Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

July 2014
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Simple Design and Complex Design

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

By God’s grace, for the second time in a row, LeaderSource SGA was recently selected as one of the recipients of the Leadership 500 Excellence Awards for 2014 “for outstanding achievements in leadership development and programs.” In addition we were selected as a “Top 10 finalist” in the Non-Profit Organizations Category . The complete list is here (we’re on page 12). We thank God for this honor.

In our last Letter, we began to look at how to design transformational leader development. Let’s continue now…

Simple Design and Complex Design

An intuitive grasp of the principles of gravity and aerodynamics is sufficient to catch a ball that is thrown to you. But it’s not sufficient to design an airplane, even though the same principles are at work! To design an airplane you need a considerably greater (and conscious) mastery of the principles.

In the same way, there is both simple and complex leader development design. Just as you can catch a ball without knowing anything about “lift” and “acceleration,” so you can intuitively harness the power of 4D design (incorporating spiritual, relational, experiential and instructional dynamics) without being able to design a full-time, multi-year curriculum for training.

Anyone can do “simple” design.

For example, a leader with an elementary understanding of the 4Ds will know that he should take an emerging leader with him when he goes to do ministry work and he will very naturally harness the Four Dynamics. He’ll talk to the emerging leader along the way and discuss the work and why and how it should be done. They’ll pray together and do the ministry work together. Then they’ll debrief what happened. On the way home, he’ll ask the emerging leader about his marriage and his vision for his life and so forth. Many wonderful things will happen – transformational things! So many profound spiritual things will occur without the leader consciously and precisely understanding how it all works. He just knows the simple principles of the 4Ds and so he does simple design – and it works!

Anyone can do simple design, and we need to nurture the capacity of every leader (and believer) so that everyone does it. In this way, across the life of the church everyone will understand that they need to build the whole person and everyone at a simple level will know how to do it. Consequently, across the life of the church everyone will nurture and build others. Parents will build children, disciples will build new disciples, leaders will build new leaders. This is a healthy church – a place of continual nurturing of life, where everyone takes responsibility for building others.

This does not mean that everyone can stand up and do the teaching. Only a few are specifically called and gifted as teachers. But, at a simple level, everyone can build others. This is the thriving healthy church of Ephesians 4, in which the body “builds itself up.”

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)

This simple building of life can be achieved across the entire church as everyone has just a basic understanding of the principles of life transformation and then takes responsibility to apply them.

In addition, to this simple design which everyone can do, there will also be those in the church who have the particular giftedness to create complex design. These are the ones, for example, who design a long-term training program for emerging leaders. The emerging leaders need a systematic and deep foundational training for their lives – perhaps over the course of a month or six months or a year. So we need some who will be able to design all the various ingredients throughout that time of training.

Not everyone can do that. God gives the church a few people who have this particular gifting and calling who can then create the design that others use.

Simple Design Is Easy!

It is not hard to start doing “simple design.” Anyone can do it. In fact, you are probably already doing it!

“Doing design” simply means being intentional about using any of the Four Dynamics of Transformation (or any of the core principles of healthy leader development) to create opportunities for life transformation. It is not hard! You can do this immediately, and the more you do it, the better you will do it.

In our next Letter, we will examine more principles of transformational leader development design.