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Leader Development Reflections

With this blog, I will complete my contributions as the Director of our Leader Development Initiative within The Navigators.  The discipline of writing these blogs has been an enriching experience for me to articulate clearly (hopefully) my thinking and experience on various aspects of leader development.  Here are some of the topics that have been addressed:

  • What is leadership and how can we model leading like Jesus
  • David the reflective leader
  • Nehemiah the change agent
  • Joseph the organizer
  • Jethro the consultant
  • Paul the scholar
  • Leading explored
  • Developing explored
  • Caring explored
  • Leading with a developmental bias

Woven throughout these blogs have been indicators of aspects of leader development that I especially hold dear.

1.  Living and leading like Jesus are foundational for all wise living and leading.  The Bible is a primary source for leadership thinking and practice but not the only source.  Biographical and business insights affirm and supplement biblical teaching.

2.  The essence of leadership is influence and relationship.  As leaders we invest wisely when nurturing our understanding and competence in these two arenas.

3.  By the time a person normally enters mid-30s, he or she should have a good idea about the gifting, talents, passions, and life lessons he or she brings to leadership.  The best leaders lead from strength and address weakness when it limits effectiveness.  Leaders need to be self-aware so they can make their best contribution, not trying to be someone they were not designed to be.  No leader is omni-competent or omniscient.

4.  Developing convictions and habits for reflection and think-time are critical to effective leadership.  Modeling margin and enjoyment of life outside of work are necessary for personal satisfaction, mission effectiveness, and for others to find leadership roles attractive.

5. Mental models enable people to focus on what is important.  The Navigators’ Core Model of Lead, Develop, Care provides a great framework so leaders can serve well.  All three components must be present if people are to thrive, but no leader is great in all three.

6.  Leaders have a mindset or bias to develop other leaders.  Although this can happen in a variety of ways, the mark of great leaders are whom they leave behind and how effectively they prepare successors.

Leader development is not optional.  Every organization is engaging in this, for good/for bad.  Probably billions of dollars are spent in this arena every year.  There is no more effective model than the life of Jesus Christ with His disciples.  A life-long pursuit of learning to live and lead like Jesus is the best decision any leader can make.  May such leaders multiply for the glory of God and the good of mankind.

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How to Develop Young Leaders by Keith Webb (Part 2)

In part one, Webb (see http://www.creativeresultsmanagement.com/) introduced essential factors for developing young leaders, building off of the “little-much” principle of Jesus:

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. Luke 16:10

How to Use the Little-Much Principle

The beauty of the Little-Much Principle is that you can use it in any situation. There are four big points to developing leaders this way:

1. Give small tasks.  Allow for mistakes of little consequence. Just as small wins build on each other, so will small tasks.

2. Watch for internal challenges.  The task is often just the vehicle to internal learning. It’s like the bun on a hamburger; it’s there to hold all the goodies inside. Ask the young leader to reflect on his or her experience. How were they challenged – not with the task – but challenged internally?

  • What influence / authority / integrity / relational challenges did you face?
  • What frustrations did you experience?
  • How did you respond? What was the process for you? How do you evaluate your response?

3. Provide diverse opportunities.  For young leaders the key to success is to say “yes” to diverse opportunities, roles, and tasks.   Focus comes later. Diverse tasks will provide more internal challenges than sticking with the comfortable.

4. Give more.  If the young leader completes the task and “passes” the internal challenge, provide another task with increased responsibility and challenge. If the young leader doesn’t, then give another task at the same level. Perhaps this leader needs some extra coaching as well.

One of the hardest things about the Little-Much Principle is that the mature leader is often just as impatient as the young leader. We want results. Organizational results that translate to sales, market share, and bonuses. We have as much trouble focusing on the internal development of a young leader as they do. By focusing on the internal development of a leader using the Little-Much Principle, we can help young leaders to shape character values in order to develop their strengths, character, skills, and identify their calling.

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So, what has been your experience in working with young leaders? What stands out to you as most prominent for ensuring healthy development when a person is in their 20’s and 30’s in order for them to thrive and sustain their leadership contribution? How would you have desired to be developed when you were young?

Next blog: The Learning Cycle

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How to Develop Young Leaders by Keith Webb (Part 1)

Master coach, Keith Webb (see http://www.creativeresultsmanagement.com/), recently wrote this helpful article that will introduce the next series of blogs on the topic of Leading with a Developmental Bias.

Young leaders are often anxious to get into action. They feel prepared and ready to make a difference. Yet, the workplace is littered with the wreckage caused by those with authority but not wisdom to lead.  Leader development is about going in before going out. The Little-Much Principle will help you develop young (and old) leaders.

Young leaders want to concentrate their efforts on developing skills and accomplishing something of significance.

I knew a 24 year-old who was frustrated with his job because his company wouldn’t put him in a role where he could focus on his strengths and passions. He felt he was more capable than his manager. And he thought he should be in charge of not only the team, but the larger work group. He had been with the company only 3 months!

This isn’t a story about one millennial’s sense of entitlement. It happened 30 years ago. This story is repeated every generation because of a common misunderstanding of how leaders develop.

Leader development researcher, J. Robert Clinton, found that young leaders need to have broad experience; do many different types of tasks; and work on inner character values in order to develop their strengths, character, skills, and identify their calling.

Missing early development in a leader’s life, Clinton found, often leads to stalled development, crisis, or unfulfilled potential as a leader.

Jesus’ Little-Much Principle

Clinton points to Jesus, arguably one of the best at developing leaders. Jesus began with a group of hot-headed fishermen, a socially-scorned tax collector, and a few other people from the margins of society. After just three years of working with them, these leaders went on to change the world.

Fortunately, Jesus left us His principle of leader development. Here it is:

 Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. Luke 16:10

Young leaders feel ready for big, fast, and significant.  Jesus took a different approach. Jesus viewed leader development as more about who the leader is rather than what he or she can do.

Jesus focused on the internal development of the leader – going in before going out. Because who you are is how you will lead.

What internal development is needed? Young leaders must develop:

  • Their influence
  • Submission to authority
  • Personal integrity
  • Relational abilities
  • Conflict management
  • Character

The early, small lessons learned in these areas will form the foundation on which a leader stands. Later, when the stakes are high and the pressure is great, the leader who was faithful with little will most likely succeed with much.

Next blog: How to Develop Young Leaders, Part 2

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