It’s great to be “pouring into” people. That’s a popular phrase in today’s leadership environment. I’ve used it because I like the word picture of it. Whatever I may have learned about life and leadership, I’m supposd to be passing along to others. But what does the phrase really mean? What, exactly, are we to pour into the people we lead?
We’ve been talking a lot as a church staff lately about leadership development. I really believe it’s the key to our reaching the next level of growth and effectiveness as a church. But I’m becoming aware of a couple of obstacles.
First, I’ve never led a church beyond where we currently are. I joined the staff of a church with well over 20,000 in weekend attendance, but I wasn’t there for the years when Saddleback grew from zero to their present size. I’m facing the reality that what we’ve done so far as a new church plant has been good, but it isn’t sufficient to take us somewhere else. It’s the whole “law of the lid” that John Maxwell speaks about.
I think, on a practical level, that means we’re going to need to do some re-structuring and shifting. We’re going to have to think outside of our already established routines. And we’re going to have to take some risks.
And the second obstacle is that I don’t think we’ve clearly defined what it is we need to be pouring into the leaders we’re developing. Does that mean having coffee and chatting about life? Does it mean walking through a training course or workbook? I think the answer lies somewhere in between those two options.
There are at least eight gifts I hope to pour into the people I’m leading, and I hope they pass these gifts along to others too.
1. Love and concern. That is, living with a genuine interest in the lives of those we lead. And this is more than just the occasional “how are you?” question. It’s staying tuned in and aware of how life is along the way. Loving people is pretty basic, but profoundly powerful.
2. Knowledge and skills. Obviously, if we’re going to raise up and train leaders, we need to pass along the knowledge and skills necessary to get things done. This comes in the form of apprenticing, resources and modeling.
3. Responsibilities, with clearly articulated expectations. I’ve had to learn a lot the hard way about being very clear in communicating my expectations of those I lead. I can’t assume that someone knows what results I desire to see unless I’ve painted a thorough and accurate picture for them.
4. Golden opportunities. As a leader, you no doubt always have a spot to fill and a task to assign. But do you reserve the very best opportunities—the ones most sure to be rewarding—for yourself? Or do you generously empower others with them to serve up the win to someone else?
Let me stop to note that the opportunities I’ve written about thus far are the easier ones to give. The rest get harder …
5. Theology—a peek into our view of God. You can always sit down with people and walk through some systematic theology, text-book style. But what I’m really referring to is that we speak openly of our faith in God in such a way that the people whom we lead have a bigger perspective of him from having been led by us.
6. Freedom. It’s hard to really let people go and entrust them with the freedom to fail, to make mistakes, to do things differently than we would do them ourselves. But that kind of freedom is necessary to effective leadership. When we fail to grant freedom, the best leaders will leave.
7. Accountability. Pastor Paul Chappell is always saying that “people only respect what you inspect.” My own tendency has been to give away tasks and responsibilities, but rarely to go and follow up on how it’s going. But good leadership requires us to check back in, to hold people accountable in a positive way.
8. Our big “YES!” I’m not arguing that we should say yes to every idea or request that comes along. But those we lead should have the impression that it’s more likely that we’ll say “Yes!” than “No.” Great leaders create “Yes” cultures where people are encouraged to keep being creative. Sometimes leadership means saying “yes” to people even when it’s scary to do so.
I’m still figuring out how to give these gifts well, but I’m committed to doing so in order for our leadership development culture to thrive. You can have growth, or you can have control, but you can’t have all of both. I want to err on the side of having just enough control to keep the train on the tracks.