Some people believe that great leaders are born with an intrinsic set of characteristics that make them successful. Others believe actions determine whether someone is a leader. So, which is it? Are leaders born or made?
An article by Psychology Today suggests that leadership is about one-third born and two-thirds made. For instance, natural qualities such as extraversion and intelligence can predispose people toward leadership positions. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘natural-born leader’ before, and I bet someone you know even comes to mind at the mention of it. However, does that mean that introverts or people of average intelligence won’t make good leaders? Certainly not!
As someone who has been a business leader of many years, I can say with confidence that leadership does not choose people–people choose leadership. Everyone has the potential to be a strong leader, but our own choices determine whether we actualize that potential.
In this blog you will find four different steps you can take to develop your leadership skills. Even if you only implement one of them, I’m sure you’ll be able to confidently answer the question, “are leaders born are made?” with confidence!
1. Develop an Ownership Mindset
Leaders know how to take ownership. You can do this regardless of your job or position. That’s because ownership is a mentality before it’s a reality! It is possible for a minimum-wage employee to have more of an ownership mentality over the business than the CEO (though it probably wouldn’t be a very successful venture!)
Someone with an ownership mentality knows how to take responsibility for the overall success of a company. They take pride in their assignment and understand how their individual part is crucial to the advancement of the whole. They encourage others and are eager to set the standard for success.
For Christians, an ownership mentality should naturally develop if you are working for God and not for man. Colossians 3:23-24 says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”
This is a counter-cultural thought process. It is easy to justify putting in the bare minimum—“I’m only getting paid ____ amount,” we bemoan, or “I’m serving their vision, so why would I treat it as my own?”
However, when you work for God, most of your negotiations become arbitrary. When you have an ownership mindset, you embody the fact that you serve a higher calling. You infuse your work with God-given meaning. And, you become equipped with the maturity to handle more responsibility when you’re promoted (whether it’s within or outside of the same company) in the future. Because here’s the thing—you will receive a promotion from God because you’re working for him! He knows when you’ve developed a character that can carry more responsibility, and He will transition you into that season when it’s time.
2. Be a Lifelong Learner
What kind of characteristics come to mind when you think of a leader? I think of someone who has a sense of integrity and is honest, driven, and inspirational. However, there’s not one specific way to define a leader, nor is any leader perfect. What makes one leader successful isn’t necessarily true for the next. However, I’ve found that every good leader has this one thing in common—they are a lifelong learner.
To be a lifelong learner, you need to dig deep into the skills you already possess and learn how to expand on them. For example, you could be a great communicator who lacks the ability to confront others when needed. You could be an exceptional listener, but perhaps you don’t know how to speak your mind and speak publicly when input is needed. Be honest with yourself and pursue opportunities for growth. For instance, if public speaking is one of your weaknesses, try to invite a friend over so you can practice presenting in front of them. Study public speaking online or in a book from your local library. Always remember, the favor of God is attracted to a spirit of preparation. [Related: 3 Principles of Preparation]
In our day and age, it can seem like self-promotion is the quickest way to acquire a leadership platform. However, the Bible teaches us differently. Jesus’ model of leadership wasn’t to be front and center (that came naturally with time.) Instead, Jesus demonstrated that true leadership is focused on service.
Jesus never promoted himself. He only did as his Father did (John 5:19) and started his ministry when he was 30. That may seem young to us, but at that time the average life expectancy was 35! Jesus taught that “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave. For even as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:26-28.) If we want to live in such a way that mirrors Jesus, our main prerogative should be to serve where God leads us. [Related: Service Brings Access—How to Humbly Reach Your Destiny.]
A good leader is a great listener. If you want to be heard, you must first listen. In fact, if you just want one skill to focus on, I’d say this is a good one to choose! James 1:19 reads, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” When you choose to listen to others, you put yourself in a position to learn, be present, and build.
The first step to becoming a good listener is to truly believe that everyone has something to teach you. Take every encounter as an opportunity to ask good questions and draw out the best in people. Never turn down an opportunity to hear some else’s thoughts and opinions. The information you gain might end up being exactly what you were looking for!
I’ll end with a quote by legendary American football coach Vince Lombardi: “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work.”
It’s important to remember that leadership is about more than our careers. Every sphere of our lives requires intentional leadership, whether it be in our families, churches, volunteer work, or activities we do for fun. After reading this blog post, how would you answer: are leaders born or made?
[Read Next: 6 Powerful Leadership Qualities Jesus Embodied]