How to Develop Leaders Instead of Followers

How to Develop Leaders Instead of Followers
Larry Barker

The following is important because we know what Jesus said: “Follow me!” Jesus discipled others by moving them through a process (“I Do, You Watch; I do, You Help; You Do, I Help; You Do, I Watch”) from being followers to leaders.

Leadership is influence and moves the follower forward through different levels. First, we must watch, listen, and learn. Then we begin to act upon the learning we have received. Many are trained way beyond their level of obedience! Thirdly, the follower begins to lead others intentionally. Next, they not only lead but also focus on developing other leaders. Average leaders lead followers while great leaders lead leaders.

Leadership is basically the process of pouring into others to multiply ministry effectiveness, expand Godly influence, and reproduce spiritual leaders. There is an old saying, “If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain; but if you want 10 years of prosperity, grow men and women.” A focus on leadership development focuses on building a simple reproducible system to ensure that our practice is able to catch up with our knowledge. All too often we try to think our way into a new way of acting instead of acting ourselves into a new way of thinking!

The key to committing to the development of leaders is coming to the point where we are no longer content to just lead followers! The reality is that followers are very high maintenance and require a lot of oversight. That is natural and should be expected in the beginning but not long term. Every time a leader can find and develop another leader it increases the scope of their influence for the Gospel exponentially. Jesus intentionally influenced twelve and deliberately invested in three. Develop leaders who have a heart to develop leaders. That is multiplication!

This focus requires asking the right questions. Whom have I developed who can handle this? Which of my leaders has a team capable of taking on this ministry? What have I done to prepare this leader for this opportunity? What can I do to equip and empower this leader? What can I do to help this leader grow and improve? How can I train, coach, and mentor followers to become leaders? When a leader is committed to developing other leaders they are not interested in being the star but in helping others to shine!

Unfortunately, we think that a training event or the right book on leadership will change the culture all by itself but that only takes us partway. There must be a plan for implementation of the learning through coaching and mentoring.

Jesus spent time with the disciples and built a strong personal relationship with them. His goal was to reproduce His values in them so that they could accomplish His Kingdom goals. How did He do? Acts 5:28 says, “and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine.” He not only developed followers but leaders!

What do you look for in the followers you want to invest in to become leaders? First, they must already be busy and active. The principle here is to look for those already driven to make a difference for Christ. They are not standing around waiting for someone to put them to work but they are already busy. They have a hunger and thirst to do more.

One word of caution; some have not gotten involved yet because they have never been asked or they are unsure of where they are needed and even if they are needed. Remember; look for those already in motion!

Second, they must have a teachable spirit. Look for those that are willing to listen and are excited about learning. They have a healthy respect for you as a leader and they believe that you can help them to develop and succeed as a leader.

If they are not excited to enter an intentional leadership development relationship with you then it is probably best to look for someone else. Leadership development is an involved process that requires time, energy, discretion, patience, discipline, and can be difficult to carry out. But, it is well worth it!

One leader of leaders, Larry Bossidy, puts it this way, “When you’re confused about how you’re doing as a leader, find out how the people you lead are doing. You’ll know the answer.” The only way–and it’s the biblical way–to maximize ourselves as leaders is to develop other leaders. It is a win-win situation when we mentor followers to become leaders.

Without leadership development your ministry will plateau and eventually begin to decline.
Mentoring leaders is not cloning but giving followers an intentional pathway for becoming whom God always intended them to be!

Healthy churches are focused on developing leaders not just followers!


Larry Barker serves as Director of North American Missions for the Baptist Missionary Association of America. He has a passion to see hundreds of BMAA churches planted throughout the USA and Canada, and has also served as a missionary to Romania.

The above article, “How to Develop Leaders Instead of Followers” is written by Larry Barker. The article was excerpted from: web site. July 2014.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.