I just spent the weekend with about 30 emerging leaders in my program at TIU which focuses on the shaping of leaders. Ranging in age from 18-29 these young leaders engaged in discussion and debate on topics ranging from work to vocation, theology, ministry and what it means to lead with integrity and skill.
What struck me was how alive they were, how engaged with the material, and how willing they were to graciously but directly challenge our speaker at the event. As I watched them I came away with a few leadership development nuggets, most of them reminders…but needed nonetheless.
Put rising leaders in catalytic environments
Whether it is a think tank, high-impact serving project or a team-building challenge, young leaders rise to the level of expectations and environment. Don’t pat young leaders on the head – push them into the tension where truth meets life. They can handle it, or they will soon learn how.
Create a format that challenges current perceptions of truth
One of the things I always loved in my days at the Willow Creek Association was getting around thought leaders and practitioners who took a different slant on reality. And some of them were redefining reality altogether. We put these young people in a very provocative conversation with a speaker whose points of view created tension, angst and mild frustration. It forced them to really think, challenging their assumptions and dismantling their biases.
Allow leaders some time to debrief, disconnect and re-engage
Content immersion and idea generation can be mentally and emotionally taxing. Conversations, debate and intense interaction are stimulating but can be mind-boggling. It is essential to withdraw, shuffle the deck, reflect, and then return to the fray with some new insights and challenges to the status quo. Lot’s of gold to mine here.
Trust the process but don’t be afraid to press for results
Strong leaders will do the hard work. And they create their own culture of engagement and growth as they tear an idea apart and put it back together again. But don’t stop there. You have to push leaders and ask, “So what? What difference does this make? Now that you have done some rethinking about your leadership, where are you going to put it to the test?”
I love these leaders – and they are making a great impact in our world with truth, courage, clear thinking and cultural engagement. I cannot wait to see the results!