A great leader is one who intentionally trains up other leaders. A great leader looks for ways to help new leaders surpass them. A great leader trains new leaders to be leaders who make it a priority to train up great leaders.
I am presently rethinking how I train leaders and I am recalling some of the most significant experiences I had with my first mentor many years ago.
If I were to identify one thing he did that had the most impact on shaping me as a leader it was when he would say, “No”. Especially in the beginning. I was raring to go and do my part in changing the world and when I would come to him with a plan to start up something he would often say, “No, not yet.”
What I learned is that there is great wisdom in s-l-o-w–i-n-g down the process when developing leaders. When you do this with those you mentor there is a greater likelihood for deep trust to be established, and character issues get revealed too. Establishing trust and developing character in your young leaders is where you want to begin.
As my first mentor would say to me on more than one occasion,
“Oak trees don’t grow over night. Only weeds do.”
Let me walk you through the process of how I am rethinking how I train new leaders.
I began by asking why? Why do I think this is the most important thing for me to spend my time, energy and resources on as a leader? Why do I think it is important to be continually developing leaders?
Now, instead of sharing my deep convictions on why it is important to me I would encourage you to go and do some deep thinking around this question, why?
I encourage you to actually take some time (2-4 hours) beginning with a blank page with a few questions at the top of the page that begin with ‘WHY’. Example, “Father, why should I be involved in identifying and developing leaders?’ “Why is this important to you?” “Why might this be important for me?”
Here is one of the places I landed after taking some time to do some deep thinking about this. I realized that it is not only important to be continually training new leaders, but that it is ESSENTIAL that I train the RIGHT KIND of leaders.
The next phase of my rethinking shifted from asking ‘why question’ to asking a series of ‘what questions’.
“What would I do if I did something different from what I have always done?”
“What if I only had a couple of months to train up someone to be the right kind of leader that what would I focus on?
“What would be essential?”
After sweating through those questions I moved on to a less scary question, but maybe the most important one. “If I had two years to train up someone to be the right kind of leader, what would I begin doing tomorrow morning that will increase the likelihood of that happening?
RE-THINK WHAT, WHEN, WHERE?
So, let’s say you have taken the time to rethink your approach to this. You have renewed you conviction to the importance of this work. You see what you need to change.
What’s next? Start looking!
Where? Begin with those right in front of you!
Cultivate the habit of observing the people in front of you as potential ‘right leaders’. Also, do so in a quiet manner. I want to notice people who don’t realize they are being noticed. As I’m looking around, I am asking God to point out to me who the right people are to begin investing in. As I am praying I let myself simply notice people. When I notice someone I just begin to watch and to listen.
Watch how they interact with people. What do you notice? Listen to how they speak about others. Listen to how others speak about them. Also, listen for whether or not they are articulating your core vision in their own way. I take my time with this. What am I noticing? What am I hearing? Lord, is this the person I am to begin investing in at this point of their life?
WILL THEY FOLLOW ME?
When I begin to meet with someone, there is one basic question I have in the background. “Will they follow me?”
Does this question mean that I’m insecure? Possibly, but I don’t think so. For me, this question helps me discover whether this person is willing to make the changes in their life that will be necessary for them to follow me as I follow Christ.
I simply say to them. “I have been noticing some things in your life that have caught my attention (highlight a few examples). I would like to spend some time training you to grow as a follower of Jesus, growing in your ability to come alongside others around you in order that you can also learn how to help them grow as Christ followers. (I don’t script this. I simply want to cast a vision that includes the essential work of leadership. My preference is to never use the word ‘leader’ in the these early stages)
Now comes the ‘big ask’. Will you meet with me every week for the next 4-6 weeks? Will you give me permission to help you discover what areas in your life need attention so that you can grow closer to Jesus?
What I am doing at this point is asking two things. Are they willing to do something that is going to cost them time and resources, and are they willing to trust me to the degree to let me speak into their lives?
It is vital to know these two things early so that you know whether they have potential to be the right kind of leader for the community you lead. I like calling people into a specific window of time in the beginning. This sets up an opportunity later on to talk about what has transpired over the 4-6 weeks and decide, together, what the next stage will look like.
As soon as we begin to meet, the very first thing I do, is to ask them to follow me. I ask them to pay attention to my life and become curious about why I do what I do or don’t do. I want them to learn from what I am doing. I want them to begin asking me questions. What happens in those early stages gives me great insight to how I need to train them. The training is tailored to where they are at, and I am helping them develop the observation skills that is so important for a leader to have.
Along with that, there is one other thing I do as soon as possible with a new leader.
I look for, or create an opportunity to say ‘No’ to them. (Remember the story I referred to at the beginning of this article?) I want to see how they respond to being told No. Especially if it is about something they are passionate about and they seem to be clearly qualified to do. Remember, I am not looking for people who can execute tasks and run programs. I’m looking for the right kind of leader. The right kind of leader is willing to trust me and follow me as I follow Christ.
Now, to be clear, this will not be the nature of my ongoing relationship with them as they develop. I will be looking for opportunity for them to grow and take risks. But in the very beginning I want to know how they respond when I say “No” to them. And as mentioned before, I want to slow down the process. I want to see oak trees. Producing weeds takes no effort at all.
WHY RE-THINKING IS IMPORTANT
I am so honoured that I have had so many great people invest in me for the purpose of helping me grow towards being the best of who God has purposed me to be. I want to be among those who have done well in identifying and raising up the right kind of leaders. There are many leaders all around me. I want to see more of the right kind of leaders.
An essential task of any leader is training up leaders. May you train up the right kind of leaders.
I am grateful to Steve Barber from Leicester City Vineyard in the U.K. (http://www.leicestercityvineyard.org.uk/) Steve recently did some training with a number of Vineyard Pastors, Ministry Leaders and Church Planters.As a result of Steve’s great teaching on training leaders I found myself, once again, revisiting the following question.
“How can I increase my likelihood of getting the right kind of leader for the community I am now leading?
This is a great question to revisit again and again. Why?
Rethinking results in Re-Prioritizing. Rethinking this question brings the central role of leadership training back to its rightful place… at the very centre of what you do as a great leader.