Model Leaders

Every organization has a small handful of model leaders that exemplify what it means to lead well. They have the right skill set, they’re admired by others, they handle situations with maturity and wisdom. They are the one’s you wish you could replicate over and over.

Odds are those model leaders didn’t learn their leadership acumen from your organization’s quarterly four-hour turbo training. (Sorry to be the one to break the news to you).

While they may have enjoyed it or appreciated it, that’s not where they gained the leadership character and competency that’s so evident today.

If you would ask them (and I would encourage you to do so), you will likely find they attribute their development to one of two things. 1). An individual who believed in them and poured into them over an extended period of time. 2). An opportunity they had to lead that stretched them.

Isn’t that true of most of us? You don’t have to stop offering your quarterly turbo training. But I would certainly entertain the ideas of 1). having your existing leaders pour into your potential leaders over a period of time. 2) Giving potential leaders stretch assignments that will challenge them to grow.

When you do you’ll find more model leaders emerging within your organization.

The Fear Factor of Leadership Development

No one would question that leadership development is a wise investment. Time spent developing new and better leaders has a long-term payoff for the individual as well as the organization.

But if this fact is so obvious why is it so few of your existing leaders engage in the development of new leaders? Why is it they default to doing the work rather than developing others to do the work?

Underneath the many possible excuses, I believe there is one deep seeded reason: Fear.

People avoid that which they are afraid of. So could it be your leaders avoid the investment in others because of the fear of failure? Fear of not knowing how? Fear of being replaced? Or fear of someone doing the job better than them?

To leverage your leaders impact and see an exponential emergence of new and better leaders your task is to identify and confront the fear. As you discover the real reasons behind their fear you can begin to reconstruct their confidence as a developer by simply encouraging, coaching and challenging them along the journey. Your greatest success will be seeing them confidently succeed in the reproduction of new leaders.

6 Questions Senior Leaders Need to Ask about Leadership Development

When you take your eye off leadership development it ceases to become a priority in the culture of your organization. If you, as the senior leader don’t keep it front and center then no one else will. I would go so far to say no one else can.

It’s your voice above any other that shapes the values of the organization. What you value you talk about, you measure and build accountability systems to ensure results. So it stands to reason if you’re not talking about leadership development on a regular basis, then that value loses power and dies or at best becomes an aspirational value.

Leadership development requires discipline, discussion, and accountability if it’s going to thrive. The urgent will always have a greater pull than the important. That’s why you must keep development in the forefront of the minds of your leaders.

Here are six questions you should ask your department leaders on a regular basis. And as a bonus, I will include some follow-up questions for each one.

  1. Who are you developing? FOLLOW UPS: Who could step in and do what you do if you were unexpectedly unable to do your role?  What parts of your role are you giving away or sharing on a regular basis?
  2. How many leaders do you have at each level of your pipeline? FOLLOW UPS: How many do you need? How would you describe the health of your leadership pipeline? How has your leadership bench deepened over the past 4 months? Which level of your pipeline is the strongest? Weakest?
  3. Who are the new potential leaders that are coming up in your area? FOLLOW UPS: Which of your leaders is mentoring them? To what level are these potential leaders being developed to? Which one’s are you most excited about? Why?
  4. How many of the leaders in your area are currently reproducing themselves? FOLLOW-UPS: What are you doing to help them in these efforts? What are you doing to celebrate the reproduction of new leaders in your area?
  5. What is the biggest obstacle you face in seeing a continual reproduction of leaders in your department? FOLLOW-UPS: What resources or support do you need to help you do this more effectively? How can I help?
  6. What are you doing currently to grow yourself? FOLLOW-UPS: What character or competency do you need to focus on developing over the next few months? How can I help?

It is your discipline of keeping leadership development front and center that will discipline your leaders to keep it front and center

Action Step: Send your key leaders this list of questions and tell them you’d like to discuss their answers within the next week. Then make this a regular discussion every 4 months.

The Pain of Leadership Development

Can I give you a secret that will help you be more effective at developing your leaders? Lean into their pain.

Where are they frustrated? Anxious? Unsure? Fearful? These are the emotional pains they feel when things aren’t going right.

Pain is good. It gets our attention. It causes us to feel deep, think deep and learn deeply. So go ahead leverage their emotions for a learning opportunity.

Others do it, so why don’t we? Salesman, marketers, film writers, directors, actors, singers all tap into our emotions to get our attention and make their message stick.

Neuroscientist and educators agree the stronger the emotion the more learning sticks.

So lean into their pain. Say: You seem to be… (fill in the blank with whatever emotion they seem to be displaying).

Then simply ask: Where are you stuck? What have you tried so far?What worked? What didn’t work? Why? How are you feeling about it right now? What would a leader you admire do in this situation? What are your options? Which do you feel is best? Why? What is your next step? Why do you think that might work? What are you learning from this challenge?

Once you begin to probe like this you’ll watch the pain turn into leadership principles that will stick with them much better than any class you could ever teach.

The Big Responsibility of Big Results

Leaders are visionaries.  They think big, dream big and plan big.  But sometimes the “big” doesn’t happen the way they envision.  So they experience a “big” disappointment.

I don’t want to imply that big is bad, hey I don’t want to follow a leader that doesn’t think big.  But one of the sides of big we don’t think about very often is, big results come with big responsibility. And big responsibility must be stewarded by someone with big character and big competencies.

If a pastor prays that his church will grow to one thousand people then he better have the competency and character it requires to lead a church of level of complexity.  If an entrepreneur wants to expand his business from 1 to 5 franchises then he better have the character required to handle the added pressures and the competency to scale to that size.

Sometimes I think God doesn’t give us “bigger” results because we don’t have the character or competency yet to steward the bigger responsibility. Don’t get in too big a hurry to get to big. And make sure you’re focusing on growing yourself as much as you are growing your organization.


Words are powerful when they’re delivered the right way. But they go largely ignored when they’re boring.

It’s not the words fault.  It’s not the message fault.

The messenger is to blame.

  • Ernest Hemingway once wrote a six-word story, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
  • Seth Godin has become a thought leader influencing nearly every industry through the power of his 100-300 word blog posts.
  • The information network Twitter took the world by storm in 2006 challenging us to communicate in 140 character messages.

It’s not how much you say or even what you say that makes a message stick, it’s how you say it.

“A truly wise person uses few words” Proverbs 17:2

Missed Opportunities

A church attender walking down the hallway passes the Student Pastor and says, “Hey I love what you’re doing with the Student ministry. Let me know if I can help.”   The Youth Pastor, in a hurry to get to his next responsibility smiles, accepts it as an encouragement and says, “Thank you.”

It never occurred to him to respond to the second part of this individual’s comment: “Let me know if I can help.”

Why was the first part acknowledged and the second part ignored? How often is an offer to help simply seen as a kindness rather than a serious proposition? Who’s fault is it the Student Pastor didn’t seize this opportunity?

Could it be that the Student Pastor isn’t totally to blame? What training did this novice staff member receive in the onboarding process that would help him with recruiting? What expectations has he been given regarding reproducing himself in other leaders? Is there an unspoken code that if you just get the job done that’s what matters, regardless of who does the work?

How has the organizational culture shaped his mentality that determined his response? Or the better question: What will the organizational culture do to change his mentality and, therefore, change his response to these types of opportunities in the future?

Maybe the individual’s comment “Let me know how I can help” was simply a kindness. But you’ll never know unless you’re bent toward seizing the opportunity of people development.

What steps can you take this week to shape a mentality of development among your leaders?

Developing Owners

Your organization has structure, system, process, and policies that make things run smoothly when done right.

You have strategy, values and vision that help you accomplish your mission when they’re kept in sight.

But the most critical element in your equation is people. People bring structure and systems to life and put passion behind the mission. But that only happens when they feel ownership.

You understand that people development is critical if you want your organization to do what you want it to do and be what you want it to be. But what are you training your people toward compliance or ownership?

When you train toward compliance they do the minimum level of expectations, stay within the lines, avoid making mistakes and focus on doing things right. The unspoken rule of your development is “We want you to do, not think”.

When you train toward ownership they do what’s wise and what’s best for the people your organization serves.

Your Most Important Meeting (Training Module)

The following is a training module you can use with your team.  Send them this link, ask them to answer the questions, watch the video and do the assignments.  Then meet the following week to discuss what you learned and what action steps each of you will take. I recommend not doing this session with more than 4 people at a time.  Once you complete the session challenge them to take their team members through.

Your Most Important Meeting


We typically schedule meetings in order to connect with the right people, to make decisions, plan ahead and solve problems together.

Moses, a leader whose time was in high demand, had a standing meeting that did those exact things. He met daily with God in a place called the Tent of Meeting. It was there he gained God’s wisdom and insight for leading the Hebrew people.

Regardless of how busy you are and what other meetings are on your schedule, the most important meeting you will have every day is your meeting with God.

Continue reading “Your Most Important Meeting (Training Module)”

10 Questions to Help You Become a “10” Leader

Great questions stimulate great thinking, great ideas, great motivation and ultimately help you grow as a leader. Here are a few questions I’m thinking through, so I thought I’d invite you to join me.

  1. What 10 books should I read over the next year?
  2. Who are 10 leaders I can ask to meet with and learn from? (What are 10 questions I will ask them?)
  3. What 10 companies, churches or organizations should I be learning from?
  4. What are the top 10 Scripture passages I can study to grow my character in a specific area?
  5. What are 10 questions I can ask myself to help me capture God’s vision for my life and leadership?
  6. What are the top 10 barriers I face in accomplishing my dream?
  7. Who are the top 10 people I should be investing my time in?
  8. What are 10 tools or resources I need to help me do my job faster and better?
  9. What are 10 things I need to stop doing?
  10. What are 10 most significant things I want to accomplish as a leader in the next year?

What questions would you add to this list?

Watch my Periscope on this post