I love living in a small community. The pace of life is laid back, the people are friendly, and there is more of a sense of community. That does not mean that we are without our problems and stresses, however. There is a lack of privacy as everyone seems to know everyone else’s business, having to drive longer distances for shopping and entertainment choices, and a smaller pool of human resources to draw upon for businesses and civic organizations to name a few. That smaller human resource pool can pose a real leadership challenge.
Leaders in larger communities have an easier time finding people who already have leadership qualities and experience. As a result, leaders in larger communities may not need to be as skilled in leadership development as leaders in smaller communities. For those of us living in a small community, it is imperative that we become experts at leadership development because there simply are not enough experienced leaders to draw from. Leadership development is extremely important yet it is a skill that is often neglected or missing from a leader’s toolbox.
It has been my experience in small town living that far too often leadership teams are chosen using the “breathing and willing” method. If a person is breathing and willing to help they are put into leadership positions whether they are qualified or not. No leadership training is provided, it is sink or swim. As a result, the organization experiences a constant turnover of leaders as new leaders take off like rockets only to burn out after two or three years as they hit the lid of their leadership ability.
Another method used in selecting leaders, especially in churches and civic organizations, is the “longevity” method. Whoever has lived in the community or been part of the organization the longest is put into a position of leadership, as if longevity somehow automatically qualifies a person for leadership.
Whether you are trying to build a management team for a Fortune 500 company, leaders for a small town civic group, or developing student leaders in your school, there are some basic principles of leadership development that all leaders can learn and benefit from. Building strong leaders begins with selecting strong leadership candidates. To do that I recommend using the “FAT” test.
“FAT” is an acronym that stands for three core character qualities to look for in a leadership candidate. Before investing your time and energy in developing a leader ask yourself, “Are they FAT?”
F stands for Faithful. Is this person faithful? Do they follow through when they say they will do something? Can you trust their word? Is this the type of person who, when they say they will do something, you are confident that it will get done, or do you have to constantly keep on them to finish the task?
Leaders must be people you can trust. They must follow through on their commitments. If you cannot answer a confident “yes” to the question, “Are they faithful?” then stop right there. Do not even consider a person for leadership unless you are confident in their faithfulness. You will save yourself and your organization a lot of trouble and heart ache if you move on to someone else. Faithfulness is a prerequisite to good leadership.
In my next post I will address the other two characteristics of the FAT test. They are “available” and “teachable.”