8 Gifts to “Pour Into” the Leaders You’re Developing

It’s great to be “pouring into” people. That’s a popular phrase in today’s leadership environment. I’ve used it because I like the word picture of it. Whatever I may have learned about life and leadership, I’m supposd to be passing along to others. But what does the phrase really mean? What, exactly, are we to pour into the people we lead?

We’ve been talking a lot as a church staff lately about leadership development. I really believe it’s the key to our reaching the next level of growth and effectiveness as a church. But I’m becoming aware of a couple of obstacles.

First, I’ve never led a church beyond where we currently are. I joined the staff of a church with well over 20,000 in weekend attendance, but I wasn’t there for the years when Saddleback grew from zero to their present size. I’m facing the reality that what we’ve done so far as a new church plant has been good, but it isn’t sufficient to take us somewhere else. It’s the whole “law of the lid” that John Maxwell speaks about.

I think, on a practical level, that means we’re going to need to do some re-structuring and shifting. We’re going to have to think outside of our already established routines. And we’re going to have to take some risks.

And the second obstacle is that I don’t think we’ve clearly defined what it is we need to be pouring into the leaders we’re developing. Does that mean having coffee and chatting about life? Does it mean walking through a training course or workbook? I think the answer lies somewhere in between those two options.

There are at least eight gifts I hope to pour into the people I’m leading, and I hope they pass these gifts along to others too.

1. Love and concern. That is, living with a genuine interest in the lives of those we lead. And this is more than just the occasional “how are you?” question. It’s staying tuned in and aware of how life is along the way. Loving people is pretty basic, but profoundly powerful.

2. Knowledge and skills. Obviously, if we’re going to raise up and train leaders, we need to pass along the knowledge and skills necessary to get things done. This comes in the form of apprenticing, resources, and modeling.

3. Responsibilities, with clearly articulated expectations. I’ve had to learn a lot the hard way about being very clear in communicating my expectations of those I lead. I can’t assume that someone knows what results I desire to see unless I’ve painted a thorough and accurate picture for them.

4. Golden opportunities. As a leader, you no doubt always have a spot to fill and a task to assign. But do you reserve the very best opportunities – the ones most sure to be rewarding – for yourself? Or do you generously empower others with them to serve up the win to someone else?

Let me stop to note that the opportunities I’ve written about thus far are the easier ones to give. The rest get harder…

5. Theology – a peek into our view of God. You can always sit down with people and walk through some systematic theology, text-book style. But what I’m really referring to is that we speak openly of our faith in God in such a way that the people whom we lead have a bigger perspective of him from having been led by us.

6. Freedom. It’s hard to really let people go and entrust them with the freedom to fail, to make mistakes, to do things differently than we would do them ourselves. But that kind of freedom is necessary to effective leadership. When we fail to grant freedom, the best leaders will leave.

7. Accountability. Pastor Paul Chappell is always saying that “people only respect what you inspect.” My own tendency has been to give away tasks and responsibilities, but rarely to go and follow up on how it’s going. But good leadership requires us to check back in, to hold people accountable in a positive way.

8. Our big “YES!” I’m not arguing that we should say yes to every idea or request that comes along. But those we lead should have the impression that it’s more likely that we’ll say “Yes!” than “No.” Great leaders create “Yes” cultures where people are encouraged to keep being creative. Sometimes leadership means saying “yes” to people even when it’s scary to do so.

I’m still figuring out how to give these gifts well, but I’m committed to doing so in order for our leadership development culture to thrive. You can have growth, or you can have control, but you can’t have all of both. I want to err on the side of having just enough control to keep the train on the tracks.

12 Values to Help You Develop More Leaders

John Maxwell said, “Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team.” When it comes to church leadership, there isn’t any room for lone rangers. We need a team. We need to be making more disciples, and empowering more leaders to fulfill the mission Jesus gave us.

Tony Morgan was spot on in a recent blog post in which he spelled out the two keys to breaking through any growth barrier. He boiled it down to developing more leaders and developing better systems. The problem is, some churches are terrible, unhealthy incubators for potential leaders. From churches that still think nominating and voting on volunteers is actually effective to those that create a culture where volunteers are afraid to mess up, many churches reflect a set of values that stifles leadership development.

I recently met with the Grace Hills staff to remind us all of some of the key values of a church that allows volunteers to emerge as leaders and develops great teams. These may seem a little random, but they actually flow together.

  1. The leader of leaders must be growing spiritually and developing personally. I am the biggest lid to my team’s growth.
  2. There is always room on the team for another leader.
  3. When we’re out of room, we create new layers with leaders of other leaders.
  4. With few exceptions, no one is disqualified from the team.
  5. Doubling the team means doubling the reach. To reach more people, develop more leaders. Leaders who have bought in are most likely to bring others.
  6. Leaders are best developed in personal relationships, face-to-face. Mass emails and calendars have their place, but leaders are developed in person.
  7. We have to start with a vision, a mental picture, of what a mature leader looks like. Otherwise, we can’t know where we’re leading people.
  8. Leadership development needs an intentional process with defined next steps.
  9. We must lead spiritually, not just organizationally. In the church, discipleship and leadership development are almost synonymous.
  10. Developing leaders need permission to try, to fail, and to succeed. Some great future leaders are just waiting for permission to launch.
  11. Leaders provide people with the tools, resources, budget, and encouragement to succeed – not rules and red tape.
  12. We try to serve up a win for developing leaders. We get out in front and help pave the way for volunteers to see the positive results of their efforts.

I wrote a couple of years ago that “no one does more to determine the spiritual temperature of my church than me, the Pastor.” I still believe that. And I believe it about every church staff member who leads a team, every supervisor in a company, every teacher in the classroom, and every other kind of leader in the world.

To grow, develop more leaders and better systems, and make sure your organization creates the healthy environment in which leaders can thrive.

8 Simple Ways to Pour Into Leaders

Windshield TimeIn the American church, we tend to think of leadership development as a classroom and curriculum-based process, but Jesus had a better idea: spend time with people. Jesus allowed His life to rub off on His chosen leaders and to pour His wisdom into them, and we can do the same. Sometimes it’s a matter of spotting the natural opportunities that come along while at other times, its an intentionally-planned conversation.

Here are some simple ways to make leadership development a part of your life…

  1. Schedule three to five informal meetings per week – coffee, lunch, etc. – with people into whom you want to invest.
  2. Take potential leaders on trips with you. I’ve heard great leaders talk about the mentoring power of never traveling alone. My Worship Pastor calls it “windshield time.”
  3. If you’re a Pastor, take a partner as you do pastoral care – hospital visits, etc. Just the time in the car on the way is a great opportunity.
  4. Buy and send books to leaders. I’ve received and given books that have shaped who I am.
  5. Check in with a phone call. Have a list of potential leaders into whom you’re pouring, and randomly call them once a month or so.
  6. Convene conversations. Gather leaders who aspire to be involved in the things you’ve spent your life doing and let them connect with each other.
  7. Listen. Pouring into leaders doesn’t mean doing all the talking. It often means lending an ear in a tough moment.
  8. Connect leaders to other leaders. It’s powerful when we say, “here’s a friend of mine you need to connect with.”

I can’t begin to thank God enough for the leaders He has placed in my life as mentors, friends, and coaches. I’m sometimes blown away by the graciousness of those who will pour into me.

We recently ran an article on Pastors.com by Pastor Rick Warren on how every Pastor needs a mentor. I was surprised at the feedback when Pastors said they had a hard time finding someone who would make time available to another leader. Never get caught up in getting your own business done that you fail to pour into other leaders. It’s the Jesus way, the apostolic communion, and the future hope of the church.

What are you doing to pour into other leaders?