Are leaders born or made? Surely, both. On the one hand, leadership is an “elusive and electric quality” that comes directly from God. On the other, leadership skills are distributed widely among every community, and should be cultivated and developed. Often our skills lie dormant until a crisis arises.
Some people become leaders by opportunity and timing. A crisis comes, no one better qualified steps forward, and a leader is born. But closer investigation usually reveals that the selection was less fortuitous and more the result of hidden training that made the person fit for leadership. Joseph is a perfect example (Genesis 37–45). He became prime minister of Egypt through circumstances that most people would call “lucky stars.” In fact his promotion was the outcome of thirteen years of rigorous, hidden training under the hand of God. When we contrast natural and spiritual leadership, we see just how different they are.
Each Christian should make it his constant prayer that Christlikeness might more rapidly be incorporated into his or her own personality.
Adding leadership potential to our lives usually requires that we shake off negative elements that hold us back. If we are overly sensitive when criticized and rush to defend ourselves, that must go. If we make excuses for failure and try to blame others or circumstances, that must go. If we are intolerant or inflexible, so that creative people around us feel hemmed in, that must go.
If we are disturbed by anything short of perfection in ourselves and others, that must go. The perfectionist sets goals beyond his reach, then sinks into false guilt when he falls short. Our world is imperfect, and we cannot expect the impossible. Setting modest, realistic goals will help a perfectionist move through a problem without discouragement.
If you cannot keep a secret, do not try to lead. If you cannot yield a point when someone else’s ideas are better, save yourself the frustration of failed leadership. If you want to maintain an image of infallibility, find something else to do besides leading people.
Those without natural leadership skills do not become great leaders at the moment of conversion. Yet a review of the history of the church reveals that the Holy Spirit sometimes releases gifts and qualities that were dormant beforehand. When that happens, a leader is born. When the burning zeal of the early church began to draw converts at an extraordinary rate, the Holy Spirit taught a wonderful lesson on leadership. The church had too few leaders to care for all the needs, especially among the poor and the widows. Another echelon of leaders was needed. “Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them” (Acts 6:3).
These new leaders were first and foremost to be full of the Spirit. Spirituality is not easy to define, but you can tell when it is present. It is the fragrance of the garden of the Lord, the power to change the atmosphere around you, the influence that makes Christ real to others.
If deacons are required to be full of the Spirit, should those who preach and teach the Word of God be any less? Spiritual goals can be achieved only by spiritual people who use spiritual methods. How our churches and mission agencies would change if leaders were Spirit-filled! The secular mind and heart, however gifted and personally charming, has no place in the leadership of the church.