The Most Important Leadership Task

By Mark A. Taylor

Say leader to someone who is not a leader, and he’s likely to picture a public person: the convincing speaker, the meeting chairman, the decision-maker with the last word or the authority to sign-off.

Those who actually lead, however, know much of their work happens in private, behind the scenes, one-on-one, or even alone.

But leaders as well as followers sometimes miss one dimension of leadership, and that’s the responsibility highlighted in this week’s issue: Leaders must develop new leaders.

The leaders writing this week know this. They speak in the context of a new church, but their example shows leaders how to develop leaders in almost any congregation. As you read their articles, you’ll see several principles:

Developing leaders need a coach. Leaders do not just appear like wildflowers in a meadow. They must be cultivated, nurtured, instructed, fed.

Developing leaders need time with the coach. None of this week’s writers talks about a leadership class. Instead they describe a variety of settings for demonstrating leadership skills, explaining leadership principles, or debriefing leadership opportunities. These coaches are strategic about giving time to the developing leaders around them.

Developing leaders need training. Part of their time with the coach is devoted to learning together. Glen Schneiders shares principles from books he’s reading and takes his leaders to workshops led by successful leaders. Dave Smith read and discussed Alexander Strauch’s Biblical Eldership with the men who might become elders.

Developing leaders learn by serving. They spend time serving with their coach in real-life settings. Other times they debrief their experiences with the coach after performing service he assigned.

Professional educators have learned teachers need to do student teaching, engineers need to participate in co-op programs, and doctors must complete an internship. The same principle applies to developing leaders. There’s no substitute for real-life experience.

Developing leaders respond to a model. This is why Steve Cuss begins his essay with talk about overcoming his own weaknesses and strengthening his relationship with God. We cannot lead men and women to heights we have not traveled.

Developing leaders mature as others pray for them. Dave Smith began praying for leaders long before the church he was planting had even begun. That kind of prayer, combined with the actions described above, will raise up workers for the harvest in any field.

And, each of this week’s writers agrees, no leadership task we take up is more important than the challenge of developing more leaders.

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