Not every organization spends time developing leaders. I’m sure almost everyone thinks the process is a good idea, but most organizations don’t do it or don’t do it well. Developing leaders is a hard task, but organizations that have leaders who are supported and developed get things done.
An organization that has developed leaders thrives; its future is bright. Development creates growth, promotion, and longevity for the organization that chooses to embrace it. Developing others is critical for the life of your organization, but how do you go about the process of developing leaders within your organization? That’s the question many people wrestle with.
A number of years ago I stepped into a pastoral role at The Pentecostals of Alexandria, a fairly large church in Louisiana. Though I had been involved in developing leaders and others all of my life, I suddenly felt the weight of this task heavy on my shoulders. I began to ask myself, “How do I take a person who I think has leadership potential and move them forward to lead in some capacity?” Everyone is different; no person is the same. No one has identical upbringings, education, resources, or experiences. So, how could I cohesively teach leadership to people from so many different backgrounds?
Even though I had focused on growth for myself for many years, I didn’t know how to develop others. I began to analyze the intricate process of developing leaders. In this journey, character traits were exposed in me that I didn’t know were there: negative traits, harmful traits, traits I didn’t like. I actually developed and grew in ways that I never expected, and through this process, I started to see a vision for what it would take to develop others.
I practiced some of the techniques I learned with the people in my church. Some worked; some didn’t. I tried other techniques with pastors and business leaders around the country through coaching. Some worked; some didn’t. From the techniques that did work, I started noticing patterns even though each person I worked with was different. I began to organize a process of development, and out of this process and journey came The Christian Leader Blueprint. The Christian Leader Blueprint establishes a solid model for personal leadership development. You can get this resource for free on my website at ChristianLeaderMadeSimple.com.
There are many factors that impact the development of others. I believe one of the biggest things that impact development is having a plan or vision for what you’re working toward. You have to build relationships with those you’re working with and make time for those individuals. You can spend this time one-on-one or through small groups, but you must make time for those relationships.
The plan for development is important because there is no way to haphazardly move into effective development. It's important to consistently and purposely help an individual see a future that doesn't yet exist. The process of visualizing a future that isn’t yet established is called vision. Without vision, those you are working with won't be motivated to do the hard things that are required to move forward in their development. When you give your future leaders a plan, you help them figure out what resources and tools they need to move toward that vision.
The greatest resource in the development process is relationship. Relationship doesn’t happen accidentally; intentionality is key. If you let this process organically occur, you’ll wake up in a few years and realize you haven’t experienced any development or growth with the people you desire to help. Purposeful development is key to an organization’s success. Ephesians 4:11-16 gives us insight to the importance of purposeful development.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Purposeful development will equip, mature, and bring individuals to the fullness of what the Lord has for them. Perhaps you think, “Well, I don’t have the time to invest in people.” I'm going to argue that you don’t have the time not to invest. If you desire to move out of the one-dimensional, do-it-yourself life of leadership, you must invest in people. You must invest your time now for the gain of what will come later.
Think about this concept in your own life. Would you stay in a place giving all of your energy to a leader whom you didn’t know, who was not willing to spend time with you, whom you didn’t have any relationship with, whom you didn’t feel a great level of acceptance and support from? Indeed, you would not. You wouldn't stay in that place, so why should they?
As you think about the importance of leadership development, I want to share with you a few, very practical tips to get you in the mindset of developing potential leaders.
1. Identify prospective leaders.
Ask yourself the following questions: Who is showing a strong work ethic and passion for what you’re doing? Who is engaged in the values that you represent as an organization? As you pray about prospective leaders, who comes to mind? You can even ask others around you who they think are prospective leaders.
2. Gather to talk.
Gather prospective leaders, and talk about what you’re envisioning, either one-on-one or as a group.
3. Develop a plan together.
Developing a plan together will give you both a vision and strategy to work toward. My suggestion is to submit 70% of your plan for development to the potential leader, then develop the remaining 30% of the plan with them. This means that you will need some clarity on your plan of action before you meet, but you should allow the person you’re working with to give some input as well if they’re going to buy into the process with you.
Let me give you an example. You could bring The Christian Leader Blueprint as the primary guide to your development vision; then, let the individuals you’re working with decide how they will unpack the information given, how often you will come together to talk about these subjects, what subjects will you start working on first, or how best to process other topics you are working on. It is very important that those you are working with have input into the process.
4. Establish a routine time to meet.
If you’re going to see effective growth, consistency is important. Excuses of why you have to cancel meetings are not acceptable. Those excuses will kill this opportunity more quickly than anything else. Building relationships is the most important component in leadership development, and building relationships takes time. It is important that you hold those you’re working with to a high standard of accountability as well. Encourage them to not make excuses. You will have to discuss this topic at the beginning, and talk about it often in order to effectively communicate your expectations.
5. Talk content, but also go deeper.
Talk about things that are holding you back from progress. Don’t be afraid to talk about even the emotional things that get in the way. You don’t have to have all the answers; most of the time the people you’re working with have the answers within them. Explore the topics of interest with questions, and resist the urge to give advice. Let their answers to your questions drive the direction of the conversation. Don't be afraid to challenge them. If you do not challenge a potential qualified leader, they will probably not stay around too long.
6. Celebrate the growth progress.
Occasionally, you need to step back and look at the growth you are experiencing, even small growth, and celebrate it at various points in the journey. Celebrating growth is important if you want to continue to move forward.
I almost didn't write this post for fear that it was too simple in nature, but I felt a check in my spirit that prompted me to proceed. As simple as this content is, we all struggle with it. Even if this was just a reminder for you, let this post encourage you to develop leaders in your organization. The only way your church or organization will stay healthy and thrive long into the future is by investing in the development of others, especially leaders. If you resist this aspect of leadership, it will eventually destroy your organization; but if you embrace this process, it has the potential to drastically impact the future of your organization in a great way.
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