How to raise up new leaders? This is an important question being asked frequently in today’s business management. While it is undeniable that the every business needs new leaders, not every one of them knows and practices new leadership development to its full swing. As management genius Jim Collins has put it in his masterpiece book, Good To Great, “The executives who ignited the transformations from good to great did not figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figures out where to drive it…The right people don’t need to be tightly managed or fired up; they will be self-motivated by the inner drive to produce the best results and to be part of creating something great.” (p. 41-42) Above all strategies is the quality of people. By choosing the right people right from the beginning is the best and most guaranteed way to successful leadership training, and any good CEO can tell you just that. If it is right to pick the right leaders in business, should the standards for spiritual leaders be even higher? Yes, indeed it should be.
Men Who Fear God
In the Bible we are commanded and taught to choose the right candidates to be trained and molded into leaders who are morally and spiritually sound to take up leadership roles. “The advice of Jethro to Moses, ‘Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.’” (Ex.18:19-23) It is explicitly known to all of us from the passage that future leaders should possess the following qualities, they are “men who fear God”. This is the utmost and core quality of every spiritual leader. With a heart that fears God one would place himself under God’s guidance. All that they do they do it for God’s glory. These are men who do not hunt for personal success but the glory of God. They are also men “who are trustworthy and hate a bribe”, obviously they are dependable, honest, men of integrity, no hidden agenda, impartial, no dirty tricks or politics. “What you see is what you get”, so to speak. The “fear-God” factor itself is good enough for these men to be chosen and empowered to be new leaders. In these men you know you have got the right people for they put God above everything else, including themselves and/or someone or something they love.
There is one more spiritual principle we can draw out of the above-mentioned passage which is also essential in leadership training. Moses chose the right people to become chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens, which could be understood as “empowerment and delegation” in modern management terms, yet we should not overlook the fact that Moses did serve as an overseer or CEO as you like, to handle “every great matter they shall bring to you”, in Jethro’s words. A responsible and strategic leader will have plans to develop individuals according to their situations respectively. As leadership experts Blanchard and Hersey have characterized leadership styles into S1, S2, S3 and S4 in terms of the amount of direction and of support that the leader gives to his or her followers. S1: Directing Leaders define the roles and tasks of the 'follower', and supervise them closely. Decisions are made by the leader and announced, so communication is largely one-way. S2: Coaching Leaders still define roles and tasks, but seeks ideas and suggestions from the follower. Decisions remain the leader's prerogative, but communication is much more two-way. S3: Supporting Leaders pass day-to-day decisions, such as task allocation and processes, to the follower. The leader facilitates and takes part in decisions, but control is with the follower. S4: Delegating Leaders are still involved in decisions and problem-solving, but control is with the follower. The follower decides when and how the leader will be involved. The key question is: “When to apply which leadership model (S1, S2, S3 or S4)?” It mainly depends on who we are dealing with. The maturity of a person will determine which leadership model his or her mentor should apply. Seasoned leaders are good to evaluate his or her trainee as to which level he or she is in and thus applies the right leadership model. And, it is obvious that the leadership style for each person will change according to his or her progress. The ultimate goal is total delegation as being described in S4 leadership style and exhibited in the case of Joshua, who had gone through all these stages of training with Moses and eventually became an outstanding leader himself. God’s plan is to choose the right people and mold them through step-by-step leadership training. Like Rome, leaders are not built in one day.
* The author is a DMin student at Fuller Theological Seminary doing research on cultural influences on North American Chinese families, and a pastor at Vancouver Chinese Alliance Church.