Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

April 2001
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Some Fundamental Realities of Leadership Development #3

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

We continue here to examine some broad, overarching realities concerning leadership development.

13. In our last Letter, we noted that one leader can build only a few other leaders — that is, if he wants to do it properly. As we will discuss in a future Letter, Jesus concentrated on building only a few leaders. He built only 12 (or 11) main leaders who would head His entire organization that would change the world! That was the model He gave us. Paul and other biblical leaders pursued leadership development the same way. The idea of personally raising up “thousands of leaders” is not a biblical one.

The biblical model is more like this:

the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Tim. 2:2).

In other words, build a few good leaders, who in turn will each build a few good leaders, who will each do the same, and so on. In a relatively short time, we will have the dramatic multiplication of leaders we need. The difference is: they will be good leaders. We must lay down our “production line” mentality, which is driven essentially by our prideful desire to be known for having done something “big.” God’s way are not our ways. We desire greatness in the eyes of man. Let us instead seek greatness only in the eyes of God. Let us pursue the obscurity of reality rather than the fame of superficiality.

[The Kingdom of God] is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade (Mark 4:31-32)

This is how we will influence the lives of multitudes: through the obscurity of reality.

14. If we focus on a few, inevitably there will be envy and competition from those not chosen. If Jesus experienced this (e.g., Matt. 20:20-21, 24), we will not avoid it. Jesus, of course, dealt with this head-on (Matt. 20:25-28); He did not ignore it.

We must make sure, however, that we do not parade “the chosen few” before the rest — or let them parade themselves. Instead, we should deliberately seek an appropriate measure of hiddeness and obscurity in our dealings with “our few.” This will help them avoid the mixed motives and debilitating pride of elitism.

15. Leadership development occurs over a lifetime. Crash courses will not suffice. Extensive and diverse experiences can only occur over time, as does the learning that comes from them. This is one reason why an individual’s calling develops progressively over his or her lifetime — it rarely comes all at once.

Consequently, although you may be an important influence in another’s life you will rarely be the only influence. A measure of protectiveness is appropriate, but do not be possessive concerning the leaders you build. Instead, deliberately expose them to other men and women of God who can fill in the inevitable gaps.

16. Even though we can identify certain of its elements, leadership development is not a simple and orderly three-step process. In reality, leadership development is a collage. It is an experiential collage of diverse people, relationships, influences, assignments, tasks, responsibilities, duties, deadlines, opportunities, crises, blessings, sufferings, rejections, successes, mistakes, etc., that all work together to build the emerging leader.

It is hard to build leaders. It is a truly complex task. It is so complicated, in fact, that only God can do it; and with God’s help, we will succeed! To the new leaders at Philippi, Paul wrote:

being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6)

This is our strong confidence: He will do it!

The next Leadership Letter will continue to examine certain fundamental realities of leadership development.

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