It is ironic that at a time when there is such focus on leadership development, an unending supply of leadership specialists, and more resources on the subject than ever before, there appears to be fewer able and trusted leaders.
Is it possible that we spend more time talking about developing leaders than actually developing them?
Big Talkie, But No Walkie
Many leaders talk about developing new leaders through mentoring, but it may be surprising to discover how few are actively mentoring new leaders. Passive mentoring seems to be the order of the day for many leaders but it only develops new leaders as far as they are able to assimilate the information and principles for themselves.
Nothing can take the place of an empowering mentor.
We are either making it much more complicated than necessary or we just are not doing a satisfactory job of developing new leaders. I suggest that there may be a more simple way to develop leaders in society, business, government, and even church. Whether they are in public administration, business, or politics, many leaders talk about developing new leaders through mentoring…
I call it The 3 x 3 Leader Development Process.
A Look To The Past
LEADERS DEVELOP LEADERS
My recent post on L2L titled Change Leadership quoted the Bible from Exodus 18 where Moses’ father in law Jethro challenged him to a new way of leading. However, this article explores what Moses ultimately learned from the lesson and what we may learn about developing new leaders in the 21st century.
Fast forward from Exodus 18 to Deuteronomy 1 and analyze a statement Moses made at least forty years later.
9I also said to you at that time, “I am no longer able to sustain you by myself. 10The Lord your God has increased your population to the point that you are now as numerous as the very stars of the sky. 11Indeed, may the Lord, the God of your ancestors, make you a thousand times more numerous than you are now, blessing you just as he said he would!
12But how can I alone bear up under the burden of your hardship and strife? 13Select wise and practical men, those known among your tribes, whom I may appoint as your leaders.” 14You replied to me that what I had said to you was good. 15So I chose as your tribal leaders wise and well-known men, placing them over you as administrators of groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, and also as other tribal officials.
16I furthermore admonished your judges at that time that they should pay attention to issues among your fellow citizens and judge fairly, whether between one citizen and another or a citizen and a resident foreigner.
17They must not discriminate in judgment, but hear the lowly and the great alike. Nor should they be intimidated by human beings, for judgment belongs to God. If the matter being adjudicated is too difficult for them, they should bring it before me for a hearing. Deuteronomy 1:9-17 Net Bible
In the quoted passage, Moses offers his recollection of the events first related in Exodus 18 in which he took Jethro’s advice and appointed people to help him lead the many people. Through the painful experience of trying to provide super-hero leadership Moses learned that leaders develop leaders.
He learned the effectiveness of replication and empowerment that only occurs when leaders develop leaders. In the Deuteronomy passage Moses presents some basic leadership development principles that remain useful today.
Learning To Lead
A 3 x 3 LEADER DEVELOPMENT PROCESS
Within verse thirteen we may learn much about developing leaders. Consider three characteristics the people were to consider as they chose potential leaders:
The descriptor “wise” is defined as one having deep understanding, keen discernment, and a capacity for sound judgment. Nuances within the definition indicate that a prospective new leader should have the characteristic of observed wisdom by others.
The word other Bible translations use is “understanding,” which is defined as one who demonstrates a consistent ability to comprehend an issue and accurately develop and apply the information to an intelligible solution. In today’s language we might use the word “practical.”
The nuanced meaning carries the idea that there would be wide agreement among the peers of a prospective leader that he/she has the characteristics needed for a task. Today we call it “reputation.”
Now that we have the three simple but not universal characteristics for leadership, consider three steps to the process of leadership development:
The 3 x 3 Leadership Development Process
The text indicates that Moses asked the people to “select” prospective leaders from among themselves. He could have authoritatively placed his choices of people into positions of leadership, but he did not. Why? Many of us have learned that while we can bring in outside people to fill leadership positions, a better way is often through upward mobility, promoting from within, and mentoring and coaching the new leader.
Following this process builds “buy-in” and people already connected within the organization have much more at stake and presumably will strive to be successful in their new role.
In his book Generating Buy-In Mark Walton describes “buy-in” as obtaining “other people’s understanding, commitment, and action in support of a leader’s goals.” Outsiders may have valuable experience but often have no vested interest. They may not be willing to invest the leadership capital necessary to succeed when going gets tough.
By including the people in a democratic process of selecting their own leaders, Moses also used the “buy-in” principle so that they too had a vested interest in the outcome.
The second part of the process aspect of leader development is indicated in verse 15 of the text where Moses made the final selections of leaders from those chosen by the people. Also, not the hierarchy of leadership in that Moses made the determination of which individuals chosen by the people would fill varying levels of leadership probably based on the three factors of wisdom, practicality, reputation, plus age.
Leaders should not blindly place people in “whatever” position simply to fill it.
Leaders should follow the Good to Great principle of getting the right people in the right seats on the bus.
The third part of the process of leader development is somewhat inferred in the text. In verses 15 through 17 one may discern that Moses did not place the people in leadership positions and then walk away, allowing them to lead in a laissez-faire manner. Thus, the third part of the process is mentoring and without it, the whole process eventually collapses.
Mentoring is not “doing the job you appointed them to do,” but it is equipping and then empowering them to do the job better.
The 3 x 3 Leader Development Process may not work in every application, but using it may surprise many C-level executives who are looking for a way to select new leaders while building buy-in from the rank and file.
We sometimes feel that we are too busy to mentor new leaders.Perhaps we are too busy not to mentor new leaders.
Compare your current method of selecting new leaders to the process proposed in the article. Where might the proposed process break down and how might it be improved? As a leader yourself, are you 1) being mentored currently, and 2) are you mentoring a rising leader? Why or why not? I would love to hear your thoughts!
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