Posted by: jessicaswing12 | February 20, 2015

Leadership: Destined, Shaped, or Societa

As I was watching a dance competition online, all 35 contestants danced their hardest for only one competitor to win the ultimate trophy. The winner’s speech was very heartfelt and genuine, stating how he was destined to dance even at a young age, and this award reflected his journey of fulfilling his life expectation. These speeches about being ‘born to do’ this or that in life, as if it is one’s sole purpose to accomplish that talent incorporated into one’s destiny are often heard. From actors and artists, to parents and professors, there’s an underlining value of having a natural-born talent that carries out one’s destiny. Once I started reflecting upon my own life, I realized I unknowingly have adapted this mindset to a certain extent. Since I can remember, I’ve always loved being creative in aspects of photography, cosmetology, or performing on stage. Thus, I’ve always considered those ‘talents’ something I’ve just inherently had. Then again, are those passions something I was born with and destined to engulf in my life’s purpose, or did my feminine upbringing and societal influence depict those strongly emphasized qualities that I’ve consistently had up to this point? I remember in my first year of school, I would strictly wear dresses everyday because “that’s what princesses wear.” I played with Barbies and put on small musicals for my family, then later on took dance and singing lessons. However, being so young, I don’t remember whether I insisted on fulfilling these feminine behaviors as it was initially apart of my being, or if my parents instilled these ‘feminine talents’ in me as well as the current culture’s influences on females.

In nature vs. nurture fashion, these questions of destinies, environments, and societies remain. Specifically in relation to leadership, my question is are there certain natural-born talents or qualities that one can be destined to have in order to fulfill his/her leadership purpose? Further, are there certain areas of professions that we’re destined to take leadership roles in? Do we grow into leadership aspects based on the environment we’re encompassed within during our childhood? Personally I wonder if I am I destined to take leadership roles in own a photography business or being an actress because I was born with those specific talents tailors to my feminine attributes or does my environment create my leadership strengths that determine no specific destiny? Is my purpose just a mere self-fulfilling prophecy? Instead, does the Great Man/Great Woman Theory, meaning that the one of the genders has the qualities that attribute to the advantage of being a great leader, apply to what areas someone is a natural leader or not that all?

On the other hand, is it neither nature or nurture in how we’re leaders, but merely society classifying who’s a leader based on the circumstances of the culture? For instance, this webpage reveals an admirable woman, Dr. Murray, who had accomplished so much in her lifetime, but was never widely accepted as a leader during her time because of the culture of that current society. She had denied moving to the back of the bus in the 1940s, she co-founded the National Organization for Women, and was the first black woman to be ordained a priest in the Protestant Episcopal Church among other accomplishments. Being unaware of who she was, I checked these facts and concluded these were true. The webpage argues that because of being a black, lesbian, feminist women during her time minimized her accomplishments her status as a leader. Whether this is true or not is to be determined, but the fact that society influences what and who is viewed as a leader and in what fields is something I wonder. Are the gender stereotypes of each generation a depiction what’s classified as leadership?

Further dissecting societal determinants of leadership, as this video depicts, society can judge women without knowing anything but their names to create this gendered stereotype. This video is meant for humor purpose, but if one really applies to this to society and the gendered normality women face, it brings forth the question of how much current culture classifies leadership and the acceptance of women to have these natural-born or environmentally grown qualities that flourish in leadership. If a woman can be judged based off name alone based of societal stereotypes, what can stop society from classifying which women are leaders? So overall, is leadership and leadership in a certain field destined, shaped, or societal?


  1. It seems like you are kind of getting at GWT of leadership in the first part of your post, insisting that certain traits direct us toward particular leadership roles. When we talked about GWT in class, we decided that it is rather applicable to both genders, but that it can be easily manipulated. What I mean by this is that people can have certain traits that predispose them to having a particular set of advantages over other people. This may allow them to fulfill, or be more likely to fulfill, a particular leadership role. However, traits are only a small part of determining someone’s leadership. We have studied how it is also environment, genes, and things to this extent. We maintain the ability to grow in an environment that we are placed in, but we have high enough level cognition to also be able to not be influenced greatly by our environment. Although to some degree it is subconscious, it can largely be decision-based as well. This is exemplified by the fact that people generally do reflect their families, but also by the idea that people sometimes greatly contrast their families and familial values.
    When holistically looking at how people come to be leaders, we have to take into account both nature and nurture, but also society. One of these factors alone cannot determine how a person will act or lead, but rather they interact and come together on a larger level to form complex associations. Leadership is all destined, shaped, and societally influenced. Humans are multifaceted and multilayered. When describing their actions, and especially their leadership, it becomes something that you have to look at as an integration of all of their experiences, influences, and attributes.

  2. I think that this is a really interesting concept. I think that the intriguing thing about what society classifies as leadership closely resembles what you stated in your post about how leadership was viewed in that certain time frame. Such as in the 50’s leaders were more likely to be seen as strong businessmen and so on. I think that people’s ideas of leadership are derived from their experiences and what history has taught them. I strongly believe that before I came to college, I saw men in a business suit as leaders because that is what my history textbooks have taught me about what leadership looks like, i.e. presidents and CEO’s of companies.
    When concerning your second point about whether leadership is predetermined, shaped or societal, I think that it depends. I don’t believe that much of anything about a person’s life is predetermined. However, I do strongly believe that people are shaped by their experiences through being raised and then experiencing the real world. As far a society shaping a leadership role, I think that this is something that was true but it now changing. As long as 50 years ago, the medical field was predominantly male and it didn’t seem to faze many people. Now when I think of the medical field I think of it as open to whomever desires to join it. I think that leadership also depends on the person. The ambition reading really hit home for me with this concept. If someone wants to achieve a certain position they must be able to accept having ambition because without ambition it is difficult to accomplish much of anything. In regards to women in leadership, I think that we must continue to accept our ambition so that we can continue to break these societal norms of which gender belongs in certain career paths.

  3. I really think that your leadership is shaped very much by your experiences, man or woman. I tend to take more of a nurture over nature approach to this issue. I cannot help but think back to the article we read about the woman at Harvard (I think?) who said that she never planned for everything to fall into place the way it did…but rather one step led to another and things just sort of all worked out. Society always has and always will put constraints on people for what they are able to do and how they are able to lead. In my opinion, you just have to accept that and move on. You may just end up proving them all wrong. Where would we be if everyone just adhered to their “stereotype” anyway?

  4. I think it in the first part of your post you are asking the question that we addressed at the very beginning of class: are gender norms placed by society or are the biological? I think we can never really know the answer to this question and that is why it is unsettling for many to think about. GWT would suggest that women have different traits then men when it comes to leadership just because they are women. I don’t remember the theory stating whether these traits were learned or engrained so even that provides no clues to the question of nature vs. nurture. But traits are only a small part of leadership as we have learned. Leadership is shaped by many more aspects such as context, personality, followers, and goals. If you are asking if leaders are born or made, then it is hard to tell because that question is left unanswered. But if you are asking if leadership is shaped, then 100% yes. Leadership is a contextual concept that s shaped in the minds of followers.

  5. I think it would be wrong to ignore all of the factors that lead to someone being a leader. Some people are born with attributes like being outspoken and brave that make them good leaders. People are also shaped by life, parents and events. And people are also changed by the culture around them. If the culture around you tells you that you can’t be a leader because you are a woman then you are likely to not want or strive to be a leader. If your parents tel you that you can be anything you want, you may be more likely to want to be a leader in your field. And there’s nature; people are born with certain characteristics that will aid them in certain fields. I don’t think there will ever be one true answer to the question of whether it is nature versus nurture but I do think that it is a mixture of many factors. Culture specifically plays a significant role outside of the united states; looking at women who are told that they are only in existence to serve a man they would never think of themselves as leaders. So I pose the question, does situation and culture overpower those other factors of nature and nurture?

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