Archives For How to Develop Potential Leaders

Coaching is an essential element to groom potential leaders. Even if potential leaders do new projects and actively pursue professional growth, they still need a little bit of coaching every month from their direct supervisor. What is coaching? According to Clinton and Stanley, “The Coach’s central thrust is to provide motivation and impart skills and application to meet a task or challenge.” 1 Let’s look at how to do that.

How to Develop Potential Leaders with .0025% of Your Time Each Month

Photo Credit: Robert Sullivan


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  1. Paul Stanley and J. Robert Clinton, Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed in Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1992), 73.

Professional growth is a requirement for potential leaders. While people might have potential for leadership, active professional growth removes the gap between potential leaders’ current skills and the skills they need to lead. 

How to Design and Implement a Professional Growth Plan

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Professional growth must be customized to the learning of the individual and it must occur regularly. Individuals learn in many ways; therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for professional growth plans. An organization should require professional growth of potential leaders, but it should not require the specific details of how that growth occurs.


The Four Training Types

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In his book, Developing the Leaders Around You, John Maxwell writes, “Varied experiences add incredibly to people’s development. It keeps them growing, stretching, and learning. The broader people’s base of experience, the better they will be at handling new challenges, solving problems, and overcoming difficult situations” (p. 118).

Providing potential leaders with new projects and tasks gives them the skills they need to develop into leaders. Thankfully, this idea helps current leaders because they can get rid of projects they are working on which can easily be delegated to potential leaders. However, this is not an opportunity for leaders to dump tasks that leaders do not want to do onto potential leaders.

How to Develop Potential Leaders by Giving Them New Projects and Tasks

Photo Credit: Robert Sullivan

If you are a leader that needs to develop potential leaders, here’s how you can develop those potential leaders. 


Leaders must be intentional about what they delegate. Three criteria are important to follow when leaders look for projects to delegate to potential leaders. Continue Reading…

You know you must train your potential leaders but you have no money to make it happen. What do you do? My advice: practice the 70-20-10 strategy to train your potential leaders. 

How to Train Potential Leaders When You Have No Money

Photo Credit: Robert Sullivan

The 70-20-10 strategy was created by the Center for Creative Leadership based on thirty years of Lessons of Experience research. 1

The 70-20-10 rule for leader development follows this breakdown:

  • 70 percent challenging assignments,
  • 20 percent developmental relationships, and
  • 10 percent coursework and training. 2

In nonprofit organizations, these three components reinforce each other and add up to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. 3 Before examining the 70-20-10 strategy closer, it is important to describe what it is not.

Robin Hoyle mentions he has seen the 70-20-10 approach misrepresented in these statements: 90 percent of learning is done on the job, it is how people naturally learn, the numbers do not matter, the 20 percent is done most effectively through Twitter and LinkedIn, and since most learning is done on the job there is no need for training courses. 4 However, let’s look at the correct understanding of the 70-20-10 principle.


70 Percent Challenging Assignments

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  1. Ron Rabin, Blended Learning for Leadership: The CCL Approach (Greensboro, NC: Center for Creative Leadership, 2014). The 70-20-10 principle is also described by Kramer and Nayak, Nonprofit Leadership Development, 82-101; Kramer, “Solving the Time and Money Puzzle”; and Hoyle, Informal Learning in Organizations, 168-177.
  2. Rabin, Blended Learning for Leadership, 2.
  3. Kramer and Nayak, Nonprofit Leadership Development, 83.
  4. Hoyle, Informal Learning in Organizations, 169.

In organizations, people will always come and go. Therefore, to remain viable, an organization must develop a pipeline of potential leaders.

John Maxwell describes the importance of looking for potential leaders in his book, Developing the Leaders Around You, when he writes, “There is something much more important and scarce than ability: It is the ability to recognize ability. One of the primary responsibilities of a successful leader is to identify potential leaders. It’s not always an easy job, but it is critical.” 1 

Top 5 Qualities and Skills You Should Look for in Potential Leaders

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To develop this pipeline, one must identify potential leaders with both prerequisite qualities and prerequisite skills.


Some people are happy with their current job responsibilities and do not want to stretch into new roles. This means that some people will not want to be developed into leaders. Maxwell’s summary is relevant:

“Nurture all of your people, equip many. But develop only a few—the few who are ready and willing.” 2

Below are descriptions of the prerequisite qualities for potential leaders that should not just be nurtured or equipped, but also developed.

Good Character

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  1. John Maxwell, Developing the Leaders Around You: How to Help Others Reach Their Full Potential (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 37.
  2. Ibid.

To develop leaders, there must be buy-in from all levels of the organization. From the board of directors or elders down to the administrative support staff, everyone needs to believe in the importance of developing leaders. Besides support from people, there needs to be support from the systems and culture of the organization.

How to Develop Leaders by Using Your Key People and Organizational Culture

Photo Credit: Robert Sullivan


Board of Directors and Elders

To develop leaders in nonprofit organizations, Tom Adams says, “Top leadership commitment is the place to start.” 1 Within nonprofit organizations, top leadership is the board of directors. The board of a nonprofit holds more authority than any staff position in a nonprofit organization because the board is the governing arm that makes decisions about the CEO, key staff, budgets, and mission. Continue Reading…


  1. Tom Adams, The Nonprofit Leadership Transition and Development Guide (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010), 230.

Nonprofit organizations and churches are often understaffed and underfunded, resulting in over-worked mid-level managers. Most nonprofit managers and church pastors face the challenge of running a program, managing staff, providing monthly board reports, helping with various fundraising responsibilities, and last but not least, developing leaders within their staff. Sadly, all of the challenges nonprofit leaders face often prevent leadership development from occurring.

Why We Must Have Leadership Development in Nonprofits and Churches

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While developing leaders can yield the highest outcomes for employee productivity and improvement in the community, this area often gets put aside amongst other pressures because it does not provide immediate results. Investing in leadership development, whether financially or timely, “can feel like a luxury compared with investing in needs at the heart of a nonprofit charitable purpose, but failure to invest in leadership, as well as services, puts the entire mission at risk.” 1 Investments in leadership development for nonprofit and church staff must be made.


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  1. Kirk Kramer and Preeta Nayak, “A 5-Point Plan for Grooming Future Leaders,” Chronicle of Philanthropy 24, no. 14, June 28, 2012. Accessed May 14, 2015.