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Are You a Leader (or Just Bossy)?

There seem to be many schools of thought around leaders. One question that intrigues me most is this: Are leaders born or developed?

Some believe they are born, so they take a look at folks who have natural charisma and draw people to them without much effort. Some believe they are raised, so they create space for people to develop and choose leadership roles. These manifest themselves differently—one in the selection of those believed to be destined for leadership and given special attention and training, and others in the leadership development process where atmosphere is created for everyone to potentially choose leadership.

I would like to offer another view—that leaders emerge as imaginative people that inspire and motivate based on vision and call for the moment.

I think there is a difference between someone who leads and someone who wants to be in charge. A leader, in my opinion, has a drive that is centered on people and solving the issue of the day, their passion often driving them and pushing them to the front, and their charisma motivating others to move in the same direction. A leader has a purpose and a call that goes beyond the present and pushes to a better future.

I am a Winston Churchill fan, and I believe he was motivated by the people and dreamed of something better than what they were facing at the time. His speeches were what he sincerely believed. “Never give up!” was his personal conviction. It connected with the heart of people, and drove them together to victory.

I believe the motivation to be in charge is one of the most destructive drivers of leadership.

Its motivation is self-centered and decisions are made out of self-gratification and control. Being in charge as a motivator displays an arrogance that assumes you are more qualified to direct people than them having a voice for themselves. “I know better” is the mantra of a person that just wants to be in charge.

Being in charge manifests itself in power and plays out in small meetings, mostly behind the scenes.

In contrast, leadership motivated by people and call is public and inviting. There is always time needed for smaller meetings and planning, but those have input and direction from everyone. One takes a lot more time and intention.

I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it’s like to be a leader, in on Christ’s sufferings as well as the coming glory.

Here’s my concern: that you care for God’s flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously.

Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way.

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Leroy Barber has dedicated more than 20 years to eradicating poverty, confronting homelessness, restoring local neighborhoods, healing racism, and living what Dr. King called “the beloved community.” He is currently the President of Mission Year, a national urban initiative introducing 18-29 year olds to missional and communal living in city centers for one year of their lives.