I once read something that Ruth Barton said about developing leaders. She said, and I’m paraphrasing, “We do a great disservice to young leaders when we teach them, first, what they can accomplish before we teach them what manner of people they should become.” And I believe this is true from the classroom to the boardroom to the pulpit. It’s like skipping the foundational phase of a building project and going straight to the finishing phases of construction. Every builder worth his salt would tell you that you would eventually have a structure that is a wreck, doors and windows that are there but don’t open and close, cracks in ceilings and walls, and roofs that will leak when it rains. Leadership that works, that is effective and lasts, is a ground-up, no short-cuts step-by-step process.
In this current society in which rampant immorality, selfishness, low-accountability and relativism have become the norm, we need to return to the strong and safe moorings of Biblical truth and wisdom in every area of our lives including our concepts of leadership. God’s ways are still the gold standard for building our lives, enterprise and discovering our purpose. And when we return to discover and search out God’s ways, I believe we will be amazed at the steep slope of decline which most of us have been pushed by the ebb and flow of popular culture. Like that time when I took a walk down an unfamiliar country road, took a wrong turn, and got lost, when safely rescued I was amazed at how I had wandered much farther away from home than I intended.
So, what are God’s thoughts and plans for developing leaders? In my study and experience I have discovered that God’s plan for developing leaders is not as much about completed task or goals to be achieved as it is about who we become in the process. I often tell leaders that God is not as concerned about where we arrive, as He is about who we become along the way. This is not to say that goals and destinations are not important to God, but they are simply a part of the process, the formula, of leadership. This formula is composed of a “be” and then “do” kind of logic. It follows a progression based on, “I believe, therefore I speak” and “I am, therefore I do.” This seems to be God’s pattern.
I believe that the concept of “being” before “doing” is critical if we hope to create a strong culture of Servant Leadership in the global Body of Christ. This does not make the “doing” unimportant, but simply second in priority and focus. “Being” first, and then allowing our activities to be built on the foundation of “who” God has made us to be, places the proper foundation into our leadership enterprises. If we fail to take this critical step at the beginning, we will constantly be caught in the web of trying to identify ourselves through the things we have accomplished as opposed to who God created us to be.