Leadership is an Art

Is leadership “natured or nurtured?” What is the role of the follower? Fred Smith share clear insights on the art of leade

By Fred Smith

There is no valid list of common denominators for leaders, no formula to follow. The ingredients vary in each situation. Sometimes, for instance, leaders must exhibit courage; other times, their decisions are so obvious no courage is required.

I could list several "Traits of a Leader," but it would be like giving a list of recipe ingredients without giving the amounts or mixing instructions. Most lists of leadership characteristics are simply intellectual exercises. You can go down the list and check them, but it doesn't mean you can put them together in a specific situation and be a leader.

For example, one of the greatest requirements of a leader is knowledge of human nature. But the application of that knowledge varies, depending on the activity. Napoleon was considered to be the greatest general because he was the master of human nature in war. This was the basis of his power. He knew how hard he could push, how far he could go, how much he could do with what he had. But that didn't mean he understood human nature in politics.

Winston Churchill showed tremendous leadership in the emergency of World War II. He tried to exert it afterwards, without the same success. Leadership is not a constant science; it is a delicate art.

Some people ask if leadership is innate or learned. I think it can be coached but never implanted. The great violinist Heifetz could be coached but not taught. In the early days, he could be taught notes and music and the technique of fingering and bowing. But later, as one great conductor said, "I can only tell him whether he is doing what he tells me he wants to do."

I don't believe you can make a leader out of someone without an innate gift of leadership, and leadership shows up in early years. Looking at a child three or four years old, you can see an emerging pattern of leading or following. That usually continues throughout life. If a person has innate ability, circumstances and training will certainly bring it out.. Though I may not admire some individuals as persons, they still demand tremendous respect for their leadership abilities. And those abilities can be developed—in the right people.

At this point, you may be asking, "What should I do if I realize I'm a follower and not, at this point, a leader?"

People have to face themselves very firmly and ask, Am I occupying a place of leadership without the talent? They must then seek God's direction, and if it's financially possible, change positions. This would relieve a great deal of the present stress among some pastor's example. This does not mean getting out of the ministry! There are many places to serve in ministry. Significant ministry can be done apart from the primary leadership role.

Is it possible to give the leadership responsibility to another? Not while at the same time maintaining the image of himself as leader. It's a rare individual who can let someone else lead without occasionally trying to exert his own leadership by disrupting what the other person is doing. Those who are not leaders will have to face that situation with integrity and follow the person who does have leadership.