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Why are you developing leaders?  Sounds like a ridiculous question.  But your answer may reveal why you’re not getting the results you want in growing your leadership pipeline.

So, let me ask again, why are you developing leaders?  There are basically two responses to the question.

Some will say, “I’m developing leaders simply because we don’t have enough of them!”  This is the most common reason organizations revive their leadership development efforts. They feel the pain of a leadership shortage and need to fill the gaps.  Their current leaders can’t get everything done, their span of care is unhealthy, and the organization’s mission is suffering due to a lack of leaders.  The motivating factor for leadership development is the pain of a leadership shortage.

However when we’re driven by pain our tendency is to pour short-term efforts into building a new batch of leaders with the hopes of solving the problem as quickly as possible.  Organizations with this mentality find themselves in a yoyo cycle. They focus on leadership development for a season, have inconsequential results and then neglect it for a season.  The pain resurfaces so they refocus on leadership development, once again have inconsequential results and go back to neglecting it.  Rinse and repeat year after year.   For these organizations leadership development is a necessary evil not a deep conviction.  And when there’s not a deep conviction around leadership development your efforts and results will be inconsistent.

On the other hand some say, “I’m developing leaders because I see talent in my team members that can be developed.”  Unfortunately it’s rare to hear this type of response.  For these leaders it’s not about the pain of a leadership shortage. The motivating factor for leadership development is the leadership potential seen in others.

When we’re driven by the potential capacity we see in others then leadership development becomes a part of our regular routine.  We don’t start with the position that needs to be filled; we start with the person that can be developed.  We’re constantly asking our team members:  What is your passion, what are your strengths, what are your dreams?  We instinctively look for development opportunities for these individuals.  We’re eager to spend time with them.  We celebrate the small baby steps of their growth.  Over time we proudly handoff responsibly and authority.  And the big win is not filling a position; it’s seeing someone maximize the potential of his or her leadership giftedness.

When our driving motivation is seeing others reach their potential then leadership development becomes a natural and consistent part of what we do not a necessary evil of our job.

So as you chew on this thought let me offer up another question to consider:  Would you still make leadership development a high priority if all your leadership positions were filled?

For leadership development to be consistent it must be a discipline you integrate into your weekly routine.  Identifying specific leadership development techniques will help you improve your consistency.

Over the years I’ve poured into dozens of young leaders.  I’ve tried many techniques but here are three I’ve discovered have high impact every time.

1 – Take someone with you.

One of the greatest things you can do for a young leader is broaden their exposure to great people and places.

When you go to an inspirational conference, a cutting edge church, or meet with a seasoned leader, take someone with you. Being around these great people and places will expand a young leaders vision and their perspective on leadership.

2 – Delegate for development.

Don’t delegate just to offload work from your plate.  Delegate with intentionality. Consider how the task can be used as a developmental opportunity for someone on your team.

What seems boring or menial to you may be a growth opportunity for someone else.  What can you give away this week?  For what developmental purpose?

Do you have to lead that meeting or can you ask someone else to step up?  Do you have to lead that devotion or can you give the opportunity to a young staff member?  Do you have to lead the upcoming project or can you turn over the leadership and authority to a team member?

Delegating these types of leadership roles can give others on your team experience and confidence they need for their own development.

3 – Debrief Often

Experience is a great teacher when you take time to evaluate it.  Each week you and your team are a part of meetings, services and events.  Why not take a little extra time, debrief the experience and see what you can learn together?  Here are a few questions to get you started:

    • What can we learn from what we did well?
    • What strengths were exhibited by our team or by individuals on the team?
    • If we could do it all over again what would we do different?  Why?
    • How can we improve our teamwork?
    • How could we improve our systems?
    • How could we improve our communication?

Now take a look at your week and see how you might integrate one or more of these techniques.

What are some no-fail development techniques that have worked for you?

It’s happened once again: You’ve lost a key leader and find yourself filling in and doing things you know you shouldn’t be doing. So, once again, you promise yourself that this year will be different. You’re going to conquer the challenge of leadership development and build a deep leadership bench – a pipeline for developing leaders – for your ministry.

Why is leadership development a reoccurring problem for so many? In short, it’s a lack of intentionality.  We know leadership development is important, but few leaders integrate it into their weekly routine. And even fewer develop an intentional plan that ensures an ongoing reproduction of leaders. It’s just too easy to be distracted by the urgent and allow the development of leaders to take a back seat to everything else. We feel stuck and we’re too busy to develop leaders, but we need more leaders to get all the work done.

In 2013, I begin working with Will Mancini at Auxano to provide a Leadership Pipeline Development process for churches. The process focuses on building a culture of leadership development and emphasizes four essential components of an intentional leadership development strategy.

Structure – How is your church structured? Just as our spinal structure can dramatically impact our mobility, our church structure can impact the development of new leaders. Most churches structure for function rather than for development.  An intentional leadership development strategy focuses on both function and development as they built their structure.

System – How do potential leaders move to new levels of leadership? It’s essential you have a defined system or map for moving leaders from one level to the next. The absence of such a system makes the leadership development pathway confusing and inconsistent.

Content – What skills are essential for every level of the leadership pipeline  As leaders move to new levels of leadership it requires new skills. Too often we simply throw them into leadership responsibility without proper preparation. An intentional Leadership Pipeline Development plan has defined exactly what competencies are required for various levels of leadership, and how to get them there.

People- Who is responsible for equipping new leaders? If that responsibility falls solely on the shoulders of one person, you will never build a culture of leadership development. The focus must be on raising an abundant harvest of reproducing leaders in your church. That’s when you will begin to fill your leadership pipeline.

Throughout 2014 I will be working with individual churches in six month iterations. During the six months you will get…

  • 20 Principles for creating a culture of Leadership Pipeline Development
  • Tools and techniques for developing leaders
  • A template to guide you in building your own systems
  • Development of a learning path for every level of your pipeline
  • An action planning guide for use between sessions

And as a bonus, my friend David Putman will be partnering with me during these sessions.  If you’re interested in participating in a six-month process for building an intentional Leadership Pipeline Development strategy, fill out the following and I’ll connect with you.