I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, “The best investment you will ever make as a leader is in developing other people.”  Hands down this is both the most challenging task and the most rewarding as a leader.  Anyone can delegate tasks.  Very few leaders will not only develop other leaders, but also go further and actually train leaders who go on to develop others as leaders.

Why is this so difficult?

1.)     It takes time.

Your typical leader focuses on growing himself or herself.  Leaders need to do this.  You can’t grow others beyond where you are – it’s called the Law of the Lid.  Many leaders, though, never moved beyond developing themselves.  They may try to, or say they are, but in the end, the process falls short.

2.)    It takes intentionality.

Building other leaders requires intentional practice.  It requires commitment and an ability not only to lead, but also to teach others how to lead effectively.  This isn’t something that just happens, but must be a part of a coaching or mentoring process.

3.)    It takes perseverance.

Some of the future leaders that you train will take off and excel.  Others will show potential but never take off.  Still others will show great potential and totally turn their back on you (possibly even bad-mouthing you in the process or becoming a fierce competitor).  Despite the latter two, the ones that take what you teach them to heart and excel far outweigh (although they may not outnumber) the others.

What is the process of building leaders?  Here is a 4-stage process by which you can train up leaders who will then raise up other leaders.  Some of these stages happen simultaneously.  Some parts need to be done in a specific order (as specified in Phase 3 below).

Phase 1 – Model Your Leadership

I’ve had some leaders of organizations offer to coach me in leadership and business. There are some people that I would allow to coach me and some I would not.

The biggest issue? For me, it’s a matter of integrity. Those who I see that do not live by what they teach will never get to mentor me. There is little respect there.  I realize that all of us make mistakes, and I am far from perfect, but there is also a difference between being imperfect and having integrity in the things you do and say versus consistently saying one thing and living differently.

As you lead, you must model the things you teach others. Does this mean you have to be perfect? No. It means you are moving in the same direction as what you say you believe and the things that you teach.  However, too many little slip-up’s (a seeming lack of integrity, poor follow-through, etc.) and you can wave good-bye to your influence.

 Phase 2 – Maximize Other’s Strengths

To maximize other’s strengths, you must first know their strengths as well as their weak areas.  One of the best ways to do this is to use the DISC assessment tool and the Strengthsfinder 2.0 assessment. [affiliate links] I have used both of these and they are phenomenal resources.

Here are some other ways to assess people’s strengths:

– Have them shadow you
– Involve them in mid-level projects/presentations (as they progress these can become higher

level projects and presentations)

– Allow them to lead out in certain parts of meetings or conferences

– Read books together and discuss their impact and application to leadership

You cannot learn people’s true strength merely with assessments, tools, and books.  Experiential learning and real-life application are the best teachers.  Future leaders have to learn how to plan, how to lead others, and also how to deal with conflicts and issues that come up when you’re leading others.

Phase 3 – Mentor Future Leaders – A 4-Step Process

Recently, I read a book on Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen. In the book, he lists 4 stages of discipleship, which can also be used as 4 stages to build leaders who are trained to build other leaders.  The stages are defined as:

1. I lead. You watch.
2. I lead. You help.
3. You lead. I help.
4. You lead. I watch.

Each of the four stages is important, and it is critical that stages are neither rushed nor skipped.  The length of each stage will also depend on each future leader’s strength, growth, and ability to move through the other stages.

Be careful about holding some leaders back while others catch up.  Movement through each stage of leadership will also vary based on competence and character of your future leaders.  This also takes effort and intentionality (as well as leadership wisdom from you – knowing who to move forward and who needs more time at each stage.

It will take time to build leaders, but it will be worth the time and energy you invest.

Phase 4 – Mobilize Trained Leaders

This may be the most difficult part of the process of developing leaders. When you develop leaders, and see their growth and potential, you might be tempted to hang on to them yourself and use them in your organization.  However, the responsibility of the mentor-leader is to empower others to pursue their strengths and calling, not merely to fulfill their own.

The leader that you developed might be a good fit for your organization; however, they very well may not.  You have to be okay with this if you are to be a leader who develops leaders.  You must be willing to mentor them, train them, and develop them regardless of how well they fit your organization.

I’m sure this goes against every managerial bone in your body, and probably against what most corporations teach.  Why would you invest the time and energy to train leaders who do not have a similar vision and share your passion for the organization?

One, because that is what high-level leaders do.  They see beyond the immediate value that a person can bring to an organization.

Two, these mentor-leaders realize that it is all part of the process. They know that at some point, they were affected by a leader who was willing to invest in them regardless of personal payoff.

This process of raising up leaders takes a lot of time and energy.  Raising up leaders who can raise up leaders is a very worthwhile investment.  The leaders that come out of this process will be stronger and more prepared to overcome the challenges they will face.  And, you will be a better leader by investing in others.  It pushes you to stay fresh and current as a leader yourself.

What ways are your currently investing in other leaders?  What else is missing from this process?  Let me know in the comments below. 

Photo couresty, Bigstock Photo, JMZJ8KECVMSG