Leadership is not about the position you hold in the company or the title on your business card.

John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then you are a leader.”

If you are someone who has chosen to be in a front-line position and in charge of hiring, giving feedback, developing, promoting and terminating others, you have chosen one of the most important and often the hardest roles to perform in an organization. Not everyone has the “Right Stuff” to succeed. Great leaders can drive company culture and performance to new heights. Getting it wrong can be disastrous.

Great leaders demonstrate the following seven traits:

  1. They care about and connect with others.
  2. They demonstrate curiosity and are continuous learners.
  3. They exhibit positive energy and inspire others to rise to challenges.
  4. They are courageous. They possess an edge, are willing to take risks and can make tough calls necessary for employees and for the business.
  5. They remove barriers so that others can do their best work.
  6. They are passionate. They care. They believe.  They are willing to sweat.
  7. They are vulnerable and open with others.

Many people would like to be in roles of greater responsibility and to be recognized as leaders of people.  What is motivating this desire? Is it more money, more prestige, the title, what they think they deserve because of their tenure, credentials or achievements?  Or, is it because they truly see the vision, care about the people, and are able to innovate, inspire and get results through others?

Surprisingly, while leadership skills can be developed, there is such a thing as born leaders.  As published in Leadership Quarterly several years ago, The University College in London found there are genetic differences associated with the likelihood that someone will take on managerial/leadership responsibilities. They were the first to identify a specific DNA sequence associated with “born leaders”.  Although leadership should still be thought of predominantly as a skill to be developed, genetics — in particular the s4950 genotype — can also play a significant role in predicting who is more likely to occupy leadership roles.  It’s important to study both nature and nurture.

Those involved in the study compared the leadership behavior of 4,000 individuals in the United States who occupied supervisory roles in their workplace. The genotype which appears to be associated with passing down leadership ability through the generations — s4950 — proved that while leadership is a skill that can be honed, there is also a strong role played by your parents and those that came before them.

Although leadership should still be thought of predominantly as a skill to be developed, genetics (in particular the s4950 genotype) can also play a significant role in predicting who is more likely to occupy leadership roles…But if we really want to understand leadership and its effect on organizational, institutional, economic and political outcomes, we must study both nature and nurture.”

Advice for business owners and upper-tier managers who want to develop world-class leaders? Hire and promote people with the seven key leadership traits as described earlier in this article and develop the rest. You won’t go wrong.