Healthy Leaders


Effective Leader Development Is a Complex Collage

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

Even though we can identify certain of its elements, leader development is not a simple and orderly step-by-step procedure of moving through a series of predictable and successive points. In reality, leader development is a rather chaotic, complex and multifaceted experiential collage. It is an experiential collage of diverse people, relationships, influences, assignments, tasks, responsibilities, duties, deadlines, opportunities, pressures, crises, blessings, sufferings, rejections, successes, mistakes, etc., that all work together to build the emerging leader.

Thus, an effective leader development process is not a neat series of courses but a fiery immersion in real-life, real-time experiences, reflecting the complicated and fundamentally difficult nature of Christian leadership, bringing deep heart issues to the surface to be dealt with, and compelling the participant to look utterly to God for everything in his life and ministry.

Designing the Collage

Throughout the Scriptures we see the importance of design to God:

See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain. (Ex. 25:40; cf. Solomon’s Temple, Ezekiel’s Temple)

…you are God’s building. (1 Cor. 3:9, NKJV)

Jesus was intentional in building His leaders. His methods were not haphazard; He built them according to design. We also must learn to create effective designs – transformational collages – for leader development.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. (1 Cor. 3:10)

The following is a simple method by which a process for building leaders in any culture or context can be designed. This same process can be used to design a half-day training or a one year learning community – or anything in-between.

The method is summarized in this graphic:

Step One: Define the Goal

“The key to design is to clearly define.” First, we must clearly define our goal. Then, we must define the process that will achieve that goal.

Starting at the right, we begin by defining what a healthy leader is. If we do not have a clear understanding of our goal, the process of development will be hard to define.

Our goal at LeaderSource is an effective, healthy Christian leader. We define this by as a man or woman strong in five Cs:

For more information on the 5Cs, check out Healthy Leaders: SpiritBuilt Leadership #2.

Step Two: Establish the Process

Having defined what a healthy leader is, we then need to establish biblical principles of how such a leader is formed.

Our process is to utilize the four dynamics of transformation: spiritual, experiential, relational, and instructional. Jesus used these dynamics when He built his disciples, creating a powerful, transformational collage around His emerging leaders. For more information, check out Building Leaders: SpiritBuilt Leadership #4.

Steps One and Two are universal in nature. They are foundational biblical principles that will work in any culture or context. The exact form that they will take will vary considerably from place to place and time to time, but the principles are universal.

Now we move to application of the general biblical principles. This is how the appropriate form for each context will be created.

Step Three: Develop the Design

This step begins to define how the universal biblical principles are operationalized in any given context. This is accomplished by asking the question, “How is each of the 5Cs built in our context in a way consistent with the universal principles of leader development?” For the final design to be effective, this step must not be rushed. It must be thought through accurately and comprehensively.

Traditionally, in leader development design we have focused mostly on instruction. However, we must give significant attention to all four of the “dynamics of transformation:” spiritual, relational, experiential and instructional. This is how lives are changed! When all four dynamics are strongly present in a design, spiritual life is nurtured, relational capacities are strengthened, character is developed, calling is clarified and deep leadership capacities are built.

This should not surprise us, since a study of the gospels will reveal that Jesus did exactly this with His disciples. His strategy was not only instructional; He also created a transformational context of leader development, including spiritual, relational and experiential elements. This was also the practice of the early church (Acts 2:42).

To say that we need all four is not to devalue strong content. Indeed, instruction is one of the four key dynamics of transformation in this model of healthy leader development. However, by itself, content is not sufficient. To build lives we must design transformational contexts that are strong spiritually, relationally and experientially.

An Example of Design

To illustrate this, consider the following example. Suppose we want to build evangelists. We could begin with an experiential component by simply sending them out to share the gospel with unbelievers. “Just go and do it!” Will that work? Will they learn anything about evangelism? Certainly they will!

Now let’s include a relational dimension by sending them out with experienced evangelists who they can watch and who will watch them, and encourage and correct them. Clearly this will work even better.

Now let’s add a strong spiritual element by having our emerging evangelists join with intercessors before going out. They will pray for the lost, entering into God’s burden for those without Christ. Then, when they go out to evangelize they are also to look to God for help, asking Him who to go to, and waiting upon Him inwardly for the right words to speak. This will work better still!

Finally, let’s give them some instruction – a good course on the meaning and nature of evangelism, studying God’s plan of salvation, a simple way to share the Gospel and one’s own testimony, some common objections to the Gospel and how to respond, etc. Now we’re building strong evangelists!

Five Major Kinds of Learning
Kind of Learning Nature Examples
Individual learning

This could be short-term or continue indefinitely.

It could involve learning in one area or many.


Online learning

Foundational learning communities

The purpose is to build a specific group of people in particular “foundational” areas through a single, time-limited program.

A one-year full-time training program for emerging leaders.

A two-month part-time orientation program for new staff.

Ongoing learning community

A group of people that remains relatively the same for a long period of time.

An ongoing cohort of existing leaders who meet once a month as a group.

Two people who get together weekly for learning. E.g., a discipleship relationship.

Short-term Training

An ad hoc group of people who come together for a short time for specific learning.

A three-day training on marriage.

Lifestyle Leader Development

Most life transformation occurs informally. “Build leaders at all times; if necessary, use a course.”

This can be either designed in advance or spontaneous and responsive to circumstances and opportunities. In both cases it should be intentional.

An older leader makes a pastoral call and takes a young leader with him. They talk on the way there, share the ministry work, and reflect together on the way back.

All five kinds of learning will be powerfully effective if used in a holistic collage. The same principles will work in every context!

Just as we must intentionally build all of the 5Cs of healthy leadership (Christ, Community, Character, Calling and Competencies) so we must design processes of leader development that include all four dynamics of transformation (Spiritual, Relational, Experiential and Instructional).

This is how lives are changed; this is how leaders are built!

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