I’ve been struggling with this thought for awhile and decided to throw it out there to you guys: can a leader develop a greater capacity to lead. Let’s start with a dictionary definition of capacity:

Actual or potential ability to perform, yield, or withstand

From my perspective, capacity refers a persons leadership ability and stamina. It answers questions like: How much can the person handle? How many people can they oversee and delegate responsibility to? How much can they work and maintain a healthy balance in life and ministry? How hard can the person work? Leadership capacity is almost difficult to explain.

But each of us knows when we see a person with great leadership capacity. They have the actual ability to perform, and they perform well. However, a lot of people appear to have the potential ability to perform but do not have the capacity. Can their capacity be developed? Can they become a high capacity leader? Or, is this something that is innate – you can’t get better or worse. You are who you are.

Would love your feedback and insight.



  1. anne jackson on Monday 27, 2009

    i think capacity is subjective…as a hard core introvert, i do not have a high capacity for managing large groups of people or heck, even working with groups of people for any length of time. :) in a stereotypical leadership role, well, that doesn’t work out so great.

    however, i realize i have a high capacity for empathy. i can sometimes read and feel people out before they even know what’s going on. and that well never seems to run dry.

    so…i think it just depends on how you define capacity. and leadership for that matter.

  2. Miles on Monday 27, 2009

    The Parable of the Talents comes to mind (Matt. 25:14-30). I think Leadership and the capacity for leadership is a gift that is given and can be taken away by God just as we see the talents here. v. 21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.’”

    Was that’s servants capacity increased right there? I think so! As we are faithful in the leadership opportunities God gives us, we will grow, and he will give us more opportunities. Through our growth in the process, He will stretch us each time and when we prove faithful he will increase our capacity for more.

  3. Josh on Monday 27, 2009

    Interesting – that’s where my thoughts started. I also think that great faith = greater capacity. Awesome thoughts!

  4. Josh on Monday 27, 2009

    Wow – that’s a great thought. I have low empathy, so I think that a key is that you need a balance of leadership personalities for a healthy team. But, I often only value my “style.” That’s hurting all teams – not just ones in the church. Great thoughts! Thanks.

  5. David Lyons on Monday 27, 2009

    JW,
    Great questions bro – I think they’ve been pondered for years… my two cents:

    Capacity – in a literal sense, I don’t think capacity can be increased. Capacity is, per the definition, that person’s potential. I immediately think of a washing machine (yeah, crazy I know – with 3 kids, I wash a lot of clothes). That washing machine’s capacity is limited to the size of the tub regardless of what I do… its capacity cannot be increased. Now, it’s not near as productive or efficient if I don’t fill it up, but there’s nothing that can be done to increase its capacity.

    I believe leadership capacity is similar – but only in the general sense mentioned above. As Anne stated, capacity is quite subjective to the specific areas in question. Creativity, delegation, vision, empathy, problem solving, administration are just a few of the areas to measure one’s capacity.

    These are some of the areas on which we focus when consulting with church clients – determining the specific requirements NEEDED for each leadership position, then specifying the actual experience verses potential (capacity) the prospective leader has.

    There is so much to this, but a few other points:
    -Unfortunately, people don’t come with a small, medium, large capacity labels as washing machines, so determining their capacity is quite challenging. We’ve yet to find a tool, other than their leadership history, to prove that out (and past performance doesn’t always predict future performance – (several years back Hybels interviewed a Harvard dude who spoke to that)).
    -I’m interested to know how you’d answer these questions – In what ways does someone “appear” to have the potential ability? How do we measure their potential? – Great questions to ask – I have my thoughts on those but will save for another time.
    -If you do have a leader with “high capacity,” you’ve only just begun. They have to be taught, trained, coached, developed… over and over again – Look at professional athletes – millions of dollars are spent drafting “potential” – but how many of them actually become all-stars or pro-bowlers? Professional sports organizations have incredible “farm” systems and training resources to maximize their team potential, but still, many don’t make it.

    So, I think our role is to first understand the VERY specific needs (competencies) for each leadership role, then develop the most productive tools to identify leadership potential, experience, ability, and capacity. And then, create a strategy to develop those very things to best fit the leadership position and the organization.

    Great topic – btw, you just helped with my newest blog.

    Peace and love!

  6. [...] Leadership Development: Capacity (RT) @joshuawhitehead – XP of @FaithPromise Church in Knoxville just posted an interesting set of questions. His post http://www.joshwhitehead.net/2009/07/27/leadership-development-capacity/ : [...]

  7. julie on Monday 27, 2009

    OK I didn’t read all the comments so I may be repeating, but I have a lot of thoughts. First response to the question was that of intellingence vs knowledge. If intelligence is our potential to learn and integrate but means nothing with actually doing the work to gain the knowledge in the first place. So in this scenario capacity and intelligence go hand-a somewhat finite potential but with a vast spectrum of development. but then I go back to all my physiology and realize that I have an aerobic/exercise/ etc capacity that can be developed and increased with training. So does training one’s leadership skills improve the capacity or “exercise tolerance” for them. I would venture…yes. Now let’s consider leadership as a spiritual gift and all bets are off. Because sorry when it comes down to all we can do is reach a glass ceiling with anything we develop in our lives. Yes there is an immense difference as to where this ceiling is with each individual and with aspect within that individual but to add the Holy Spirit into the equation only goes to shatter the ceiling. So yes I think leadership SKILLS can be developed and enhanced but leadership qualities and charisma that goes along with it are either completely given or exaggerated greatly by God. Case in point, down the hall from you is this guy name Chris Stephens. Great leader, very charismatic but you can’t tell me that a large part of that isn’t the Holy Spirit that he allows to work through him and be a part of him. Did i go on long enough, because I can keep going……

  8. Chris Hill on Monday 27, 2009

    I believe your “great faith = greater capacity” equation is right on. We see it with the apostles asking Jesus to increase their faith in the book of Luke. As their faith increased, so did their capacity to lead. That may not make sense logically speaking or by definition. However if we belive that we are beings, supernatually transformed by the power of our Heavenly Father for His Glory, then we can trust that our capacity for anything can indeed increase.

    btw…I really don’t like doing laundry. Yet, another reason I’m glad I’m not a washing machine. ;)

  9. Nathan on Monday 27, 2009

    One must have a desire to lead. Regardless of the position they hold or the life they live, having a desire to lead will allow them to lead! Faith does not come easy, it is a constant battle, something we must seek after each and every day, so is our ability to lead, we must constantly work on it. As far as a limited capacity, I believe John Maxwell would say yes, based on his work he talks of the “law of the lid.” I believe we all have potential, but we are not all the same. If we were then there would be to many bosses and not enough workers!

  10. [...] XP of @FaithPromise Church in Knoxville just posted an interesting set of questions. His post http://www.joshwhitehead.net/2009/07/27/leadership-development-capacity/ [...]



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