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Characteristics of Great Leaders By Scott Rodin

The Defining Characteristic of Great Leaders

There is an age old discussion about whether great leaders are born great or made great. The former assumes that it is the intrinsic qualities of some people that make them great leaders. They cite charisma, confidence and character combined with the right IQ and EQ, accompanied by the ideal profile on everything from Meyers-Briggs and Strengths Finder to DISC and more complex assessment tools. The ‘nature’ school believes leaders come out of the womb with the wiring and temperament that will eventually result in effective leadership.


The nurture school counters that anyone can be a great leader if they just attain the right tools and techniques for the job. Leadership gurus provide us their proprietary list of surefire traits that will transform a timid follower into a dynamic leader. Over the past five decades we have seen the rise of the leadership training industry that operates on the ‘nurture’ principle that with the right equipping, great leaders will be formed.


The nature school puts its hope in the ‘who’, while the nurture school depends on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of leadership. Yet as we look at the state of leadership in our churches, non-profits, businesses and government, we may be left wondering if either school has it quite right. We’ve seen a parade of high profile failures of charismatic leaders. There is also great debate over what the ideal characteristics should be that would better predict the linkage between our wiring at birth and our performance as leaders. In the end, there is still little evidence that the innate traits that many would think would produce great leaders actually do so.

But the news is no better for the nurture school. Despite decades of academic and professional training, it could be argued that we have not produced waves of effective leaders for the church and larger society. The record of leadership failure is as dismal for the nurture school as for its counterpart.


What then is the answer? How can we affect the rise of a generation of great leaders? My contention is simply this; great leaders are neither born nor made, instead, they are freed to lead. Unless a leader has been set free from the bondage that weighs them down, neither nature nor nurture will save them.

Why is freedom the key? Because bondage is the primary weapon of the enemy against Christians in position of leadership. Leadership bondage takes the following forms:

  • Stress that comes from believing our organization is really ‘ours’ to take on our shoulders and lead to success
  • Anxiety that flows from the desire to control people, outcomes and perceptions and the realization that we can’t and don’t
  • Fear of failure that results from tying our identity to our job
  • Financial worry when we try to place our security in money and assets that fail us
  • Frustrations when people don’t perform to our standards or follow where we lead
  • Discouragement over so many challenges we know we are not equipped to overcome
  • Laboring under the weight of the expectations of others and our need to please everyone
  • Loss of intimacy with God because of our pursuit of measuring our success and worth by what we accomplish instead of who we are becoming

The list can go on. The point is that all these forms of bondage rob us of our ability to lead faithfully. And all of the innate talent and splendid training will not win us our freedom. It will come only to those who choose a different leadership path. We call it the journey of the steward leader.  It begins with surrender and takes us on a daily journey of taking off the chains that bind us and living into the freedom and joy of a leader who starts each day with the conviction that everything belongs to God. Everything.

Christian Leadership Alliance  and The Steward’s Journey are committed to raising up faithful, steward leaders who have been set free to lead. Are you ready to lead in this radical new way? Then we welcome you to join us on the journey.


Dr. Scott Rodin as been in not-for-profit leadership and consulting for thirty-two years. He has authored fifteen books and has served as counsel to over 100 organizations across the U.S. and globally including colleges, seminaries, schools, churches, para-church ministries and other not-for-profit organizations. Visit his blog at The Steward’s Journey.


Dr. Scott Rodin will be serving as faculty for the Outcomes Conference 2019. He will take you deeper into the Steward’s Journey with back-to-back workshops!

And new this year – the  first day of the Outcomes Conference three-day experience will focus on lifting the leadership of all those called to influence the thinking, behavior and development of others. Don’t miss this highly engaging and interactive experience where leaders are free to share their best and gather the best thinking for others committed to excellence and impacting the world for Christ.

Together, we are stronger!

Take advantage of early registration now through October 31, 2018.

Alliance members that register four leaders at one time, earn a fifth on free.

Maximize this opportunity and bring your entire team!




What is Christian Leadership Alliance?

Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

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