Being a disciple is much like being an apprentice. An apprentice works with a skilled craftsman, learning the trade and becoming like the craftsman-mentor. A disciple of Jesus is, in a real sense, an apprentice, studying to become like Jesus. In this process, our task is to obey. The Holy Spirit, who creates in us the character of Jesus, does the transforming work in us. This is not merely an intellectual exercise, or one of gaining understanding about God. It is rather a relational exercise, in which we enter into intimacy with and become like God. It is all encompassing, affecting every aspect of our lives.
Continual growth as a disciple is important for how we influence others (lead), as well. When you are a weak disciple and influence others, you often do more harm than good. The stronger your discipleship, the more loving, Christ-like is your influence of others. You better build God's Kingdom here on earth.
Leadership can look good, but be without a foundation and ultimately empty. To be truly effective over a lifetime, leadership must be characterized by a strong likeness to Christ.
Dr. J. Robert Clinton has concluded, from his extensive study of leaders, that only one-third of all leaders finish well. That means there are many promising leaders who do not finish, finish poorly or finish just so-so. Part of finishing well means to maintain a personal, vibrant relationship with God right up to the end, to evidence Christ-likeness in character and to evidence in one's life the convictions and promises of God. These are all indications of becoming like Christ, of a strong disciple growing stronger. Strong discipleship is necessary if leadership is going to be solid for the whole length of the journey.
That's why Ascending Leaders emphasizes discipleship and character.
We see discipleship and leadership development, not as two very different endeavors as many people do, but rather as two sides of one continuum. Early on in one's Christian development, one's development is strong on the discipleship end. As one grows, the leadership (influencing others) development begins to grow. As that grows, the time spent on discipleship may decrease, but should never disappear!
Watch two participants talk about the discipleship and leadership development continuum after describing the power of the materials.