Each culture adopts values and principles and traits considered desirable or necessary in their leaders. Personas and archetypes emerge which come to define certain roles and responsibilities. We end up being told that in order to do that thing we must be that kind of person.
I recently finished reading The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follet. It's a remarkable piece of historical fiction, set in 12th century England, which follows the life and times of a number of families involved in the construction of a Cathedral. Think real-world Game of Thrones with less murder and more architecture & philosophy & God. It's excellent.
Towards the end of the story, the protagonists are trying to figure out a way to protect their small village from an attack by William Hamleigh, a malicious earl who lives nearby. Jack (a builder) and Philip (the prior of the monastery) are discussing the building of walls, and Jack is left in thought when Philip departs.
"You never know," Jack said speculatively. "There may come a time when savages like William Hamleigh aren't in power; when the laws protect the ordinary people instead of enslaving them; when the king makes peace instead of war. Think of that — a time when towns in England don't need walls!"
Philip shook his head. "What an imagination," he said. "It won't happen before Judgement Day."
Philip went off to ring the bell. He was a ruler who kept the peace, dispensed justice, and did not oppress the poor people under him, Jack thought. But did you really have to be celibate to do that?
Jack, a good honest man, is struggling to accept that in order to be a good and honest leader of people, you have to become a priest or a monk.
Our cultural norms are not quite the same as 12th century England, but I think many of us are still asking the same question. Do I have to be like that? For most of my life I've been surrounded by leaders whose mould I didn't fit, whose goals I didn't share, and whose methods I chafed under. Simply having leaders who are different to you is very normal, and provides an opportunity for us to grow. But I'm not talking about simple differences. What I am talking about is when an entire social unit, be it a business, a church, a nation, or a generation, starts to believe that leaders can only look a certain way. If you don't look or act that way, then you are likely to feel more and more devalued the longer you live in that culture.
If you've ever felt like you just didn't fit into the mould of the leaders around you, then my heart goes out to you. The good news is, true leadership has nothing to do with personality types or popular society traits or other people's successes. You don't have to retread the path of your current leaders to be a leader yourself. God has created you in his image, you are unique and beautiful and powerful, and the way you will lead others is unique to you. If you are faithful in the small things, then God will bring people around you who will benefit from your unique gifts and traits.
You don't have to be like Donald Trump to lead a nation.
You don't have to be like Che Guevara to lead a revolution.
You don't have to be like Franklin Graham to lead a large Christian missions organization.
You don't have to be like Bill or Melinda Gates to make a philanthropic difference in the world.
You don't have to be a man.
You don't have to be white.
You don't have to share their goals.
You don't have to work that way.
You can be like you.
And lead others.
And change the world.