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When leaders are at their best

March 30, 2009
By Dennis Gingerich, Special to The Breeze

About 20 years ago, I heard Dr. John Maxwell say, "Everything rises and falls on leadership." I wasn't convinced. I thought there was some truth in that statement but I was doubtful this was an accurate principle in all situations. Now, I fully agree, "Everything rises and falls on leadership." I am persuaded it is a principle that holds true in every business, organization and every church.

The Bible gives a clear call in Romans 12. "God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly" (vs. 6-8 in the New Living Translation). Now, it is clear that the leadership gift is not the only important gift but if you are in leadership in any way in any place, make sure you maximize your potential.

I've learned that leaders have many tasks. We are called to cast vision, build teams, set goals, solve problems, and raise resources. Leaders are to model exemplary leadership. We are called to manifest the traits of trustworthiness, fair-mindedness, humility, servanthood, endurance over the long haul and to be steady in crisis. These are all things that a good leader does. But there is more.

Above everything else, the most important thing a leader can do is to grow leaders. As a leader, I am at my best when I am creating a leadership culture. When I am providing an environment where leaders can discover their gifts, develop their gifts, and begin to deploy them for God-honoring purposes, I am at the defining point of what makes a good leader. In my view, this is at the top of the priority list. Leaders are called to raise up more leaders.

Author/Pastor Bill Hybels puts it this way in his book, Courageous Leadership, "When a leader develops not only his or her own leadership potential, but draws out the leadership potential of scores of other leaders as well, the kingdom impact from one life is multiplied exponentially. It produces far more fruit than any single leadership achievement could have. The impact of that leader's life will be felt for many generations to come" (p. 122).

In the book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Dr. John Maxwell tells of the informal poll he conducted at numerous leadership seminars regarding what prompted men and women to become leaders. The results of his survey show that 10% identified their natural gifting as what prompted them to become leaders, 5% indicated it was a crisis that prompted them, but 85% of the respondents said it was the influence of another leader that prompted them to become a leader. It takes a leader to raise up a leader.

In my setting as a pastoral leader, my first priority is to discover who the leaders are, develop them, and deploy them in ministry. Now, I don't do this alone. Our other experienced leaders are all committed to doing the same thing with the same priority in their area of ministry. It will work in your business too!

The bottom line is, an organization, a business, or a church, can only grow in proportion to the number of growing leaders who are growing other leaders. As long as you are growing leaders, you can keep growing your organization or your ministry. You can't do it alone. If you really want to be a successful leader, you must discover, develop and deploy other leaders around you.

While on earth, Jesus was more focused on turning his closest followers into leaders than he was in gathering large numbers of followers. Jesus constantly used situations and encounters with people as a time to give more specific leadership coaching to his twelve disciples that were closely affiliated with him during his three year earthly ministry. Jesus often drew big crowds but he walked away from those crowds to make sure there were private moments with his immediate disciples so they learned the deeper meaning of his teachings. Jesus also showed them how to learn from their mistakes and he pointed out their underlying motivations so they would become the future leaders Jesus knew they needed to be if the Christian faith was to survive. Jesus used those few years to discover, develop and deploy those dozen highly committed followers so they might become the future leaders that would lead a thriving faith movement into the next generations.

Apostle Paul of Bible fame teaches us this concept of leaders equipping leaders in his words to young Timothy whom Paul was mentoring. Paul told Timothy, "You have heard me teach many things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Teach these great truths to trustworthy people who are able to pass them on to others" (2 Timothy 2:2 NLT). Timothy became a leader because Paul discovered, developed and deployed him. Paul was reminding Timothy to carry out the same process so those whom he led could see the process multiplied over and over again. This is when leadership is at its best. This is the calling of leadership. And from my experience, I can tell you this is also the greatest joy of leadership.

This weekend, the church that I've been leading for more than two decades is celebrating a new generation of leadership as we ordain Pastor Wes Furlong and recognize his new role as Lead Pastor of Cape Christian Fellowship. As we also celebrate 30 years of pastoral ministry for me, one of the high points of my personal accomplishments is to know that I've raised up great young leaders to lead the church into the next generation. As its founding pastor, I will still be serving this church for many years to come. I will continue coaching the young leaders and still serve on the lead team. I will continue to share half of the weekend speaking responsibilities as in previous years. And I will leverage decades of relationship-building to increase my leadership role in networking with community organizations as we more intentionally address the critical needs of families and children in Cape Coral.

Who are you mentoring? Are you just gathering followers or are you discovering, developing and deploying younger leaders in our business or organization? I've been learning that the journey of a leader is more exciting, and definitely more fulfilling, when I see the multiplied results of investing in young leaders.



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