The Path to the Peak: The Four Stages of Leadership Growth

We as Coloradoans understand peaks, for we see them every day!  We have an amazing 53 fourteeners here in our great state. Any of you who have hiked know of the different stages of hiking.  For us to climb to our leadership peak, we need to understand the path that God has us on to reach the summit.  Our goal is to help you navigate from trailhead to summit the different stages that you’ll come across and pressing on well.

  1. The Trailhead: You are pumped, at the trailhead ready to climb. The initial stage.
    • Characteristics: grateful to be asked to serve; enthusiastic, passionate, energetic, ready to go! You’re at the trailhead, looking forward to the summit, ready to tackle it.  You feel ready, backpack loaded with all you need.  You feel you’re to tackle the world for Jesus, so you become involved in many different lanes.
    • Initially, it’s positive for church! More people ready to go with us on the trail is always a plus. Being around people for whom this is the first trek helps the church see everything with fresh eyes again. Injects new life, energy, and ideas.  Encouraging to the church.
    • Relatively short-lived.
      • Some like what they see and how they see it; newbies on the trail are annoying. They have their routine—so don’t mess it up.
      • Some try to do too much too fast. They become weary and burnout and don’t feel they can keep up. This can lead to the next stageImportant to note on the Find Your Lane results. You’ll have some Trailhead/Pumped folks ready to conquer the summit right away.


  1. The hard ascent: The pressure  Your legs are wobbly, the air is thin, your water is gone–and there’s so much ahead of you.  Is there any point in going on?
    • Characteristics: Discouragement; disillusionment; making little (real or perceived) progress; ready to be done (if it’s your first go-round).
      • Outside: The trail is getting steeper. Rocks and obstacles are more prevalent. The air is getting thinner, making it hard to breathe.
      • You haven’t paced yourself well. It all seemed so smooth in your mind, but the reality of the journey set in.
    • “Unlike many fourteeners, the treeless peaks of Grays and Torreys are visible from the outset. But as we ascend, the mountains don’t appear to be getting any closer. They are, I decide, mocking me. But I am undeterred. We continue upward, the sun warming our backs on the wide-open trail. We curve left, then right, and back again as the grass-lined route undulates through the postcard-worthy valley. At the trail junction about two miles in—where hikers can choose to tackle Grays first or Torreys—we stop to rest, snack, hydrate, and de-layer. The summits still look painfully far away, but I am feeling good—enjoying myself even. Most of our fellow peak baggers—we are joined by a few hundred other hikers, though the trail never feels too crowded—head left toward Grays, so we venture right, putting Torreys squarely in our sights. Using rocks as stepping stones, we follow cairns to the saddle, which lies about 500 feet from the summit of Torreys. It is here, after spotting a family of mountain goats precariously balanced just off the path, that I notice a distinct change. The mountaintop looms large, but I’m losing my drive. I’ve consumed more than a liter of water, yet I notice a light throbbing in my head. I suddenly feel a little weak, sluggish. I know immediately I’m suffering mild altitude sickness.The symptoms aren’t subsiding after a five-minute break, but they’re not bad enough to force me to stop. Not when I’m so close. Slowly, we trudge the final feet and reach the summit. We are greeted by a few dozen others, beers in hand, who arrived there before us; many of them have already ascended Grays. I look south toward the sister peak. It doesn’t appear that far away—but my body simply won’t let me do it.
  • Why? Pressure from outside. The ascent means resistance.  You begin working with people, and your ideas meet resistance; folks may not be ready, or they’ve already been done that road before. The idealism bubble is busted.
  • Pressured from inside: your lungs are about to burst. Can you manage all you’ve committed to?  Burnout and spinout. Disillusionment and discouragement visit often.
  • It’s here you must learn how to pace yourself and breathe.  Having a partner on the trail helps, especially one who has traveled that trail beforehand.
  • Every person needs a Paul (mentor), Timothy (protégé), and a Barnabas (encourager). You must at this point find a Paul and a Barnabas. Who is someone you trust and respect who could be a godly mentor? How about an encourager?


  1. Potential: You’re still climbing, but you can realistically see the summit. More is behind you than ahead of you.
  • Characteristics: cautious about moving forward, but focus on obstacles has turned into focusing on optimism. Fought through 2nd stage and ready to keep moving.
  • Learned much about what it takes to hike, more of where the trail is taking you, and about yourself. Skinned toughened up.
    • Without a Barnabas, you could grow cautious and pessimistic, for this is contagious. Some around you will tell you to give up or discourage you.
    • Fueled by a sense of call and conviction. You’ve moved from a task to a ministry.
    • Philippians 3:12ff
  1. Summit: You’ve achieved some wins, and now understand the perseverance it takes to reach the summit. You’re holding your 14,110’ sign, usually with someone who walked with you.  Now you come back down the mountain.  But why?
    • Characteristics: Self-regulating in accountability and execution. Understanding of role and gifts.  Internalizing of church’s mission/vision—becomes yours as well. No need to micromanage.
    • Find your Timothy: You come back down the mountain in order to help others walk the trail. Come along and help others in those first three stages.


  1. 2 Timothy 2:1-2; Titus 2:1-10

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