I was meeting with a young pastor who wants to grow as a leader. He lives in small town. He is young, but his staff is even younger. There are not a lot of seasoned leaders in his church—or at least he has not discovered any. (I usually think there are leaders who simply haven’t been tapped, but I understood his dilemma.)
The church looks to him to lead and, wisely, he knows he needs to develop his leadership skills.
His question was simple.
Who invests in me?
He recognizes the need to grow as a leader, but he’s not sure where to find it. His church is in a recovery mode financially, so he doesn’t feel he can afford (or doesn’t think it can) to send him to conferences or hire a coach.
(Side note—when I reached my new church we were in a very difficult financial condition. Budgets had been cut, but in my opinion we had cut some things we shouldn’t have cut—such as marketing and staff development. But, I understand this is a natural reaction in difficult times—especially in the church. Churches notoriously will keep people on payroll who shouldn’t be and cut funding for items which would actually fuel growth. But, that’s another blog post.)
So, what could my pastor friend do? How can he develop as a leader inexpensively—maybe even free?
Here are three suggestions I gave him:
1. Form a peer leadership group
There are people in the community who own small businesses. They meet a payroll. They have guided an organization to success. Even in the smallest communities, someone owns (or manages) the local grocery store or serves as the bank branch manager. For a group like this, I like to keep it relatively small, no more than 12, and six might even be a better number.
The group would share stories, talk about experiences and learn from each other. You’ll have to spend time getting to know each other and developing trust, but it will be mutually beneficial. I have had such groups numerous times in my career. These groups are usually comprised of believers—although not professional ministers. In these meetings I’m trying to learn leadership and management practices—not theology.
2. Start a book club
Recruit leaders in the community to read a leadership book together. These can be mid-level managers or senior executives. The learning is from the book being studied and the reflection of the group based on personal experiences. In this type group, the size can be as any size between two and 25 people. The larger groups often provide the broader range of perspective.
The only cost is the book. Everyone buys their own. You can assign one person to lead each session. They guide discussion on what they learned from the book in that chapter or section and open the group for discussion. With a good enough book—people will discuss, and the learning experience is rich. For this group, you might use a Christian leadership book (such as a John Maxwell book), but I wouldn’t limit the group to believers only—or even dictate a Christian book. It’s a great way to interact with the community in a non-threatening way, while gaining valuable leadership and management insights.
3. Ask a community leader to mentor you
There are leaders in every community (usually multiple leaders) who are further along than you are in the process of leadership. There will always be leaders in the community from whom you can learn. Always. While some may disagree with me, this usually is a believer for me, but doesn’t have to be. I want them to be honest, moral and have a good reputation, but knowing in advance their specific walk with Christ is not a prerequisite for this type of mentor. (I have multiples in my life, depending on the need.) Again, I’m seeking development in the areas of leadership and management—and, I think my presence with them actually influences them for good. I have other spiritual mentors.
You don’t have to live in a large town or spend a lot of money to develop as a leader. You simply have to possess a desire to grow and be intentional.
What you’re looking for is people skills—how to handle conflict—how to delegate and how to motivate and cast a vision. You can learn those things hearing from other leaders’ experiences. Leadership development doesn’t have to be expensive. The key is to be intentional.