I’ve heard the question asked many times, “Are leaders born or made?” Peter Drucker’s response was, “Leadership must be learned.” (The Leader of the Future, xi) I’m not one to argue with Drucker, but I will argue with the question.
Obviously all leaders are born. But the question assumes that there are two classes of people in the world – leaders and everyone else. An all or nothing proposition. I’d argue that leadership is an innate, God-given quality that resides in all people, but expressed in different ways, at different times, and in different situations. Leadership is found in every person, but each has his or her unique capacity, style and setting.
Yes, leaders are born but only in the sense that each of us was born to lead. In Genesis 1:26 we read, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” Whatever you think about man’s creation in the image of God, one thing from this verse is unquestionable. God’s next comment begins, And let them rule.
Not some of them. Not just the men. No exceptions, just the simple declaration: And let them rule.
Somehow, in God’s sovereign, creative activity, He designed the crown jewels of His creation to exercise leadership in the responsibilities entrusted to them. We are all designed in the image and likeness of God. In some small way, God’s attribute of sovereignty is reflected in each of our lives as leadership. Our leadership flows from God’s sovereignty. Leadership is a reflection of God’s image and likeness in each of our lives.
Obviously not all of us lead at the same level of competency nor do we have the same force or impact. Why is that? Why, if we are all designed to lead, do we see varying degrees of leadership effectiveness? The answer is found in four irreducible aspects of leadership: 1. Capacity, 2. Trust, 3. Vision, and 4. Motivation.
Not all leaders enjoy the same capacities of intellect, energy, emotional intelligence or creativity. Not all leaders are able to garner equal amounts of trust in the relationships they nurture with their followers. We all have limits to our vision, but some leaders see farther and more clearly than others. And some leaders have the ability to inspire others to action through the congruency of their lives, communication skills, wise use of power, and inspiration.
One more thought in closing: If we are all leaders, then who are the followers? As we learned in kindergarten, we have to take turns. If I lead at work, I may follow at church. I may lead at home but follow at school. We will look at this and other issues in future posts.
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