Leadership Development, Maybe It’s Easier (Harder) Than I Thought

I read a lot on leadership. I lead an organization. I have a lot of people (more than 10) I’m trying to develop into leaders at various levels. Some are taking over aspects of our business, others growing in leadership within the church. The opportunities are all around me. 

But if I’m going to be honest, I’m not great at leadership development. I’m great at throwing people into the deep end while yelling, “Hope you figure it out.” Perhaps, it’s because that’s what has happened to me in several contexts. I left the States and moved to Taiwan to lead what’s now called Aroma two weeks after I graduated from college. I was only 22. I had less education, less experience, and was younger than some of the people on my team. I look back and smile now, but it wasn’t easy. 

And all this time, living in a city with tons of transition, I have been trying to get people into leadership without always giving enough thought to their actual development. 

A leader in my organization talks about two different kinds of cultures: discover vs develop. A develop culture looks for the all stars and then sets them free to be successsful. A develop culture takes whoever is willing and helps them grow as they attempt to discover  their talents, skills, capacities, as they move forward together. EAch of these have their benefits and drawbacks, but I’ve recently realized that I give lip service to a development culture, but expect a discover culture. This puts insane pressure on people working closely with me and causes them to go through a rough process of growth that ends in their success (and my happiness) or their burnout (and my ongoing struggle). 

I’ve recently repented of this attitude (literally told about 6 people in my organization and asked them to revisit the journey of leadership development with me), and have committed to moving forward in ways that are more healthy. How do I plan to do this? 

Leadership development has to happen in the context of relationship, which is why I outlined various levels of relationship in a previous blog. It’s also why I’m so grateful for Mike Breen’s text on Building a Discipling Culture. In it, he outlines a format for leadership development that follows the shape of a square:

  1. I do, you watch.
  2. I do, you help.
  3. You do, I help.
  4. You do, I watch.

In these four steps, you give the person you’re developing space to learn from you, work with you, and adapt your concepts into what will work best for them. Check out Breen’s book for more in-depth explanations. Instead of throwing people into the deep end, I hope to actually let them watch me swim, and get help from me before they’re forced to figure it out on their own. I believe deeper relationships, clearer outlines for expectations, and more time working on projects together, will help people develop their leadership around me. 

Ultimately, leadership development is easier than I thought in the sense that it’s really about life on life and following Jesus’ example with the disciples. But it’s also harder than I thought, because I will be devoting more time to helping others accomplish what they need rather than going off on my own and being a cowboy. 

I hope this helps you be clear on the kind of culture you want to develop in your organization while also helping you to have a better strategy in leadership development. 

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