I’ve been attending a 3DM Learning Community this week in Pawleys Island, South Carolina with the Mission Alive team. The theme of this particular 4-day immersion is “Multiplying Missional Leaders” (see their book by this title).
3DM’s credentials for leadership development: 30+ years of experience and provenness in the post-Christian context of Western Europe. Hundreds of thousands of disciples made. Thousands of missional communities formed. Global missional movement seen. That kind of thing doesn’t happen without a leadership development engine (and the Holy Spirit, of course!).
It’s some of the best stuff I’ve seen on leadership development, particularly because of 3DM’s ability to overlay several lenses on leadership in the same setting. The synergy of all those lenses together is powerful.
The fundamental process for multiplying missional leaders is what they call the “Leadership Pipeline.” Jesus seemed to have one; Paul seemed to have one, too. The main question of this immersion experience is: do you have one?
The Leadership Pipeline has four basic stages.
3DM offers three incisive filters for discernment, in order of priority: 1) Character (interior life). 2) Competency (exterior skill). 3) Strategy (the ability to lead at least 50 people, called an “L50” leader).
My takeaway: people I choose to invest in have to pass these three filters (to a certain degree) before I invest in them. In Neil Cole’s words: invest in provenness, not potential.
2. Train. The basic framework for training is the Learning Triangle: From Information to Imitation to Innovation.
My takeaway: most leadership development gives information and then releases leaders to innovate without a proper season of imitation. Sharing life in spiritual family with leaders in training is critical to their development, namely because it gives them access to our lives so they can imitate them — which is daunting! Is my life worth imitating?
3. Deploy. This is sending leaders out to give it a shot. First, it entails sending them out in safe environments where winning and losing don’t matter and giving them a chance to fail. Then it involves sending them out into their own ministry.
My takeaway: create spaces in my community where leaders can fail and it’s not only okay, it’s encouraged! Give them chances to practice when there is much less at stake if they fail.
4. Review. The Review Stage reflects the important vacillation between reflection and action. We can’t learn from our mistakes and victories unless we debrief with our mentors and tune into what God was teaching us. The basic tool for this stage is the Learning Circle, which helps leaders answer two questions: What is God saying? And What am I going to do about it?
My takeaway: make space to debrief with leaders I’m investing in! I find this stage easy to omit.
5. Repeat Train, Deploy, and Review again and again. The 3DM team has said repeatedly: this is not a linear process. Developing leaders continually cycle through training, deployment and review. It made me ask myself, Am I continuing to go through this cycle as I develop as a leader?
Doug Paul described a great example of the Leadership Pipeline in action. Consider a Men’s NCAA Basketball Team. Players are recruited based on their competency and asked to join the team (Recruit). The team practices several days a week together (Train). They scrimmage and compete against each other (Deploy in a safe environment). The team then plays games where they win or lose (Deploy when the stakes are higher). After their games they debrief about what went well and how they can improve in the future (Review). Then the team returns to practice (Train), scrimmages (Deploy – safe), plays games (Deploy – higher stakes), and debriefs (Review) again and again until hopefully they win the NCAA Tournament together (Deploy – highest stakes). The byproduct of such a process is a deep bond or sense of family — what Alan Hirsch calls “communitas” and what 3DM calls “oikos” (a New Testament word for family or household).
Leaders also need a “vehicle” (or structure) to drive through the pipeline. For 3DM, that flotation device is called a Huddle, a group of 3-8 people who gather together regularly to answer the Learning Circle questions (What is God saying to me? What am I going to do about it?). Each stage of the Pipeline can be facilitated out of the Huddle setting.
What grabs your attention about the Leadership Pipeline?
How do you see these leadership development stages in your own work or ministry?
Join the conversation!