Healthy Leaders


5 Ways to Build Leaders in the Classroom

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

Most aspects of leadership cannot be learned in the classroom. They are the outcomes of years of diverse experiences and relationships coupled with the gifts of the leader. For example, what leaders often call “intuition” in making effective decisions is in reality a decision-making capacity based on years of trial-and-error experiences in similar situations – or, what one could call “spiritual wisdom.”

However, there are certain things that can profitably be addressed in a formal classroom or training setting as long as they take place within the broader context of the experiences of life and ministry.

The Word of God

For Christian leaders, formal training must include deep and systematic teaching of the Word of God.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

Simple Skill Building

In many organizations, the development of skills on-the-job is a largely haphazard process, in that the learning usually occurs by chance. Thus, it is likely that certain leadership skills will never be learned or will be developed only partially. Training can formalize this process and ensure the emerging leader receives correct and adequate exposure to particular necessary skills.

There are two kinds of skills that need to be developed in leaders:

Conceptual Abilities

Leaders must learn how to think.

It is not sufficient merely to teach an emerging leader about these conceptual abilities. There is still the responsibility on the part of both the leader and his community to create the subsequent leadership experiences that will make the conceptual understandings an integral and lasting part of the leader’s thinking.

Personal Reflection Exercises

Emerging leaders need time to consolidate learning. So we must provide some time for reflection and analysis. Unfortunately, much experience, both positive and negative, is wasted because leaders aren’t allowed – or forced – to stop and make sense of what just happened or to digest what they just learned. Without sufficient reflection, people tend to repeat their mistakes. Reflection is hard to do in the field.

Intensive Feedback

It is profitable for the leader to receive candid feedback from others regarding the present condition of his leadership with regard to the prior four areas. For example, one might ask, “How are my communication skills and in what areas do I need improvement?” This will help him to fully understand his strengths and weaknesses, and to define a plan for future development. This feedback will be especially effective when it occurs in the context of the intense relationships of daily life within the learning community.

Never Forget …

Classroom instruction, by itself, is not sufficient to build new leaders. Leader development is much bigger than education or formal training. There is a part for formal instruction to play in the process, but it is not enough by itself. God uses all the processes of life in the extremely complicated course of building a leader, including the classroom environment.

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