LEADERSHIP & Do you struggle with leading? If so, start small (the Jethro Principle as a tactic)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 8/21/15.

A student once mentioned that he, like many students I suspect, lacked confidence in his ability to lead.  I want to share his words here (anonymously) as an end-of-week thought and encouragement.   Here is what he said:

“I really lack confidence in myself and that is something that keeps me help back. I do not see myself as having the abilities or skill set to be a leader. That is something that I really have had to work on. I am much better follower and also good at working on my own. My wife would say that I work best when I am by myself, but this is also something that is very negative in my life. I tend then to overwhelm myself and not let myself get help from others…. How do I get past what I cannot do and see what I can do? I only have so much time and money to work with. My funds are extremely limited and working full-time outside hurts what I can do to work with the church and take the teens to the next level. Any advice?”

He shared a very important question (that many of us probably have).  The key may be in several areas.

He said, “I really lack confidence in myself and that is something that keeps me help back. I do not see myself as having the abilities or skill set to be a leader. That is something that I really have had to work on. I am much better follower and also good at working on my own.”

Yet, when God calls someone to be a leader, that call is by definition to “lead” others into doing what the leader is doing.  Thus, leaders do not do everything themselves.  Instead we follow Jesus’ example and look for “potential” leaders (less than a half-dozen) that we can disciple.  We then ask them to lead a group of 10-12 others.  This is sometimes referred to as the “Jethro Principle” which Jethro shared with Abraham (see Exodus 4:1-15).  Though you begin small with just a cadre of leaders, you all can see how this quickly expands exponentially.

And so, leadership by the very principles means “leading” others.  And, we do this by empowering a small group to do what we are doing, not trying to do everything ourselves but encouraging them to then empower a small group of their own.

Yet over the years I have noticed that everyone has a different number of people to which they can (and should) be delegating (probably based upon their “traits”).  I’ve found that the higher up the ladder you go in leadership the fewer people to whom you can usually delegate effectively (but usually no one should delegate to more than 12 people – and Jethro would suggest not more than 10).

So, I would say if anyone is shy or uncertain about their leadership ability, that they start small.  You could start by looking for emerging leaders who show an ability and a passion to lead.  Then you could take them under your wing, coaching and delegating to them to do what you are doing.  Giving them a task to do helps them see discipleship means service.  Then they will start to develop into “managers,” who will learn from you as a leader and will use this knowledge to serve others.

As Abraham discovered you must start small … with just a handful of people.  And, it is by delegating and coaching (i.e. mentoring) a dozen or less others, and then asking them to impact a dozen or so other lives, that discipleship occurs that is more personal, productive … and expansive (remember how Abraham would eventually lead many).

So let us remember not to be intimidated by the task before us (like Moses was once).  Rather, if we follow Jethro’s advice and start with a small group of 10-12, and they then each disciple another 10-12, your will have emerging … but exponential impact.