Leading With an Emphasis on Developing People

LeadingWithanEmphasisonDevelopingPeopleWhen I talk with emerging leaders these days, I find that most of them are seeking to be part of ministries which are developmentally aware.  Those who lead ministries must recognise the importance of leading with a developmental bias. 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 organisations basically 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, the professor of leadership at the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Seminary.  

I first noticed a 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 organisations, 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 organisations must develop their people or they will not effectively carry out their tasks.

Defining the Concept

A developmentally aware organisation 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 an organisation 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 organisation’s 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
    This ministry has a whole-of-life perspective on the development of each individual.  The leaders know where the person is in 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 organisation asks, “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.
    This organisational culture values 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 organisation utilises coaching concepts to develop leaders.  It recognises that coaching is the major means of developing 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% & 20% 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.
    • Keep development records on each person.
    • 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 with possible ministry tracks.
  • Set up a learning resource function in the organisation.
    • Have a list of workshops, seminars, and conferences that deal with the skills and knowledge your people need to develop.  Guide your people to these resources and to people who are involved in them.
    • Subsidise costs to get people to needed non-formal training that will develop them.
    • Be aware of materials (books, manuals, 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 or 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.

Dr. J. Robert Clinton, from 1981 to the present, has directed the Leadership concentration in the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Seminary and served as professor of leadership. He models and teaches the concepts of lifelong leadership development and is involved in mentoring relationships with emerging leaders.

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Colin Noyes

Colin Noyes is a Brisbane (Australia) based coach and consultant with extensive experience in the areas of organisational health and growth, change management, leadership development, recruiting/staff development and coaching. Read more

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