Cru’s Senior Leader Initiative for Emerging Leaders
In January 2004, we sat quietly, sobered by reality. Current U.S. leaders in Cru, in their mid to late 50s, had no obvious successors or succession plans. Leaders with potential to qualify didn’t have the organizational leadership experience to lead nationally. They had no ministry or leadership experience outside of their local ministry, and no ways to test their experience and assumptions in a wider context.
This realization led to the birth of Cru’s Senior Leader Initiative (SLI).
Fast forward, 12 years later — a meeting room in Los Angeles was full and buzzing as we awaited the recommendations of SLI’s “Action Learning Project” teams. These teams, from the sixth cohort of SLI, were distilling several months of work into a 15-minute presentation on recommended changes.
As I looked around, I saw…
- Emerging leaders who applied for and said yes to the opportunity to give 15 percent of their time to this two-year program, including covering their own travel expenses
- Supervisors and national ministry directors who recommended them and approved the time commitment away from current ministry responsibilities
- Outside coaches, marketplace leaders who committed to twice monthly coaching calls, and two face-to-face visits, to coach participants through the program. Some were present, others were online watching a livestream of the presentations
- Top ministry leaders who entrusted strategic work to younger leaders and opened up to learn from younger leaders what needed to change
- The design team for SLI that diligently worked for continuous improvement from cohort to cohort
- SLI alumni who served as internal coaches giving feedback from assessments and action learning
As their presentations unfolded, we realized we were harvesting the fruit from our risk to bring new methods of learning, action learning and coaching into our culture.
So, what has happened in those 12 years? Back in 2004, we discovered that while we were effective in developing local team leaders, we weren’t preparing leaders for organizational leadership. The Senior Leader Initiative was born to accelerate that development. (Senior was chosen to cover multiple titles for local and national leaders.)
We asked ourselves, “how could we better prepare effective local leaders with potential for broader leadership for future next level assignments?” The answer to that question was a two-year modular approach combining experiential learning, content, storytelling, coaching, assignments, assessments, feedback and development plans. We read, canvassed our networks, enlisted help from friends and developed a preliminary plan with a launch date of 2005 at our U.S. staff conference and a “graduation” set for Cru’s U.S. staff conference in 2007.
Prior to graduation of our first SLI cohort in 2007, we had to decide if we would go ahead with a second cohort. Given our experience, we knew we were on the right track and committed to it. We prayed like crazy. We worked out our communication gaps. The improvement cycle really kicked in. We adjusted, with better agreements, greater understanding and more commitment to get this initiative working for all concerned. With each cohort, our commitment to continuous improvement resulted in better leadership development. As participants returned to the field, their development became the biggest selling point.
Twenty five percent of the SLI is committed to Action Learning Projects. Ministry leaders serve as project sponsors, chartering an action learning team (participants from different ministries) to pursue solutions for strategic problems standing in the way of our vision and mission. These projects aren’t busywork; they have to be substantive. They can’t be projects being worked on by someone else. Those are the recommendations that we were waiting to hear in that room in Los Angeles.
Somewhere along the way, Cru’s President Steve Douglass casually endorsed the action learning projects he had seen. In a few words, he introduced the idea in a global meeting. The following year, two leaders from that meeting launched similar emerging leader initiatives in Africa and South America. As they joyfully shared the results with their colleagues, others followed suit and began regional initiatives.
Today, emerging leader initiatives are part of Cru’s culture around the world. To date in the U.S., we’ve seen about 125 leaders matriculate through this program with 60 percent moving into wider leadership roles.
On that day last year in Los Angeles, the buzz in the room was a happy sound to me. That sobering reality we encountered in 2004 is changing!
Andrea Buczynski has been a staff member with Campus Crusade for Christ (CCCI) since 1977. She currently serves as CCCI vice president for global leadership development. This post is an excerpt from her article in Outcomes magazine, Spring 2017.
Don’t miss you opportunity to invest in an emerging leader. Give someone the gift of professional development, networking, spiritual inspiration, and personal encouragement. Register today for to The Outcomes Conference, April 4-6, 2017 in Dallas TX and bring a younger leader with you!