Developing Leaders: When Leaders are at Their Best

“Doing” or “Developing.” Leaders today are faced with this tension nearly every day. On one end of the spectrum is the need to “do” ministry. Personality types that are highly driven often pride themselves in their ability to deliver the goods at a pretty remarkable level. When it comes to getting the job done, these “doer” leaders make it happen.

But then they hit a ceiling. No matter how well they manage their time, how hard they work, or how many hours they put in, the church, ministry, or organization simply stops growing. What’s the problem? They’re “doing” at the cost of “developing.” In other words, they spend all of their time “doing ministry” rather than “developing people.”

Bill Hybels once observed, “I think leaders are at their very best when they are raising up leaders around them. Or put another way, leaders are at their best when they are creating a leadership culture.” The “Doing or Developing” tension is really a tension of mindsets. The “Doing Mindset” thinks one way while the “Developing Mindset” thinks another. Here’s a contrast of the two:

1.  Doing Gets the Job Done…Developing Gets the Job Done Through Others – When you first read that statement it can sound a bit self-serving. In fact, it can sound like you’re only concerned about what others can do for you with little regard for who they are as people. But, again, it’s a matter of mindset. If you’re focus is to get a job done, then you’ll only use people for what they can do for you. And when they’ve finished the task, you’ll be finished with them. But if your focus is truly to develop people, part of that process will include mobilizing them to maximize their gifts and abilities for Kingdom purposes. In other words, you’ll “equip them for works of service.” I’ve discovered that when I mobilize people to serve in roles that truly match their God-given gift mix, I’m doing them a favor that is well-aligned with their life purpose.

2. Doing is Transactional…Developing is Transformational – Sometimes a leader will try to shift to a “Developing” mindset but keep their development efforts tied to a “Doing” mindset. They begin by finding an emerging leader, identifying a job for them to do, and then giving them clear expectations to do the job along with rewards for great execution. It’s basically like a transaction…”I do this for you so you can do that for me.” So when the leader is “trained” or “coached” the entire focus is also transactional. The mantra is: “I’m coaching you to do these skills so that you can better meet my expectations for your job.” Again, it’s nothing more than a transaction. Transactional coaching is important, but it is also limiting.

Leaders with a “Developing” mindset look at their teams differently. While they certainly want to ensure they have the skills to do their job, they look beyond the project to be accomplished and consider the person doing the work. “Developer” leaders want to help the people they’re leading be transformed into the person God has called them to become. The “Developing” mindset looks at a person’s potential, dreams, and life purpose and asks, “How can I help them take their next step toward their hopes for the future?” The “Doer” is concerned only about the “Transaction” while the “Developer” is focused on the person’s “Transformation.”

3.  Doing Only Measures Results…Developing also Measures Leadership Reproduction – I addressed this briefly in a post on Measuring the Future of Your Church. The idea is that when you only measure the growth of your church or organization, you’re basically measuring the past. To measure the future, you have to measure whether or not you’re developing people. The people you develop today will determine where you’re able to go tomorrow.  “Doers” only measure where they’ve been. “Developers” measure where they’re going.

Question: Are you a “Doer” or a “Developer?” What shifts do you need to make to start developing people?