Underneath The Surface of Leadership Development

The foundation of any building is the most critical element. The foundation is what everything rests upon.

Your home likely has a foundation consisting of a continuous concrete footing, foundation walls of poured concrete and a concrete floor slab. Other components from soil compaction to waterproofing are crucial.

If any of these things are faulty, no matter how beautiful your home is above the foundation, you can experience major problems.

Leadership development is similar because the foundation is essential to the process and the outcomes. What is underneath the surface makes all the difference.

We talk a lot about things like pipeline, curriculum, metrics, and systems. These are all good and important components.

These components make up the structure and style of your leadership development, but they don’t embody the foundation or the heart of your leadership development. They are above the surface.

The heart of your leadership development charts the course over the long haul and embodies elements like your values, motivation and spiritual integrity.

If your developmental foundation is solid, the flaws above the surface are not damaging and are relatively easy to improve.

If your foundation is faulty, no amount of talent and hard work in the day to day will deliver the results you want over the long haul.

The great news is that these four components are not determined by talent, resources, or skill. They are all about who you are as a person.

The “Big-4”:

1) Character

Therefore, when developing others, you reproduce who you are.

It’s not as simple and direct as an apple tree produces an apple.

We know there are many other influences in play with each person you develop, from their personal decisions to human genetics.

However, as far as their leadership behavior goes, and in time, even their leadership instincts, they are a reflection of you as their leadership coach and/or mentor.

Over time character drives values and principles deep in those you develop. Your integrity carries over into every aspect of how you lead.

It’s an interesting principle because as we often say about character, it’s who you are when no one is looking. That’s true. However, it’s equally true that you can’t hide your true character over an extended period. And if you are a leader, people are watching you.

Whatever philosophical position you take, your character is at the core of your leadership.

Key question: Can the people you lead fully trust your character?

2) Modeling

Leadership is more caught than taught.

Therefore, what you practice is more important that what you preach.

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others… it is the only thing.”

– Albert Schweitzer

It’s the little things that involve attributes such as kindness, generosity, and humility that shape what you do and how you do it.

What you put into practice (model) is more visible than your character, but the two are connected. As an example, you can model generosity as a show, or as a genuine part of your character. That all depends on who you really are.

For example, my friend and leadership mentor John Maxwell has always treated me with kindness, generosity, and respect. It didn’t matter if anyone was looking or not. You can’t fake that for 37 years. John’s character is true.

Please don’t misunderstand, it is good to model certain behaviors intentionally, but they must always be genuine. Not perfect, but genuine.

Key question: If people modeled your behavior, would you like what you see?

3) Heart

Heart to heart is always more powerful than head to head.

Therefore, giving your heart has a greater impact than withholding your heart.

For some leaders this kind of connection is easy, and for others it’s challenging.

When developing leaders, you can’t overestimate the value of making a personal connection, and that always starts at a heart level.

Making a heart-level connection begins with being yourself and requires both personal security and maturity.

And when it’s more about you, (what you need and want is the dominating agenda), you can’t connect.

Developing leaders at a heart level means you care about them.

You are not pouring into them so your church will grow, you are investing in them so they will grow. The difference between these two is galaxies apart. One you want more from them, the other you want more for them.

If your leaders grow spiritually, they will be self-motivated to help grow God’s Church.

Putting your heart into the process is risky. You can get hurt. But I don’t think you can truly develop others without taking that risk, and I’m certain it’s worth it. If you get hurt, take time to forgive and heal, but after you catch your breath, keep going.

Key question: Are you leading from the heart?

4) Eternity

Therefore, the motivation behind spiritual leadership is the eternal destiny of human souls.

Your philosophical worldview, along with your personal life and faith perspective, completely shapes your leadership agenda.

It’s all about God’s agenda for His Kingdom. It means that eternity is at stake at all times.

That influences what you teach, the principles you emphasize, the values you lean into and your overall mission or purpose.

One phrase in the Lord’s prayer helps bring clarity. (Matthew 6:10)

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 6:9-10

Thinking with an eternal perspective helps you develop leaders with a Kingdom mindset. That changes how you do ministry.

Key question: Are you building something for here on earth or for eternity in heaven?

These four key questions and your answers, radically impact how you lead and develop other leaders.

5 thoughts on “Underneath The Surface of Leadership Development”

  1. Dan, loved your post. Coming from a church planting fellowship that is constantly making leaders. These are the qualities you look for in a man that you want to support out in the field.

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