The Second-Best Investment a Leader Can Make

Published February 22, 2018

Leaders are asked to make investments on a regular basis. We all are chasing infinite opportunities with finite resources. Here’s the kicker: like virtually all investments, the trade-offs are often unclear.

If we invest in a new facility, what will the return be really? Or if we use the same time, energy and effort to launch a new product or ministry offering, what’s the likely return on our investment? Often the answers are elusive.

I believe the best investment leaders can make is in their own growth, development and health.

I am reminded of this every time I board a plane.

Those who fly often know these lines well: “In the unlikely event we lose cabin pressure, oxygen masks will fall….PUT ON YOUR OWN MASK FIRST.

These instructions, and my recommendation regarding the priority of your growth, are both based in pragmatism. If you pass out or become entrenched in yesterday’s thinking, you can’t serve anyone. The best leaders understand this truth, and they invest in the oxygen of personal growth.

Have you ever considered the second-best investment you can make as a leader?

It’s investing in your people.

My suggestion is to invest well in your people. And I would start with your leaders.

Certainly everyone in your organization is of value and makes a valued contribution. But if you want to know where your best investment lies, look no further than the young leaders in your organization.

You will only go as far and as fast as your leaders can take you. Leaders are the indispensable ingredient of organizational health and vitality. Leaders create the culture and the future.

If you are willing to make the investment, here are four ideas to consider:

1) Give your leaders clarity on YOUR definition of leadership.

There are literally thousands of definitions out there. If you don’t choose one, emerging leaders will be flying blind as they try to develop something you’ve chosen to shroud in mystery.

2) Require every leader to have an annual development plan.

You may want to require this of everyone in your organization. However, if you haven’t yet set this expectation, begin with your leaders. The plan doesn’t have to be elaborate, and I wouldn’t suggest you use a template. Partner with every leader to be sure they have a growth target and a plan. Then, help them achieve it.

3) Provide candid feedback along their development journey.

A do-it-yourself leadership development culture can quickly become a disaster. Only in the presence of clear expectations and an authentic performance assessment can you evaluate the progress of a young leader.

4) Be intentional with job and project assignments.

Choose an emerging or junior leader from your organization and consider what you want them to accomplish in the next decade of their life. What experiences would you want them to have successfully navigated? Without these considerations, real gaps can emerge late in someone’s career.

Choosing to invest in young leaders will pay huge dividends for your organization.

Some theologians believe many of Jesus’ disciples were very young, possibly even teenagers. It is plausible from inferences and deductive reasoning applied to the Scriptures; it also makes sense from a leadership point-of-view.

I can imagine Jesus considering His options for building a global organization capable of withstanding all that hell could throw against it. As He pondered his staffing plan, He would be faced with the question, “Whom should I entrust with the future of the Gospel?”

I can easily see and understand why He might have chosen young leaders.

What’s your plan? How will you steward the Good News in our generation?

My plan is to invest in young leaders.

Will you join me?

About the Author(s)
Mark Miller

Mark Miller

Vice President of High-Performance Leadership


Mark Miller is a business leader, international best-selling author and storyteller. He currently serves as Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A, Inc. As an author, he now has over one million books in print including The Heart of Leadership, Chess Not Checkers , and his latest, Win Every Day, to be released in March 2020. Over the years, Mark has spoken to countless groups around the world—his message is consistent with his calling: He wants to encourage and equip leaders to change their world. Learn more at