April 22, 2015

You Fail When You Program Instead of Personalize Leadership Development

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In this Surefire Ways to Fail in Developing Leaders series, I’m exploring the ways many churches are making leadership development complicated and ineffective. One major mistake is ignoring the leadership pathway when assigning leaders at different levels. Another? Churches are trying to program leadership development rather than taking a personalized approach.

You just might fail in developing leaders if these are your strategies:

  1. Schedule quarterly leadership training meetings for full-time staff; be sure to include long, detailed teachings on generic leadership principles.
    Another teaching probably isn’t going to create a culture of leadership development. To actually change the culture, invest quality time and resources into key staff and lay leaders. Create opportunities for them to implement the skills they are learning. Including lay leaders in your efforts will help you find future staff who already have the DNA of your church. Volunteers will also sharpen your team with their “real world” experience.
  2. Assign every staff member to a mentor with no consideration of compatibility, stages of life or time constraints.
    You don’t have to make these relationships so formal to create a culture of mentorship. And asking someone to be a mentor or life coach can be a bit intimidating and sometimes awkward; it might be better just to ask them to lunch. The whole idea of mentorship may have gotten a little out of hand. High capacity leaders worth learning from are also very busy, and forcing them to make a long-term regular time investment probably isn’t going to produce optimum results. When challenges and questions arise, it just makes more sense to spend time with leaders who have experience and expertise in those particular areas.
  3. “Invest” in leadership development by sending team members to a conference and buying them a couple of leadership books each year.
    Leaders see potential in people and proactively invest in them personally. Jim Blanchard, CEO of Synovus says, “When current or would-be leaders realize that you are investing in their growth, its more important than money.” I witnessed this first-hand in one of my first jobs working for Tom Zechman. Tom was in charge of the engineering and public works department for Piqua. He was very busy, but never too busy for me. His door was always open and he patiently helped me figure out my next steps without making decisions for me. He modeled servant leadership on a daily basis. The results of proactively investing in young leaders cannot be measured. People who have experienced this tend to keep the cycle going, and it builds a culture of leadership development.

Is your church currently trying to “program” leadership development? If so, it may be time to start considering a more personalized approach.


Photo Credit: Mr Ush via Compfight cc

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