Underneath The Surface of Leadership Development

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

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

If any of these things are faulty, no matter how beautiful your home is above the foundation, you can experience major structural problems, that hurt the value of your home and can create a dangerous environment for you to live in.

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 focus on the practical and daily things like culture, curriculum, consistency, coaching, and systems (like a pipeline). 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 in your leadership development process, no amount of talent and hard work in the day to day will deliver the results you want over the long haul.

The encouraging 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” to build a strong foundation to your leadership development:

1) Live out a Godly character that people can count on

Therefore, when developing others, you reproduce who you are, but 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) Consistently model of behavior that is helpful and contagious

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 40+ 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) Establish a heart-felt connection and genuinely care about people

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.

For example, both insecurity and immaturity break connection because it’s now more about you than the other person. 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.

We don’t invest in developing leaders primarily so our churches will grow, we invest in them so they will grow. The difference between these two is huge. 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) Think through the lens of eternal values and God’s agenda

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 6:9-10)

“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.

Use this content and these questions to reflect on and strengthen the foundation of your leadership.

16 thoughts on “Underneath The Surface of Leadership Development”

  1. Anthony Martinez

    Love this blog Dan, the topic was right on!! Thank you for living this out each day! You consistently model this for us all and I’m grateful for your mentorship throughout the years!!

    1. Hey Kevin,
      Great to hear from you, and it’s my pleasure and passion to see great leaders like you keep growing and keep going!

  2. Kehinde Buraimoh

    Thank you Dan, I am thoroughly bless by this piece. A very thought provoking one. It gives one opportunity to reflect on the basis of one leadership.

    I also think there should be a 5th point which is the intention of the leader. Although point No 4 captures it in a way but it should be more direct. Where the intent is right, the leadership will be right and solid always. I appreciate your always adding value to us.

  3. Thank you Dan Reiland for your commitment to excellence nd lighting the lamp thus showing the way for those who follow.

    “One is too small a number to achieve greatness. No accomplishment of real value has ever been achieved by a human being working alone.”

    -John Maxwell

    “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

    -Ken Blanchard

  4. These are great thoughts to live by as a leader, as a person and as a follower of Jesus. Thank you Dan for sharing these insights to live by as a leader. God Bless and Merry Christmas!

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