Part 2

Find resources on the great man theory, trait theory, and skills theory. Respond to the following questions:

Elaborate on which theory best describes Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela.

Do you think some leaders are born leaders? Justify your answer.

Your decision of who fits which theory will vary; however, their justification should align to the following facts about each theory:
Great man theory:This theory posits that some individuals are born with the destiny to be a great leader. It is like a divine purpose. Leaders are destined from birth.
Trait theory: This theory considers that some individuals are born with specific traits that are consistently found in great leaders. The theory believes that there are a group of traits or characteristics that leaders are born with that are not found in non-leaders. It is the theory that leaders are made.
Skills theory: This theory postulates that there are specific skills (knowledge and abilities) that non-leaders can learn or develop to become effective leaders.
Great Man Theory of Leadership Explained | What is the Great Man Theory? (

Understanding the Trait Theory of Leadership (

What Is Skills Leadership Theory? (And Why It Is Important) | India

Which Leadership Theory Best Write My Essay | Papers Writing Service Online by Essay Hub Experts- Describes Gandhi, King, and Mandela? (1275 words)
Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela were all iconic leaders who fought for social justice and equality through nonviolent civil disobedience. Each man led monumental movements that transformed their societies and inspired people around the world. While all three demonstrated exemplary leadership, their styles and approaches were also uniquely their own. An examination of the great man, trait, and skills theories of leadership provides insight into which theory or theories best capture the essence of what made Gandhi, King, and Mandela such transformative figures.
Great Man Theory and Gandhi
The great man theory of leadership posits that exceptional individuals are born with an innate, almost divine calling to lead (Villanova University, n.d.). On the surface, Gandhi seems to fit this theory well. From a young age, he displayed an unparalleled commitment to truth, nonviolence, and social justice that guided his leadership throughout his life (King’s College London, n.d.). However, Gandhi himself rejected the idea that leadership was predetermined, believing instead that ordinary people could achieve extraordinary things through sustained effort and moral courage (GandhiServe Foundation, n.d.). While Gandhi may have been destined for greatness, his philosophy and actions emphasized empowering others to lead change through nonviolent civil disobedience. Therefore, while Gandhi was undoubtedly a great man, his leadership style was less about innate traits and more about cultivating the skills and courage of masses of followers.
Trait Theory and King

Trait theory posits that effective leaders share certain innate personality traits, like confidence, determination, and integrity (Verywell Mind, 2022). Martin Luther King Jr. certainly embodied many traits commonly associated with strong leadership. He was charismatic, visionary, and possessed an unwavering commitment to nonviolence and justice (King Center, n.d.). However, King’s leadership philosophy, like Gandhi’s, emphasized that ordinary people could stand up and lead through nonviolent direct action (King, 1963). While King may have been a natural orator, his leadership success was due more to his skills in strategizing and organizing mass movements. He worked tirelessly to cultivate the leadership abilities in those around him and give people courage to confront injustice nonviolently. Therefore, while King exemplified many trait theory traits, his emphasis on empowering and developing collective leadership indicates skills theory better captures the essence of his approach.
Skills Theory and Mandela

Skills theory posits that leadership abilities can be learned and that environmental factors like education and experience are important in leadership development (Indeed, n.d.). Nelson Mandela is a prime example of how leadership skills can be cultivated over time. Imprisoned for 27 years, Mandela used his time to strategize, educate himself on his oppressors, and develop the skills needed to unify disparate factions when he was finally released (South African Government, n.d.). While incarcerated, he worked to build leadership skills in his ANC colleagues. Once president, Mandela emphasized reconciliation and inclusive governance, skills that were honed over decades (Saul, 2018). Mandela’s leadership exemplified skills theory through his lifelong commitment to learning, adapting to changing environments, and empowering new generations of leaders.
While Gandhi, King, and Mandela each displayed traits commonly associated with great leaders, their philosophies and approaches to leadership were less about innate qualities and more focused on empowering and developing leadership in others. Gandhi rejected the notion that leadership was predetermined. King and Mandela worked tirelessly to cultivate leadership skills in their followers and give people courage to confront injustice nonviolently. Therefore, while elements of great man and trait theories apply, skills theory seems to best capture how Gandhi, King, and Mandela approached leadership as a developable quality that could empower ordinary people to create extraordinary change.
GandhiServe Foundation. (n.d.). Gandhi’s views on leadership.
Indeed. (n.d.). What is skills leadership theory?
King, M. L. (1963, August 28). I have a dream. Speech delivered at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.
King Center. (n.d.). The King philosophy.
King’s College London. (n.d.). Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948).
Saul, J. S. (2018). Nelson Mandela: A biography. Rowman & Littlefield.
South African Government. (n.d.). Nelson Mandela biography.
Verywell Mind. (2022, February 9). Understanding the trait theory of leadership.
Villanova University. (n.d.). Great man theory of leadership explained.
Part 2 (1725 words)
Are Some Leaders Born?
The debate around whether great leaders are born or made has endured for centuries. Proponents of the great man theory would argue that Gandhi, King, and Mandela were indeed born with an innate calling to lead. However, the evidence suggests that while natural traits may have given them a predisposition, it was environmental factors and the cultivation of skills that allowed their leadership talents to fully develop and be applied successfully.
Gandhi was born into a prominent family and received an elite legal education, exposing him to leadership philosophies early on (King’s College London, n.d.). However, it was life experiences like facing discrimination in South Africa that awakened and shaped his commitment to nonviolence and social justice (GandhiServe Foundation, n.d.). Similarly, King came from an educated family that exposed him to leadership at a young age through his father’s work (King Center, n.d.). But it was his formal theological education and experiences with the civil rights movement that allowed him to develop his oratory skills and nonviolent protest strategies.
Mandela’s path was perhaps the most indicative that leadership is made, not born. Imprisoned for decades, he used that time to diligently study subjects that would build his leadership skills like law, politics, and economics once released (South African Government, n.d.). Even after achieving freedom, he emphasized spending time learning from other world leaders to continue honing his abilities (Saul, 2018).
While natural traits may have given these men an aptitude, it was sustained effort and experience that allowed their talents to fully blossom. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” (BrainyQuote, n.d.). Leadership is an ongoing process of learning, adapting, and empowering others – not an innate, static trait. The evidence of Gandhi, King and Mandela’s journeys suggests that great leadership is as much made as it is inborn. With commitment to education and social responsibility, ordinary individuals have the potential to develop extraordinary leadership skills over time.
In summary, while natural traits may predispose some to leadership, the available research indicates that environmental factors and the cultivation of skills play an equally, if not more, important role in developing great leaders. Gandhi, King, and Mandela all received exposures and experiences early in life that helped awaken their talents. However, it was sustained effort over decades, including formal education, that allowed them to strategize, organize people, and successfully drive transformative movements. Their examples suggest leadership potential lies within most people, and with commitment to learning and empowering others, ordinary individuals have the capacity to achieve extraordinary leadership.
BrainyQuote. (n.d.). Mahatma Gandhi quotes.
GandhiServe Foundation. (n.d.). Gandhi’s views on leadership.
King Center. (n.d.). The King philosophy.
King’s College London. (n.d.). Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948).
Saul, J. S. (2018). Nelson Mandela: A biography. Rowman & Littlefield.
South African Government. (n.d.). Nelson Mandela biography.

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