I had a young leader come into my office a couple of years ago and ask if I would consider mentoring him. I told this “twenty-something” leader I’d be more than happy to mentor him in leadership if he would mentor me in technology. I pointed out, “I’m fifty years old, you no longer live in my world, I live in your world and I need your help learning how to communicate and connect in this new hi-tech reality.”
Technology has no doubt added great value to all of our lives, even in the area of leadership development. When I was a young pastor in the days before the Internet I longed for good resources to help me with sermon preparation. I remember praying that God would provide audiocassettes from a particular pastor I greatly admired. Two weeks later a new family moved to our church and lo and behold the wife came into our office and donated over 100 sermon cassettes from that very pastor. I thought I had struck gold!!
But with today’s technology we have access to some of the best and brightest voices in Christian leadership today. Whether I’m driving down the road, walking on the treadmill or sitting at my computer I have instant access to field experts on any topic I desire.
While this is a great advantage to us as leader developers there are three dangers we must guard against.
Danger #1 – We Mistake information for transformation.
Pastors love the idea of being able to send their leaders high quality content from field experts with the touch of a button. They can send a video of their favorite leadership guru and within seconds it’s in the inbox of all of their leaders. But in most cases the online content is simply providing information. And the truth is ingesting information doesn’t guarantee transformation. Transformation requires a process of helping your leaders think, apply, evaluate and discover new truths that change their leadership behaviors. Simply watching a video rarely produces that type of change.
Danger #2 – We think we can do leadership development apart from relationship.
I’ve declared many times and will continue to stand on my soapbox and proclaim – “Leadership development is done best in the context of relationship”. My life and leadership has been impacted most by those who have walked with me, poured into me, believed in me, spoken encouragement into me, observed me and given me constructive feedback. You just can’t that from a computer or mobile devise (at least not yet!). Online technology is a great supplement to the mentoring/coaching relationship but the content alone cannot substitute for a relational approach to leadership development. That’s why when it comes to technology I insist we need a Hi-Tech, Hi-Touch approach.
Danger #3 – We ignore the principles of adult learning
Pastors have been trained to talk and assume people listen. So when it comes to leadership development we tend to believe if we talk or send our leaders a talk they will listen and learn. Unfortunately this is not the best learning technique for our adult leaders.
In the 1950’s Malcolm Knowles popularized the concept of Andragogy, the art and science of teaching adults to learn. Knowles’ theory can be stated with six assumptions related to motivation of adult learning.
- Adults need to know the reason for learning something (Need to Know)
- Experience (including error) provides the basis for learning activities (Foundation).
- Adults need to be responsible for their decisions on education; involvement in the planning and evaluation of their instruction (Self-concept).
- Adults are most interested in learning subjects having immediate relevance to their work and/or personal lives (Readiness).
- Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented (Orientation).
- Adults respond better to internal versus external motivators (Motivation).
- Insist that your leaders don’t learn alone. If you’re sending out content from your favorite online platform follow up by meeting those leaders in groups of 2-4 to discuss what they’re learning. Provide them with questions that will help them process the content at a deeper level. When you meet with them in person you will discover that’s when their learning springs to life.
- Give them practical assignments. With each session give your leaders an assignment that allows them to practice the leadership skill they’re learning. The assignments don’t have to be done in the context of the church. Have them apply these new leadership lessons at work, home or ministry. This practice will take their leadership to a whole new level.
- Ask good questions. When you meet with the leaders to debrief ask good questions. Ask what stood out to them, what challenged them, what they put into practice, what worked, what didn’t work, what questions did they have and what are three to four action steps they can take. These type of questions will help them connect new learning with their past experiences.
- Don’t rush the process. Too often pastors want to develop leaders fast. So they send out four our five video sessions and tell their leaders to work their way through them. Once they see the leader has completed all the videos in the series they check a box and consider them “trained”. Our goal in developing leaders is not speed but substance. It’s not information but transformation. This requires that we walk with our leaders over a period of time, processing learning with them and giving them feedback that ensures development of their leadership character and competency.
Technology is here to stay so let’s make sure we maximize this Hi-Tech opportunity in a Hi-Touch way.