The gleaming promises of leadership development systems hinge on one vital question: do you have people on your volunteer teams or “sleepers” in your congregation who are ready to be groomed into leaders?

A system that helps you develop people into leaders in your church requires people who are ready to be developed. A system can’t work in a vacuum.

One of the things I pride myself on is finding great people for my teams. No matter what role I’m looking to fill, whether it’s finding a volunteer or hiring an employee, I always look for people with leadership traits.

When I started TrainedUp on my own in 2015, I had just enough money to pay myself a small salary. Over time, I worked with some solid contractors, but honed in on a couple guys that I believed had more to contribute than just the hours they worked. They had hidden traits that made them stand out from the rest. Today, they both run their own segments of the business, with little oversight from me, and they’re both doing a killer job.

The reality is that you, too, have people on your teams who have what it takes to lead, to work independently, and to take responsibility for whole ministry areas. Most are ready now to start the development process. They “get the vision” and they’re “bought in” or “sold out” to the mission.

The problem is, identifying those folks is hard. You can’t depend on intuition alone; your personal biases will absolutely impact your judgement. You can’t depend on false signals like likability, personality traits, or how long they’ve been a volunteer.

There are, however, a number of traits and signals that indicate when someone is ready to take a step toward leadership. These 12 traits are often overlooked, but I guarantee you’ll find people on your team that have them. Here are twelve traits of great future leaders.

1. They have a quiet faithfulness.

Let’s start with the most obvious one.

When someone is faithful to a ministry or to their specific role, they show up. They are ready to go and do whatever needs to be done. No excuses. Just showing up is 90% of the battle when moving someone toward leadership. If they don’t show up, that’s a no-go in my book.

2. They can independently solve problems.

Being able to solve problems, with sometimes complex or difficult issues, without constantly needing input or guidance…that’s a prime leadership trait. When they’re at the top of their ministry department, they’ll need to solve problems on their own, daily, without hand-holding from their superior.

3. They are self aware.

When a leader isn’t aware of their own thoughts and motivations, there’s a serious chance of danger. A self-aware leader will be able to maintain control over their emotions, understand their own motivations behind every interaction, and be in tune with the emotions of those around them.

4. They have a natural tendency to keep superiors looped in.

As a leader of leaders, you need people on your team who can proactively keep you informed about what’s happening in their ministry area. Constantly asking for updates will wear out any leader, especially with multiple reports.

5. They know when to ask for help.

While you want someone who can independently solve problems, you don’t want anyone who’s too prideful to ask for help. Leaders who tend to silo themselves often get into trouble, create rifts between ministry areas, and burn out eventually. There are appropriate times to ask for help as a leader.

6. They accept praise, but defer credit.

When there’s a win in their ministry area, a great leader is able to balance gracious acceptance of praise or congratulations with deference to their team’s success. Someone who can’t be congratulated usually has some underlying self-esteem issues. Someone who can’t recognize the investment from their team usually has an underlying pride issue.

7. They express gratitude regularly.

It’s vital in leadership to show gratitude often with your team. Not only does this show your team that they’re valued, but it shows that the leader is spiritually mature enough to see value in others.

8. They display an eagerness to improve their performance.

It’s common to desire for a leader to work with excellence, but that striving for excellence is often best displayed in working toward improvement in performance. Whether that’s growing their team, improving in their preparation for a role, or increasing their skills, a constant desire to improve performance will reverberate through the rest of the team.

9. They display curiosity about their role or ministry area.

Eagerness to improve is great. Eagerness to learn more about their role in order to improve is even better. It shows they don’t think they’ve arrived or they know it all…which they definitely don’t.

10. They work hard, but know how to balance.

You can’t promote someone who doesn’t work hard. But you also need to look for people who see value beyond hard work. Staying late should never be a measure of someone’s value to a team or commitment to a ministry. This also often shows a healthy understanding of balance in life.

11. They know the value of taking breaks.

Related to hard work, you want to find someone who can measure their own energy and take appropriate breaks when they need time away. Someone who waits until they’re on the verge of burnout is not good. That’s a recipe for a ticking time bomb.

12. They have proven to be great delegators.

Great leaders are great delegators. That doesn’t mean they slough off responsibility to other people. It means they’re aware of their own shortcomings, are able to find and recruit someone to do those things better, they equip that person, and then release them to take ownership of those things…all while being able to keep an eye on how those things are performing.

Your leadership development process needs the right people for the process to work. Identifying those people can sometimes feel like using a divining rod and hoping for the best. Take these traits into account as you consider who is right for the leadership development system and if it’s the right time for those people.

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