The Harm of Leadership Leapfrogging

New leaders are always in great demand. New opportunities and growth keeps the demand high, and sadly the supply is often low. We have, in many places, a leadership development problem.

New opportunities and growth confront leaders with the constant need for more leaders. A new opportunity arises for your ministry and you look for a new leader to lead the initiative. Or the growth of a ministry widens the necessary leadership base and new leaders are quickly needed to provide care.

When new opportunities and growth come, leaders are tempted to place underdeveloped leaders in positions, to leapfrog their own implicit leadership pipelines. Leapfrogging a leadership pipeline means to over-promote someone, to skip stages of development, to take people who have been competent at one level and thrust them into a new place of leadership that is several steps ahead.

Leadership leapfrogging harms:

The Person

Some of my biggest mistakes as a leader have been placing people in roles too soon. The decision has been selfish, since I wanted work off my plate and on someone else’s. But I was not thinking enough about the person’s well-being. Putting an underdeveloped leader into a new role is cruel to the leader. You are putting him or her in a position to fail.

The People

The people under the care of the new leader do not receive the care and leadership they need. They have been handed a leader to follow who is really just filling a spot.

The Organization

The ministry or organization suffers when the wrong leaders are put in positions of influence. We often imagine that declining and crumbling organizations begin to fall apart because they have grown complacent. Jim Collins in his book How the Mighty Fall states, however, that complacency is not the issue: “Decline begins when the growth of an organization outpaces the organization’s ability to have the right people at the table.”


Filling a spot now briefly alleviates short-term pain, but you will pay much more later. You trade solving short-term pain for future long-term implications.

When you help people skip steps in development, no one wins. Don’t play leapfrog with leadership development.