Are Great Leaders Discovered or Developed?


Victory Manila’s rapid growth revealed an urgent leadership shortage that forced us to revisit our leadership-development strategy. Nevertheless, even in our leadership-crisis phase, we still had more leaders than some. I realized this fact when pastors from around the world would visit our church and inevitably comment on the number and quality of our leaders. We thought we had a leadership shortage, but our visitors saw leaders everywhere.

Visiting leaders would often ask where we found so many leaders, as if leaders are simply waiting around to be discovered. Others, realizing that leaders are developed and not discovered, asked about our leadership-development materials. A few bold pastors asked if they could hire some of our leaders. Their reasoning: Victory had so many leaders; surely we could offer a few to the highest bidder?

Since Victory Manila started in 1984, we have rarely found or discovered leaders. That might be because we have never attempted to solve our leadership shortage by looking for or recruiting leaders.

While we have not discovered very many leaders, we have developed thousands. Most of the leaders we developed did not even remotely resemble leaders when we started working with them. But isn’t that how most great leaders in the Bible started?

No one but Jesus would have picked the twelve people He did to be the original leaders of the church. To the untrained eye, they had zero leadership potential.

Think about David’s mighty men. Many of them were hiding in a cave, depressed, in debt, and bitter when he found them. (See 1 Samuel 22.) David did not discover leaders in a cave. He developed leaders by doing life together (or more accurately, by running for their lives together).

Everywhere the Apostle Paul ministered, leadership happened. Notice how Paul described the starting point of the Corinthian leaders:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are… (1 Corinthians 1: 26-28)

Paul didn’t find very many ready-made leaders. He found plenty of people who were not wise, not strong, and not noble. But after being transformed by the gospel, investing in the mission, and participating in a local church community, many of them eventually became great leaders.

If you want to act like a leader, then don’t lead alone. Build a team. Don’t recruit or hire a team of current leaders. Instead, identify potential leaders, and take the necessary time to develop them into a great team.

(An excerpt from the book The Multiplication Challenge: A Strategy to Solve Your Leadership Shortage by William and Steve Murrell)

Points to ponder:

Do you look for already-developed leaders around you, or do you look for individuals with potential to develop into great leaders? Why?

Let us know your thoughts about this article. Please share in the comments below!

about the authors

stevemurrellSteve Murrell is the cofounder and president of Every Nation Churches & Ministries, and the founding pastor of Victory in Manila, Philippines. Steve and his wife, Deborah, have three adult sons and two grandchildren. They split their time between Manila and Nashville. 

william murrell

William Murrell is a PhD candidate in History at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. His research focuses on Muslim-Christian relations during the Crusades. William and his wife, Rachel, have two young children and live in Nashville.


enewsletter 2017


Where do I find more leaders?

Every leader of a growing organization asks this question. And though we know we need more leaders, few of us know how to create a culture of leadership development. This book recounts how Steve Murrell and Every Nation rediscovered four leadership multipliers that solved the leadership shortage of a growing church and global mission organization.

The principles and stories in these pages will help you identify potential leaders, develop current leaders, and multiply future leaders!


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