Wise leaders often think about the risk and the reward in their decision-making, and when it comes to the decision to develop younger leaders, the reward is always greater than risk.
The risks revolve around younger leaders being unproven and uncertain—unproven in their skill and uncertain about where they want to go in their lives. Because young leaders are unproven, you don’t know the result of the time and energy that will be invested. Because young leaders are uncertain, as we all are in the early stages of our leadership, it is possible young leaders will shift the direction of their life or career trajectory. Both risks are very low and development is still beneficial for the people being developed. If young leaders don’t develop into the potential others saw in them, the investment still likely helped people along in their journey. If they decide on a different course of life or career, what you have given them can serve them really well.
Here are four high rewards from taking the low risk of developing younger leaders.
The one being developed grows. When the Apostle Paul was asked to defend his ministry, he pointed to the lives of others—calling them his letter of recommendation (2 Corinthians 3:2)—as he was confident those he discipled had fruit in their lives. We express care for others when we believe in them enough to develop them, give them responsibilities, and cheer them on. We serve young and emerging leaders well by nurturing their character and their competence.
The one developing grows. When we develop others, we also are developed as investing in others reminds us of our sacred calling. As we articulate the important things over and over, we see our roles and our challenges through the new and fresh eyes of the person being developed. We know our work more as we teach our work to others.
The organization/ministry benefits. If the cliché that “seasoned leaders bring perspective and younger leaders bring passion” is true, then every organization and ministry benefits from younger leaders (and from seasoned leaders). The passion younger leaders bring coupled with the experiences and learnings they have about their generation is an asset to every organization and ministry.
The future is better resourced. When a leader is developed and deployed, the future is brighter—not just for the ministry or organization today but for the future places the leader will serve. As leaders we get the honor and privilege of blessing not only our own organizations in the future but others as well. We also get to bless men and women of integrity who will bless others through other ministries and organizations in the future. A hypothetical and often cited conversation goes like this: the CFO asks the CEO, “What happens if we invest in developing our people, and then they leave us?” The CEO replies, “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”
There is risk in developing younger leaders, yes—but the reward is higher. And if you need more motivation, remember that someone developed you. At some point, someone took a risk on you.