I’ve been “thinking small” lately about “leadership development”: how can I invest more in smaller numbers of people?
At staff meeting today, we were talking about leadership development. It prompted my thinking about some ways that I’ve engaged with to develop some emerging leaders in our community.
- Slow Down. I used to try and “microwave” leaders. Find someone with potential and charisma, and then throw them into things as quickly as possible. Lately, I’ve been convinced that leaders are indeed made, but made over time. Not just popped like microwave popcorn.
- Pray. Like a lot of us, I’ve often tapped people on the shoulder for leadership roles. I’ve had conversations over coffee, I’ve encouraged, I’ve cast vision, and I’ve moved those people into positions of trust. Lately however, I’ve taken a slightly different approach, instead bringing people that I’m thinking about for leadership roles to God, and asking Him to break through to them, to light a fire in their hearts. Though it’s still a bit early to render a complete verdict, the method of bringing someone before God before I bring an opportunity before them feels more holistic, and (I daresay) successful. Ironically, the more I ask God to move in someone’s life, I often receive more insight to make that “tap” on his or her shoulder.
- Look for catalytic/transformational events. Though the culture of “conferencing” in evangelical churches (whereby staff members repeatedly attend roughly the same conferences with roughly the same speakers where they sing roughly the same worship songs in a highly charged, over stimulated environment) is a bit troubling, I can’t deny that they can be absolutely transformational for an emerging leader (at the very least, they haven’t sung the songs, heard the speakers, seen the laser beams or any other manner of silliness before). So seek ways to pull these folks into some kind of event where their world can be rocked a little bit, and God can speak into their lives in powerful ways. (By the way, it doesn’t always have to a be bigger/flashier/louder event; it could be a smaller/more peaceful/quieter event.)
- Don’t just seek to “be with”; try to “do with”. This is probably the thing that I’ve been experimenting with the most. I used to just talk to people about leadership. Lately, however, I’ve been actually pulling people with me on one-on-one meetings, where they can actually see (and participate in) what I do. The “up front” stuff is visible enough, but that’s the tip of the iceberg of my ministry; I remain convinced that the most valuable stuff I do often takes place Monday-Saturday, over coffee, lunch, or breakfast. I’m trying to find ways to take emerging leaders with me to see what that looks like.
- Finally, give constant evaluation and feedback. Most people I work with no that after any major undertaking, someone is going to get an email asking three questions: What went well? What needs improving? and What did we learn? Questions like these constantly evaluate events and projects, while still encouraging dialogue. (By the way: make sure whenever possible that positive evaluation isn’t overlooked or forgotten; “improvements” and “learnings” can easily overtake the successes, and cause some discouragement).
Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive; there are countless ways to develop leaders. These just represent some of my current thinking on how to effectively invest in emerging leaders.