Don’t Just Equip People… Help Them Develop!

In a recent article in Success From Home magazine, John Maxwell does an excellent job of explaining the very important leadership distinction between simply equipping people, verses developing people.  Maxwell states that,

When you equip people:

  • You teach them how to do a job.  If you show someone how to use a machine or some other device, that’s equipping them.  If you teach someone how to make a sale, that’s equipping them.  If you train them in departmental procedures, that’s equipping.  You should already be providing training to your people so that they know how to do their jobs.  Equipping should be a given (although I know that not all leaders do this well).

Development is different.  When you develop people:

  • You are helping them to improve as individuals.  You are helping them acquire personal qualities that will benefit them in many areas of life, not just their jobs.  When you help someone cultivate discipline or a positive attitude, that’s development.  When you teach someone to manage their time more effectively or improve their people skills, that’s development.  When you teach leadership, that’s development.

Many leaders do not have a developmental mindset:

  • These leaders expect their employees to take care of their developmental needs on their own.  What these leaders fail to realize, however, is that development always pays higher dividends than equipping because it helps the whole person and lifts him or her to a higher level.  Development is harder to do than equipping, but it is well worth the price.”


My personal experience validates that at least 90 percent, and probably 95 percent or higher of what most “leaders” think of and consider as “leadership” is actually equipping people rather than developing people.  As Maxwell states, “When you equip people, you teach them to do a job.  When you develop them, you are helping them improve as individuals.

Development always results in significantly higher dividends and a much greater return on investment for all concerned.  Much higher and for a much longer period of time!  That is why great leaders… highly successful leaders always focus far more on development than on equipping.  In fact, highly successful leaders reverse what most “leaders” do.  Great leaders spend 90 percent or more of their time on development verses equipping.  That is why they are great leaders!

What about you and your leadership?  How do you spend your time… and what is the focus of your leadership?  Equipping is important… but are you spending too much time just equipping?  Or, are you investing your time, effort and energy in a far more productive and valuable leadership activity?  That would be consistent personal development and consistently creating and providing developmental opportunities for the people with whom you are privileged to work and serve!

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I am a leader, speaker, and author who is passionate about Leadership Excellence and Achieiving Greater Success. I am the author of the books Be An Inspirational Leader(2016) and Presidential Leadership (2013), and deliver keynote presentations on those topics and several others.

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