Feb 052014

One of the primary responsibilities of leaders is identifying and developing new leaders. A good leader will have a number of new leaders “in the pipeline” at various stages of development. The temptation is to focus on leaders in the pipeline to develop them and “move them along” toward their full potential as leaders at the expense of bringing new people into the pipeline. Soon the pipeline’s empty.

But what, exactly, is “the pipeline”? What are the stages to move emerging leaders through? Let me suggest a “Top Ten” list for you to keep in mind as you develop new leaders.

  1. Examine your environment for potential new leaders who evidence sound character. This examination should be constantly going on. You are swimming in a sea filled with potential new leaders. Be on the lookout for candidates to develop. Don’t let charismatic personalities (glittering images) or tremendous gifting (spectacular powers) cause you to overlook character. I think character can be built up, but there has to be a foundation to build on. There’s no better definition of foundational character traits than the “Fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
  2. Edify. As you proceed, focus on building up elements of their character that need bolstering. Lovingly call them early and often on defects of character and shortcomings that evidence need for character development.
  3. Encourage. As you observe their “natural” talents and personality strengths, encourage your new leaders in their use and development. They’ll find early success in things they’re “good at” that “come naturally.” That success will build their confidence.
  4. Enhance. As good as they may be, they’re still at the “raw material” stage. Work with them not to be simply satisfied with their current development level of achievement but to develop themselves further in these areas of gifting.
  5. Equip. Add to their abilities with skills, methods, and techniques through training. I differentiate between teaching and training. Teaching is an information dump on a passive learner. Training is hands-on formation of an active learner.
  6. Explore. Push them into new areas. The tendency is to stay comfortable with what we’re good at and what we find joy in. We may be good at and enjoy other things if we’re forced to try them. There are very few, if any, switch-hitters in baseball who naturally and easily could hit from both sides of the plate when they started. It took me a long time to learn to enjoy lima beans (thanks, Mom).
  7. Exemplify. Realize that “do as I say and not as I do” works about as well for leadership development as it does for parenting. Remember, “What you’re doing speaks so loudly they can’t hear what you’re saying.”
  8. Explain. Leaders don’t develop simply learning by rote or imitation. They need to understand and understanding requires critical thinking capability. Questions from young leaders are not a challenge to your authority but rather the door through which to enter into demonstrating and developing critical thinking.
  9. Empower. For leaders to develop they need to try their wings before being fully commissioned. Release them to lead as appropriate. I call that a “soft release” as compared to a “hard release.” A “hard release” is tossing them in the water to teach them to swim. The picture that forms in my mind around “soft release” is an image from the Winter Olympics sport of ice curling. The curler doesn’t just throw “the rock” down the ice. He or she slowly releases it while imparting some spin to it as it glides toward the goal. One final note. The “soft release” is the way it looks to you and the new leader behind the scenes. The public perception may in fact look like a “hard release.” Public perception of “soft releases” may cause observers to form an inference of lack of confidence on your part in the new leader.
  10. Evaluate. After a leader has been “soft released” into a new leadership experience, meet with him or her to evaluate how things went and are going. Commendation for things done well and constructive correction on things that might have been done better provide some of the best learning opportunities between you and the new leader. The practice of evaluation can continue even after the new leader is fully released and on their own. The practice is then called mentoring. Through the repeated experience of evaluation the new leader becomes self-evaluative in a process called ministry reflection or theological reflection.

Keep your pipeline full and keep new leaders moving along the path of development. Remember, developing new leaders is not a distraction from your leadership duties but an essential part of your leadership responsibility.



 Posted by at 8:26 am