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Who Really Makes A Better Leader?

“Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” – Peter Drucker

Let me firstly start this article by sharing my view on leadership. As a neuro-speaker and trainer, where I interact with a number of leaders at different levels on how to use science to lead better, I particularly get to be asked a lot of this question about whether leaders are born or made. Well, based on my understanding of neuroscience and broader experience I’ve acquired over the years, I can safely say that leadership is partly genetic and partly natured. I really do not believe that it should be seen from an either/or perspective. My reasoning behind this is that I’ve seen so many people who are highly trained in a field or space of leadership but are poor leaders. I have also experienced a number of those without or least amount of formal leadership training who are much better leaders than the highly formally trained ones, which explains my view.

There’s also been another on-going debate about who makes a better leader between men and a women. This is something that should not be blindly looked at, one really doesn’t have to be emotional and biased about it. On asking many different  people on different platforms – talks, coaching sessions, training sessions and social media, especially in a form of survey, on who and what they think makes a better leader, I have over the period received different responses that I should share with you for your own assessment.

Some responses from surveys on who makes a better leader between men and women:

  • “During my 25 year career, bad bosses outnumbered and outlasted good bosses by a ratio of 2:1 irrespective of gender. I blamed it on the director’s personality type; bad at math and score keeping, quick to action, slow to think, and motivated by power.”
  • “I’ve seen as many incompetent women as men in leadership roles. I don’t think you can put it down to gender, it’s more about the mindset of people who want to manage others. In my experience, competent people don’t want the hassle of managing others, whereas people without any real skills can only increase their earnings by managing others.”
  • “I have disdain for incompetent male leaders, but my own experience tells me that being a woman alone does not make you more competent or a good leader even if you are competent.”
  • “Leadership is a high paying position and in the corporate world, people only care about their own interest. Incompetent managers, men and women, don’t care that they don’t make good leaders even when they are fully aware of it. They will do anything to get that huge pay-check first and foremost. Everything else is of secondary importance.”
  • “I’ve now worked for 3 hopeless bosses who caused me great stress. However, it’s not just men, one was a hopeless woman who thought she was so great but incompetent. I’m not sure many women managers would be much better. It’s a matter of humility vs ego.”
  • “I’ve had many lousy bosses, both male and female.”
  • “Ego, narcissism, Machiavellian politics, self-centred world view, lack of empathy…The reason many men get to the top.”
  • “In my workplace the two most nightmarish bosses have been women. From this, I do not assume that all women are incompetent or bad.”
  • “I think that even though the traits for derailed leaders are more found in men, there’s no equal sign between woman and good leader as most women who advance to leadership positions often have the same traits that are undesirable in a leader as men. Unfortunately, the saying goes, ‘Be A Man’ not ‘Be a Woman’”.

Some responses from the surveys on what makes a great leader:

  • “Best leader is a humble leader with understanding that people maybe going through other stuff in life that might be affecting their work, so being a listener and helping through until they get back on track. Best leaders don’t exist to control, they exist to contribute.”
  • “Let’s not confuse ‘Leader’ with ‘Authority’. A great leader is not elected or chosen. They simply are because people follow them. Authority figures are those who are invested with power or authority by others. When we follow a leader, it’s because there is a reward involved, whether it is pleasure, money, recognition, or accomplishment. We follow an authority because there’s a penalty for not doing so.”
  • “Great leadership is about integrity, humility, and competence. Yet, there’s something about being bold and confident that pushes someone to drive innovation, break rules, and challenge norms.”
  • “A great leader is the one who inspires and motivate those they lead to believe in themselves and create a conducive environment for them to perform at their highest level by not standing their way.”

Well, I thought I needed to share these two sets of data – responses, just to add to the on-going debate regarding the above even though the sample is not statistically significant to confidently draw any conclusion but should help formulate some view on the topic. This should help anyone who is in a leadership role or who aspires it to take note of areas of development to work on.

From the above data and my personal experiences, I can safely say that leadership is a combination of personality/genetic disposition and training and should not be viewed from a place of either/or, but as a combination of both.

“Everything has it’s limit, iron-ore cannot be educated into gold.” Mark Twain.

Veli Ndaba is a Neuro-Conscious Leadership Speaker and Trainer, Life & Business Coach, Motivational Speaker and Author of four books (You Are Born to Win, Your Dream is Calling You and SWITCH ON! And Set Your Soul On Fire!), Newspaper Columnist and Entrepreneur. To book him to speak at your next event or to help you and your team unleash your greatness, contact him on, or +27 83 304 9773