Five Tips for Rising Leaders & Mentors

New leadership always starts with fire, and you can generally see the smoke. There’s just something in a leader that makes her or him want to take the ball and run with it. In the same way, leadership training always starts with the internal fire that is now just smoldering or may already be burning within our rising leaders. The veteran leader’s job is to detect that smoke early and then stoke that fire with the jet fuel of committed mentors.

 

Build Relational Networks

Teach rising leaders to build extensive relational networks. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business shares the story of how Rosa Parks was not the first to refuse to sit at the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Claudette Colvin did the same thing in the same town nine months before with relatively little impact. What was the difference? One possible answer is networking and collaboration.

 

Rosa Parks had a wide array of social ties and was connected to a wide swath of people in Montgomery—people whose social circles overlapped but were not identical. As a result, lots of people were invested in Rosa because they either knew her or knew someone who knew her. And thus, when word got out that Rosa Parks had been arrested, the indignation cascade began.The pivotal fact was that Miss Parks was a link that connected across a wide socio-economic continuum. In short, Rosa Parks collaborated and participated and, as a result, became a cataclysmic game changer.

 

Collaborate constantly. It is a key that opens a million doors.

 

Develop Excellent Communication Skills

Let’s get more intentional about training our rising leaders to be powerful communicators. I'll focus here on the arena of public speaking.

 

Many of my friends and I grew up in the Deep South in Southern Baptist churches. We were mentored in leadership training without even realizing it. When we stood before the congregation—to make announcements, lead in prayer, read scripture, or teach Sunday school—we thought we were just serving Jesus. And the great thing is that we were! At the same time, though, we were also learning the leadership skill of public speaking—to verbally take charge of a room.

 

For those of you who are veteran leaders, make sure to train your rising leaders to speak publicly. Seek opportunities to get those you mentor in front of an audience. Put them forward for speaking opportunities.

 

Stepping out of the spotlight to focus it on rising leaders takes intentionality, humility, and courage, but we must do these hard things to equip the next generation of the church. When they have these opportunities, be a good mentor by providing timely, honest, kind feedback.

Stepping out of the spotlight to focus it on rising leaders takes intentionality, humility, and courage, but we must do these hard things to equip the next generation of the church.

 

Be Accountable for Results

Accountability is a key element of implementing effective strategies and plans. One of my professional pet peeves is “helpers.”

 

Let me explain. A helper is the one who responds to a great plan with an offer to "help" rather than "lead." Encourage your rising leaders to take charge. Encourage them to step forward, weigh in, and be accountable for an actual result. This calls, again, for veteran leaders and mentors, to step out of the spotlight and learn to focus it on the rising leader.  

 

Delegation requires some preliminary work on the part of the mentor/pastor. As spiritual leaders, we are a servant-minded people. Often, we tend to do things ourselves rather than delegate them to others. This is a bad leadership habit, and it works against us when it comes to training new leaders to be accountable and manage projects effectively.

 

To make delegating more feasible, make a habit of assessing your team members for the things they are good at. In his now-famous book, First, Break all the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, Marcus Buckingham states that too often, leaders focus on training out a team’s weaknesses. This is both frustrating and ultimately ineffective. Instead, Buckingham recommends finding your team’s strengths and capitalizing on those. Make a habit of assessing your rising leaders’ strengths and letting these strengths guide your delegation.

 

Cultivate a Professional Image

Sociological experiments reveal that it takes one-tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger. Longer subsequent exposures don’t significantly alter those impressions.

 

Teach your teams and rising leaders that their appearance makes a public statement not only about themselves but about the ministry they represent. Appearance impacts credibility and changes the way others interact with them.

 

Professional image is more than appearance. It is also about the ways you behave in professional social settings. Once at a luncheon as a local Country Club, I observed a group of clergy people at a reception there, all clumped together like hunted animals while the other attendees talked, laughed and flitted around them.

 

They stood about looking isolated, out of place, and lost. They only talked to one another.  They didn’t seem to grasp that this was a place where connections could be made and relationships developed.

 

Mentors, ensure that your rising leaders can function comfortably and appropriately in a variety of social settings beyond their normal experiences.

When the mechanics and art of organizational leadership become more central than the importance of your mentors’ spiritual journey, you have completely missed the point.

 

Embrace a Vigorous & Adventurous Spiritual Life

In the midst of the many administrative duties assailing the minister, we must constantly be reminded that we are first of all and primarily spiritual leaders. Mentors, be in dialogue often with your rising leaders about their own spiritual development and about where they are growing, thriving and struggling spiritually.

 

When the mechanics and art of organizational leadership become more central than the importance of your mentors’ spiritual journey, you have completely missed the point.

 

Spiritual conversations should be a regular and careful inquiry into whatever is most deeply on your new leader’s mind and heart. It should feel like linking arms to walk around a holy museum filled with priceless art. It should feel deeply respectful—reverent, even.

 

Where There's Smoke There's Fire

Mentors, be watchful for the rising young leader with fire in her/his heart. They are a gift entrusted to you for nurture and development. Teach them well.

 

Those interested in certification as a Chaplain may explore more at http://www.professionalchaplains.org/ or by contacting the Department of Spiritual Care at a local Houston Hospital with a Chaplain Residency Training Program.