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Kevin J. O'Toole, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is a former New Jersey State Senator. (Photo: Kevin J. O'Toole.)

The O’Toole Chronicles: Leadership Gene

By Kevin O'Toole, October 07 2021 7:04 am

I know this will irritate some, but I have given a lot of thought to the age-old question: are leaders born or made?

I come out on the side that leaders are made and not necessarily born. While I do believe genetics and early development reveal characteristics of leaders, I have come to the realization that upbringing, environment, and experiences are largely responsible for the transformation into leaders.

In business or politics (make no mistake politics is a business), there is not a plethora of “natural” leaders. I find most individuals want to be coached, mentored, or instructed on how to behave. I think it is just human nature – in my opinion.

However, within the hive of worker bees, I do believe a leader, ortwo, usually take shape and emerge. 

This leadership unveiling is usually caused by a particular circumstance or event. Put enough drama or uncertainty in a room and soon someone breaks out the leadership tools. Whether it is fear of failure, ambition for a promotion, jealousy to show-up a coworker in a team setting, hating to lose, seeking the approval of a superior – something will naturally trigger the rising of a leader(think back to middle school English and reading Lord of the Flies).

Questions of the day: Do you consider yourself a leader? If so, have you always felt that way? Who or what do you attribute that to?

Exercise of the day: If you have garnered that leadership gene from someone in your life (take a moment to admit that to yourself), reach out and let them know.

As for me, I put my learned traits at the feet of the following:

1) My Dad: For teaching me to never follow the crowd and instilling in me that no one should ever outwork me;
2) A client named PC, who taught me to push relentlessly and act with urgency every day, while pay attention to every detail;and
3) The late-great Steve Adubato, who demonstrated the daily and never-ending campaign to get it right and leave nothing to chance, to act as if your life depends on it.

Your turn…

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