In building volunteer teams, sooner or later, leadership will be one of the key deciders in the growth and health of your volunteers. But how many times have you wondered; “Why can’t I find people to lead?” This is a valid and important question but the answer, the people, are usually right in front of us.
So the next question is: Have you looked? I mean, really looked? Beyond yourself.
Too many times when we hear “replace yourself” we take it so literally and look for someone just like us, someone with our same experience, our energy, our passion, our skills, our speaking skills, our brilliant hand-jive moves…well, you get the picture.
I would even say that the biggest roadblock or barrier to finding leaders is you and me. Ourselves. If we could only get out of the way, we would see that future leaders are serving right beside us, hanging out with us at the front door or getting coffee together on break. I know I’ve overlooked too many amazing people and it cost both my own health (physical, mental and spiritually) and the volunteers serving.
Remember what Jethro said to Moses…”this thing you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you..” (Exodus 18:17-18). In one day, I got pink-eye in both eyes and shingles! And I noticed folks were not very happy around me either.
I’ve learned to rethink these 3 assumptions about potential leaders that prevent us from finding and building strong, healthy leaders and teams.
That they know they are leaders.
Most of the time, when I approach someone to start the conversation about leadership, I hear: “Who me?!” “Why me?” or “Oh no, I could never be a leader.” And yet they display the gifts, character traits, skills and passion that say “FOLLOW ME!” If we are truly connecting with people, listening to what’s going in their lives, we can discover hidden gems. Sure, they may be leaders in the world of business or organizations, but for some reason, they do not always translate their skills or value into the world of church leadership. I’ve even had a brain cancer scientist dismiss his ability to be a leader. It’s our job to speak truth and encouragement into their life.
That they know they have permission to lead or take on responsibilities.
If they are leaders, they should just “do it”. But many times, volunteers don’t know IF they should go beyond the to-do list because the vision has not been clearly communicated, celebrated and even more precisely, they don’t even know what the thing they could be doing is! It may be obvious to us; those of us who work and live and breathe our ministry 24/7, but the permission and vision has never been given specifically to someone. It takes more than a wholesale “let’s go get um” rally, it’s a one-on-one conversation. Can you say “shoulder-tap”?
That they are not qualified to do as much or good a job as us.
Qualified? Really? Boy, the definition of leadership needs an overhaul! We have been conditioned to believe, been taught or have had modeled to what a leader should look like. Yet, this may or may not always be the best or most obvious choice. The bible is full of never-would-have-picked-that-one for leaders. We should seek out, with discernment and wisdom, some of the unlikely people that have already said “yes” to serving with you to develop, grow and encourage to become the best they were created to be. And NOT just to fill a role, but here’s a crazy idea – because people matter. And here the bonus. You get to play a part in someone discovering their greatest gifts because you offered an opportunity that expanded their life and those around them.
It’s simply smart to not rely solely on our own filters, experiences or preconceived ideas to be the only indicator for deciding leadership potential. Get more input!!! Spend time with potential leaders – seek to understand first.
And, if your first go-to includes the word “too” when dismissing a candidate, like:
- They are too young or too old.
- They are too new to step up now.
- They are too set in their ways to lead.
Stop and consider beyond to "too" and dig in to what is really the barrier to leadership. It may or may not be true. Perhaps, no one spent time training them. Perhaps no one asked their opinion on anything. Perhaps, they are in the wrong role and it’s time to regroup or get creative to provide new opportunities.
Of course, there is no one size fits all program or process.
People are messy. I am messy. But we are all worth. And, there are levels and steps where everyone can play a significant role.
It’s our responsibility and great joy to help another person figure it out!