The fruit of a leader must be another leader as leaders are ultimately the ones responsible for the development of other leaders. From a Christian vantage point, the kingdom of God has multiplied as Christian leaders have developed and deployed others to make disciples and raise up new leaders.
Leaders have been given the holy responsibility of developing and equipping others. Just as in other areas of our lives, our idolatry, our longing for something other than God, keeps us from obeying Him with glad hearts. A leader’s idolatry will prevent a leader from the holy task of developing other leaders.
Tim Keller, David Powlison, and others have thought more deeply and written more eloquently about the idolatry that plagues our hearts. They have identified four common idols beneath the surface, idols that drive sinful and destructive behavior:
- Power:a longing for influence or recognition
- Control:a longing to have everything go according to my plan
- Comfort:a longing for pleasure
- Approval:a longing to be accepted or desired
How do these idols prohibit leadership development? What does a leader with these idols likely think or say about the responsibility to develop others? Below are the four idols with accompanying thoughts or phrases leaders have muttered:
- I just want to ensure this gets done the right way.
- I don’t trust another to do it as I can do it.
If you have thought or said either of the above, your struggle with control is hampering your development of others. A leader with control issues is a leader who fails at a chief leadership task: developing others. A leader who struggles with handing significant responsibility to others fails to provide necessary experiences that aid in development.
- The people need me to be the one who does this.
- If someone else does this, people will flock to that person instead of me.
If you have thought or said either of the above, your longing for approval is hurting you and the people you lead. A leader who needs affection and approval from others is reluctant to develop and deploy other leaders because the leader fears the affection and approval could be divided.
- If someone else does this, I won’t be needed any longer.
- If someone else does this, people will think I am not doing my job.
If you have thought or said either of these, you likely love to be a leader so you can be seen as a leader. You love your title (leader) more than your task (developing others). Augustine wrote, “No one can be a good bishop who loves his title and not his task.” A leader whose chief desire is to be perceived as a powerful leader will ignore the greater and more important work of developing others.
- It would take too much time from other things for me to develop leaders.
- I would have to adjust my leadership approach to include others.
If you have said or thought either of these about developing others, your desire for comfort or the status quo is keeping you from doing the difficult, messy, and painstakingly slow work of investing in future leaders. A longing for comfort will keep a leader focused on the short-term, the temporary, and the easy. Leadership development is none of these as it takes time, has eternal ramifications, and is hard work.
Are any of these idols stopping you or your team from developing others? We are wise to heed the apostle John’s encouragement: “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” If we don’t, we will neglect one of our chief roles as a leader.