knowledge is power.

One thing that’s always fascinated me to wonder about is how much Jesus knew and when He knew it about His disciples. The most obvious question was, did Jesus, as 100% God, have foreknowledge of what Judas would do to Him? Can you imagine walking around and living in intimate community for three years with a dude that you knew was going to sell you out to death for cash? How about the other disciples, who did and said stupid thing after stupid thing to and around Jesus for three years? Did He know that? Why not try to fix it? Why not call them out on it? Especially Judas?

It makes me think about some of the lessons I’ve learned in leadership development over the past few years. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is this one:

In leadership development, information is only as powerful as how you use it.

At any given time, I’ve got bukoo amounts of information about various people that I know both because other people have either felt led to share those things with me or because they might just have a predisposition to gossip. But regardless of how I hear information, the onus is really on me as the leader or mentor to know how and when to use that information in the best possible way, if ever, to leverage the greatest amount of impact.

One of the 10-or-so useful/memorable phrases I learned in seminary (which means they each cost me about $4,000), was “everything is information”. That one, in fact, may have been well-worth my $4k. I’ve used it a lot in my own interactions with people and have passed it on (at a much cheaper rate) to others to use in their own leadership environments. The general idea is this: everything that you witness or hear about someone is information that helps you build an increasingly-accurate and more complete model of that person in your mind and, given enough time, probably one that’s more accurate and complete than that person’s own model of themselves.

Regardless of when Jesus knew what about all of His disciples, I think we could probably agree that he knew them much better than they knew themselves and He used that to help mold them into the kind of leaders that they were called to be, even if his methods were too subtle for they (or even the Gospel writers) to recognize. Because the transformation of a rag-tag, poorly-comprehending group of followers to some of the most bold leaders the Church has ever seen did not just happen with Pentecost – they were also formed purposely for three years under Jesus Himself.

So I think the challenge for those of us who seek to raise up leaders is this: don’t over-react, don’t leave your mouth gaping when you hear things about your leaders or future leaders, don’t run to them immediately to confront them – take your time, spend some time in prayer and meditation. Then use all of the information you’ve picked up in a productive way – in a way that actually creates change in the heart of the future leader instead of just guilt and distance between you and them.

And recognize that this will take more of you than you expect. There’s a reason not many people do leadership development this way – that most leaders don’t raise up leaders that meet/exceed their skillset: doing leadership this way requires you to contain explosions, not take revenge, not gossip, not be admired for your ability to obtain information, not repay pain with pain (which we all secretly love to do) – to be more Clara Barton than Rambo.

Bottom Line: If your model for leadership development doesn’t cause you some major sacrifice and the storage of huge amounts of yet-to-be-used information, you’re probably not doing it right.