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Some Fundamental Realities of Leadership Development #1Malcolm Webber
Before we deal with the daily nitty-gritty of how leaders actually build leaders, in the next few Letters we will first examine some fundamental realities concerning leadership development.
1. Leadership itself is an eternal activity (e.g., Luke 19:17-19; Rev. 20:6; 22:5). Therefore, leadership development in this life is part of our preparation for eternity. That’s how important it is!
2. Ultimately, God is the One who raises up leaders. When we understand leadership development in terms of life’s processes, and not merely as the result of “education” or “training,” we realize who the academic dean really is: God! God designs our lives and experiences uniquely and perfectly so that we can graduate with balance and maturity in our relationships with Christ and our community, and in our characters, callings and competencies.
3. Leadership development must involve all five key areas of the leader’s life: Christ, Community, Character, Calling and Competencies. Then the leader will have experienced holistic development and be balanced. Unfortunately, most efforts at building leaders focus only on competencies.
4. You have to work at it. It does not happen automatically. God sovereignly raises up His leaders, but we also have a responsibility in the matter. Leaders must consciously, actively, intentionally and deliberately develop the present and next generations of leaders. In most organizations, leadership development is left entirely up to chance. What differentiates an organization that raises up leaders from one that does not is a clear priority for, and some means of ensuring, developmental opportunities for its people. Leaders who are serious about the present and future, develop leaders!
5. Anyone can always improve. Effective organizations seek to develop everyone – including the people that they don’t think will make it to “the top.” This means that they won’t prematurely eliminate the late bloomers or the nontraditional leaders. For example, if Samuel in 1 Samuel 16 had gone by appearances, he would have anointed Eliab, Jesse’s oldest son, as Israel’s king, instead of the not-so-obvious choice of David (vv. 1-13).
This also means that leaders will encourage the best in everyone, which is our goal in the church:
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph. 4:16; cf. Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:7)
No matter how strong or weak a person’s inherent leadership skills are, those abilities can be improved with learning and practice.
6. It is never too early or too late to take on the challenge of improving your leadership effectiveness as well as the challenge of developing the leadership capacities of others. Children and seniors, along with everyone else in the organization, should be continually growing as leaders.
7. Leaders exist at all levels of the organization. While the top leader is a crucial player, it is not just the top leadership that is important. Truly effective organizations don’t have just one leader, or just a few at the top. They have many strong leaders, and they have them at all levels. The same leadership traits that are necessary to guide the whole organization are equally important at other levels of the organization.
The next Leadership Letter will continue to examine certain fundamental realities of leadership development.