The debate of whether a leader is born or made is as timeless as the age-old controversy about the chicken and the egg. There are however two important traits that every individual whether prepared for leadership or hoping to become a leader must possess. The abilities for superior communication and relationship building make for effective leadership. Do effective leaders learn to become superior communicators and relationship builders? Or do people with exemplary communication and teamwork abilities naturally have an aptitude for leadership?

Recently, the Wall Street Journal’s online edition, citing the need for – and lack of – these leadership qualities in business, asked its readers if business schools should “put more focus on communications and interpersonal training within their programs, or should the programs require a greater degree of proficiency in these skills in the students they admit?” Inevitably, the discussion revolved around the question of whether communication and relationship skills are inherent or learned.

Leadership according to Wikipedia has been described as "a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. That an individual will be able to enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task through the process of a social influence is largely dependent on his superior communication and relationship abilities.

A leader may not be prepared like the royal family of England but that certainly can not deny him a seat in the oval office. Even when you are not Prince William, you can still be Barack Obama but even Barack Obama needs consistent development to be an effective leader.

As Ivey Professor Gerard H. Seijts illustrates in his compelling article about the behaviors of effective leaders, communications and interpersonal skills are absolutely critical, especially when a crisis erupts like the #OccupyNigeria or #Bringbackourgirls protests. A leader must be seen to be communicating and relating effectively since leadership is about enlisting support of others to achieve a common objective and who ever is not able to exhibit such crucial traits is certainly not fit for leadership. The question is not about whether an individual assumes leadership prepared or by accident, the contention is how a leader manages his position in order to achieve the best. 

When problems occur, leaders need the “visibility” that arises from remaining in touch with their people at all times. Equally vital is a leader’s eagerness to communicate widely because there is “no such thing as over-communications during a crisis” as we currently have in our hands. The ability of being able to “connect with people” – to engage them, secure their commitment and gain their trust must not be overlooked. Effective communication and interpersonal skills provide leaders with an acute understanding of what could happen, how to minimize surprises, and how to keep your people on side – no matter what occurs.

Finally, I believe our dear president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan can do more by learning to communicate and relate well with the people he claims to lead, listening, speaking and interacting with them effectively. Are leaders born or are they made? I believe that the best leaders learn to lead. They come to appreciate the value of candor and trust. They seek to understand and be understood. And they know that communicating and relating well with the people they lead are the only ways to achieve the caliber of leadership that endures.

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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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