Proverbs 14:4 ESV
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
In agricultural Israel, an ox was a valuable asset. Doing the work of dozens of men in a single day, an ox could spell the difference between abundance and starvation, wealth and poverty.
Oxen do a lot of work. But they also take a lot of work. They must be trained from a young age to prevent bad habits from becoming permanent. They must be painstakingly taught to work together especially when tempted to butt heads or drift apart. They eat a lot and everything they eat comes out somewhere. Anyone who wants the strength of an ox needs to be willing to shovel that.
It’s the same for leaders and teams. Everyone wants strong performers in their team. Everyone wants high capacity leaders. But not everyone is willing to shovel dirt.
If you want strong leaders, you’re gonna have to train them. They’ll have good habits that you want to encourage. They’ll have bad habits that you’ll have to help them stop.
If you want strong leaders, you have to teach them to work together. Sometimes they’ll butt heads, sometimes they’ll drift apart, but they must be trained to work together.
If you want strong leaders, you have to feed them. Maybe they don’t eat a lot of grain, but they need encouragement, training, inspiration, and lots of correction. And whatever we feed them will determine how strong they are for the work.
And if you want strong leaders you’ll have to shovel a lot of dirt. These leaders will make mistakes. Their character flaws will cause you problems. They’ll get offended, struggle with sin, and cause relational dysfunctions. You will have to be willing to let them make mistakes, and patiently help them clean it up.
I’m thankful for the many mentors who have helped me clean up my mistakes. I can remember hours and hours of painful meetings as they confront me about a mistake, comment on my leadership, or correct the way I’m leading my marriage. This encourages me to bear with younger leaders’ mistakes as well.
Leadership development is simple: if we want strong leaders we must be willing to train them, unite them, feed them, and, quite often, shovel some dirt.