How to Train Your Leaders: Timeless Principles

I have often wondered how to be a better leader in areas of my life where I am asked to lead. A few areas that come to mind are coaching my son’s baseball team, being captain of my college basketball team, and serving as a youth pastor. I find myself primarily looking at how people have led before me, taking that information and whatever else I know, and then moving forward. The times I succeeded in leading have been when I had someone who has been there before, walking alongside me and helping me know what it looks like to lead.

The best example I can think of is my time playing college basketball at Moody Bible Institute. During my freshman year there were two seniors on the team named Chris and Brian. They were not the best players or the most outspoken on the team, but they were undoubtedly our leaders. They led by example and set the tone for the team. When I think of these two leaders, I think of the impact they had on me and how that fueled my desire to be a similar captain one day.

Three things stood out to me as they guided and developed the future generation of leaders. These are also qualities that I recognize from Jesus as he developed leaders in his ministry. Those examples were sharing life together, investing personally and as a leader, and giving clear, simple tasks. These are great leadership training principles from my basketball captains and more importantly, from Jesus’ life.

Sharing Life Together

Brian and Chris cared about each and every guy on the team. I developed relationships with them that have lasted through today. They cultivated deep friendships by placing a high priority on time together as a team even over other important things in their lives. This is what Jesus did as well. We can see that Jesus spent all kinds of time with his disciples. He spent time with them alone, in large groups, eating, traveling, celebrating, doing miracles, teaching, crying, and just hanging out. One of my favorite verses on this topic from Jesus’ life is John 3:22, where we see that Jesus spent time with his disciples. 

“After this, Jesus and his disciples went to the Judean countryside, where he spent time with them and baptized.”

John 3:22

Time is key to developing leaders. You must have real relationships that will only come when time is spent together. It is in relationships that people are willing to learn, listen and grow in their own role as a leader.

Invest in Leaders Personally & Professionally

When I look at the time I spent with my two captains I can think of two topics of conversation; basketball and everything else. The connection we had was being on the same team. They not only wanted this team to succeed, but future teams as well. So when we would sit down to a meal, we would talk basketball, but we also spent time enjoying life together.

Jesus had intimate relationships with his disciples where he even developed nicknames. We see this when he refers to James and John as the “Sons of Thunder”. Not only did he have this deep relational connection, but he also specifically helped develop them as leaders in the movement. We see this when Jesus sends them out to do ministry as he had done. If we are going to develop leaders like Jesus, then we need to invest in our leaders on a personal level and a leadership level, not one or the other.

Clear and Simple

The last thing that comes to mind from Chris and Brian is the way they would give the team clear and simple tasks to accomplish. This could be as simple as filling up water coolers or making sure the locker room was clean. These things seem small but could cause problems if they were left unattended to or if there was no guidance provided. If you’ve ever been in a place with poor leadership, you will probably notice small details not being taken care of on a regular basis. Jesus led by delegating and making sure the small things were taken care of so he could stay focused on the work the Father gave him.

When we look at successful leaders in our lives, many of the timeless principles they lead with are first discovered in Jesus. If I am going to develop leaders like Jesus in my ministry, it will be important that I live life with my leaders, develop them personally and professionally, as well as give clear and simple tasks they can accomplish to be a part of the ministry. In doing so, they will be prepared to lead themselves. Leaders don’t just think of the immediate but also the future after they are gone. Jesus led with his own departure in mind.

Have you thought about preparing your leaders for when you are no longer with them?

Want to learn more of the timeless principles of Jesus’ leadership? Pick up a copy of Live Like Jesus to learn how to multiply your life into others like Jesus. Or attend a Sonlife Strategy Seminar for a deep dive into the intentionality of Jesus with his disciples.