation called ‘Helpers of the Handicapped’. Their idea was to make medical treatment accessible and affordable, also to rehabilitate physically challenged people in the society, given their special needs and abilities.”
“They now have an integrated residential school, a treatment centre, a rehab centre, a vocational training centre, a gas agency (to sustain their finances so that they need not wholly depend upon donations and charity), experimental activities in small-scale sector and an integrated village near Kudal.”
“There must be more such stories of people fighting their way to glory.”
“Glory comes later. Remember they made a choice. The choice was to solve, proactively, a certain social issue. That decision transformed them into leaders. Great leaders.”
“Very inspiring. But you say ‘choice.’ What choice do ordinary and say, for example, illiterate persons have?”
“Naseema and Datta ji were not eminent persons when they made their choices. Look, at your home you are the leader, unfortunately many do not recognise this situation. You, as the head of the family, must make choices which will leave behind a rich legacy. Haven’t you heard of Dr. Narendra Jadhav?”
“Yes of course. He was the Vice Chancellor of Savitribai Phule Pune University, and headed economic research at the Reserve Bank of India.”
“Read his autobiography to understand how his illiterate father played a big role in his development. I am talking of the leadership role played by Narendra Jadhav’s father.”
“True. There are several stories of parents being role models for their sons and daughters. They shape the culture at home. They engage in conversations that create mindsets of leaders. They influence their family and often make untold sacrifices.”
“Don’t forget that they made their choices – of leading the family, putting certain virtues in practice. They built their own character and shaped the characters of their children. And if you read the autobiographies of many unlettered men you will see that they made the choice to play the lead role.”
“Leadership is not the exclusive domain of the educated. It never was. It is not the out of bounds area for the unlettered.”
“What made them make those choices?”
“That’s a difficult question to answer. Sometimes circumstances, sometimes an event sends lightening bolt. It’s a wake-up call. Everything changes then. It is the diktat of one’s awareness.”
“I remember Dr Baba Amte’s life story. He saw a leprosy patient lying in the road. He gave him treatment, set up leprosy treatment hospital. I am talking about Anandwan. Dr Baba Amte was not a doctor; he made a choice to dedicate his life to a social cause; and look at the institutions he has created!”
“I take your point. Leaders are not born, not made. Forget nature and nurture. You can’t make them leaders through training unless people make certain choices.”
“And work proactively. Don’t forget that!” Lulu said. “Lulu, you are not just my friend, philosopher and guide. You are my leadership coach too!” Lulu and I looked out of the window. The morning sun was coming out of clouds.
Vivek S Patwardhan
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
(Gratefully acknowledging Outlook Magazine, ‘Dr. Naseema Hurzuk’ 11 Oct 2005 for Naseema Story)
You have a style of story telling, Vivek! I like it.?
Men do make history but not as they want but are conditioned by circumstances ,said Marx thus a leader has to make a choice but must understand tat it is circumstances also which. Help him .Hence humility is a great virtue a true leader will always have
Ashok Ramchandran writes:
A profound point, made in your inimitable narrative !! Super !! Indeed the choices we make, shape us and inspire us …
Excellent read and thought provoking. Few thoughts : 1. I always used to wonder – if circumstances / situations throw up a Leader , why that individual and not so many others involved. Lulu has answered it. He or she made a CHOICE different from others. He or she looked at the situation completely differently. So many Indians were thrown out of compartments reserved for whites. But MKG decided not to take it lying down. That choice led to the birth of a leader.
2. The Nurture question is always tempting. I have noticed that all trainings / teachings are focussed on HOW and WHY. Rarely WHAT. I think CHOICE is related to WHAT. That does not need education / training. A normal individual can make a CHOICE. Whether gets what he wants or not is a different issue. But the starting point if the CHOICE of What. May be factors not in formal education influence them ( eg value system ).
Let me know whether Lulu concurs.
Thanks Kannan. You have made insightful observations. Choice matters, and makes a leader, but as Dr Kango has pointed out ‘Men do make history but not as they want but are conditioned by circumstances, said Marx.’
Thanks Kannan for leaving a comment. It feels nice to note that you read my blogs.
“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.”
― Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte
Very nicely articulated sir…Leadership is an art rather than a science. It is a set of innate traits, refined and perfected over time with education, training and experience.
Thanks for sharing insightful writings by you. True leaders make choic to work for cause: There are many examples of great leaders who dedicated their life working for common purpose. Thanks for explaining the subject in simple and easy to understand language Regards
Thanks for putting across very good examples ..we have had enough of reading ‘stories’ about Iconic Leaders across various sectors.
These leaders you covered are genuine and inspiring to everyone. Many thanks for bringing out the contribution and sacrifices they made to make a Difference to Society .
Maybe the “Lulu” factor makes quite some difference too?
Very well explained Sir.
True, the choices made by people, make them leader or otherwise . Some choices made and follwed to the core can take a person to greatness .To make any virtue part of life is a choice. To pursue a cause and take it to logical conclusion is also a choice.
Really very well written Sir. Thank you for sharing this great insight. This is also a choice you have made.
Lovely examples to the age old question. Nature may bestow one with all the prodigal traits, but choices have to be made. We all have made many choices or squandered as many. I think it’s also the magnitude of the choices one makes.
Dr Zahid Gangjee writes:
Excuse the delay in replying. I am in Italy.
Lulu your parrot has been wise yet again. Leadership is an end result when certain decisions are taken in times that make them very hard to take. It strengthens the person & the results of those decisions positively impact people around them. That’s what I garnered from Lulu.
With love – Zahid
Recently when our PM hugged and comforted the ISRO chairman there were a lot of ‘noise’ about ‘place’ for compassion in leadership. I suppose words like this sometimes are forgotten in the corporate rat race. Your blog brings up such ‘natural’ instincts back to the table. Each one of the leaders in your article have exercised their choices based on some instinct and keeping larger good in mind. Your writings helps me to keep my brain in ‘active’ mode. Thanks
Choice!!! That’s the word. Whatever we are that’s because of our choices rather consciously made choices!