How to Develop Leaders by Richard Jolliff

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I grew up in a Marine Corps home. Both my father and my mother were sergeants in the Marine Corps. My idea of leadership was do what you’re told, so when I went into pastoring, that posed a challenge because that method doesn’t necessarily develop leaders. There’s a lot more to it than that, and thank God, we’ve had opportunities through the years to learn different ways to develop leaders in the church.

A lot of my understanding about developing leaders came through John Maxwell and his books. He’s sort of a leadership guru. But he teaches in one of his books about how you’re a model. People model the leadership they see.

There are two really important things we have to model to people if we want to develop leaders. The first one is that we have to model teamwork, the ability to serve together in a shared ministry environment, to create a team. It’s not just about me as the pastor. You’re not here to serve me; you’re here to gather. We are serving Christ, so we want to create an atmosphere and model to people that we believe in teamwork that we believe that everybody brings something to the table. Everybody’s gifted differently, but everybody has important talents and abilities.

Then, we must model partnership. In partnership, what we’re saying to people is that their investment – whatever they’re putting into the ministry in terms of time, energy, and resources – is producing a shared benefit in the expansion of God’s kingdom. We want it to be understood that everybody can get involved somehow.  It’s not a special club; everybody has the potential to be developed into a leader.

If we’re all doing this together, then we all share in the benefit of what we’re doing. It’s the idea of David going to war in Ziklag. In 2 Samuel it says that when they came back with all the spoils, the guys said, “Those guys that stayed here and cooked, they shouldn’t get what we get,” and David said, “No, everybody gets the same. You couldn’t have made it without their food. You couldn’t have made it without their help. And even though they didn’t go into battle, you were able to go to battle because of them.” That’s the attitude we must model. When people see that, they’re going to get involved. When they feel that there’s a shared ownership of what’s happening, they’re going to partner with you.

I’ve been very intentional in my process and pastoring for over 33 years now. Some people are easy to recruit, but they are not always the ones that should be leading. That’s why we have a sort of next step or growth track model. As leaders, I believe we are to model progressive growth, that we’re continually growing, we’re continually developing, our skill sets are becoming greater, and we’re never stuck in a rut. 

My college basketball coach used to tell us, “You’re either green and growing or you’re ripe and rotten.” He always challenged us that we needed to continue to develop our skills. If we didn’t, we would lose space, lose time. 

I had an opportunity one time to sit down with a guy that played for the Houston Texans. He was a running back, came from Ohio State (go Buckeyes) and I’d asked him, “You were a starter on the team, and you really did great your first year?” He said, “Yeah, I did really great.” I said, “Then your second year?” He said, “Well, I started to lose my position. I asked, “What happened?” He replied, “I stopped growing. I stopped developing. I stopped working hard.” 

You know, LeBron James spends a million dollars a year to continue developing his skills and ability. How much are you investing? What are you modeling to the people around you in terms of investing your time and developing your leadership skills?

It doesn’t take long for people to be interested in what you’re doing and to make a commitment to help when they see shared ministry ideas and your personal growth, that you’re heading somewhere, you’re doing something, you’re a focused individual. People are going to get on board with that, and when they do, you will need a process in place to mentor them. There’s a myriad of strategies to do this, but we typically use mentorship.

When considering someone for mentorship, we look at talent, teachability, and timing.

Talent’s an amazing thing. I always like to use sports analogies. There were guys far more talented than me that played, but they did not get to play as much as I did because they were not teachable. They did not take the time to develop their skills. We see this all the time: Extremely talented people that should be further ahead, but they are not teachable so they can’t go anywhere. When we’re mentoring, we’re evaluating if they have talent (and look, sometimes they don’t!), but truthfully, I’d rather have someone who is teachable than someone who is talented. And then there’s timing. Sometimes it’s just not the right time to mentor someone.  I mean, maybe they’re not in a good place right now, or maybe you’re overloaded and they need to really sit with someone else.

I think those three valuations in mentorship are critical. When we’ve committed to working with someone, we give them things to do, give them opportunities, and out of that they are being mentored. I think that’s what Jesus did. When we think about Jesus and His disciples, we think a lot about His teaching. The disciples asked a lot of questions. Now, a lot of them were dumb questions that He had already answered for them, but they said, “Show us the Father. Teach us, guide us, give us direction. What’s going to happen? How are you going to do this?” He took time to answer those questions, and I think that’s what we should do in a mentorship role.  It is paramount that we go from being a model, of modeling the leadership, to being a mentor to those we see have committed to being teachable in that environment. In my next blog, I’d like to talk with you about the 5 M’s: model, mentor, monitor, motivator, and multiplier. 

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