by David Wraight

Over my years in leadership I have thought much about the challenge of empowering others to lead. One of the most energizing and encouraging things for a leader is to see those we are leading succeeding in their ministry role and growing in their capacity to serve the Kingdom. Conversely, one of the greatest frustrations and disappointments for a leader is when those we are endeavoring to empower fall short of our expectations or fail to live up to their full potential. In these circumstances there is a very real danger for us to blame those we are leading for their inability to perform, believing that they failed because of their incompetence, poor organizational skills, lack of self-discipline, or overall character flaws. However, as I have grown in my understanding of leadership, I have come to realize that the failure of those we lead is in many cases due to our own poor leadership.

As I discussed this issue recently with a Christian businessman he gave me some great insight. He explained that in nearly every case where people fail to perform we as leaders fail to do the following things for them:

1.   Clearly define expectations

If we haven’t effectively communicated our expectations to those we lead then they will have no standard, goal or target to aim for and they will inevitably disappoint us because they have no idea what we are expecting from them. As leaders it is essential that we clearly define what we want achieved, when we want it achieved, and what the expected outcomes are that we will be using to assess performance.

2.   Check their attitude

Poor performance is often a product of a poor attitude. If people do not like those they are serving with or leading, or do not believe in the value of a task or project they have been assigned, then they will not invest much of themselves in achieving what is being asked of them, or in the success of their fellow team members. Before assigning people to roles and responsibilities we need to assess whether they have the right attitude.

3.   Accurately assess their ability

If we give someone a task or role that is beyond their ability then we are setting them up to fail. We must take time to accurately assess the ability of our people and assign tasks and roles that they are compatible with their abilities. Accurately assessing ability also enables us to determine what further training and equipping is necessary to enhance and improve a person’s capacity to serve in more demanding roles.

4.   Ensure they are adequately trained

Training is a key element in the empowerment of people to serve and lead, and many fail to perform not because they lack ability, but because they have not been adequately prepared for the role. Equipping those we lead with the skills they require to complete assigned tasks is an essential element of good leadership.

5.   Provide the necessary tools

Poorly resourced people will be severely limited in their capacity to perform to their full potential. Not only will they fail to meet expectations, but they will also quickly lose their motivation, commitment and enthusiasm.  It is a tragedy when talented people get captivated by a visionary leader, wholeheartedly give of themselves to a mission, and then end up frustrated and discouraged—and often embittered—because they have not been provided with adequate resources to serve in the role they have been assigned.

As leaders we have an awesome responsibility to do all we can to empower those we lead by clearly defining expectations, fostering healthy attitude, accurately aligning ability with responsibility, providing skill-enhancing training and supplying adequate resources for assignment completion.

May God provide you with great wisdom as you lead those who lead.

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