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Leaders: Born or Raised?

I often remind my Intro to Worship Ministry class of a deeply profound statement: half of the phrase “worship leader” is the word “leader.” They pay good money for such incredible insight.

Seriously, as worship leaders, we often don’t give attention to developing our leadership skills. Worship leaders are called to lead different types of people: musicians, technicians, laypeople, and staff. They are called upon to lead in different contexts from services to rehearsals to committee meetings. Even our students who may not see themselves as an upfront worship leader have to learn lead because the role of a worship leader is a job of multifaceted leadership: musical, spiritual, financial, and general leadership of people.

Last week, I was interviewed by Jason Squires for his podcast “The Table” for a soon-to-be-released episode on “Strengths and Weaknesses.” As part of the podcast, he asked me some great questions, including if leaders are born or raised. I think this is an excellent question, but perhaps the wrong one to be asking ourselves as leaders.

I do believe that some people are born leaders. Whether you are a high D on the DISC test, ENTJ on the Meyers-Briggs test, or a lion on the Gary Smalley Personality Types Inventory, personality tests show that some people have a natural disposition to lead. Even so, people who are natural leaders must learn to develop their leadership skills. Often, these natural leaders can be overbearing when it comes to leading people if they are not aware of how to lead well.

So, then, what about the people who aren’t predisposed to lead? Can they learn to be leaders?

For me, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Time after time, I have watched students grow in their leadership skills and abilities. One of my students shared this in their field experience report:

For a long time, I’ve lived with the unconscious understanding or assumption that some people are good leaders, while others are not. I believed that I fell under the “not” category. However, as I progressed through my field experience, I began to grow more comfortable with leading and realized that leadership is not an inherent trait that some have and others don’t. While I may naturally be more soft-spoken and reserved, that does not mean that I can’t lead. It simply means that I need to be intentional when I do, and the more I step out of my comfort zone and act assertive and confident as a leader, the more comfortable I will feel doing that.

So for me, the question is not: “Do I have it [leadership] or not?” The question should be “How do I grow as a leader?” Leaders can be born or raised.

4 comments to Leaders: Born or Raised?

  • Joshua Peoples

    This article prompts a helpful discussion because it is true that the development of leadership skills is one of the first priorities to slip in the growth of a worship leader. And it seems as if the modern world of the “worship artist” could be much to blame for this frequent problem. This world has set a standard that causes us to be so concerned with musical imitation that worship leaders forget they are still called to lead people in a pastoral manner. Even if it doesn’t seem possible, leadership skills can be developed and they are an essential part to our role as worship leaders.

  • Grant E

    Dr. O, Good Thoughts!
    Over the past few years, I have come to realize that leadership is a role that anyone can take on, but it looks different on everyone. We all have different gifts and abilities, natural inclinations, passions, convictions, and personalities. Some of us are visionaries, and some of us are executors. Some are relational, while others are task-oriented. Some are passionate, and others are intellectual. Some are Extroverted, while others are introverted. The truth is, a leader is someone who knows their strengths and weaknesses and seeks to work with people who compliment these strengths and weaknesses. As Christ followers, we know that God has placed a calling for our lives, and equips us for that calling as we take faithful steps of obedience. As we walk in obedience to this calling, we will see God use us in ways we never imagined. Even if these ways are seemingly small, like being kind to a stranger, they can have a trickle-down effect that can impact people for the Kingdom-that’s leadership.

  • Sidney Rushing

    I completely agree Dr. O’Neel! Some people may be born with an innate sense to lead. They are more confident, secure in who they are, and unafraid to do uncomfortable or hard things. These people are more likely to be chosen and seen as leaders over people who have the opposite qualities. However, I’ve seen in many cases the people who wouldn’t be seen as a leader get thrown into a leadership position and flourish because of it. Being a leader is something that comes easily to some but is harder for others. In any case, it can be learned and developed. No one is the perfect leader right off the bat.

  • Lauren Ragan

    I love this topic Dr. O!
    As an introvert, I have seen this quite a bit with myself and also others in the worship major. I believe that everyone has room to grow as leaders, extrovert and introvert alike. But this can be more challenging for those who aren’t born with the natural tendencies of speaking up. But with practice and dependence on the Lord (rather than ourselves) we can start to lead in a way that is honoring to Christ! I hope to continue growing in this area and to continue asking myself your question; “How do I grow as a leader?”
    Thank you for this post!

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