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Why Leadership Training Doesn’t Work

A few years ago, Leadership Training became all the rage in churches. Suddenly if you weren’t training leaders, you weren’t really accomplishing much. “Everyone is a leader, so everyone must be trained as a leader,” we were told.

We read all the leadership books, went to all the leadership seminars, and we worked every leadership mantra we came across into our sermons:

Everything rises and falls on leadership
Leaders are readers (Except for the illiterate ones)
Leaders never eat alone (Which means introverts aren’t leaders. Wait, everyone is a leader. Hmmm)

To make sure that all of the leaders that we had to train got a steady diet of these leadership nuggets, we began herding the sheep through a variety of leadership classes. Small group leader training, ministry leader training, team leader training, cheerleader training. (Maybe not cheerleaders) Everyone needed to go through our leadership classes.

Everyone’s a leader, so everyone must be trained. Our job is to do the training.

A couple of challenges have popped up, however, on the road to 100% trained leaders.

First, we discovered that maybe not EVERYONE is a leader. When we started our parade of leadership classes, the same somewhat dysfunctional people kept showing up. And the funny thing is that they were often the only ones who completed all 36 weeks of the Leadership Basic Training course we had so carefully crafted. At the end of the course, we would give them a graduation certificate, but there was no way on Earth we were going to trust them to lead anything.

It turns out some people don’t make good leaders. Not everyone is a leader.

The second, and bigger, discovery is that leadership classes don’t develop leaders. At the end of six weeks (or nine weeks or two years), students become graduates, not necessarily leaders.

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Geoff has served on the leadership teams at Seacoast Church and Saddleback Church, and as Managing Director of Exponential. He is the author of several books, including Together: A Guide for Couples in Ministry written with his wife Sherry. Along with writing, Geoff coaches churches and leaders around the U.S. and in Europe. Geoff lives in Denver, Colorado. Twitter: @geoffsurratt