The survey ranked sixteen skills ranging from “inspires and motivates others” at first place, to “self-development” which came in last. This doesn’t mean that self-development was not viewed as important, but that it was not seen as being as important as the qualities ranked above it. Perhaps the most surprising result of the survey was the importance placed on “develops others” which came in at the half way mark even though this trait meant those developed would move ahead – perhaps past those doing the developing, and perhaps to even become their replacements.
Developing one’s own replacement might sound scary at a number of levels – but the need to do that is a reality in much of life. When we look at the Bible we see that developing successors and replacements is constantly in evidence. Jesus developed his disciples to carry on his work, as did John the Baptist, and Moses, and Elijah, and many more of God’s servants. Often the development of a successor was commanded by God Himself: “So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership, and lay your hand on him’” (Numbers 27:18). This selection of Joshua to replace Moses did not happen without background, however – the biblical record makes it clear that Moses had worked with Joshua, training and preparing him, for years before the formal commissioning occurred, just as Jesus did with his disciples.
What does all this have to do with us? If we are in formal positions of leadership, church-related or otherwise, the application is obvious, but it is something we can all think about. How much do we, as husbands, prepare our wives – or vice versa – to be able to deal with situations or needs that we normally take care of? Often times one of the greatest difficulties faced by bereaved spouses is not knowing where important records are, or what needs to be done to continue key aspects of household functioning. How much do we think about the principle of developing our children to take on the adult responsibilities we hold? And finally, how seriously do we take the concept of helping and developing the young and those newer to the faith who will be the next generation of believers. Is our religion only about the work we do, or are we preparing those who will work after us? It is such a basic concept, yet one to which many of us pay little attention.
There are many ways in which we can properly shoulder the duty of preparing others for our responsibilities – it’s not a negative “preparing for the worst,” it’s a positive helping others move ahead and keeping our families and our churches moving forward. It’s part of being a good leader, because, as the saying goes: "The best leaders are also ladders."