Making Better Leaders: Mastering the 6 Stages of Leadership Development

If you want to learn something- learn from the best. The Apostle Paul was one of the greatest developer of leaders of all time. In his lifetime he raised up hundreds of leaders that would be key to the global spread of the message of Christ. 

When we are not getting leadership development ‘right’, we are probably making a mistake in one of the six identifiable stages of development that Paul took people through.

These stages are the most apparent in his training relationship with his young apprentice Timothy:

  1. SELECTION– Too often we are so desperate to find people to take positions that we become careless in the selection process. In Acts 16:1-2 we see that Timothy was a disciple and that he was spoken well of by people who knew him well. Paul saw in this young man qualities that he could build on. In the selection process, always look carefully for someone who is: teachable, eager to learn, and dedicated. Also, check in with the people who know them best to find out if they are trustworthy, motivated, and willing to maintain good relationships. A careful selection process can save a lot of headaches and heartaches in the later stages! The best tool to employ in this process is the Grip-Birkman assessment tool.
  2. PREPARATION– Once the selection is made, the prodigy needs to be prepared in a fitting way for their assigned tasks. A common mistake here is to simply throw the person into their role and hope that they can swim! Careful thought needs to be given to the experiences and training that will fill in the gaps in the person’s knowledge and skill base. In the case of Timothy, part of his ‘spiritual preparation’ was the prophetic words spoken to him about the gifts and strengths that God had placed within him (1 Tim. 4:14 & 2 Tim. 1:6). Timothy also required what may be called ‘cultural preparation’. These were uncomfortable steps he took that helped him adapt to the culture of the people he would reach (Acts 16:3). Effective preparation needs to be customized to the individual or team and the context they are working in.

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  3. ACCOMPANIMENT– As the young Timothy travelled with Paul in adventurous missionary journeys, he had first row seat from which to observe the seasoned leadership veteran. He learned about starting churches, appointing leaders, receiving divine direction, using missional strategy and engaging in supernatural ministry (see Acts 16). Timothy’s training was personal in that he learned in the presence of his mentor. It was experiential in that he learned about ministry while being engaged in ministry. It was practical in that he learned praxis rather than just theory. We tend to learn the best when we see values and proficiencies modelled for us rather than just explained to us!
  4. RELEASE– Timothy was given increasing responsibility and freedom over the time of his apprenticeship. First, he was sent to check up on and encourage the Thessalonian church (1 Thess. 3:2). Second, he is sent with some trepidation to the difficult church at Corinth to help them drop their political approach to church life and get on with their God-given mission (1 Cor. 16:10-11; 1 Cor. 4:14-17). Later, he is sent to Ephesus with with full authority to provide local leadership (1 Tim. 1:1-3). As you entrust people gradually, you will learn to utilize keen discernment as to the person’s level of maturity and readiness at any given time. If you release people into responsibility too soon it can go to their head and if you release them too slowly you can exasperate them. This is more of an art than a science.
  5. OVERSIGHT– In this stage of the leadership development process, Paul was not present physically but he was still actively encouraging and supporting Timothy through letters. Timothy has the space to grow and develop but at the same time he had a trusted leader and friend to tap into as a resource. My readings of 1 and 2 Timothy show that Paul’s primary concerns at this stage were: reminding him of his central purpose/assignment, challenging him to use the gifts/strengths God gave him, instructing him in practical matters that would lead the church to health, challenging him to be self motivated (now that his mentor was not physically present), and offering him encouragement in the his areas of weakness. In this stage the role moves from field training to the equally important roles of coach, moral supporter and confidant.
  6. MULTIPLICATION– The ultimate goal is that those that are developed in leadership will in turn repeat the cycle with others who will then continue on the process with others. In 2 Tim. 2:2 this principle is encapsulated: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will be able to teach others.” The word for ‘teach’ that Paul uses here is a word that indicates a certain type of learning- on that emphasizes the learner following both the teaching and the way of life of the teacher. When leadership development is has personal, practical and purpose-driven aspects to it the results are explosive because you are not raising just one leader, but generations of leaders! When you have been led effectively through each of these stages you gain a mindset of multiplication and continue to be on the look-out for others to invest in!

Question: May God bless you in your leadership development efforts and, as always, let us know how we can be a resource to you! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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