Teaching and Innovating

By Chad Hershberger

Occasionally on these Friday posts we explore different qualities of good leaders. In this post, we look at how good leaders are both teachers and innovators.


Part of being a leader, I think, is being a teacher. As someone who leads others, you need to use teachable moments to get the best out of those who follow you. In fact, Jesus frequently used the unplanned experiences he encountered to draw out spiritual wisdom and reflection. This ability to observe life and then to get people to consider the deeper meanings of situations is a powerful way to teach and guide.

Shared activities when you engage your followers become an avenue for reflection and seeking wisdom. Planned programs are certainly beneficial; however, some of the most powerful learning will happen in those moments that are not part of a curriculum. Teachable moments are spontaneous. These teaching opportunities are not predictable and can occur any time, perhaps when discoveries are made, when differences of opinions are voiced, or possibly after a failure.

When teaching a new skill, be patient, understanding and friendly. Being supportive of your followers while teaching them is also important. One model that works effectively is based on the acronym “EDGE.” First, you explain or do. Then you demonstrate, showing the staff as they help. Then you guide, having staff do something and you watch. Finally, you enable, as staff do and someone else watches.

As much as you are a teacher, it is good learn to be a student as well. Learn from your students. Great leaders are always willing to admit mistakes, listen to their supervisees’ feedback, and learn better ways of helping their team achieve its goals.


As a leader, you should be creative and be willing to take the first steps to do new things or get the group going. Leaders also take initiative. They look for ways to add creative twists to the program by asking the questions, “What do people expect?” and “How can we mess it up?” An innovator is also a visionary, foresees new ideas and helping them come to fruition; also seeing an impending crisis and trying to avert it if possible.

In the Bible, Deborah is a model for us as a leader who seizes the moment. Read Judges 4. Here are some questions to consider:

  • How do you explain the different reactions of Deborah and Barak to their crisis?
  • What gave Deborah her ability to act decisively?
  • What kind of forces and people threaten your life, the life of your family, the life of your congregation, the life of your community? Do you have a partner to help you overcome these forces?
  • How does your relationship work? Who is responsible for what?