RECOGNIZING THE LESSONS AND STAGES OF LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
A PRIMER ON THE PROCESS OF BECOMING A LEADER
Book Review By David P. Craig
Knowing where one is at is crucial in moving forward in life. Nothing is more helpful when one is lost than having a map of where one is, and how to get to where we need to go. Recently, I experienced going through a difficult bout with cancer. The treatment and side effects of the treatment were absolutely brutal. However, I had a guide along the way to help me get through it. He was a man who had the exact same cancer and treatment as me, but he was already “cancer free” and a year ahead of me in the process. He helped me in my journey in two ways: (1) He helped me realize that what I was going through was normal and miserable, but necessary for the cancer to be killed; (2) He gave me a “living hope” that I would be cancer free like him if I endured to the end of the treatment without giving up. The process was excruciating, but now that I look back a year later – like him – I want to help people in their journey with cancer.
In the same vein as my illustration above Dr. Clinton helps emerging leaders understand the process of becoming a mature leader by evaluating the lives of biblical and modern leaders journeys. He identifies six primary processes’ that all leaders must go through on the way to becoming a healthy and mature leader of leaders. Some of the examples used in this book are the Prophets Jeremiah and Daniel, the Apostles Paul and Barnabas, and modern examples: Dawson Trotman, Warren Wiersbe, A.W. Tozer, Watchman Nee, Amy Carmichael and several others.
In his study Clinton articulates six phases or stages of a leaders development:
(1) Phase One is called “Sovereign Foundations” – This is where a leader starts to become aware of his or her calling to leadership. It is a time where character issues are developing, skills are developing, and one’s calling is being wrestled with. There is a deep sense of God’s calling and purpose and the building blocks for the emerging leader’s life are starting to lay the foundations for a life of leadership.
(2) Phase Two is called “Inner Life Growth” – This is a time where the leader is learning to hear and obey God’s leading. It is a time of deep spiritual growth and intimacy with God. The leader is often put through several major tests during this process – will he or she obey and submit wholeheartedly to God?
(3) Phase Three is called “Ministry Maturing” – In this stage the leader is reaching out to others and discovering and practicing ones spiritual gifts. Both positive and negative lessons are being learned during this phase. The leader is learning his or her own strengths and weaknesses in working with others. Oftentimes there is a strong desire to get more training during this time to minimize one’s weaknesses and enhance one’s strengths. In the first three phases God is primarily working “in” the leader not through him or her. In the next three phases God is working “through” the leader. As Clinton articulates “Many emerging leaders don’t recognize this, and become frustrated. They are constantly evaluating productivity and activities, while God is quietly evaluating their leadership potential. He wants to teach us that we minister out of what we are.”
(4) Phase Four is called “Life Maturing” – This is a time in the leaders life where the leader “is using his or her spiritual gifts in a ministry that is satisfying. He gains a sense of priorities concerning the best use of his gifts and understands that learning what not to do is as important as learning what to do. A mature fruitfulness is the result. Isolation, crisis, and conflict take on new meaning. The principle that ‘ministry flows out of being’ has new significance as the leader’s character mellows and matures.” Communion and intimacy with God becomes immensely more important than one’s ‘success’ in ministry.
(5) Phase Five is called “Convergence” – God takes the leader and matches him or her with a role that matches his or her gift-mix and experience so that ministry is maximized. Life maturing and ministry maturing peak together during this phase. Many leaders never get to experience this phase. Some leaders like Dawson Trotman and Jim Elliott were taken to Heaven before entering this phase. Some leaders don’t get to experience this phase because of their own sin, or other providential circumstances. For those who experience convergence it is a time of transitional leadership where the baton is passed down to other faithful leaders who will continue to develop the leaders’ vision for the church or organization they have developed.
(6) The final phase is called “Afterglow” or “Celebration” – Clinton describes this stage as “The fruit of a lifetime of ministry growth culminates in an era of recognition and indirect influence at broad levels. Leaders in Afterglow have built up a lifetime of contacts and continue to exert influence in these relationships. Others will seek them out because of their consistent track record of following God. Their storehouse of wisdom gathered over a lifetime of leadership will continue to bless and benefit many.”
Clinton defines leadership as “a dynamic process in which a man or woman with God-given capacity influences a specific group of God’s people toward His purposes for the group.” This book is written for leaders and potential leaders who are (a) wondering what God is doing in their lives – asking the question “Is God calling me into Christian ministry?”; (b) are beginning to discover ministry opportunities; (c) need a fresh challenge from God; (d) need to understand how to select and develop younger leaders; (e) are at a crossroads, facing a major decision; (f) want to know how God develops leaders; (g) want to know where you are at in the process of your leadership development – is what you are experiencing normal for a leader?
I think all emerging and veteran leaders will benefit immensely from reading this book. It is packed with useful examples, illustrations, charts, and principles to help you become a godly leader. Also, it is immensely helpful to help you understand the process’ of leadership and how to invest in other emerging leaders. If you believe God is calling you to leadership, or has already entrusted you with a leadership role, you will most definitely benefit from Clinton’s wisdom – from one leader to another.