A Leadership Pipeline in the Local Church

Developing a Leadership Pipeline

Leaders Develop Leaders

Jack Welch, a past CEO of General Electric made a personal commitment to developing leaders in his organisation. An issue of Business Week noted that in 17 years he developed 15,000 new executive leaders. To develop others requires significant personal effort by today’s leaders. Peter Drucker reminds us that “there may be born leaders – but there are far too few of them to depend on.” The future of any organisation depends on intentional leadership development. This is not only a need, but it is also biblical.  Developing leaders formed the crux of Jesus’ ministry as he prepared the disciples for the biggest task of history.  God is in the business of developing leaders and he continues the process throughout their entire lifetimes. People are an organisations most important resource.  Yet most churches and para-churches basically use people; they do not develop them.

Are Leaders Made or Born

Over the years there has been more heat than light over this subject.  All people have untapped leadership potential. No matter what level of leadership a person currently exhibits, he or she can be further developed. With coaching and practice we can all be a lot better than we are. Leadership development is not for the privileged few.

Current leaders often get lost in this area because too often, they view potential as an abstract concept. But if you develop a pathway that allows you to measure skills, experience and gifts as well as the ability to learn new skills and willingness to tackle bigger, more complex assignments, then it is much easier to answer the question.

To tap into your leadership potential, you need to know the work requirements at key leadership levels and what’s needed to make the transition from one level to the next successfully. Matching an individual’s potential with a series of requirements is how pipelines are built. A Leadership Pipeline will help you achieve these objectives.

The Leadership Pipeline

This is not a “one‑size-fits‑all” training. Today, leadership training needs to tailored to the needs of the individual and to the demands facing the organisation. They are increasingly designed around an understanding that leadership development is a continuous, lifelong process rather than a single event.

Passages through the Pipeline

To build your leadership base, the starting point is understanding the natural hierarchy of leadership that exists in your church or other Christian organisations (these differ according to your history or association).

Note: Each passage represents a major change in requirements that trans­lates to new skill requirements, new time horizons and applications, and new work values (eg. a person who leads the team that takes up the offering will be different to the leader who oversees 50 small groups)

Not only will it help you structure a process to develop leaders on all levels, but it will also enable you to ensure that they’re working at the right levels. As you’ll discover, each passage requires that people acquire a new way of leading and leave the old ways behind in the following three areas:

  • Skill requirements – the new capabilities required to execute new responsibilities
  • Time applications – new time frames that govern how one ministers
  • Work values – what people believe is important and so becomes the focus of their effort

Making the Commitment to Fill the Leadership Pipeline

Creating a pipeline requires a commitment ‑ a commitment not only of time and money but also energy and emotion. To build effective leadership at all levels, organisations need to identify lead­ership candidates early, provide them with growth assignments, give them useful feedback, and coach them. What is more important, they need to do these and other things within the Leadership Pipeline framework. Without a process that helps people adopt the skills, time applications, and values appropriate to each leader­ship level, no type of training or coaching will have much impact.

Understanding the Passages and How to Use Them

To keep the leadership pipeline filled and flowing, it’s crucial that you are aware of the specific re­quirements, the common problems people experience in making a passage, and behaviours or attitudes that identify someone as  hav­ing difficulty with a passage. When organisations start to think in terms of pipeline requirements rather than job‑title responsibilities, they are in a much better position to develop their leaders.

1.  Level One

Lay down some introductory activities and training that all levels of leadership development can be built on and identify lead­ership candidates early, provide them with growth assignments, give them useful feedback, and coach them.

2.  Level Two (Managing Self to Leading Others)

New people usually spend their first few years as individual contributors. Their skill requirements are primarily technical. As they sharpening and broadening their individual skills, make increased contributions and adhere to the vision and values, they are then offered more responsibility.

Unfortunately, the facts indicate that many people are not adequately prepared for this transition. As a result, they make the transition without making a behavioural or value‑based transition. In effect, they become leaders without accepting the requirements.

The most difficult aspect of this transition is that leaders are responsible for getting ministry done through others rather than on their own. While new leaders may recognize this transition intellectually, they reject it psychologically, as evidenced by their behaviours.

  • they overpower their people with their expertise
  • they work on problems themselves rather than helping their people do it
  • they compete with them
  • they complete assignments themselves when they’re frustrated by how their people approach it

“In the past, we used to reward the lone rangers because their achievements were brilliant even though their behaviour was destructive.  That day is gone.  We need people who are better at persuading than at barking orders, who know how to coach and build consensus. Today, leaders add value by working with people, not by presiding over empires. Competition is tough, and it takes brains to win. But today we look for smart people with an added dimension: they have an interest in other people and derive satisfaction from working with them.”

–Larry Bossidy, Former Chairman and CEO, Allied Signal.

3.  Level Three (Leading those who Lead Others)

Though most denominational institutions and local church training programs train leaders for level 2, relatively few have anything in place for leaders of leaders. Part of the problem is the false assumption that there’s very little difference between leading others and leading leaders, the logic being that if you can develop the skills of a leader, you will naturally adapt to this similar but more significant role. Yet there is a significant difference in skills, time applications, and work values for this leadership level from the previous one, and if this transition isn’t addressed, many leaders get stuck at this passage. This is one of the reason why churches seldom grow past 150 people.

Perhaps the biggest difference from the previous passage is that here, leaders must be pure leaders. Before, individual con­tributions were still part of their role description. Now, they need to divest themselves of individual tasks.

4.  Level Four (From Leading those who Lead Others to Leading a Department)

This leadership level requires an increase in leadership ma­turity. Leaders need to create functional strategies that en­able them to move into the future, rather than just manage the immediate but temporary situation. Even more difficult is the balancing act between future goals and present needs and mak­ing trade‑offs between the two. The paradox of balancing short‑term and long‑term thinking is one that bedevils many leaders at this turn ‑ and why one of the require­ments here is for thinking time. At this level, leaders need to stop ‘doing’ every second of the day and reserve time for reflection and analysis.

For further information on developing a Leadership Pipeline

The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company Ram Charan (Author) Stephen Drotter (Author) James Noel (Author)


Colin Noyes is the Director of ResourceZone International. He has thirty years of ministry experience as a pastor, college lecturer and consultant/coach to consultants, denominational leaders and local church pastors.


Related Resources

Comments (1)

  1. […] A Leadership Pipeline in the Local Church […]

Comment here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.