What Makes a Leader?

Lately I have been pondering what causes one person to excel as a leader while another person does not. Is it due to education, experience, personality, learned skills, time management, culture, or emotional intelligence? I suppose it’s a combination of all of these things to some degree.

Since a mishap that resulted in an ankle fracture two months ago, I’ve had plenty of unstructured time at home. There was a silver lining to this unexpected season of rehabilitation. I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership, pondering, “What do good leaders do to distinguish themselves from others?" and "What makes a leader effective as a leader?” 

Here are four aspects that came to mind as I processed these questions. When I have pursued these qualities, I have put myself in the best position for personal development. Perhaps you will find them helpful. 

  • Grow yourself. Our hope is that every leader in InterVarsity is a maturing disciple of Jesus Christ: growing in love for God, God's Word, God's people of every ethnicity and culture, and God's purposes in the world. It implies that we are growing people, intentionally, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and professionally.
  • Take initiative. Leaders are not passive. They step up, get involved, contribute, and make a difference. Look for ways to start something new, add to, or enhance what is already in place, and then do it.
  • Be a team player and lead a strong team. The writer of Ecclesiastes writes, “Though one may be overpowered, 
two can defend themselves. 
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Strong teams can accomplish much more than individual effort. Leading a healthy team that knows its purpose, is unified in its work, and committed to one another’s success are marks of an excellent leader.
  • Grow others. An important aspect of InterVarsity’s history and a central value throughout the movement is the development of others. As leaders in ministry, we are called to equip and release others into ministry activities. But that can be hard to do when we are the ones that love to lead that small group, or love to do the speaking, or plan that outreach, or be the emcee at large group. Many of us became leaders in InterVarsity because we loved doing those things. But being an InterVarsity leader means that often we step aside and allow others to take these roles. Leadership means that we develop the current and future ministry of others. By doing this, we multiply and replace ourselves over and over again.

Leaders that pursue  growth in themselves and others, take initiative, and contribute to team effort will honor God and serve effectively in his world.