Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

October 2000
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The Ultimate Act of Leadership

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

Healthy organizations have good leaders who nurture the development of other leaders at all levels of the organization.

The ultimate test of a leader is not whether he makes smart decisions and takes effective action in the short term, but whether he teaches others to be leaders and builds an organization that can continue to be healthy and to thrive when he is not around.

Thus, the key issue of healthy organizations is leadership development.

The effective leader is not only a continuous learner himself; he must also be a continuous teacher and builder of others. He must pass along what he has learned to others who will then pass their learning along to others.

Jesus built His disciples who then turned the world upside down (Matt. 5:1ff; 28:19-20; etc.). Look at Jesus’ desire:

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. (John 14:12, NKJV)

This is the desire of the truly great leader: to build other leaders who will entirely outdo him! His goal is to raise up leaders who will stand on his shoulders and then raise up more leaders who will stand on their shoulders and so forth.

David was a mighty warrior and built other warriors (1 Sam. 22:1-2; 2 Sam. 23:8-23). The Bible is replete with examples of leaders who built leaders. Paul built leaders who built leaders:

And 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, NIV)

Effective leaders personally invest time and emotional energy in building others. Moreover, they expect all other leaders to do the same.

The effective organization is a learning and teaching organization. Its way of life is continuous learning and teaching – at all levels.

Leadership building is the central activity of the effective organization. It is hard-wired into everything everyone does. It is everyone’s responsibility to nurture and expect leadership everywhere. This creates leadership multiplication.

Thus, building a leadership-building culture is the ultimate act of leadership.

Building leaders is, however, easier said than done. It is not sufficient merely to send someone to a seminar or to give them a book on leadership to read. Leadership development is highly complex and very little understood. Consequently, in most organizations it is essentially left up to chance. We will pay lip service to it, but devote little time to this endeavor. The small efforts at leadership development that are made are usually haphazard and not part of any overall cohesive strategy. Usually we simply hope – and pray – that the leaders will somehow raise themselves up! When asked what his leadership development strategy was, one leader said, “You just have to let the cream rise to the top.” In other words, “We have no intentional strategy for leadership development, we’re just hoping for the best!”

The next Leadership Letter will consider structuring an organization for continuous leadership development.

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