Are Leaders Born or Made?
Are Leaders Born or Made?
This debate has been going on for a long time. Some claim leaders are born with certain innate qualities that, from the get go, separate them from others. Others believe leaders are made and developed over time.
We believe leadership happens anytime we influence the thinking, behavior, or development of another person. Leadership, in essence, equals influence. Based on this definition of leadership all of us have influence, regardless of our position, education or economic status.
Different Responsibility, Same Accountability
This definition of leadership empowers but also obliges all of us to embrace the influence we’ve been given to the fullest. Does this mean all of us have equal amount of influence? Absolutely not! Does this mean all of us possess the skills necessary to lead an organization or to be a brain surgeon? No, it does not!
In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus illustrates the principle of influence by telling a story about three servants who were entrusted by their master with different responsibilities (different amounts of financial resources), each according to his ability.
They each received a different “amount” of responsibility, but the expectation was still the same. Each of them was required to be faithful in whatever little or much they received.
Upon his return, the master settles accounts with each of the servants. Those who were faithful in investing and growing the initial amount, were commended and entrusted with even more. The one who was too afraid to risk, and therefore failed to embrace the opportunity he’d been given, was reprimanded, and whatever influence he was initially given, was taken away from him.
One Body, Many Members, Different Functions, Different Gifts
1 Corinthians 12:1-27 serves as another great reminder that each of us has been given influence, but not all of us have the same function. Just as the human body has many parts that serve different, distinct functions, so are we called to serve and influence in various capacities.
“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.”
Skill and Ability Do Matter & Growing in Influence
In the parable of the talents we highlighted the word ability for a reason. In this story Jesus tells us that as the master was dividing up the responsibilities among the three servants, he did take into account their ability. The master did not initially entrust five talents to the one who had the ability to manage two. He did not entrust two talents to the one who initially had the ability to manage only one. However, after seeing the faithfulness of two of his servants, the master rewarded them with more influence!
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” Matthew 25:21
It takes a completely different set of skills to be a great surgeon than to be a great architect, teacher or a CEO. Skills, abilities and competency do matter, just ask someone who’s ever been operated on by a less than competent surgeon, someone who’s been taught by less than a competent teacher, or someone who’s been part of an organization led by a less than capable leader.
The beauty of God’s design is that as we embrace God’s purpose for our lives, we can grow in capacity and influence.
So, are leaders born or made?
Since God is the giver of life, and every human being has been entrusted with some level of influence, we could conclude that leaders are born. And since God is also the giver of gifts and talents, and He gives us the ability to grow in skill, ability and influence, we could also conclude that leaders are made.
You see, leadership is nothing more and nothing less than influence. Every day we are given opportunities to steward God-given responsibilities be it as parents, teachers, spouses, doctors, co-workers or CEO’s. Our Father is not looking at how much we’ve been given, but how faithful we are with what we’ve been given. And because He is a generous God, He is eager and ready to entrust us with more so that one day we can hear “Well done, good and faithful servant… Enter into the joy of your master.”