Connection is the beginning of all true influence—people will follow leaders they trust
From P.I. to preacher is not a common path, but it was mine. After graduating with a criminal justice administration degree at San Diego State University, I set out on a brief but fascinating career as a private investigator.
God had other plans. I had resisted God’s call, but it was time. While working as an investigator, I served in a small church as a student ministry leader. I soon found myself as a full-time master’s in divinity student at Asbury Theological Seminary. My three years there were fantastic. They were literally life changing. I was fired up and ready to serve in ministry, but I still had much to learn about leadership.
John Maxwell invited me to join his staff for one year as an intern at Skyline Wesleyan Church, which was located in a San Diego suburb. Little did I know that we would work together for 20 years, and reach thousands of people for Jesus.
We partnered together for 13 of those years at Skyline. John had me lead in every position except music and worship; I would have driven people out of the church had I served in that capacity. Eventually, I served as John’s executive pastor, giving leadership to the staff and ministries as his travel schedule began to grow.
Bring Out the Best in People
The next seven years were at INJOY, where we had the privilege to help thousands of pastors worldwide grow as leaders and build their churches. None of this would have been possible without John’s investment of leadership development in me and many others during all those years. Leadership development truly does bring out the best in people.
This brief portion of my story gives you a glimpse of why I’m so passionate about leadership development. Without it, your church or any organization will never reach its potential. No matter how talented you are as a leader, well connected or appealing with your personality, you will not lead far if you lead alone. You can have a staff helping you, but that is very limited in scope and effectiveness. It’s only when you raise up other leaders, and develop and empower them to truly lead, that you will realize the dreams and vision God has placed within you.
Kevin Myers, senior pastor of 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., invited me to join his staff in 2001 as their first executive pastor. Kevin is a gifted communicator and brilliant visionary leader, but he knew that he needed to develop more leaders in order for the church to become all that God had intended.
God has blessed our partnership for more than 10 years, and the church has grown by thousands. Let me be quick to say that God’s kindness and favor are the reasons for the successful ministry. But without good leadership and leadership development, God’s plans are often not realized.
Cultivate New Leaders
Over the years, I have practiced leadership and developed others as leaders through a process I call Amplified Leadership, which I have turned into a book with the same title. I’ve been teaching and coaching it for nearly 10 years. Designed to intentionally cultivate new leaders, Amplified Leadership is a relationally based process that draws a person from connection through a relationship to empowerment as a leader. It’s comprised of five practices and 10 skills. These practices and skills are woven into a progressive sequence, connecting the necessary skills with the desired results.
The following is a brief outline: Leadership Outcome Desired/Leadership Skill Sets Required; Establish a Relationship/Connect and Appreciate; Engage a Follower/Encourage and Inspire; Embrace a Team Member/Invite and Equip; Coach an Apprentice/Select and Include; and Mentor a New Leader/Develop and Empower.
It is not merely a list of activities leaders engage in. It is a specific sequence of practical steps that lead to a strategic outcome—producing new leaders. This process acknowledges that the vast majority of ministry leaders, both staff and volunteer, will demonstrate their leadership through the relationships they create and sustain—not necessarily by casting vision from a platform.
Typically, the senior leader is responsible to communicate the vision, especially within the context of a local church. But all leaders must »
relationships and mentor others if the church is to develop the large number of leaders needed to reach their potential.
Using this process for the past 10 years, I’ve had the privilege to contribute to the development of pastor Miles Welch as a leader at 12Stone. Miles is a former Marine, happily married to his wife, Jen, and they have two daughters, Megan and Morgan. Miles is the pastor of our college ministry and gives leadership to our intern program. Currently, we have about 15 interns with a vision to sustain 25. It’s a two-year process in which young college graduates who are called to local church ministry come to 12Stone for leadership development. Developing leaders is a passion for us.
Cory was one of the interns that came to 12Stone several years back. He worked alongside Miles in our college ministry through the two-year process. It was great to watch Cory develop as a leader. In fact, he got so good that we hired him. He’s now “second in charge” of our thriving college ministry.
Cami, another intern, joined the team a few years later, and we had the privilege of developing her as a leader. She is now giving leadership to the spiritual formation ministries at our Flowery Branch, Ga., campus. It is not our intent to hire our interns. In fact, we tell them when they arrive that they should not expect to be hired at the completion of their internship. But sometimes leadership development helps raise up someone, and it just makes sense that they should be on the team. We feel fortunate for those times and are thrilled to have these young leaders on staff, who represent the future.
There is one more piece to this story. Cory and Cami fell in love and got married. That’s actually happened to a few other interns, but that is not part of the leadership development process.
Leadership Development Connects
Leadership development helps people live better and reach their potential. It brings out the best. It helps churches thrive and realize their mission. But it’s all built on relationship, and starts with connecting. That’s the first skill in the process. In order to establish a new relationship, you must be able to connect with others in a meaningful and authentic way. There is some chemistry involved in human connection. Ultimately, for a leader it’s a skill, and something you can learn and improve it.
Connection is the beginning of all true influence. Connecting with people at a heart level requires effort. It rarely happens at any level of significance without intentionality. From leading your children to leading your church, if you don’t connect with people they won’t follow.
One of my favorite things to communicate as I coach leaders is the following sequence, and I included it in the first chapter of Amplified Leadership: Heart → Connect → Trust → Follow. »
All leadership begins at a heart level. Leading from the heart is nothing magical or mystical. It is merely the art of being yourself. When you are yourself, people can connect with your heart. When they connect with you, they are able to trust you. And when they trust you, they will follow you. Let me say this in reverse so you get the full impact. People will not follow leaders they do not trust. People don’t trust leaders they can’t connect with, and people can’t connect with leaders if they can’t find their heart.
The interesting thing is that when connection breaks down, it is most often because of fear or insecurity within the leader. If you are not able to be true to yourself or you feel compelled to be someone other than yourself, connecting with others will be difficult and your leadership will suffer. If this pattern continues for some time, a leader naturally begins to get frustrated and resent people. It therefore becomes difficult to appreciate them, and the second skill begins to break down—appreciating people for who they are.
Finding freedom as a leader so that you may express yourself as God intended is the beginning of unleashing the true gifts He has given you. When you no longer have to self-protect and live emotionally guarded, you are free to give yourself away to others, and you will be amazed at what begins to happen. Your influence rises dramatically.
This is just the beginning, and the tip of the iceberg at that. I’ve watched leadership development bring out the best in people for many years. It’s my prayer that it will bring out the best in you.
Dan Reiland is the executive pastor of 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., named the fastest-growing church in America by Outreach Magazine in 2010. He worked closely with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego and then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY. Dan is the author of several books, including From a Father’s Heart; Shoulder to Shoulder; Spiritual Gifts and his latest, Amplified Leadership.
Inspiring Leaders Propel the Vision
How to maximize your gifts to get inspire and motivate people in your church
All effective leaders inspire people. It may be hard to believe, but charismatic people with big personalities make up only a small percentage of leaders. Typically, those individuals are operating in a God-given gift that can’t be acquired or developed. It’s simply an attribute God chose to grant them.
Truly inspirational leaders don’t need magnanimous personalities to motivate people. They know how to leverage the gifts God has given them and inspire people in the style that best suits them. And you can learn to do the same.
Below are several of the more common means through which leaders inspire people to follow the vision. See if you can identify the one that fits you best.
Relationship. This is a familiar path of inspiration, especially in small and midsize churches. Relational leaders are great shepherds, and their congregations know it. In fact, they feel it. All good leaders love people, but this group of leaders has a special way of expressing that love so it is clearly known. People are lifted to new heights when they know they are loved and cared for.
When relationships are solid, committed people will follow and serve faithfully. The downside is that leaders are limited in the number of relationships they can handle. So eventually relational leaders will need to invest their time developing new leaders who return the favor by mentoring another crop of leaders.
Strategy. This group of leaders inspires through their ability to organize, clearly state the next steps and keep things running smoothly. People dislike chaos, poor communication and unclear goals with a passion. When a leader shows up who can consistently provide clear direction, the people are moved to follow. Leaders who have a big vision but don’t know how to realize it can frustrate those they serve.
Strategic inspiration solves that problem, but the downside is that it requires followers to be more mature because it doesn’t always feel fun. If you inspire by having great strategy, find ways to make the process enjoyable.
Passion. The leaders in this group are sincere and fired up about the vision. They may lack some leadership skills, but they are true zealots, and people can’t help but pursue the vision alongside them. They burn bright, and that draws people to them. The downside is that they may offer unclear direction, and the intensity of their passion can lead to burnout.
Strategic inspiration coupled with passionate inspiration is a winning combination, and it would be wise for these two groups of leaders to learn from each other. Those who inspire through passion would be wise to bring a leader alongside them who will complement their style.
Competence. These leaders are so highly skilled and good at what they do that people are inspired to follow them. The leaders in this group are typically more focused in their abilities. In fact, great focus is how they have developed such an expertise, and what they excel in is usually noteworthy. A common example is a pastor who is excellent at expositing Scripture verse by verse.
People love a great teacher of the Word, and many will overlook a ministry’s weaker areas when the leader has this strength. The downside is that competence will not carry vision over the long haul, so these leaders must take care to nurture relationships at least on a basic level.
Coaching. These leaders are consummate people-developers. They bring out the best in those they lead, and help them become better than they could or would become on their own. Leaders who inspire through coaching are great encouragers. They have a strong ability to know and lean into people’s strengths, but they also have a good eye for areas that need improvement.
Leaders who are great at coaching are excellent team builders and have an ability to develop strong morale. These leaders get the people to work hard, but they also make sure their followers enjoy the experience and achieve their goals.