January Transition to new Leadership

Our middle son, Will, is in his final semester at Florida State University.  Last year, when he was home for the Thanksgiving weekend, we talked about what would happen to the ministry when he and the fairly active group of leaders that he was a part of would graduate.  Obviously, they needed to pass the baton on to the next group of leaders, but to whom, when and how?


Why think about selection now?  We still have more than a semester left.  I don’t think there is anyone better to cheer on and encourage new leadership, as well as to offer help if they stumble, than those who just handed off leadership?  They have a vested interest in their success.  Leadership development and selection must be intentional.

Take time to think through those who demonstrate spiritual leadership.  Such leadership does not happen just by showing up or having a great personality.  Leaders are developed.  That happens as you delegate responsibility and watch how they bring their own vision and faith to the task.  One way to make this more concrete is by considering the visibility/risk grid.  Here is a very simple exercise for using the grid.  Leadership naturally involves both high risk and high visibility.


One concern Will had about turning responsibility over to new leadership was their readiness.  In general, I believe that we wait too long before giving responsibility to others.  Yes, there are qualifications necessary for leadership.  But often we neglect how much the new leader must trust God.  The faith factor is necessary for growth.  Nearly everyone feels inadequate when they first step into a leadership position.  What better place to be than to really have to trust God for wisdom and direction.

Eric Swanson’s excellent article on Effective Delegation, offers some simple steps in delegating responsibility:

  • Decide what needs to be done.
  • Select the best person for the job.  Let him/her know you believe he/she can do it.  Trust is one of the highest forms of motivation.
  • Clarify and agree upon the desired result and deadline.  Major on what, not how–results, not methods.
  • Define guidelines and potential pitfalls.  Let him/her learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others.
  • Establish level of authority, accountability, and method of evaluation.
  • Identify resources–financial, human, technical, and organizational resources that he/she can draw from.
  • Establish consequences.

Passing the baton

I suggested to Will that their leadership team sit down now before the end of this semester and determine a game plan for passing the baton of leadership early next semester.  We typically wait until the end of the year to hand off leadership.  Those new leaders wait until next August to begin leading.  That can be a rather difficult handicap to overcome given the spiritually challenging summers for many.  Why not install them as leaders early in the spring when the example of the present team is still fresh in their minds.  The old leadership can be there to encourage and answer questions.

Also, August is typically a high risk, high visibility time for the ministry.  It is when you want your ministries to be firing on all cylinders.  You must hit the ground running in order to take advantage of that once a year opportunity of connecting with as many incoming freshman as possible.  Why not use the Spring semester to help the new team function together and develop the plans that they will implement in August.


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