We’d all agree that building leaders takes time. However, we might not all agree on the process. Let me give you one perspective that I learned in the military, and in my reading of Scripture.
During my military career, I received medals of commendation for service rendered. The official Letter of Commendation always included two elements: a brief description of why the member was noteworthy for a particular service rendered, and the start and end date of the service rendered.
These letters (accompanied by a medal) consistently ended with something along the lines:
“Chaplain Nichols’ personal initiative and unswerving devotion to duty reflected credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Air Force.”
Quite honestly, I never felt I had lived up to the highest traditions of the military. Notice however, there was no suggestion that my training was over. Rather, the commendation implied that I was simply on track in my leadership development.
In a similar light, the Apostle Paul gave two of his key leaders public commendations. I am speaking of Timothy and Titus.
They both labored as Paul’s co-workers (Rom. 16:21; 2 Cor. 8:23), and he had enough confidence in them to be his personal delegates (1 Cor. 4:17; 2 Cor. 12:18). Both served as capable evangelists in areas where false teachers had to be confronted and the local church more firmly established and organized (1 Tim. 1:2-3; Tit. 1:4-5).
However, it seems that Timothy needed elaborate commendations from Paul (1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10-11; Phil. 2:19-24; 1 Thess. 3:2), probably to help bolster his confidence and promote acceptance and respect. The Corinthians were instructed, “If Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear… let no one despise him” (1 Cor. 16:10-11). Timothy himself was urged, “Let no one despise your youth…” (1 Tim. 4:12), “Use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities” (1 Tim. 5:23); and “God has not given us a spirit of fear [timidity]… Therefore do not be ashamed …” (2 Tim. 1:7-8).
Titus, on the other hand, was apparently just the opposite. Titus did not need such detailed commendations.
As leaders, we must not only lead well, but ultimately raise up other leaders. This takes time. More importantly, it takes individualized consideration (empathy) to bring out the best in others.
It was expected that a military member would receive several commendation medals by the end of their career. In fact, if a member lacked a certain quantity of medals, his or her direct report was not doing their job.
The point is, leaders nurture and bring along other leaders. They commend them to others.
Whom in your family, or sphere of leadership influence, might you commend today? They do not need to be perfect, but they may need your commendation in order to continue toward building leadership confidence.
Dennis Nichols is Lead Faculty for the Master of Arts in Leadership degree at William Jessup University, Rocklin, CA.