Biblical Leadership: Leaders Born, Made or Called?


1. Are People Born as Leaders?

Many times we hear people say that someone is a natural-born leader; that people naturally look up to and follow them but is that true? Is there such a thing as a natural-born leader, and what does that mean for the rest of us?

In this set of readings, we look at how it is that some people are great leaders, while others are not. And, we’ll dig deeper to find out what it means if God has placed you in a leadership position.

Let’s begin by reflecting on who we might identify as a natural-born leader in the Bible.

It’s easy to identify leaders in the Bible, but singling out those who are natural-born leaders is more difficult, isn’t it?

Excluding leaders raised up by God through experiences or mentorship by others, the list of natural-born leaders is very short indeed. Even so, there might be a couple of leaders we might consider as “natural-born”.

Samuel grew up under the tutelage of Eli but must have started with some pretty strong leadership skills to overcome the weakness of Eli’s mentorship, as demonstrated by his wayward sons (1 Samuel 2:12-18).

Deborah, the 4th of 15 judges in the days before Israel had a king, was a strong woman of God (Judges 4:4-10). Growing up in a patriarchal society, it’s likely she didn’t receive much leadership training and so she must have drawn on her natural-born skills as well.

But what of all the other leaders in the Bible? Were none of them natural-born or is there even such a thing as a natural-born leader?

The Bible clearly says that we are all given both natural and spiritual gifts and that these gifts vary from person to person:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  – Romans 12:4a

Clearly, God can create natural-born leaders but why would He stop there? The Bible often talks about a “raising up” which would indicate the development of some initial gifts:

pertaining to Pharaoh of Egypt:

But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.   – Exodus 9:16

pertaining to judges: 

Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders.   –  Judges 2:16

pertaining to King Jeroboam:

raised you up from among the people and appointed you ruler over my people Israel.  – 1 Kings 14:7b

pertaining to the prophets:

 I also raised up prophets from among your children  - Amos 2:11

Against this background, we might conclude that most, if not all leaders in the Bible benefited from both natural-born gifting plus a “raising up” of those gifts through experiences, mentorship, or even the direct word of God.

The same is true for us today. 

Each of us is born with some talent or affinity for leadership, and the “raising up” in our lives enhances those gifts for application in our leadership roles.

The idea that some are “natural-born” leaders who don’t need to do anything to fulfill God’s purpose in their lives simply is not true.

Next, we’ll see how leadership can be for everyone and how we each have a responsibility to invest in our “raising up”.


Reflection / Application

  1. Do you see yourself as especially gifted for leadership? Why?
  2. If you had to make a split between natural ability and raised up by training & experience, how would that look?