the shape of leadership

Four Ways to Develop Leaders on Your Team

Invest in the long-term success of those around you

Kent Ingle on November 9, 2021

As a leader, developing a successor shouldn’t be the last thing you do. It should be a priority from day one.

In The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make, author Hans Finzel says leaders commonly pursue “success without successors.” Finzel argues that lasting influence requires long-range planning.

Effective leaders focus less on their immediate success and more on creating opportunities for people around them to be successful. Here are four ways to start developing the leadership potential in your team members:

1. Call out characteristics of good leadership. The people you have on your team are bound to have characteristics of good leadership. You just need to pay attention.

Leading may come naturally for some. Others may need more coaching. When you see leadership qualities in others, encourage them to continue to develop them. Give them the opportunity to take charge of certain areas in your organization.

If you never let go of the reins, you won’t be able to allow others to grow in their leadership abilities. Great leaders don’t always seek center stage. They give others the mic and allow them the chance to shine.

In 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul reminded Timothy of his “sincere faith.” Paul recognized leadership abilities in Timothy and encouraged him in his walk with Christ.

2. Lay out a development plan. Leaders need to share their goals with people who will keep them accountable and spur them on.

Every individual on your team should have a professional, personal and spiritual development plan. Make sure you are aware of your team’s professional plans so you can offer guidance and encouragement. Talk about your goals as well, including the steps you are taking to reach them.

Don’t wait for an
annual review to
provide feedback
to team members.

Paul wrote, “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings — what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them” (2 Timothy 3:10–11).

Timothy had a front-row seat to observe the challenges and true character of Paul.

Like Paul, you can show others by example how to persevere and lead in a godly way. You can also encourage them to develop into the leaders God has called them to be.

3. Consistently give healthy feedback. Don’t wait for an annual review to provide feedback to team members. When someone does something right, take time to praise him or her. If someone needs to work on a skill, offer guidance.

Growth is a continual process. Your team members need someone who is willing to pay attention to, and champion, their development. When you give feedback, take steps to help those individuals find opportunities to grow in their roles.

Don’t just be a cheerleader. Share insights gleaned in the trenches, and offer warnings to help others avoid costly mistakes. While Paul encouraged Timothy, he also cautioned Timothy of perils ahead and reminded him to remain firmly grounded in his faith (2 Timothy 4:3–5).

4. Guide others toward self-awareness. Every leader needs to be aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses. As team members discover where they are excelling and where they need to improve, help them identify steps they can take toward development.

Paul advised Timothy, “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you” (1 Timothy 4:14).

If you had to step away from your role today, is a team member properly equipped to take over? If not, you need to get busy developing leaders.

Even if you are new to a leadership role, start planning now for your last day. Living with this mindset will remind you to invest in and develop those around you.

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