Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

May 2004
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Building the Right Ones #3

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

Building leaders is an intensely personal exercise, demanding much time and energy. Consequently, we cannot personally build hundreds of leaders – only a few. But how do we choose that few? In our last several Letters we examined seven practical guidelines concerning how to choose emerging leaders. Now we will consider four more:

8. Look for a genuine love for God’s people.Jesus requires that we express our love for Him in our love and commitment to His people.

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:17)

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:19-21)

We must not, as many leaders do, use the people of God for our own promotion or to fulfill our own agendas. The foundation of our ministries must be a genuine love for the saints and a commitment to their highest good in God’s purposes.

I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. (Phil. 2:20-21)

This love will be tested profoundly and repeatedly over the years of ministry, so it must be present from the beginning in the heart of an emerging leader.

9. Look for responsibility.The emerging leader should already be self-motivated and leading various initiatives. Since leadership involves being the one who moves ahead first, the leader must have the courage and the willingness to take risks, to take responsibility and to move ahead without always having to be told by someone to do so.

In addition, he must have a history of completing his work in spite of obstacles that arise. This can be determined by giving a group of people the responsibility to solve a problem that they are not used to dealing with. The person who grabs hold of the challenge and sees it through probably has the greatest leadership potential.

10. Look for accountability.We should look for emerging leaders who are genuinely teachable, correctable and accountable. Someone may profess a deep allegiance to a leader, but this allegiance will only be tested when that leader attempts to correct the person or hold him accountable.
11. Look for “big-picture” thinking.One way to distinguish potential leaders from potential managers is to look for the ability to think across departmental issues, not just the ability to make a strong case for one department. When it comes to the allocation of resources, leaders have to prioritize between multiple, well-presented, legitimate causes. One can only do this against a “big-picture” vision that covers the entire scope of the organization. Good managers make good cases for their own departments, but often cannot see, or hear, the validity of parallel claims on resources. (For more on this leader-manager distinction please see Leaders & Managers: SpiritBuilt Leadership #5 by Malcolm Webber.)

In addition, a “big-picture” thinker will be one who can create vision and share it with others. Consequently, a person who does not feel the excitement of challenge may not be the best choice.

Finally, an effective “big-picture” thinker will be a good listener and a good observer. He will not be so self-absorbed that he cannot understand the organization’s surrounding environment.

Our next Leadership Letter will offer six final guidelines concerning recognizing emerging leaders.

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