If you are going to develop leaders and focus on individuals and their maturation, it is wise to understand how people mature and grow. Because leadership development is part of discipleship, let’s seek understanding from how people are transformed.
After interviews with four thousand Christians on how they have matured and grown, discussions with disciple-makers and experts in the field of discipleship, Eric and others developed the Transformational Discipleship framework. According to the research, people grow when godly leaders apply the truth of God to their hearts while they are in a teachable posture. Discipleship occurs when truth, posture, and leaders converge.
The Lord transforms through His truth, and His Word is truth (John 17:17). The truth of the gospel and the truth of God’s Word have the power to change us and mold us into the image of His Son. The gospel not only saves us, but it also sanctifies us. Our hearts are enabled to obey the commands of Scripture (the “do’s”) as our hearts are continually refreshed with what Christ has done for us.
God puts us in a teachable and moldable posture to receive His truth. For example, He will use trials, spiritual disciplines, and biblical community to soften our hearts toward His truth. You have surely observed the importance of a teachable posture as you have preached or taught the same message to a group of people, and some have been impacted while some have been hardened. The message and the messenger are the same, but the posture of each person is different.
God uses disciples to make disciples. God uses leaders to apply grace to our hearts. Each person in the body is given the opportunity to administer grace, in a variety of forms (1 Pet. 4:10).
Because development is part of discipleship, and not divorced from it, we offer the following Development Convergence framework to help you understand how people are developed as leaders. Leaders are developed as knowledge (truth), experiences (posture), and coaching (leaders) converge. All three are essential for a leader to be developed. Knowledge is what leaders must learn and know. Experiences encompass the ongoing opportunities to serve and put knowledge into practice. Coaching occurs when a shepherding leader applies the knowledge and experience with a new leader.
Knowledge alone will not develop a leader
Knowledge alone results in consumption and produces fat Christians with heads filled with information but hearts hardened and hands never dirty in serving others. If knowledge equated development, our churches would be filled with developed leaders as knowledge is frequently dispensed in many churches every week.
Experiences alone will not develop a leader
Experiences apart from knowledge and coaching can actually produce ineffective and unhealthy leaders who are shaped by poor experiences and unhealthy ministry environments. Without truth applied to hearts, experiences are not wisely evaluated and interpreted.
Coaching alone will not develop a leader
Without knowledge and experiences, the coach or leader has nothing to say, nothing to apply, and no feedback to give. Coaching without knowledge and experiences isn’t really coaching.
The sweet spot of leadership development is the intersection of knowledge, experiences, and coaching. Scholars from a variety of fields have emphasized the convergence. For example, William Yount, Christian professor of education, articulates that effective teaching is the synergy of thinking, feeling, and doing. As thinking (knowledge), feeling (experiences), and doing (coaching) intersect, the student is spared from intellectualism without action or intellectualism without heart. Ram Charan, leadership author and consultant, bemoans the lack of leadership development in organizations, even cautiously elevating it to the level of a crisis. He notes that when development does occur it is because “a senior leader takes a special interest in a junior person and provides that person with the experiences and coaching to help him or her flourish.” You likely recognize this intuitively and experientially. Your development occurred as knowledge was combined with coaching and experiences.
If you view development as solely informational, knowledge will be your solution. If you view development as merely behavioral, experiences will be your solution. If you view development as part of discipleship, you want to use both knowledge and experiences, alongside coaching from godly leaders, as tools for the ultimate goal of transformation.
This is an excerpt from Eric Geiger & Kevin Peck’s newest book Designed to Lead. Pick it up here.
Eric Geiger is a Vice President at Lifeway, leading the Resources Division. He has authored several books including most recently: Designed to Lead.