Leaders Are Made Not Born?

by | Nov 9, 2021

by Nick Roud, Award Winning Executive Leadership Coach


LEADERS ARE MADE NOT BORN? by Nick Roud Executive Coach November 2021

Back in the 90s I worked for a tremendous Manager. He was young, smart, hugely talented and has gone onto do amazing things now as a CEO. As a person reporting to him I had never experienced leadership like his. I had worked for a couple of managers who to me  just felt like robots, ticking the box type of people, towing the corporate line, not really present, certainly didn’t care and frankly were only in it for themselves.

Leadership comes in many forms, we should never judge a book by its cover. Nor should we assume (who really knows what is going on behind closed doors). Pressure and expectations treat everyone differently. 

As an executive coach I am not here to judge, never have – never will. I am here to support you to be even better than you thought possible.

We should never take for granted the impact great leadership has on our lives (good or bad). Just like my manager in the 90s, what I observed really did make a difference to me and has possibly shown me how to truly lead a bunch of misfits & vagabonds…… 

The sheer joy that is held by so few elite professionals can’t be bought. Great leadership is a class above the rest many try to copy but that is a fools game. Be yourself or get off the bus! 

You have to be extremely good to survive in leadership. It is a ruthless profession, many hidden agendas, many unknowns that nobody can predict, leadership done correctly can open you to the world or as I love to say just be you and then the world truly is your oyster. 

I sit with some amazing leaders, individuals who are really dialling things up a notch or three. In my engagements with these wonderful humans I get to learn so much, I sometimes joke with them that I learn more from them than they do from me. Never be the smartest person in the room………….but if you are invited into that room make sure you are yourself, authentic and above all I’d encourage you to fire up ALL your senses! 

Leadership no matter what stage you are in remains extremely challenging. Could our great great great grandparents ever predict what you and I face today? Will leaders ever be challenged as much as they have been right now! One thing is for certain a solid purpose will deeply anchor you.

Have I ever met a leader who said to me ‘Nick – this is an easy job, I’ve got this’?  

The answer is 100% No. 

I’ve coached many wonderful leaders who are simply trying to do the very best. Are they arrogant, pushy, driven, reckless? Well that comes out pretty quickly when we start digesting their 360 degree results. There is no hiding here and nor should there be.

I was recently asked to present my coaching approach to a Global CEO, unfortunately it was done via technology so a couple of my senses were not as dialled in as I like. She asked me to describe my typical coaching day. I recall saying;

Debbie, Everyday I  play a World Cup Rugby Final. My client and I rely 150% on each other, to be honest, to be present, to passionately care, to dig deeper than we think possible and to keep going till the final whistle blows, and when that whistle blows and our work together comes to an end we must be able to look at each other hug and know we have given it everything. 

That is what we must expect from each other. 
Debie and I are now 3 months into our work together. 

I have been reflecting a great deal over the past couple of months, maybe its as I turn 48, maybe its due to our current lockdown here in Auckland, New Zealand but really reflecting on the title of my blog today. I have a clearer view that leaders are actually ‘made’. Like building a beautiful cake – it can take simply just a few ingredients with a twist of love to make the best cake ever, like your leadership it will evolve and it will change (mature) but their will be just a few very special ingredients that make it work for you. Unlocking those ingredients takes a little bit effort. 

What therefore are the greatest assets (ingredients) of a leader? Here’s my Top 12 (in no particular order and as at Nov 2021) 

  • Empathy

  • Relatability 

  • Critical Thinking

  • Human Connection

  • Decision Making

  • energy/drive/hunger

  • Talent Radar

  • Resilience

  • Communication 

  • Adaptability 

  • People leadership

  • Sensing (under used in leaders)

So the burning question still lies. Leaders are made or are they born……. What do you think?

It’s an interesting question and one I will continue to reflect on over the next 27 years. 

Leadership (great) leadership can be learnt just like a language, just like a musical instrument. If you are not willing to, look deep into the mirror and ensure you are putting in the hard work that is needed and to constantly evaluate where you are at (now) and where you want to go (future). Nothing comes easy, I do buy into the fact that not everyone will be a great leader, there has to be that little bit of ‘magic’ going on inside your head, your heart and your gut….

Five years ago Nicola and I gave birth to our first child Louie and then a couple of years later we were so blessed to have Willow. As a parent I see many things good and bad in my kids. 

  • Sometimes they will lead and sometimes they will follow. 

  • Sometimes they will be confident and sometimes they will be so scared. 

  • Sometimes they will play with others and sometimes they will play on their own. 

I relate those observations back into my professional work. As an executive leadership coach I regularly observe my clients in the field, I see leaders who will lead and sometimes follow, leaders who are confident and sometimes very scared, I see leaders who will play with others and leaders who enjoy the quieter times. There will never be a one way of leading your people onto greater things – keep a close pulse check on your environment, your values and your purpose. We were all born, we all grow and we all make choices. 

What sort of leadership approach will you take, what will your legacy be and what dent will you leave on the world? How are you evolving your own leadership. What’s working best for you – how are you really helping – actually helping others be even better………

As leaders we all have our strengths and areas we must continue to develop. 

I was told recently by my knee surgeon following my 7th knee surgery,  that once you past 35 you have to really remain diligent and focused on building muscle. It’s a big reminder that just because you have reached the dizzy heights of CEO or you are about to take on a CEO positon you must keep building on your muscle (your strengths and lay paths to develop your gaps). 

We are all very unique and like I’ve said countless times before in my blogs and podcasts – no two people are the same.

Leading people, leading organisations is not for everyone. Many executive leaders have been thrusted into these roles with very little if any support. They are learning on the fly. Some will survive and some will be moved on pretty quickly. 

In any professional environment there are common themes,  coaching is no different. The one-on-one leadership coaching that I do is evidence-based, we focus on real time evidence and insights. 

Leadership of today must remain vigilant around pushing the boundaries to one side when working on yourself”

In my humble view, leaders are not born they are made, each and every leader is unique and has his/her own style. Don’t lose sight of who you are, where you have come from and what you stand for. Be very firm on your purpose and don’t get distracted from what you have been tasked to do and that is……Grow better people around you.

So I leave this thought for you. Leadership is a profession, it is something you absolutely can develop, you will have some amazing strengths that have seen you be successful and you will have specific areas that need developing. Great leaders invest in themselves and are not afraid to keep pushing the boundaries, the rules and their own horizons to achieve more!

Keep being reborn and Keep being you!

Nick x



For a confidential conversation about your leadership coaching needs, call Nick on +6421375630 or email him nick@roudcareers.co.nz

Nick Roud

Nick Roud

Executive Leadership Coach

Nick is the Chairman of Nick Roud Coaching and a Global Award Winning Executive Coach. Nick holds the highest coaching qualification MCEC. His clients are typically Chief Executive Officers, Executives and Emerging Leaders. Nick’s office is based in Auckland, New Zealand and he travels extensively around the world to coach his clients. You can contact Nick directly on +6421375630