4 qualities to look for when investing in a future leader

Are you thinking about growing new leaders?

If you are leading a church, a small group or any other small team, one thing you should be doing is looking for future leaders to develop. If you are helping to lead anything, I hope you are planning to invest in a future leader who can take your place or lead something new in the future. If you are not, then you should. For example, if you are leading a small group, there is likely someone in your group who could one day lead a group themselves. Ask yourself how you can help them grow into that role. If you are leading the greeting ministry at your church, consider who might be able to help lead the ministry one day - or even take it over.

This is important for two reasons. First, you will not be around to continue in leadership forever. Either through unforeseen circumstances or through a planned transition, someone else will take over leadership. Second, if they do not take over for you, they might be able to put their leadership to use in another area of life.

This is especially important with small groups. As a pastor who works with our small groups ministry, I know first hand that having even more qualified and capable leaders would be a gift to our church. We would be able to create more new groups that people can join to help disciple them toward maturity in Christ.

It is also important to note that no area of leadership is too small to consider how you can invest in future leaders. You may not feel like your role is that significant, but whatever pocket of life you have leadership within, you can invest in others who can grow in their own leadership as well.

Great leaders invest in future leaders.

Great leaders invest in future leaders. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins distinguishes between what he calls a level 5 leader and a level 4 leader. There were  a few different qualities that distinguished them, but one of them was their willingness to grow and invest in future leaders.

Photo Cred: Pixabay.com

Photo Cred: Pixabay.com

I have limited time - who do I invest in?

We have to acknowledge the fact that we all face the challenge of the limited resource called time. We do not have endless amounts of time, and a good portion of our time is already devoted to other commitments. If we are going to intentionally invest time in growing future leaders, we need to have some way of evaluating where to invest that time.

Ultimately, every human being is worth the investment of our time, because every human being has intrinsic worth and value as men and women who were created in the image of God. It is entirely possible that God may call you to invest time in someone who doesn't seem to fit all the qualities of a leader that we typically consider. If so, then be obedient to God's call.

If you are asking yourself how to evaluate whether you should invest in someone as a future small group leader for example, I would suggest that you consider four particular qualities. These four qualities are not comprehensive, and other qualities must also be considered. Each role may require different skills and experience. For me personally, these four qualities need to be present if I am going to spend a considerable amount of time in helping to train a new leader.

4 qualities of someone to invest in as a future leader

1. Reliable

Are they going to do what they say they will do? When you ask them to read something or prepare something, do they get it done? It is important that they have good follow through and are people you can count on. If they agree to something, you want to be confident it will happen. For example, if you both agree to read certain chapters in a book and then get together to discuss them, you want to know they will come prepared. Or if you set a time to meet, you want to know they will actually show up. It is frustrating to invest time in someone who cannot follow-through. 

This will eventually hurt their own leadership as well. People have a hard time following someone who is not reliable. If I tell my small group that I am going to do something, and then consistently don't follow-through, I will begin to lose their trust. They may still like me as a person, but they will not be able to count on me. Especially in our Western-American culture, being reliable is a high value.

If you are going to take the time to invest in someone, you want to know you can count on them.

2. Available

Not everyone has the time to grow into a new leadership role. School, work, family and many other things require our time. If you are going to invest in someone new as a leader, you need to know that they actually have the time to do what will be required. Someone can have all the skills, talents and experiences necessary, but if they do not have the time to invest in their new role, then they will be ineffective. Before you invite someone to a new leadership role, or before you commit a large amount of time to help train them, be sure you have had an honest conversation about whether they are able to commit the time necessary.

3. Faithful

Are they committed and faithful? This is different from reliable in that it is less about their ability to follow-through and more about their desire to endure. Are they going to stick around when it gets tough? Will they be here in a year from now when the luster of a new role has worn off? Will they show up week in and week out, even if it isn't glamorous? Are they going to be faithful to you and to the team they are hoping to lead? We need leaders who will be faithful to their role and the investment we are planning to make in them.

4. Teachable

This is extremely important. If someone is worth investing in, then they should have a desire to grow and learn. Good leaders are humble and willing to learn. If someone thinks they have it all figured out, then they are not the sort of people you want to spend your time investing in. The Bible says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5)." One of the qualities to look for in someone worth investing in as a future leader is a teachable spirit. It requires humility and an eagerness to continue growing.

Wrapping it up

These four characteristics can make a nice little acronym - RAFT. There are other acronyms that you can make with these letters as well, but this is the one I prefer. If you really want to keep going with the acronym, you can play with the word raft. You can ask yourself if this is someone you want to invite onto the "raft" of leadership with you? Don't overdo it though! This acronym/analogy could spin out of control pretty quick...

If you are serving in a leadership role, these four qualities should not only define the type of person you are going to invest in, they should also define you. Are these four qualities true of yourself? This would be a great question to consider over the coming days and weeks.