Leadership Selection

“There is a treasure, if you can only find it, in the heart of every man.” ~ Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was a master change-agent. Wherever he served in government (in very diverse roles) he quickly assessed the situation and developed an ambitious agenda for change. As Home Secretary he led major reform with regard to police and prisoners. This included recreation, entertainment, and education for the prison population. He wanted them to have every opportunity to better themselves while paying for their crimes. His motives were buried in this statement: “There is a treasure, if you can only find it, in the heart of every man.” Churchill believed that prisoners should not be written off and that efforts must be made to go beyond punitive to redemptive measures in dealing with them.
Of course as Christians, we believe the treasure in the heart of every man is the image of God in which we were created. It flows from that to a life that has intrinsic value simply because a person exists – not because of what they do. But I believe there is an important lesson related to leadership selection in this statement.

Mining for Leadership Treasure

As leaders pursue the development of future leaders they must begin by selecting those worthy of investment. When you are dealing with young leaders, finding the leadership treasure (which of course is not in every man) can be challenging. One of the most common criticisms of contemporary leadership models is that leadership selection has been reduced to some sort of popularity contest. You skim the cream off the top of the milk by taking the young leaders who are likeable, outgoing, and popular-ignoring everyone else, and in doing so, missing some buried leadership treasure worthy of being mined.

I’m not just speaking hypothetically here. Several of us at Top Flight Leadership have been approached by leaders of other ministries accusing us of this style of leadership selection. In some cases it was a gentle exhortation, in others it was a bit more confrontational.

“The quiet kid in the corner may well be the best future leader in the group.”

This is where Churchill’s statement helps me. I really do believe there is a treasure in the heart of every man and woman. In some cases that treasure chest of God’s imprint includes leadership; in some cases it doesn’t. And it is easy to fall into the trap of superficial mining practices and missing some valuable nuggets. So what’s the key to this process? I’d like to give you a few simple cautions when it comes to mining for leadership treasure – especially with young leaders.

*Be careful not to mislabel personality as leadership giftedness. We all know that leaders come in all personality types. So don’t let the people who aren’t so easily noticed slip through your mining pan. The quiet kid in the corner may well be the best future leader in the group.

*Be careful not to mislabel persistence as stubbornness. The young leader who keeps doing the same stupid thing over and over again my just be demonstrating a misguided persistence that will serve him or her well later on. It’s easy to brand someone as foolhardy or stubborn when really the treasure inside is a persistence that won’t give in so easily when the going gets tough. (Take Peter, for example)


*Be careful not to mislabel problem solving as rebellion. The person who always challenges the idea, always asks why, always wants to push for another option, may not be in need of a smack on the side of the head. (Of course some of them need two.) it may be what you are seeing is the very beginning trace of a deep vein of problem-solving leadership treasure that is hiding underneath a pile of immature dirt and rock. If so, be willing to out your pickax and shovel. Then dig.

*Be careful not to mislabel adventure or risk taking as a fringe behavior. There is a difference between a serious “notice me, acknowledge me” syndrome and a natural bent to be a different, try new things, and take risks. Sometimes real leadership potential is overlooked because people are branded as freaks on the fringe and never really given a change to blaze the right kind of trail.


*Be careful not to mislead honest filtering as erratic behavior. One of the common threads for young leaders is an instinctive desire to test the motives of those who show an interest in developing them. They often have suspicion of organizational leadership and can stereotype you as someone with a hidden agenda. The problem is the way they go about filtering your motives may well include using an expletive in conversation or sharing a sin pattern that you may have struggled with but won’t even confess out loud to God. Give them your best Mount Rushmore imitation and move on. You’ll have time to work on the issues later.

Clearly this is not an exhaustive list but I think you can begin to see how important it is to dig beneath the surface when developing young leaders. Become a miner of leadership treasure.

 

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