Sunday, August 11, 2002

growing new leaders

As I mentioned, Thursday and Friday I and 27,000 other church leaders at 49 sites all over the country enjoyed Willow Creek's 2002 Leadership Summit. It was a great conference and featured Daniel Goleman, who authored Emotional Intelligence, the business consultant Warren Bennis and Dan Allender, psychologist and president of Mars Hill Graduate School.

Dan Allender spoke about being "a glorious ruin who is being remade." It was wonderful. Dan Goleman's Emotional Intelligence had a profound effect on my thinking when I read it some years ago. He extended his thinking to leadership and I'm looking forward to reading his new book Primal Leadership. But it was one remark in Willow Creek Founding Pastor Bill Hybel's interview with Warren Bennis that perhaps struck me the most.

Warren Bennis is considered one of the fathers of organizational development and is 77 years old. Hybels asked him if he had ever seen an effective leadership development program.

He said no!

Hybels followed up by asking Bennis' advice on the four things that Hybels tells every aspiring leader:

1 - Read all you can about leadership;
2 - Spend time with other leaders;
3 - Put yourself in contexts where you can be taught by other leaders;
4 - Lead something.

Bennis said that he thought that was a good list but added a fifth point:

5 - Get feedback in everyone of these four steps.

Note the degree to which personal relationship can play a significant factor in these counsels - particularly in 2 but also in 5.

What struck me about Bennis saying that he had not seen a truly effective leadership development program is that leadership development is not subject to being programmed. It is organic. Leaders are grown, not planned. Leadership development must be transpropositional and it must be relational. This does not mean that there cannot be elements of leadership development that are not subject to systematization. For example, a series of workshops on the core competencies of spiritual leadership could be quite helpful. But evangelicalism has tended to rely on the classroom to create leaders. Modernity has seemingly influenced her to believe that the mere transfer of propositions can get the job done. But something else is needed. Larry Crabb has written that spiritual transformation rarely occurs outside of a relational context. When we think of our own seasons of spiritual change, what tends to come to mind are not books or classes or sermons but names.

Consequently, in the Learning Community org we are launching in our local church, we've taken as one of our operational distinctives a "find one/make one" policy. We are encouraging every facilitator in Learning Community to find one leader currently ready to lead and help enfold them into our Leadership Community and to find one potential leader beside whom they can come alongside and help them to find their path. I've suggested that is a non-negotiable operational distinctive that should be made a part of the church's corporate culture. We wish to create an environment where you cannot call yourself a leader unless you are constantly on the prowl for those now qualified and nurturing up and coming leaders.

We believe that this organic approach to new leader development will be more effective than any programmed system.

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