Focusing Your Leadership Development

“The Story We Find Ourselves In”

Brian McLaren gave us a great gift when he used this phrase to title his book published in 2002. Whether it’s original with him or not, it gives us language for understanding how any point in time is part of the larger story of God and humanity, yet is its own chapter.

We live in a fascinating time for leaders and leadership (this chapter in the big story). The organizations, institutions, and churches of our time are rapidly changing in foundational ways, unlike during the 50 years before this new century. Peter Senge, that business guru and systems thinker, was far more of a prophet than he knew when he predicted the organizations which would survive into the new century would be those who learn the fastest (The Fifth Discipline, 1990).

For leaders who want to be effective, this introduces quite a challenge. From 1950 – 2000, we needed certain kinds of leaders. Leaders providing strong, steady, stable, reliable, systematic leadership were often effective, since it was a time of continuous, steady, slow, ongoing change. Leadership archetypes such as The Statesman were popular and generally effective. Peter Senge’s watershed prediction about the new century to come challenged our leadership models. Now, post-2000, we need leaders who are fast, nimble, creative, adventurous, and courageous. Slow and steady helps when life is slower and more continuous. Creative and flexible is more helpful when everything around us is changing.

Well, we could spend days describing the inherent leadership challenges in this story in which we find ourselves. Instead, suffice it to say that new kinds of leaders are needed to help us navigate these Post-Modern waters. We need leaders with natural leadership ability. Yet the leadership challenges in our current environment are such that natural ability alone is insufficient. We need leaders who intentionally develop themselves; including skill and competency growth.

To that end, we began using a Leadership Development Plan in 2006. A team of authors published Primal Leadership in 2002, the groundbreaking book applying Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence work to leadership. Three years later (2005) two of these authors, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, authored another groundbreaking book (Resonant Leadership) which described a model for leadership development. We recognized its usefulness and adapted it with our particular leadership perspective to create the Pinnacle Learning Plan.

Since then, we’ve used this Learning Plan with many leaders (mostly Lead Pastors and Church Staff) in retreats and especially in Leadership Coaching. Self-directed learning is the most effective learning for adult professional learners. This Pinnacle Learning Plan allows one’s leadership vision to rise and be recognized, followed by specific steps toward learning the competencies needed to arrive there. I especially like how this plan draws together the leader’s vision for self along with the congregation’s or organization’s need for leadership. We don’t do leadership development in a vacuum, but in a context with actual expectations for leadership roles.

So please use this Pinnacle Learning Plan. Adapt it, change it, or otherwise transform it. The goal of this plan is to help leaders focus their leadership growth, leading to greater effectiveness. Given the story we find ourselves in, with its high change quotient environment, we are eager to contribute to the growth of new effective kinds of leaders. May we move ahead with courage and adaptability in this Post-Modern 21st century context.

Mark Tidsworth, President, PLA