Leadership Development


Many are familiar with the Vince Lombardi quote, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made.” Then someone quipped, “Of course leaders are born. Then they are made.” Warren Bennis clarified it by writing,

The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born – that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.

In SIL’s 2019 Action Plan II the second initiative is, Be Healthy: Develop as a joyful and diverse community of people who learn and grow together. Under that, Results 2.2 is “Leaders at all levels of SIL are exhibiting SIL’s leadership values in how they lead people, and relate and respond to partners.”

The development of leaders is both Biblical and necessary for the effectiveness of SIL’s ministry and future. While much of this development is designed and engineered for staff in SIL, it is in no way limited to SIL’s staff. The content, processes, and technology is available to SIL’s partners and others.

A brief 3-verse description of one biblical leader is found at the end of Asaph’s summary of Israel’s history up to that point.

He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens;
from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.
” – Psalm 78:70-72 -NIV

In general, David is held up as a good – yet imperfect leader. Besides being chosen by God, the writer of this psalm focuses on two other characteristics. David had a heart of integrity and he had leadership skills. Much of David’s growth in leadership was developed and tested in the 15 or so years between the time when he was anointed, and when he was crowned.

Our approach to leadership development in SIL has four equally important aspects: The Picture, The Heart, The Hands, The Support.

The Picture

In order to provide a picture of what an ideal leader in SIL should look like, we have developed descriptions of Personal Attributes & Management/Leadership Competencies. The Personal Attributes (PAs) describe the values, attitudes, and frame of mind that we want to see in all SIL staff. These statements could start with “I am or I have….” The Management/Leadership Competencies (MLCs) describe the desired skills and abilities for leaders at various levels of responsibility in the organization. These statements could start with “I can or I do ….” You can find out more about the PAs & MLCs by going to this page.

The Heart

“And David shepherded them with integrity of heart.” Other translations use words such as pure heart, devoted heart, upright heart, true heart, and pure motives. As we consider moving people into leadership in SIL, demonstrated Christlike character should be the starting point. After that we want to support them in developing the desired mindset, values, and understanding that all leaders in SIL should have at this time in the organization. The 4 Pillars events launched in 2017 were designed to do that. The four pillars, or perspectives, are Spiritual Formation, Leadership Understanding, Organizational Awareness , and Missiological Alignment. Since that time a fifth perspective, Global Insights, was identified and will be added to the original four and together will be known as Leadership Pillars. More information can be found by going to this page.

The Hands

“…With skillful hands he led them.” In addition to the right character, mindset and values, new and developing leaders still need to learn discrete management and leadership skills beyond the focus on heart issues. Global HR has been tasked with designing a skills development plan. The plan includes looking at what other similar non-profit organizations are doing in the area of leadership development. Also, the plan needs to rely heavily on digital learning courses for the sake of meeting global needs within a realistic budget and time frame. The plan includes courses in Managing and Leading People, and Managing Projects and Programs. More information on those can be found on this page and this page respectively.

A list of courses to be developed has been created along with a draft two-year plan for new leaders, which is focused on Workday Level 4 leaders. After that is launched, multiyear learning plans will also be developed for leaders at other levels. More information about that will be posted to this site in the future.

The Support

In an attempt to ensure learning doesn’t just result in head knowledge without changed behavior,  most digital courses are designed to be followed up with implementation support from line managers, mentors, or coaches. Therefore, mentoring and coaching are recognized as the fourth essential element of leadership development. A new Director for Coaching & Mentoring has just begun in that role. You can read more about both coaching and mentoring on this page.