I believe that Jesus is the Ultimate Leader Developer. He chose ordinary, uneducated men (according to Acts 4:13) and they turned the world upside down because “they had been with Jesus.”
I love what Gunter Krallman says, “On the basis of such ‘with-ness’ Jesus generated a dynamic process of life-transference which was meant to foster holistic maturity in his friends and to facilitate them towards effective leadership at the same time. While being trained to follow, they were actually groomed to lead. In fact Jesus Christ never saw reason to draw clear distinction between discipling and leadership development.”
Perhaps you are thinking, “Sure, but he was JESUS. He was God in the flesh. He was…” Don’t discount his humanity to such a degree that you fail to see that He was also our example as well as our Savior.
Having covered my theological bases, lets look at Barnabas as a lesser-known and lesser-understood leader-developer. What principles can be drawn from his life that you can immediately apply to your leadership and coaching practice.
He walked alongside others.
“Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:36-37 ESV).
We are introduced to Barnabas in Acts 4 where he is called “the son of encouragement.” The Greek word there is the same as Jesus used describing the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who would be a guide to the Apostles. Similarly, Barnabas was marked as one who came alongside others.
Who has walked with you in key times of life or work? What was significant about their relationship at that time?
He took risks.
“And they were all afraid of him [Paul], for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles” (Acts 9:26-27 ESV).
He was willing to do and say what others were afraid to. Too often we fear walking in uncharted waters, or hurting someone’s feelings, or their response to direct communication. Developing others takes courage to act and speak in ways that others have avoided.
How have you avoided taking such risks in the past? What would speaking the truth in love look like in those situations? How would you coach others around risk-taking?
“And they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord (Acts 11:23-24 ESV)”.
He saw where God was at work.
He was probably looking for it. Leaders need feedback and constructive criticism. They also need you to see where there is growth, progress, and accomplishment. In all my years of working with leaders, I have never met one who was over-encouraged. Never has someone said, “Bryan, I have been so overwhelmed with encouragement from others that I don’t need any more. Thanks anyway.”
When coaching others, how can you have eyes of grace to see where God is at work? How can you help others see God’s grace?
He was clear on his message.
He challenged them to remain faithful to the Lord and faithful to their purpose. It has been said that a good coach is one who holds the vision of another, and whispers it back to them when they forget. Leaders often get so focused that they forget the bigger picture. “Remain true to the Lord. Stay the course he has called you to.” Can you ever hear that too much?
How can you keep the bigger picture in view with your clients? How can you help them keep the vision clear for those they are leading?
He was a model.
Poet Edgar Guest noted Barnabas’s character, his dependence, and his faith. He was not perfect, but he was worth following.
“And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I’d rather get my lessons
by observing what you do;
For I might misunderstand you
and the high advice you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding
how you act and how you live.”
Who are your clients wanting to become? How are they leading from BEing rather than DOing?
He was humble.
Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11-15 ESV)
Barnabas was the leader. Paul was the follower. In time, as Paul developed in his leadership, Barnabas was humble and able to follow. Notice the transition in chapter 14 and the change in chapter 15 to “Paul and Barnabas.” As a leader-developer, Barnabas was glad to see others succeed and prosper. As John Piper said, “If you are not planning your succession, you are planning your enshrinement.”
How would humility affect your clients relationships?
He was patient
Acts 15:36-40 ESV
“And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus” (v. 39).
Two friends, Paul and Barnabas, have a bitter disagreement over whether Mark should join them. Who was right? Could it be both?
Paul did not want to put up with Mark who had deserted them before. Barnabas saw potential. Paul looked at Mark and said, “He’s not ready” and he was right. Barnabas looked at Mark and thought, “I can get him ready.”
Some time later Paul tells Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” What happened between Acts 15 and Paul’s second letter to Timothy?
When developing others, there is much to learn and follow by looking at one of the lesser-known leaders in Scripture. God greatly used the Apostle Paul, including writing 13 books of the New Testament. God greatly used Mark, including writing one of the four gospels. We often overlook Barnabas who was the leader-developer who was a catalyst for their roles in the Church.
When does a leader need to “cut bait” and move on? When does a leader need to be patient and develop those around him? How would you coach someone around this critical leadership issue?