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Passing the Mantle By Lee Ellis

Christian Leadership AlliancePassing the Mantle:  Why is Developing Your Next Generation Leaders so Critical?

By Lee Ellis ~

With summer in full swing, this is a natural time to reflect on this year’s accomplishments and how we as leaders can continue to grow our teams and organizations into the fall season. So, let’s pause to think how to nurture and mature your next crop of leaders.

 Passing the Mantle

When speaking about my POW experience and the lessons learned there, a common question from the audience is how we chose our leaders in that situation. That’s a great question because the burden of leading in that cauldron was often painful, always unpredictable, and not a position that most people would want. Fortunately we didn’t have to compete or debate about who would take command; in remote situations like this, it’s clear military policy that the senior person (based on rank and date of promotion) takes charge and everyone else follows.

In normal conditions, the military is constantly training and grooming every person for higher leadership responsibilities to pass the mantle on to the next well-equipped leader. The heavy turnover from reassignment, separations, and mandatory retirement at the twenty- to thirty-year window makes succession planning a vital part of normal military planning and operations.

But many nonprofit organizations don’t see a pressing need, and many don’t have a system in place for developing and evaluating leaders. Do you have a vision for developing leaders? Do you see the need and are you willing to invest the time and energy in this process?

The Benefits of Nurturing Young Leaders

Developing leaders does take time and money, but it also has great short term benefits such as –

  • Having a built-in system for instilling the values and leadership principles that are important to you.
  • Building relationships in classes to enhance functional collaboration and break down silos.
  • Gaining better trained leaders at every level.
  • Creating higher morale and better retention among top performers.

Long term benefits are even more strategic because research shows that hiring from within is the way to go especially at higher levels. Developing your own pool of leaders from which to choose managers, directors and executives reduces your risks in several ways –

  • You’re maximizing “the known” and minimizing the “unknown” of hiring.
    • You know these folks and have seen them perform under stress.
  • They already know you and their working environment.
    • Ministry values and expectations
    • Ministry history
    • Members, donors, and community

Granted, there are times when you may need to bring in an outsider to stir the pot or tap into a resource you don’t have on board. But when you do, the risks go up.

A Quality Hiring Focus

Hiring is one of the most difficult challenges that leaders face. If you search the web, you’ll see that the estimates for the cost of a bad hire run from 30% of the individual’s salary to three times their annual salary. In some cases, it could be much more when you consider the energy lost to leadership teams and the opportunity loss of not having the right person on board.

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve been fortunate to work with some great organizations. The best ones usually put considerable effort and resources into developing their next generation of leaders at every level from first line supervisor to the executive level. What about your organization? Do you have a focus on growing your on leaders? What programs and processes do you have in place to make this happen? If so how will you evaluate it and if not, who will help you build and grow it? Remember, you must be diligent in planting and cultivating if you want a good harvest. When it comes to developing leaders, any season is a good time to think about planting.


As president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting company, Lee Ellis speaks and consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, leadership and human performance development, and succession planning. His new book, Engage with Honor: Building a Culture of Courageous Accountability, is available in September 2016. Learn more at

Make an investment in the life of emerging leaders by enrolling them  in the Outcomes365 Leadership Training experience. This is Christian Leadership Alliance‘s  yearlong program designed to equip a  leader for personal and operational leadership excellence. Participants engage in personal 1:1 development with an uniquely assigned mentor and gain professional skills though rigorous online and community experiences.

When you invest in a high-potential leader, you make your mark on the future!

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Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

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