John F. Kennedy was right when he said, “It is time for a new generation of leadership.” That thought provokes a debate concerning leadership: Are leaders born or are leaders developed. Max Depree wrote, “Leadership is Art,” i.e., leadership can be learned. Jesus commanded, “Make disciples” in the Great Commission. Making disciples means making followers of Christ who will produce leaders for Christ. Are leaders born or are leaders developed? The answer is “yes.” Some individuals are born with leadership ability which still must be developed. But, leadership can be learned by every person who has a desire to impact his or her culture.
John Maxwell’s now famous definition of leadership is “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” The greatest spiritual leader in my formative years was my Christian mother. She does not have a college education. She has never held a powerful corporate position. She has never received political awards. But she read God’s Word to my brothers and me nearly every night, prayed with us and took us to church three times a week. She was light and salt. She influenced me to Christ.
If Maxwell’s definition is true then leadership can be developed. As Maxwell says, “If you are a 6 on the leadership scale of 1 to 10, you can become an 8.” If we are going to be light and salt then we must develop as leaders and develop others as leaders. If you work in Sunday School, you are a leader developing leaders. If you listen to verses from clubbers in AWANA, you are a leader developing leaders. If you sponser a youth group, you are a leader developing leaders. If you are a Christian, you are a leader in your classroom or at your work site developing leaders. You are a leader with influence.
There is a difference between a leader and a great leader Henry Blackaby said, “Leaders lead followers. Great leaders lead leaders.” That means, great leaders leave a legacy of leaders. Peter Drucker in The Effective Executive challenged, “There is no success without a successor.” After I surrendered to the Lord and to the call to preach my first opportunity to serve in my local church was as teacher of Junior High Boys. I helped each boy teach a Sunday School lesson. The boys ministered to shut-ins and alcoholics in an Alcoholic Home. Several of the boys trusted Christ as Savior. One is a pastor and others are faithfully serving the Lord in local churches.
There are Biblical examples of the Law of Legacy. Joshua succeeded and exceeded Moses. Elisha succeeded and exceeded Elijah. The Twelve disciples succeeded Christ and exceeded Christ according to Jesus own words in John 14:12.
Samuel was a leader. But Samuel was not a great leader (1 Sam. 8:1) because Samuel led followers. Samuel left no successor. The Christian life is not a 100 yard dash but a Relay Race where the baton is handed off to another. To whom will you pass the baton of leadership?
Let’s look at one leader who left a legacy of leadership. God deposited truth with Paul (1 Tim. 1:11; Luke 12:48) at Paul’s conversion. Paul invested that deposit of truth with Timothy (1 Tim.1:18). How? He won Timothy to Christ in Acts 14. He invested time and energy into Timothy’s spiritual growth (Acts 16:1-3). Timothy was then to deposit the same truth to other leaders (2 Tim. 2:1, 2). Timothy is now pastor at the church of Ephesus when Paul writes 2 Timothy.
Timothy is a 2nd generation leader who is depositing the truth in a 3rd generation of leaders. Those leaders, the 3rd generation, were to deposit the truth into the next generation, the 4th generation (2 Tim. 2:2b). In whom are you depositing the truth of God’s Word?
Only leaders produce leader
David produced leaders (giant killers) because he was a giant killer (2 Sam. 21:1-22). Saul did not produce leaders (giant killers) because he killed no giants. What are some practical ways we can grow as leaders and produce leaders?
1. Never do ministry alone (Acts 13:2).
2. Create a leadership atmosphere or culture through seminars and preaching on leadership.
3. Train leaders through training sessions. Take your leaders or potential leaders through a book on leadership like Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership or Henry Blackaby’s Spiritual Leadership.
4. Expose your people and family to leaders.
5. Associate with leaders yourself (boards, fellowships, etc). Les Olila wisely said there should be three kinds of people in our lives. We need a mentor or a Paul who is stretching us spiritually. We need a disciple or a Timothy whom we are mentoring. We also need a partner or a Barnabas who is encouraging us. Our Barnabas is not a mentor or disciple, just a friend.
6. Study leadership and read about leaders such as “Walking with the Giants” by Warren Wiersbe.
7. Watch leaders and learn from them.
8. Lead! The question is not, “What will be my legacy?” But, “Who will be my legacy?” Your lasting value as a leader will be measured by your successor.