Discipleship vs. Leadership Development

May 24, 2010 - Mac Lake - Leadership Development
10

Here is a question I get a lot:  What’s the difference between discipleship and leadership development?  Good question.  Fundamentally the process is the same, but the focus is different.

Discipleship I learn to live like Jesus
Leadership development I learn to lead like Jesus

Discipleship is primarily about character
Leadership development is primarily about competencies

Discipleship is about leading self
Leadership development is about leading others

Discipleship is about cultivating intimacy with God
Leadership development is about cultivating influence with people.

What other distinctions would you add to this list?

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Mac Lake

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10 responses to Discipleship vs. Leadership Development

  1. I don’t think leadership development and discipleship are, in most cases, synonymous. We are told to Make Disciples, not leaders. One plants, one waters, God give the increase. We Make Disciples, God builds His church. True leadership is developed when a learning disciple serves others. Servant leadership grows naturally. Imposed leadership training is rarely sustainable.

  2. I very much enjoy the way you formatted this post. It also got me thinking that there are people who have leadership ability but are spiritually empty. It would seem, in the church, before they could or should lead others in spiritual areas they should go throug discipleship first.

    How can one be seen as a spiritual leader of others when they can’t leade themselves in that area?

  3. Thanks, Mac. This is sooo, so helpful. Having terms to label the “fuzzy” complexities of discipleship and leadership development ends up simplifying things enormously. So often it feels like we put discipleship into a magic box and shake it up and sometimes leadership development pops out. Knowing these terms helps us see things clearly, and we don’t have to depend on the luck of the draw for leadership development. We can be intentional and proactive. I might get this blog as a tattoo.

  4. Good insight, but disciple making has been left off in each item as a ministry beyond leadership.

    I wonder what the phrase would be if you added the ministry of disciple making to each pair and turned it into a triad.

    Perhaps …

    Discipleship I learn to live like Jesus
    Leadership development I learn to lead like Jesus
    Disciple making I learn to make disciples like Jesus

    Discipleship is primarily about character
    Leadership development is primarily about competencies
    Disciple making is primarily equipping others to have character and competencies

    Discipleship is about leading self
    Leadership development is about leading others
    Disciple making is about nurturing others for their benefit and spiritual growth

    Discipleship is about cultivating intimacy with God
    Leadership development is about cultivating influence with people.
    Disciple making is about cultivating intimacy with people to help them find Christ, grow in spiritual maturity, and then make and raise their own disciples.

  5. Thomas Stanley May 24, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    In Leadership Development field myself, I struggle with this interpretation.

    I can’t help but believe that Discipleship and LS Development are one in the same. I believe that Jesus discipled and taught leadership at the same time. I don’t think he intentionally did two seperate things. I think that when you disciple, you must include leadership principles and competencies.

    I believe that Jesus equipped the disciples with the proper principles and competencies to lead his movement.

  6. If we think that there is either discipleship or leadership we are fooling ourselves. If we are making disciples then we are leading out as Christ has commanded to do. On that journey of making disciples must also make sure that those being discipled are also learning to lead out to make disciples.

    My fear is that we are looking at leadership from the modern day perspective of being out from. Let us not forget that Jesus lead from the back and served from the front. That is true leadership.

  7. I disagree, the two concepts cannot be so neatly separated. When I disciple a younger woman I am helping her to develop godly character and intimacy with God while also helping her to better wield influence with those around her (and indirectly influencing those people myself). Leadership competencies cannot be developed without the character that comes through the discipleship process (although I believe that in the short-term they can sometimes be faked). I agree with Stanley that Jesus made and trained disciples simultaneously with leadership development.

  8. I believe you can not have leadership development without true authentic life on life discipleship. Discipleship is the horse and tools for leadership is the cart and too often we have developed the “tool shed” of skills and laid out a path for leadership development but it goes no where because we have only given lip service to discipleship.
    Discipleship is the horse that has to give empowerment to leadership development or it will go nowhere. Or another way to look at it: If Leadership development and systems like pipelines is the oven we construct to raise up leaders, discipleship is the fire, the power in the oven. So the two are related but in a way that discipleship is the way Jesus said to make disciples and teach them.
    In Matthew 11:28, Jesus gives us a BIG clue how to make and teach disciples: do it like he did. The illustration of the yoke to “learn of me” is a double yoke. One side of the yoke was for the older oxen to teach and show th eounger oxen how to walk and pull the load easily. Discipleship is being yoked to Jesus first and then to someone esle we can either learn from or teach others.
    At Seacoast Church we are learnign that discipleship has to preceed LD or it goes nowhere. Make Disciples and you will develop leaders. Develop Leaders and you amy not be making disciples!

  9. We approach this subject, and many others, like the lawyer’s question of Jesus – “which is the greatest commandment?”.  We have a propensity for arranging things linearly; top to bottom, left to right. Not because it may be correct but because our western minds feel safe isolating the colors of the Rubic’s cube. We need to resist this.  This mental-mechanical-arranging compartments churches and pits men of insight against each other.  This is exactly what Paul is avoiding when he says in Christ all things are ‘yes and amen’.  Today we would call that indecision.

    What about Jesus’ response to the lawyer? Was it an expression of indecision, was it a politically correct response?  Could the answer really be ‘yes,yes? When Jesus gives his answer to ‘which is the greatest of the commandments, he gives a homogeneous answer – “the second is likened unto the first”. He doesn’t do what we want to force Him to do and make a separating choice. Rather, he says that each answer is homogeneous – the two are different but yet ‘of the same’. It’s not heterogeneous, two different answers, but each answer in itself is the same thing. We try to resist this type of response. It’s not a response that can be compartmented or managed in a nice neat box. Jesus has created a ‘hinge’.

    A hinge is a simple device. It contains two halves that work together when joined by the Hinge pin. If the pin is no longer holding the 2 elements together, it is no longer a hinge – it is just called ‘broken’. With the absence of the pin, the porthole that was to be open remains closed. It is no longer a door but now it is a wall.  A community of believers where leadership-discipleship operate inseparably, is a place where doors swing open and the Kingdom of God comes through.

    This doesn’t answer the question ‘what is leadership and discipleship’. It just challenges how we look at the question and our answers. It is just a reminder that the answer is not to ideas juxtaposed but rather ‘yes and yes’.

    To pluck the root is to spoil the bloom.

  10. leadership is to servanthood is to discipleship as Father is to Son is to Spirit – ever distinct but one in the same when all is said and done. just a thought….

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