Developing the Skills to Lead Well

“… he who leads, with diligence” (Romans 12:8)

Leadership Defined

Peter Drucker: “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”

John C. Maxwell: “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”

Warren Bennis: “Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential.”

Steven Sample: “My definition of a leader is someone who has identifiable leaders over whom he exercises power, authority [and influence] through his actions.”


1) The Leadership Action Model

Insight, Innovate, Initiate

Insight – there is an accurate perception of a need for something to be done (i.e., a need for change)

Innovation – there is an awareness of a way to change—a solution, or a pathway to get to a solution

Initiate – there is a clear and congruent “presentation” of a proposal for change and action

Questions for Discussion:

Where is an area in your life, work, or ministry that needs leadership and change?

Insight (what needs to change):

Innovation (what is the way to change):

Initiate (how will you lead and influence the change):


2) Influence vs. Power & Position

“Leadership and influencing skills are directly connected. The most effective leaders know how to influence their organizations and the people in them. True leaders do not use force or intimidation. Those tactics are usually associated with leaders who are concerned only about their own personal needs. Leadership and influencing skills can make the difference between a high performing team and a group of performers.”

Influencing Up, Down, and Sideways

A leadership skill we must develop is the ability to influence people all around us. At times that influence must extend “up” as we influence the leaders placed above us in an organization. We must also learn to influence “down” to the people who report to us or to the people we are called to lead on a team. And we must also learn to influence and lead “sideways” with our peers, knowing that good teams fight against silo-ing and that happens as leaders communicate and influence each other towards a chosen direction or objective.

Here’s a great word from Craig Groeschel on the leading up and the maxim: “honoring publicly leads to influence privately”

Here are some great articles on influencing, leading, and managing “up”:

5 Ways to Influence Those Who Lead You.
Leading From the Middle of the Pack

Questions for Discussion:

How can you lead up with your boss?

How can you lead down with those who report to you?

How can you lead sideways with your peers?


3) The Leadership “Bank Account”

I often think of leadership in terms of a “Leadership Bank Account.” When I make good decisions and influence people, teams, and organizations in a positive manner, I add “trust deposits” to my account. When I make poor leadership decisions or do not achieve the agreed upon results, then I make “trust withdrawals” from my account. To influence people, especially in times of change and transition, I must intuitively know the balance in my account. Many leaders fail to lead and bring change because they either did not think in terms of a leadership bank account or they did not estimate well the withdrawal that is needed from the account to lead the change.

Questions for Discussion:

What have you done to make trust withdrawals from your account?

What is the “balance” of your account and do you have enough deposits to lead change at this time?

How do you make trust deposits with your leaders, on your team, and in your organization?


4) Developing Authentic Relationships & Feedback

Authentic, personal relationships are developed over time by:

A strong, personal regard and love for the other person

A sincere desire to foster such a relationship

A willingness to learn the skills necessary to foster them

Providing and inviting self-disclosure (hidden areas)

Soliciting and Offering Feedback (blind areas)

We all have blind spots and unknown areas in our perceptions of ourselves. We need feedback to get a realistic picture of what we’re doing so that we can improve and become more self-aware. Joe Luft and Harry Ingrams developed the Johari Window in the 1955 for use with group dynamics. It’s a useful way of showing the areas of awareness (both self and others) represented by four quadrants:

Feedback helps you to make your blind area smaller (increasing your self-awareness), enlarges your public area (increasing your open-ness and accessibility) and encourages you to share more of yourself, reducing your hidden area (increasing your open-ness, again, and co-operation).

Article: Feedback & Learning to Lead

Questions for Discussion:

Are you more task or relationally oriented (think about your StrengthsFinder & DISC Profiles)? How does it impact you ability to develop relationships? How does it impact your ability to “get the job done”?

Do you invite feedback from the people in your life and the people on your team? Would your team say that you invite feedback?

How do you personally respond when receiving solicited or unsolicited feedback?

What are some blind spots that you’ve realized you have? How have you addressed them?

For more discussion and resources on developing a culture of authenticity and feedback, read this blog.

5) Discovering, Developing, & Deploying Leaders

Leaders lead people. And high capacity leaders lead leaders of leaders. A key leadership competency is the ability to reproduce leaders by discovering, developing, and deploying leaders.

  • Discover Leaders
    • Read Stephen Drotter’s The Leadership Piperline
    • Read Tony Morgan’s Surefire Ways to Fail in Developing Leaders
    • Great organizations create an internal structure to find, train, and deploy leaders.
    • Each “ladder” clarifies what is need and expect to go to the next level
    • What’s your next step to grow to the next level of leadership?
  • Develop Leaders
    • Many leaders develop other leaders intuitively (i.e., they have no discernable system, but with time and direction, they help leaders develop)
    • Develop a system and grid for developing leaders. Make it your own.
      • How did effective leaders develop you?
      • What development experiences were meaningful for you?
      • What books and resources have been formational in your leadership?
    • Spend time with developing leaders
      • Goals – what are your top 3 goals?
      • Reality – how’s it really going? (Have metrics)
      • Options – what options do you have to achieve the goals?
      • Will – what will you do and when?
    • Leadership Curriculum facilitates leadership conversations
  • Deploy Leaders
    • I do. You watch. We talk.
    • I do. You help. We talk.
    • You do. I help. We talk.
    • You do. I watch. We talk.
    • You do. Someone else watches…

6) Strategic Planning from Aubrey Malphur’s Advanced Strategic Planning

  1. Current Analysis – where are we currently at?
  2. Values Discovery – what is really important to us?
  3. Mission Development – what is the one thing we must do?
  4. Vision Development – what would it look like if we did it?
  5. Strategy Development – how will we do it?
  6. Implementation Plan – who will do it, when will we do it, and how much will it cost?
  7. Evaluation Plan – how it is going?
  8. Contingency Plan – what happens if it really succeeds or really fails?


More great resources:

The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership – Steven B. Sample

Leading from the Second Chair – Mike Bonem & Roger Patterson

The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive – Patrick Lencioni

The Ascent of a Leader: How Ordinary Relationship Develop Extraordinary Character & Influence – Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, & Ken McElrath

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