Are Leaders Born Or Made?

Leaders are born and made. Some seem more born than made. Others more made than born. The study of leadership underlines this through the various theories postulated across the eras. About those eras evidently it was the predominant style of leadership in a given era that seems to have grabbed the headlines. I thought it was a fascinating historical sketch of the eras and the leadership that seem to have formed, developed and given birth succeeding eras.

Leaders Are Born
To the point that leaders are born, both the great man and trait theories underline that. From a biblical worldview that makes sense for we know that we have each been uniquely fashioned by a loving Creator (Eph 2:10, Psa 139:13–14). Great world leaders come hard-wired with a huge dose of leadership abilities which when refined through life experiences and shaped accordingly helps them serve in history making ways. This would be the observation of the ‘trait theory’ proponents. Whilst it’s also puzzling why some with these traits did not lead this does not call for a dismissing of the fact that the Creator does in His ‘common grace’ give certain abilities to certain people. This is rooted in historical observation but also in keeping with the spiritual principle of God distributing spiritual gifts as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). Finally also given that much of true leadership is rooted in personality we may rightly need to say that a significant part of leadership formation comes before life experiences.

Leaders Are Made
Writing in the 40 Anniversary Issue of the India Today, ace photographer Raghu Rai said about the late Mrs Indira Gandhi,

“Reluctant, diffident and unsure is how I remember Indira Gandhi when she first became Prime Minister in 1966. I remember her hands shaking and her voice quivering with nervousness. It was the same Mrs. Gandhi, who in 1980 could hold aloft a frail President Leonid Brezhnev who was visiting India despite failing health. The toughness was such a contrast to her hesitant beginnings”

What happened to Mrs.Gandhi happens to every leader who through “teaching and observation” develops those capacities required to lead. Leaders are, developed, shaped by the situations and contingencies that rise within their lives and that places a demand on them to rise to the role of leadership. The very helpful story of Leo from ‘Journey To The East’ underlines this discovery that those who begin to lead are recognised in the process as they are made and develop their leadership skills.

Leaders are Born & Made
For Christian Leadership this is especially useful so that we recognise that some have been designed by God to a role and task and yet we do not elevate them as ‘great men’ too much because they have to be shaped through life for it. We also do not belittle the work of common and special grace from God, in men and women being gifted with leadership and for them this giftedness is useful in staying humble.

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