Leadership can happen by accident – sometimes situations demand unknown leadership to rise up. Movies make millions of dollars celebrating the unknown person who stumbles upon success. However, God has a different view. We can begin to understand God’s plan by observing how Moses raised up Joshua, Elijah developed Elisha, and Jesus invested in disciples who would change the world. While we might understand the need for developing a leadership team, we often get stuck in the how. The four basic steps shared in this blog are not easy to do, but they provide a clear and concise path. As leadership development becomes a natural part of your skills, nothing will substitute the need for prayer, hard work, flexibility, and compassion.
First, you must be a model. Be the leader you are looking for. You can’t take people where you have never been. You can’t ask of people what you are not willing to do yourself. As you live and lead, you will attract others with a servant-leader mindset, and you gain the credibility to develop them in a healthy way.
What does healthy leadership look like? While hardly comprehensive, here are five key characteristics that I feel make up effective and healthy leadership:
- Character – who you are when nobody is looking
- Passion – are you leading in an area that excites you?
- Responsibility – healthy leaders take blame and deflect praise
- Compassion – prioritize people over production
- Generosity – in every area (time, money, advice, etc.)
The next step is identifying potentials. We should always be looking for two types of people. First, who fills in your gaps? Find people whose strengths compensate for your weaknesses. Second, who will replace you? The truth is, nobody will lead forever. As you search for people to complete your team or replace you, seek out leaders not followers. Leaders take initiative – who is stepping out and failing forward? Leaders are innovative – who is trying new things and seeing things differently? Leaders have influence – notice the atmosphere of the room when people come and go.
After modeling and identifying, you must become a coach to your developing leaders. This involves believing in them – do you really have confidence they have what it takes, or are those just hollow words? Consider them as a person, not a tool. Relationship and the development of the person must always take priority over the development of skills and the need for production. You should respond to current needs in light of long-term goals—a strong leadership-development coach keeps their eye on the big picture even while those around them are focused on the details. As a coach, you should also guide your team to aha moments! Allow the leaders you are developing to find their own way and discover hidden truths, this develops a much greater sense of personal ownership than simply listening to and responding to your words.
The final aspect of leadership development is to release your leaders. Consistently provide appropriate tasks for leaders to take ownership according to their skill and maturity. Allow for different methods – there are many “best” ways to tackle a project. As leaders step into opportunity, encourage them to celebrate failure as a launching pad for growth – failing forward creates wonderful learning moments. As a last step, remain available—the relationship should be determined by them as they spread their wings.
Developing leaders is necessary to expanding ministry, and as a bonus—it is a lot of fun! So, how are you in this area? Do you feel the need to have all the answers and take care of all the tasks, or are you open to developing leaders and building a team to fulfill all that God has called you to?
Mike Dobes has been in pastoral ministry since 1997 and is currently the Manager of Church Relations for Joni and Friends.