I recently finished the audio book “Leaders at all Levels” by Ram Charan. This was an excellent book on the changing landscape of leadership development. Whether you are in business, or work for a church or non-profit, finding and training new leaders is a challenge many organizations face. In this book, Charan first discusses the long existing model of development that has for years put people on a ladder of growth that sometimes takes years to climb. In fact, Charan references this in saying that executives who hit their 40’s (where I’m at now!) generally are bypassed for higher positions simply because their age prohibits the training ladder they need to climb to succeed.
The book then outlines a new course of development that encourages identifying leaders early in their employment regardless of age (though getting started earlier is better) and taking them on a development journey that will place them in a variety of challgenging growth positions, sometimes even lateral moves, that will round off their education and development of the entire company and not just one area. The author asserts that this will make a better leader who is able to handle every aspect of the company even if that is not his or her primary responsiblity. Bringing this to all levels of an organization then conceivably ensures that leaders are being developed in all areas of a company, thus increasing the leadership pool when one is needed when an opening exists.
Of course, there’s more information than just that in this book but the crux of the text is to change our thinking in how we develop future leaders and what that development looks like. From a business perspective, this model changes the way many human resource departments operate in bringing new leaders to positions within a company. One thing I think it vital here that Charan hits on is the time factor for training a new person. With today’s work environments changing rapidly and employees no longer feeling the need to stay with one company their entire lives, the leadership landscape is changing. Employees move to other companies for new challenges and Charan’s thought here is that a new “abstract” way of thinking in leadership development might just keep quality people around longer.
From a church perspective, I think the concepts here are quite biblical. Though Charan makes no religious inferences here, his model includes a role of mentoring the developing leader that is not unlike the scriptural advice Jethro gave to Moses when he was leading the nation of Israel out of captivity:
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. (Exodus 18:21 ESV)
…and also in the New Testament when Paul was instructing the future leader Timothy:
and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2 ESV)
In churches, we must be careful to look at these two verses and find men and women who fit the description but then, we must let them lead and make their mistakes along the way. Charan asserts that his model is more open to mistakes because it’s allowing the person to lead in many areas that will strengthen them. In the same way, church leaders do not need to feel that they are the only gatekeepers to getting things done and allow others to lead also. Perhaps the increases we see in pastoral burnout and ministers quitting altogether would be lessened if we were wise enough to follow this advice.
Overall, Charan’s book is recommended reading (or listening) to anyone who wants to be a better leader and especially in the area of developing new leaders. Check it out for yourself today.