Can Leaders be 'Grown?'

October 5, 2009 ( - A new study suggests it may be possible to "grow" leaders who are prepared to take on their leadership roles when they become adults.

The study, from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, found that children whose parents set clear limits and behavior expectations but were also supportive of their offspring were the most likely to turn into leaders both at work and elsewhere.

According to a news release, children are most likely to take on leadership positions if they are allowed by their parents to challenge their boundaries. “This gives the children an opportunity to learn why the rules are in place and then learn from their parents how to achieve their goals without breaking the rules,” the news release said.

The study was based on data from a long-term study of twins in Minnesota.

The news release saidthe study adds more weight to the idea that leaders are raised more than they are born, since behavioral genetics has shown that innate factors account for only 30% of who will end up in leadership positions and people’s leadership styles.

The researchers concluded: “Specifically, a pattern seems to be emerging in this literature and the current study, that reinforcing challenging thinking and behavior may not be all bad. Indeed, reinforcing challenging behavior coupled with supportive parenting may help accelerate the positive emergence and development of leadership potential and behavior. This line of thinking supports the notion that parents have a responsibility to not always make things clear and easy for children. Pushing them towards the boundaries of what they must consider right versus wrong, may prepare them for more difficult dilemmas they will no doubt have to confront later on in adulthood.”

The study report is available here .