The greatest leader ever lived on earth is Jesus Christ. He called twelve ordinary men to serve with Him. Some were fishermen, others tax collectors.
He trained and mentored these men for over three years, and handed the ministry over to them. Over two thousand years later, the impact of those men is evergreen! They literally turned the world upside down.
On the flipside, just imagine that Jesus came to earth, and chose to fulfil His ministry alone. What do you think would have happened to Christianity? Great leaders don’t die, the exploits of the people they raised and mentored immortalizes them.
In one of the books I will be releasing next year, I said that great leaders are “makers of men.” Great leaders transfer what made them great to others before they die.
Unfortunately, some leaders want to be champion forever. They don’t want anybody to rise so that nobody will challenge them.
A particular leader had this problem. He was competent. He had vision, made decisions consistent with vision, and had employees who liked him and felt personally dedicated to him.
But he had one problem. He surrounded himself with people not quite as talented or effective as he was, who relied on him and depended on him to take the lead in most decisions.
He willingly did so, measuring his success by the esteem his subordinates felt for him and by his ability to get things done himself.
Despite his influence, he did not raise any leader–few, if any, of his employees ever moved to other positions in the company, and when he left, the company had no real backup for him in place. His absence created a leadership vacuum that took years to fill.
How Great Leaders Lead
Those who produce great leaders have the confidence to surround themselves with competent surbodinates, frequently with those whose talents exceed their own.
They enjoy the challenge of working with people who have good ideas and who push them to greater heights, and they do not get defensive when people who work with them express an alternative point of view.
Great leaders understand how to make decisions themselves, but even more they know how to share both decision making and authority with others. They give their subordinates the right to make decisions and the opportunity to be responsible for an assignment which will definitely help to develop them as future leaders.
Sometimes this delegation of authority comes from building reporting relationships and orgazational structures that give junior leaders opportunities to be accountable and responsible for a project.
As organizations get more complex, often this complexity leads to matrix organization where some are responsible for functional excellence, others for other aspects of the organization.
Leaders who produce leaders also help future leaders observe and learn about decision processes. Self-centered leaders often make decisions and move on. Producing leaders will review how they thought about the decision process and share the logic and rationale they used in coming to a decision.
In debriefings, they will reveal why they did what they did and help developing leaders see not only what was decided but the thought process behind the decision.
In addition, they develop future leaders by reviewing not just the decisions they make but the steps and thought processes they used to come to a decision.
One leader frequently used the nonthreatening phrase, “help me understand” to explore why you chose option A over B. Help me understand the information you collected in coming to your conclusion. Help me understand how you thought about involving people in this decision. Help me understand what you learned from your experience.
These queries pushed future leaders to reflect on the decisions they make–and also on why and how they made them, which led to insight that were valuable for future decisions.
Great leaders often engage future leaders by asking them, “What do you think?” “What are your options?” Or “What would you suggest?” These questions push the onus of decision making back to the future leader.
On many occasions, Jesus asked His disciples some questions. It is not that He didn’t know the answers to those questions, He used that method to know whether they understood all He had been teaching them, and also, whether they have the capacity to manage the ministry He would hand over to them.
Don’t Hoard Information
Great leaders do not hoard information; they share it. Since access to information are also sharing power. Sometimes they share by disseminating information that is given to them. At other times, they create information sharing by asking leaders to collect the information first-hand.
By sharing information, great leaders help future leaders learn how to go from data to decision making. In a world where information flows like a river, the challenge is often turning information and data into insights and decisions.
Great leaders help others to see that information should be used to reach a decision, not just to have information. When surbodinates come up with ideas or recommendations, great leaders often ask, “What is the decision you want to make?” This question shifts the focus from the information to the decision.
To me, you’re not yet a leader until you can point to one or two or ten other leaders you successfully mentored and raised. Self-centered leaders go to the grave with their experiences, and thereby deny future leaders the opportunity to learn from both their mistakes and exploits.
Every great man or woman you hear about today have followers and admirers. The reason is simple, the followers were directly and indirectly affected by those great leaders. Who are you mentoring? Who are you developing? Success without a successor is complete failure.
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