Every Saturday, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons & Stages of Leadership Development by Robert Clinton.
I have had this book on my kindle for years and have heard about it from a number of leaders, but just recently got around to reading it. I actually took a group of younger leaders through it and as I was reading it, all I could think was, If I had read this sooner, I may have saved myself some leadership pain.
In this book, Clinton lays out the stages a leader goes through to become the leader God intends them to be. He has 6 stages:
- Sovereign foundations: In Phase I, God providentially works foundational items into the life of the leader-to-be. Personality characteristics, experiences good and bad, and the time context will be used by God. The building blocks are there, though the structure being built may not be clearly in focus. Character traits are embedded.
- Inner-life Growth: In Phase II an emerging leader usually receives some kind of training. Often it is informal4 in connection with ministry. The leader-to-be learns by doing in the context of a local church or Christian organization. The basic models by which he or she learns are imitation modeling5 and informal apprenticeships,6 as well as mentoring. Sometimes it is formal training (especially if the person intends to go into full-time leadership) in a Bible school or seminary. 8 Sometimes, during the academic program, the person gets ministry experience.
- Ministry Maturing: In Phase III the emerging leader gets into ministry as a prime focus of life. He or she will get further training, informally through self-study growth projects or nonformally through functionally oriented workshops, etc.10 The major activities of Phase III are ministry. The training that goes on is rather incidental and often not intentional.
- Life Maturing: Phase IV will have this “you-minister-from-what-you-are” emphasis. During Phase IV the leader identifies and uses his or her gift-mix with power. There is mature fruitfulness. God is working through the leader using imitation modeling (Hebrews 13:7-8). That is, God uses one’s life as well as gifts to influence others. This is a period in which giftedness emerges along with priorities. One recognizes that part of God’s guidance for ministry comes through establishing ministry priorities by discerning gifts.
- Convergence: Phase V convergence occurs. That is, the leader is moved by God into a role that matches gift-mix, experience, temperament, etc. Geographical location is an important part of convergence. The role not only frees the leader from ministry for which there is no gift, but it also enhances and uses the best that the leader has to offer. Not many leaders experience convergence.
- Afterglow: Phase VI is the legacy leaders desire to leave, when they are able to bathe in what God has done.
According to Clinton, most leaders do not make it past stage 3.
The reason is simple. Young leaders when they get started, want to get started. The problem they run into is that stages 1-3 are all about the inner life of the leader. In those stages, God is working on the leader, in their heart developing them for the future. Very few books nail the inner life of a leader and help them work through what God is doing in their life without coming off as cliche, this book nails it.
I can’t recommend it enough for leaders.
Here are a few things that I highlighted:
- Leadership is a lifetime of lessons.
- The terms patterns, processes, and principles are foundational to understanding the analysis of a person’s life. Patterns deal with the overall framework, or the big picture, of a life. Processes deal with the ways and means used by God to move a leader along in the overall pattern. Principles deal with the identification of foundational truths within processes and patterns that have a wider application to leaders.
- A proper, godly response allows a leader to learn the fundamental lessons God wants to teach. If the person doesn’t learn, he will usually be tested again in the same areas.
- We minister out of what we are.
- While all of life is used to shape us, some items in life can be tied more directly to leadership development.
- The God-given capacity to lead has two parts: giftedness and character. Integrity is the heart of character.
- An integrity check is a test that God uses to evaluate intentions in order to shape character.
- There are three parts to an integrity check: the challenge to consistency with inner convictions, the response to the challenge, and the resulting expansion of ministry.
- Because character development has many facets, there are a variety of integrity checks. This is a sampling of the many that I have identified: values (which determine convictions), temptation (which tests conviction), conflict against ministry vision (which tests faith), an alternative in guidance situations (which tests calling), persecution (which tests steadfastness), loyalty (which tests allegiance), and restitution (which tests honesty).
- God won’t use a leader who lacks integrity.
- God’s first priority in developing a leader is to refine his or her character.
- A desire to please the Lord in a ministry task is a sign of maturity.
- Leaders who have trouble submitting to authority will usually have trouble exercising spiritual authority.
- authority insights and relational insights—rooted in the authority problem—may never be learned apart from conflict.
- Leaders in the Ministry Maturing phase must learn to submit to authority in order to learn how to use authority properly.
- Leadership backlash tests a leader’s perseverance, clarity of vision, and faith.
- At the heart of leadership is communication between God and the leader.
- Part of the development of spirituality includes what happens when a person faces isolation.
- The qualities of love, compassion, empathy, discernment, and others are deepened. Such qualities dif ferentiate between a successful leader and a mature successful leader.
- Leaders are often busy people. They are preoccupied with many facets of life and ministry. Often they do not notice that they are not growing, particularly in spiritual formation. God often breaks into the leader’s life at this point.
- Isolation is one of the most effective means for maturing a leader.
- Quality leadership does not come easily. It requires time, experience, and repeated instances of maturity processing.
- Mature ministry flows from a mature character, formed in the graduate school of life.
- God will vindicate spiritual authority.
- Organizational change without ownership is treacherous.
- All leaders operate from a ministry philosophy.
- When God is trying to teach me a lesson, He will do so through many means. Important lessons are usually repeated.
- In a power conflict the leader with higher power will usually win regardless of rightness of issue.
- A person convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.
- Leaders with good ministry philosophies usually finish well.