How to create a leadership development strategy

For the past three and half years I have been in a new role – conducting workshops and coaching pastors and men in recovery – and outside of the senior pastor leadership role, I’ve found myself reflecting on some of the challenges pastors face. One of the most striking things I notice is that churches have huge needs for competent – and usually volunteer – leaders to carry projects forward. Therefore, healthy, growing churches need to be leadership development machines.

I just ran across an article on this subject by Dan McCarthy, a business consultant. I found it interesting, and it brought up a few thoughts and ideas for what churches need to do. I’m going to insert some of its content here, with comments by me in [brackets and italics]. Hope you find something helpful here.

1. Identify the organization’s challenges and goals.

The difference between strategic leadership development and managing a bunch of programs and processes is the extent to which everything is tightly linked to the organization’s mission and strategy. It’s a connect-the-dots exercise.

[The article is focused on what an outside consultant can do, rather than what you as the leader can do. It suggests meeting with the CEO and key leaders to find out more about the organization’s needs. In some ways, this is something you already have in your head as a pastor, but it may also help – if you’re establishing a specific, written out “Leadership Development Strategy” to make this a formal part of the process, involving other key leaders in the church.] Here are some good questions to ask:

– What’s the biggest challenge facing this company in the next 3-5 years?

– What keeps you up at night? (although this question is starting to get a bit overused)

– Given these challenges, what new leadership & management competencies do you see as becoming more important? How would you assess our incumbent managers against these competencies?

2. Identify the implications for leadership development.

There’s a lot of ways to get at this, but the fundamental question is – “How does business objective “A” influence how we need to go about developing our leaders? What new skills are required?” A simple example would be a company that is expected to double it’s growth in the next five years by expanding product line “B” globally. Obvious implications for leadership development include the need to develop and implement global leadership development processes and develop new global leadership competencies for product line B’s general managers. It’s not always that easy, so that’s where some healthy discussion and debate can help tease out the implications.

[Of course one of the greatest challenges for leadership development in church settings is the limitations of time and the fact that we’re working with volunteers who have many other priorities. I also think that an essential skill for leaders at all levels in church settings is conflict management. Churches often get bogged down in petty conflicts, and it would be helpful for all churches to have regular teaching about how to deal with conflict constructively.]

3. Create a leadership development vision and mission.

A vision statement is an aspirational description of what the team would like to achieve or accomplish in the future. It is intended to serve as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action. Having a clear vision can give a team direction and inspiration, and be the foundation for goal setting and action planning.

A mission statement describes what you do, for who, and how. It puts a boundary around your team’s activities and helps guide their day-to-day direction.

Here’s an example: “Our vision is to have a leadership pipeline that is stuffed with “A” caliber leaders at every level of the organization. Our mission is to develop great leaders.”

[If you are a pastor today, and have gone through any kind of training about leadership, you are likely VERY familiar with the mechanics of establishing mission and vision statements. The key insight here is that you have an agreed-upon and written-out mission and vision for leadership development within your church.]

4. Create a list of 3-5 year leadership development goals.

This short, focused list of long term goals address the implications and goals identified in steps 1&2, and support the team’s vision and mission. An example of a 3-5 year goal would be “Create a process to identify and develop global competencies in our product line B division’s general managers”.

5. Develop measures and action plans for each goal.

The creation and tracking of a handful of critical metrics is one of the most important and often neglected components of a leadership development strategy. It’s hard, but not impossible.

[This is a key component that separates churches and non-profits from for profit businesses. Businesses are much more rigorous about establishing measures and tracking them.]

6. Create a leadership competency model.

The same process used to identity implications and goals can be used to create a strategic leadership competency model. This model can be used as a way to align all of your leadership development processes and programs.

[I must confess that I’m not sure about this point. McCarthy has a link to another article about developing leadership competency models. It seems to me that this creates an unneccessary level of complexity to the process, but maybe that’s just me.]

7. Review with key stakeholders to verify and modify.

[Once again, this step is based on the assumption that you are coming in as an outside consultant. If you are the leader of the organization, you would replace this step with ongoing evaluation of the implementation of the program.]

5 thoughts on “How to create a leadership development strategy”

  1. I have some question’s about the use of the word “leader.”

    The word “leader”seems like a “high place.” Yes?

    Jesus always took and recommended the “low place.” Yes?

    Jesus humbled Himself, made himself of no reputation
    and took on the form of a servant. Php 2:7

    How do “you” reconcile the use of the word leader
    when “Jesus” told “His disciples” not to be called leader?

    Jesus in Mat 23:10 told His disciples “NOT” to call
    themselves master/“leaders”
    for you have one master/”leader” the Christ.

    King James Version –
    Neither be ye called masters:
    for one is your Master, even Christ.

    The Interlinear Bible –
    Nor be called leaders,
    for one is your leader the Christ.

    Phillips Modern English –
    you must not let people call you leaders,
    you have only one leader, Christ.

    Today’s English Version –
    nor should you be called leader.
    your one and only leader is the Messiah.

    The Amplified-
    you must not be called masters ( leaders )
    for you have one master ( leader ) the Christ.

    Jesus told His disciples not to be called “leaders” and none did.

    Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
    Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ,
    Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ,
    Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God,
    Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God
    2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant

    His disciples all called themselves “servants,”
    none called themselves “leaders.” None? None.
    None called themselves “servant-leader.” None.

    If Jesus instructed “His disciples” NOT to call themselves leaders
    and someone calls themself a “leader”
    or thinks they are a “leader;”

    Are they a “disciple of Christ?”

    Just wondering. Be blessed.

  2. Well A. Amos Love, there’s a lot about your post that I disagree with. You have a point to make, and a perspective you bring to the table, but you raise questions and don’t state where you’re coming from. I agree that any kind of heavy-handed, self-serving leadership is not what God wants or what the church needs. At the same time, I do think that there is a place for people who have the gifts and calling to lead churches. Maybe the problem is that some of them take themselves – and their role – too seriously, and get caught up in power trips. I don’t like that kind of leader, and apparently Jesus didn’t either.

  3. Excellent blog! I actually love how it is easy on my eyes and also the data are well written. I am wondering how I might be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your rss feed which must do the trick! Have a nice day!

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