Develop Your Leaders the Same Way

Jesus’ example of discipleship is the same we need to implement today. | by Sam Chand Jesus was a leader who developed His people. He followed a simple and effective four-step model:
  1. I do it and you watch me.
  2. Let’s do it together.
  3. You do it and I’ll watch you.
  4. You’re on your own.
For the first part of His ministry, Jesus let the disciples watch Him as He healed the sick, calmed the seas, cast out demons, and cared for the poor. Increasingly, He involved them in His work. For instance, He told them to take the bread and fish He had broken and pass it out to feed more than five thousand hungry people on the hillside. Twice in the Gospels, we see Jesus send people out to spread His ministry: the twelve apostles one time and seventy-two disciples another time. In the end, they were on their own. Because of the fruits of their labors, Christianity today has more than two billion followers, making it the most widely practiced religion in the world, transforming individuals and cultures with the message of Jesus’ love, kindness, integrity, and power. If we follow this example, we may not raise the dead or perform miracles, but we can gradually equip and empower people to do more than they ever dreamed possible.

Leaders and Ladders

For years, I’ve used the analogy of climbing ladders to represent a leader’s increasing impact. The point is that we can only climb as high as the strength and skill of those who are holding our ladders. If we’ve chosen and developed only those who are moderately strong and talented, we can only use a ladder that goes up ten feet. If we have people who have greater abilities, we can use a twenty-foot ladder. But if we want to climb a fifty-foot ladder, we’ll need the very best people holding it. Even those who were able to hold the medium-height ladder aren’t capable unless they’ve grown in their strength and skill. It goes without saying that those who hold our ladders don’t have to understand everything we’re doing when we’re climbing, but they at least need to know that we’re going up instead of sideways! Our vision of growth has become their vision of growth, too. In my book, Who’s Holding Your Ladder, I describe the core competencies needed in the people you’re developing. In short, they are strong character, teachability, attentiveness, firmness and faithfulness. Selecting the best people to hold our ladders is the first step. We then need to develop them. We need to train our people how to accomplish tasks, but even more, we need to develop them in their leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. For instance, pastors may train a greeter to smile, open the door, and welcome people to the service, but they also want to develop the greeter to have an eye to notice those who need additional care and a heart to reach out with compassion. A good greeter stands at the door smiling and greeting people and always looking for those who appear hesitant, have babies in their arms, are new to the church, or are drenched from a sudden downpour. The greeter notices and takes action to care for those people. Of course, pastors want people who can do the nuts and bolts of getting jobs accomplished, but we also take the time to instill the “softer side of leadership” in those who serve in every capacity in the church. The same qualities important in businesses are important in churches and nonprofits. Leaders develop those around them to look beyond their tasks, their definable objectives, to care for people in ways that are sometimes far beyond their job descriptions. Development is the human connection in any organization. It includes a range of commitments that are modeled and encouraged such as the ability to disagree agreeably, respecting people even when we disagree with them, and asking second and third questions instead of jumping to conclusions and immediately defending our position. Most of the organizations where I consult are long on training but short on development. People know what’s expected of them, but the leaders often haven’t taken the time to really get to know their people, to find out their highest hopes and uncover their deepest fears. They may have very detailed job descriptions and elaborate reporting structures, but relationships are sometimes a train wreck and unresolved conflict is a poisonous cloud in every room. Discipleship is essential, and it includes developing strong, enduring relationships. When we connect with people at a deeper human level, vulnerability can create strong bonds of trust; we model empathy, which is the glue of meaningful relationships. The people holding our ladders need both training and development. Training is easy; development takes much more effort, heart, and skill, but it makes all the difference in creating a great team.

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