“A leader’s success can be defined as the maximum utilization of the abilities of those under him” (Maxwell, p. 15), this quote epitomizes the whole first chapter: Am I Raising Up Potential Leaders? Maxwell in the end of Chapter One uses the story in Exodus 18:13-26 to explain this concept. The idea is to bring up leaders whom you can delegate the workload to. When Moses failed to do this, he was nearing burn-out when Jethro got to him and gave him the advice of seeking other people to help him with the everyday duties of life. Moses listened to the advice of his father-in-law and was the healthier for it. If a leader tries to do it all on his own, he will burnout and fall flat on his face. A Leader only has so much reach, but if he can multiply himself out, he can be all the more effective. Maxwell rightly pushes the principle of raising up leaders.
The next chapter in Developing the Leaders Around You is entitled: Creating the Climate For Potential Leaders which continues the call to raising up leaders by first being a “thermostat, not a Thermometer” (Maxwell, p. 16-17). We have to be the ones (as leaders) to create such a place where leaders can rise up in our midst and be safe there. In the third chapter entitled: Identifying Potential Leaders we come across some very interesting principles which Maxwell dives into. Here, I will take a good amount of time to unpack two of these principles.
First, John Maxwell says “The first thing to look for in any kind of leader or potential leader is strength of character. I have found nothing more important than this quality” (Maxwell, p. 47). The Bible also lauds very highly the idea of character, for it is something God desires to not be corrupted (1 Corinthians 15:33) and is a matter of the inner man, not the outer man. When Samuel went to find the future king, who would replace the bad king: Saul, he started to look on the outside of the man and neglected at first to look upon the heart (or character). God quickly re-directed him by saying: “But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV). Here, I feel that Maxwell has got his ducks in a Biblical row, the next principle I have a harder time with.
“Leadership is influence. Every leader has these two characteristics: (A) he is going somewhere and (B) he is able to persuade others to go with him” (Maxwell, p. 49). I have a hard time agreeing with this principle in locating a potential leader not because I don’t think leaders have influence, but because sometimes people are diamonds in the rough. God chose Gideon to be a judge over Israel in the book of Judges chapter 6. In this chapter of the book of Judges, we see a man hiding, we see a man with not just no influence, but negative amounts of influence. This dude is all alone, yet God saw deep into the man and called the leader out of him. I fear some leaders too easily pass on diamonds in the rough and so doing neglect to raise up an amazing future leader. Now, the gift of leadership should usually be present when we’re looking for potential leaders my point is to rather look at people while asking God, even those who don’t have influence. This chapter is chock-full of other principles in which to measure future leaders and to determine whether or not to invest your life into them. Some are rooted in Scripture and others, like the influence one above are arbitrary and sometimes lack the guidance of the Holy Spirit and pay too much attention on the outside. When looking for potential leaders, I think we need to first: consult the Holy Spirit, because He knows the man/woman and He should be a good judge of what they can and can’t be.
Moving on to Chapter four in Developing the Leaders Around You, which is titled: Nurturing Potential Leaders, we come across more very well thought out and articulated ideas. Maxwell says “Once you have identified potential leaders, you need to begin the work of building them into the leaders they can become. To do this you need a strategy. I use the BEST acronym as a reminder of what people need when they get started with my organization. They need me to: Believe in them, Encourage them, Share with them, Trust them” (Maxwell, p. 61). I think this principle is amazing, because it’s not only Biblical, it’s Jesus Style leadership! Jesus implemented these four principles into his discipleship of the 12. In Matthew 4:19, when Jesus calls Peter and Andrew, he confidently says: “…I will make you fishers of men”. Here he is displaying his belief in them, knowing that they can accomplish the task he already has for them. In Matthew 16:17-20 we see Jesus encouraging Peter because Peter rightly stated who he was. In Matthew 10, Jesus shares his ministry with the disciples and has them live as he does and rely on God the way in which He does. Lastly, he trusts them by entrusting them with the mission of His life and this mission was the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-19. He raised these leaders up and nurtured them so much so that he could leave the Earth, send His Spirit and know that these men he left behind would get the job done!
In Chapter five, Maxwell shares insights on Equipping Potential Leaders. Now that we’ve picked them out and we’ve nurtured them, how do we equip them with the tools they need? One of the ways, John Maxwell says is to “Make the goals attainable. Nothing will make people want to quit faster than facing unachievable goals” (Maxwell, p. 96). Here is another principle of John’s that I can’t adopt. When I look at Scripture, I see story after story of God making impossible goals and using that leader to make it happen. I understand the idea of making potential leaders have easily achievable goals because these build their confidence and cause them to grow and eventually take on harder tasks. However, the goals shouldn’t always be attainable, biblically speaking. If all they do is rely on their own gifting, and can coast through our mentoring without us causing them to seek God for help on hard to achieve goals, we have FAILED as spiritual mentors! Again, I return to Gideon, who was asked by God to cut his soldier number WAY down to fight against an enemy with far more soldiers than God was allowing him to use. God does this to help the people see that the impossible is possible with God and God alone. He does this so they will know he is God!
I could continue to venture on throughout the entire book and we will find similar principles with similar outcomes. However, I must highlight one more before I can stop writing. This principle is my favorite because it hits home the most to me. John says: “Be personally secure. To be a great developer of people, you must be personally secure, because taking your people to the height of their potential may mean they will pass you by” (Maxwell, p. 132). "And when Saul saw that he [David] had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him." (1 Samuel 18:15) Saul had messed up as king, so God had left Saul and stopped giving him favor. Due to Saul's wicked and unrepentant heart God was forced to choose another king. God chose David and began showering favor upon David and had His Spirit rest upon David.
This success peaved Saul off to no end. Instead of celebrating that God was giving Israel a better king, Saul became jealous and sought to end David's life...further seperating himself from the Lord and the Lord's will.
I will be the first to admit that as a leader it is hard to see those under you achieving success. It's hard not because I'm so great but because my sinful nature wants to be better than them. We judge ourselves in comparison to others. I've even found myself wondering why someone on facebook has more "friends" than I do....that's pretty freaking low and pathetic!
However, we are jealous of others success, aren't we? Someone gets promoted over us, we get ticked. Someone younger than us gets more accolades for their effort than we do...it makes us freak out, because after all: we've been doing it longer!
True, honest leadership I'm learning is leadership that develops others. A strong leader may be effective for 30 or 40 years, but if they invest in the up and comers, they celebrate the success of a younger person and seek to make that person better...they are investing for much longer! When we apprentice, our skills and our gifts sometimes get transferred...so even if we die off we are still a part of that younger leaders life!
Saul sought only his glory and so he jealously kept all his leadership stuff to himself. There was no attempt to teach a younger guy how to be king. He hated the success of David and the moment it looked like David was blessed by God to take the throne was the moment Saul went ballistic.