Leading With an Emphasis on Developing People

I’m always interested in discussing with my colleges in the States the differences between Australian and USA Churches. One of strong differences that has always come up is the fact that many of those who lead ministries in the USA recognise the importance of leading with a developmental bias. I find this is a rare trait in Australian Churches.

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 a ministries most important resource.  Yet most ministries use people; they do not develop them.  They do not lead with a developmental bias.  They lead from a task bias

The following is an adapted article by Dr. J. Robert Clinton, author of the best selling book ‘ “the Making of a Leader”  and Senior professor of leadership at the School of Intercultural Studies of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.  
I first noticed this leadership  problem years ago when I began preparing to go out as a missionary. My idealistic perception of missions was shattered as I found out that, though many were called, few actually stayed.  A lot of missionaries who had gone through the process of raising support, moving to the field, and going through language study, actually left the field prematurely.  Some after a very short period of time.  I became conscious that mission organisations did not often meet the needs of their people.

Later, my study of para-church ministries helped me to see that these ministries usually were started by people who had a burden for some work of God.  The ministry grew around that vision.  Most of these ministries were high task-oriented.  They recruited people to the task.  The task was all important.  But I was beginning to form intuitively the notion that ministries must develop their people or they will not effectively carry out their tasks.

 Defining the Concept

A developmentally aware ministry can be defined as one which balances concern for task leadership, relational leadership, and inspirational leadership so as to accomplish its basic purpose for being and which, at the same time, develops its people so that they move toward their inherent leadership potential of being and doing.

Developmentally Alive Organisations

Leaders who influence a ministry toward developmental awareness lead with a developmental bias. I have identified the following types of ministry which have a strong commitment to develop people:

  • People Development, an Important Priority
    People development is just as important as the task. In fact, as people are developed, the ministries task is modified, refocused, or expanded as its people move into new levels of skill and capability.
  • Resource Allocation for Development.
    Resources are dedicated to people development. Decisions for their lives are made on the basis of developmental thinking.
  • Lifetime Perspective
    Ministry has a whole-of-life developmental perspective for each individual.  The leaders know where the person is in their development, what is happening, what shaping is needed, and what assignments and tasks will help move the person along toward their potential.
  • Future-Perfect Thinking.
    The question is, “What will these people look like in the future if they fully reach their potential?” It moves toward that future view of individuals and groups as if it were true. It makes decisions based on the future-perfect thinking.
  • Learning Posture.
    There is a cultural value of learning. Leaders encourage growth in every way – via formal, non-formal, and informal training models – and put resources into it (budget, proactive planning with each individual and modeling of a learning posture at all levels of leadership).
  • Relational Empowerment
    This ministry utilises coaching concepts to develop leaders.  It recognises that coaching is the major means of developing emerging leaders.  Coaching is practiced and modeled at all levels of leadership.
  • New Career Tracks.
    This organisation is open to new career tracks being developed because they believe in the concept that ministry flows out of being.  As people develop uniquely, they will rarely find existing roles that fit them.  New roles have to be opened up that fit the developing people if the organisation wants to keep them.  Such organisations will retain more of their developed leaders instead of training them and then supplying other organisations with these trained people.

 Leading with a Developmental Bias

Churches and ministries which implement the following four practices exemplify what I mean by leading with a developmental bias:

  • Commit resources, especially finances.
    • Set between 10% & 15% of your gross budget for people development.
    • Dedicate leadership resources for people development.
    • Have top-level leaders model and promote a developmental mindset.
  • Track development throughout the ministry.
    • Make sure that top leaders are thoroughly familiar with a developmental framework – aware of where their people are developmentally (spiritual, ministerial, strategically, giftedness, life-focused, etc).
    • From the beginning, orient all people toward developmental thinking.  Help them discover their unique life time-line, giftedness, personality, and personal life vision.
    • Each year review and provide feedback developmentally, including explicit work on spiritual, ministerial, and strategic formation.
    • Make decisions on both the needs of the ministry and developmental needs of the individuals.
    • Know the potential inherent in individuals and motivate them toward that potential.  Be prepared to set up new ministry tracks to fit them as potential develops.
    • With each individual, work out a deliberate training plan for developing that potential.
  • Set up a learning resource function in the ministry.
    • Have a list of workshops and seminars that deal with the skills and knowledge your people need to develop.
    • Subsidise costs to get people to training that will develop them.
    • Be aware of materials (assessments, books, self-study resources) that can help various people.  Provide these free to individuals with accountability assignments that will help them grow.
    • Recognise who will benefit from formal training and provide scholarships for them.
  • Provide informal training.
    • Provide coaching help for each person.
    • Know the coaching capabilities of each person (profile, skills, and values).
    • Link people.
    • For people who have high potential, make sure that upper-level leaders sponsor as well as coach them.

Churches and mission organisations need leaders who will dare to lead with a developmental bias.  Hats off to those leaders who are moving in this direction.

Related Resources

Comment here

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