Posted by: tlhawkins | November 11, 2009

Summary Thoughts on Choosing Student Leaders by Dr. Al Chase

Today’s post concludes a series on choosing student leaders. Next Monday we pick up the topic of encouraging student leaders and on Wednesday the topic of defining success in campus ministry.

achase_2008_190Dr. Al Chase is the founder of White Rhino Partners an Executive Search/Executive Coaching firm in Cambridge, MA

In addition Dr. Chase lends his expertise to the Board of Directors for SojournSollegiateMinistry, organizer and facilitator of a unique gathering of leaders called Intersection 2.0, and online contributer to Business Weekly, Veterans with the Right Stuff.

When Tim Hawkins first asked me to think about the issue of identifying student leaders, and then to offer my thoughts on the topic in written form, one passage of Scripture sprang immediately to mind:

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (Matthew 25:21, NIV)

Over the years, I have had opportunities to observe many leaders in a wide variety of settings, including student ministry settings, church settings, the business world, military contexts, government and academia.  Some of leaders I have know and observed have been mature leaders, while others have been young and developing leaders.  The 10 thoughts that I offer below reflect some of the common threads I have seen in leaders of all types.

1.  A leader is someone who has grown in faithfulness in carrying out responsibilities.
This is the essence of the Parable of the Talents quoted above.  If you see a potential student leader exhibit a consistent pattern of faithfulness, responsibility, reliability, accountability and creativity in handling relatively minor tasks, then raise the bar and try her/him out with broader responsibilities.

2.  A leader is a person of influence – even without a title or formal job description.
Who do the other students already look to as an informal leader?  Who sets the trends in where to go, what activities to engage in, what ideas to discuss, etc?  Who are people drawn to and want to spend time with?  These individuals may be potential leaders for your group.

3.  A leader is teachable and coachable
The military does a good job of demonstrating that before one can become a good leader, he/she must learn to be a follower.  Being a good follower necessitates being willing to listen to and obey instructions and to internalize constructive criticism and feedback.  Watch carefully how a potential leader responds when challenged or frustrated and you will learn a great deal about their leadership potential.

4.  A leader is a developer of others
The best leaders are involved in a life-long cycle of mentorship – being mentored and reaching out to mentor those following along behind.  Look for evidence that your potential leader is spontaneously investing in the lives of other students.

5.  A leader is committed to the mission and vision of the organization
A potential leader should be someone who understands the vision of where you are trying to lead your organization, and can be part of the process of casting that vision broadly to others who may not yet be part of the organization.

6.  A leader loves people, but need not be an off-the-chart extrovert
Those who are wired as introverts can function as very effective leaders.  The key is for them to manage the flow of energy as they serve in a leadership role.  Generally, extroverts get their batteries re-charged in group settings.  Introverts tend to have energy flow out of them during group encounters, and will need time alone to re-charge their batteries.

7.  A leader is a person whose character you can trust
Look for evidence that the personal faith of the potential leader leads to consistently wise choices in terms of actions, activities, communication and relationships.

8. A leader is a team builder who takes delight and pride in accomplishing goals through influencing the work of others.
A good leader should never be a “one-man-band.”  The best leaders recruit, select, train, equip and encourage their team to accomplish more together than any of them could have done individually.

9.  A leader has the ability to encourage others – even in the face of defeat or danger.
In any organization, things do not always go according to plan.  Observe those who keep a smile on their face and determination in their heart when unexpected difficulties arise, and you may be looking at a potential leader for your group.

10.  A leader knows how to balance hard work and rest.
The best leaders are hardly ever workaholics.  Good leaders model balance – working hard when the situation calls for it, and taking time to reflect and relax and recharge as needed.


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