The Great Man Theory Of Leadership - FocusU

The Great Man Theory Of Leadership

We have often come across this phrase – “Great leaders are born, not made“. This phrase beautifully sums up the basic tenant of the Great Man Theory of leadership.

What is the great man theory of leadership?

This theory, originally proposed by Thomas Carlyle, is based on the belief that leaders are born and not made. Great leaders are born with some unique attributes that set them apart from others and these are the traits that allow them to assume positions of power and authority.

Sociologist Herbert Spencer has said that leaders are products of the society in which they live. In ‘The Study of Sociology’, Spencer was quoted as saying, “you must admit that the genesis of a great man depends on the long series of complex influences which has produced the race in which he appears, and the social state into which that race has slowly grown…. Before he can remake his society, his society must make him”.

Is the theory still relevant?

There is no denial to the fact that every successful man has certain ‘inborn’ and inherent leadership skills that set him or her apart from the people around them. These inborn leadership traits include personal charisma, intelligence, wisdom, and political skills. However, an individual is also what society and experience make it.

In simple words, the society we live in, the people we come in contact with, the jobs that we do, etc., also have an impact on our overall development as a human being.

Re-defining Leadership: Situation, Environment & People Play a Crucial Role

Today the focus of current leadership approach has moved away from being an inborn hero towards a person who is a product of several factors including society, work environment as well as the ‘human factor’.

Today, leadership is all about team development, inspiration, learning, motivation and encouragement, and last but not the least leading others to achieve organizational goals.

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Can team building activities help achieve some leadership qualities?

Here are certain team building activities that can help learn some key leadership traits.

The Domino Rally Challenge

This challenge teaches participants the supreme quality of how to use their imagination in settings that challenge their creativity. The emotional experience that participants go through while creating the Domino Effect art piece, is similar to what they experience in their daily lives at work. From being patient to learning tolerance; from understanding one another, to working together; from planning the big picture, to executing the individual construction; every single step requires precise action from everyone.

The Roller Coaster Challenge

This challenge teaches participants the ways and means to manage the inevitable factors and dynamics of a team at work. While the teams are busy creating their own roller coasters, they come across real-time challenges that affect them at work including coordination, communication, creativity, and innovation. However, this team building activity facilitates a discussion on learning from each other and how as a team they can cope with such downturns.

The Wheels of Hope Challenge

Can we really touch the life of another human being – in some meaningful way? In this team building activity, the participants have to build wheelchairs using all the raw material allocated to them. But this is not ‘just another team building activity as the wheelchairs that ate being made are donated to the handicapped and destitute people. This fun-filled, innovative activity teaches us a very important trait of leadership – How to inspire hope in others.


The traditional understanding that ‘leaders are born and not made’ is true but only to a certain extent. Instead, influences such as the human factor, the environment, and the society are of increasingly greater importance to shaping the life of an individual.

To discuss your findings and other leadership development matters, you can get in touch with us at If you want to deep dive into leadership and related topics, you can go and check out our blogs here.

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