5 Questions to Gauge Leadership Capacity

By Guest Contributor April 10, 2014

By: Joel Mayward

I once spoke with a youth ministry friend whose job was under probation. He clearly was anxious. This evaluation was not due to sin issues, lack of ministry passion, or complaining parents or teenagers. The issue, as explained by his superiors, was this: “Attendance is down in your program, so we’re unsure about your leadership capacity. You may have reached the maximum level of your leadership.”

What they meant was, “The crowds aren’t as big as they once were. The program doesn’t feel as cool or engaging. Maybe you aren’t a good leader.”

This wasn’t the healthiest means of leadership evaluation. It failed to truly evaluate my friend or position him for success. He became less focused on his personal development and growth. And he watched his fluctuating attendance like a hospital monitor plugged into his ministry. If attendance ever flat-lined, his job was over.

How do you measure leadership capacity?

Does successful ministry leadership mean attracting bigger crowds? Appearing hip, trendy, and cool? Growing a social media presence? Giving passionate talks? Is it possible to discern a person’s maximum level of leadership? That makes it sound like ministry a role-playing game, and we’re merely trying to “level up” as leaders.

I believe we can measure leadership capacity, but it’s not determined by program attendance. Our analyses should be more qualitative than quantitative. Here are five questions to better evaluate leadership capacity:

1. Self-differentiation: Who am I as a leader?

Edwin Friedman’s book A Failure of Nerve unpacks this concept: “Self-differentiation is the capacity to be one’s own integrated aggregate-of-cells person while still belonging to, or being able to relate to, a larger colony.” Self-differentiation proposes that one’s personal identity and emotional capacity have far more impact than tools or strategies. Knowing your own DNA and having a healthy sense of self gives you the patience and emotional wherewithal to handle the fast-paced and emotionally distressing conflicts of leadership. Before asking, “How can I fix this problem in the quickest way possible?” a leader first must ask, “Who am I, really?”

2. Character over Personality: How am I growing in Christlikeness?

Personality consists of the unique parts of who you are—the stuff of personality quizzes. It’s your hobbies, your temperament, your likes and dislikes. Character, on the other hand, is built around biblical values—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control. Don’t get me wrong: prioritizing personality is not inherently bad or unhealthy. But leaders get in trouble when they build a ministry solely around their personality and not their character.

3. Trust: How am I building relational equity?

Picture your ministry relationships as bank accounts. You can make deposits or withdrawals of time and energy into each relationship. This isn’t about spending time with a person just to get something back. It’s simply a tool to evaluate your relationships with fellow human beings. Take a minute to list the specific leadership relationships you have at your church. How much relational equity have you deposited into each of these accounts? How much quality time have you spent with each person?

4. Collaboration: Who am I leading with?

Instead of trying to control or lead in every arena of ministry, you can expand your leadership capacity by doing ministry as a team. Think about those who surround you: other pastors, key volunteers, parents, or fellow youth workers. They all have different gifts, passions, and resources for collaboration. Lone-wolf leadership is limiting and unbiblical. Look for gospel partners to lock arms with for the long haul.

5. Tools and techniques: How can I equip others and myself?

After asking the first four questions, you can finally fill your ministry toolbox. So often in leadership, we begin by asking, What program or tool can fix my problem? But with God’s guiding Spirit, his word as a source for truth and wisdom, and the presence of Christian community as gospel partners, you’re already well equipped. Reading books, attending conferences and seminars, or scanning leadership blogs shouldn’t define our leadership. They’re the icing on the cake as we lead others in the name of Jesus.

In Romans 15:13, Paul writes, “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” That’s the kind of capacity we need as leaders—all because we trust in Jesus, the one who graciously provides. Now that’s a leadership standard I can get behind.


About the Author

Guest Contributor

The LeaderTreks Blog is proud to share the hard-earned wisdom of student ministry leaders from many different backgrounds and professions. From time to time, we will feature guest blog posts from writers other than our regular contributors. We include these posts to provide additional perspectives and insight that we’re sure will help develop you and your ministry…  Read More