The fruit of an effective leader is not merely followers but other leaders. Leaders are responsible for future leadership. While some worry that developing others and “working themselves out of a job” will result in not having a job, the reality is that those who can develop other leaders will always be in demand. Leaders who develop and deploy others greatly multiply the mission while simultaneously making a significant impact in those they invest in. In other words, leadership development serves both the organization and the individual being developed.
Developing others requires a deep conviction, a belief that part of one’s responsibility is to equip others. Without intentionality and commitment, leadership development will not happen. Whether explicitly stated or implicitly lived out, leaders who develop others use these four phrases:
To focus on developing other leaders requires saying no to other opportunities, to other initiatives, to other things. The urgent will always threaten to pull a leader away from developing others. Developing others takes great discipline because the pay-off is not immediate. It is a long, slow, and arduous process to develop and deploy leaders. And it means staying focused on the task.
2. “Join me.”
Instead of viewing development as a task on the list, effective developers invite people along for the journey. Leadership development begins with an invitation: Join me. When I was a student pastor in my early 20s, I remember hearing Doug Fields challenge student leaders to relationally invest in teenagers. I am paraphrasing here, but he essentially said, “Invite students into your already busy lives.” It was a liberating concept for me. He was not saying to carve out tons of additional time but, instead, to invite students to participate in your life as it is. The same is true for leadership development.
3. “Your turn.”
After inviting someone along, those who develop others hand significant responsibility to the person being developed. More than a lecture or a book, the work develops us. Learning most often occurs by doing. Leaders who value developing others are willing to hand the wheel over to someone else.
4. “Let’s debrief.”
Without feedback, leadership development is greatly hampered. Thus, leaders who effectively develop others debrief with them as responsibilities are handed to them. They talk about what went well, what can be improved, and what should be done differently. They offer insight, ask questions, and provide encouragement.
If you are going to develop others, these four phrases will be a regular part of your vocabulary.