Are leaders born or made?

People have debated the question for centuries. The “Great Man” theory of leadership supported the “born” argument. The “Skills Theory” later suggested that leadership principles can be learned.

Are the most effective leaders naturally outgoing, decisive or visionary? Provocative research both supports and disputes these claims. Regardless of one’s bias, many will agree that human nature still tends to emulate the cry of the Jews in Old Testament times: Give us a King!

Yet, instead of appointing candidates matching Israel’s job description, it seems God was always trying to convince people of one key truth:

“God doesn’t call the QUALIFIED, He qualifies the CALLED.”

I first heard these words in a Master’s class on Leadership as Mentoring. As I pondered this principle, I couldn’t deny that it represented the nature of God.

God called Moses, a stutterer, to go before the most powerful political leader of his day. He chose David, the runt of Jesse’s litter, to anoint as king. He chose Esther, a woman without a voice, to save His chosen people. Most of Jesus’ disciples were blue-collar, ragamuffin commoners! Why did God choose these types—those who misrepresented Him, denied Him, and even betrayed Him to death?

And why does God choose you and me?

If the purpose of humankind is to worship and glorify God, as author John Piper suggests, then herein lies a key clue. God chooses the “weak things of this world to shame the strong.” He chooses the “foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27). He gets more GLORY when unsuspected leaders influence using His authority!

So, what might this mean for everyday leadership?  I suggest a few key things. First, our identity should be defined by our calling, not our credentials. Second, we should seek to call out divine potential in other less obvious leaders. And third, we should regularly deflect any glory and power back to the One who called us.

Take a moment and consider how you might practice this today.

Daniel Gluck

Lead Faculty, B.A. in Christian Leadership