Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

You’re Really Not That Important!

You’re really not that important!  Really!

For many leaders, especially those that have experienced some measure of success, the temptation to promote themselves and their accomplishments is a temptation that is easy to embrace.  When young and inexperienced, it was easy to acknowledge our inabilities or weaknesses.  But with more experience and more accolades can come a subtle (sometimes not so subtle) shift.

We can begin to believe our ‘press clippings’ and pride takes root.  Initially it’s not so obvious as we seek to cover up the shifting ground within our hearts.  But, what is taking root finally bursts forth in our behavior.  We talk more and more about ourselves and take more and more credit for our accomplishments without giving at least tacit credit to others who truly did a lot of the work.  It becomes more and more about ‘me’ and less and less about the Lord.

Here’s some reminders on what the Lord has to say about self-promotion and its root – pride.

But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”  For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.                                  2 Corinthians 10:17-18

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
someone else, and not your own lips.     Proverbs 27:2

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.     1 Corinthians 3:5-7

It is not good to eat too much honey,
nor is it honorable to seek one’s own honor.     Proverbs 25:27

The greatest among you will be your servant.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.     Matthew 23:11-12

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.     1 Peter 5:5-6   (NIV  1984)

So, how’s your heart when people praise you?  Think back on some recent conversations – how much did you talk about yourself and your accomplishments?

It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power.  Any man can stand adversity–only a great man can stand prosperity.”

Timing is Everything!

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…    Ecclesiastes 3:1  (NIV  1984)

Any gardener knows that you plant your vegetable seeds in the spring and early summer, not mid-winter!  There is a right time and a wrong time for certain activities.  And so it is in your leadership.  Timing is everything!

When Jesus went to the wedding in Cana, the wedding party ran out of wine.  Mary turned to her Son and told Him to please do something about this socially awkward embarrassment (perhaps this was an extended family member’s wedding, thus Mary’s insistence that Jesus help).  Jesus replied, “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” John 2:4  (NIV  1984)  Note Jesus’s sense of timing (regardless of the timing, He did help solve the problem).

We observe some three years later at the end of His public ministry, Jesus is praying the night before His crucifixion.  He says, “Father, the time has come.  Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.”  John 17:1  (NIV  1984)  Now, the time was right for the completion of what He came to earth to do.  Timing is everything!

The Ecclesiastes passage above says that there is a time to laugh and a time to cry, a time to plant and a time to uproot.  There is a time and a season for everything under heaven.  As Kingdom leaders, it’s our job to know what time and season we are in and lead accordingly.

Leading change processes are a part of good leadership.  No leader wants to maintain the status quo.  But, those we lead can only take so much change and a certain rate of change.  Push too hard and they will dig in their heels and refuse to move further.  Move too slowly and they will not embrace the change process, for they see no need to truly change.  It’s a matter of timing – going too fast or too slow can bring trouble.  Timing the rate of change is an art form, not a science.

Strategic leadership sees into the future time horizon by faith and seeks to implement new initiatives to move from current reality to the desired future state.  But the sequence on the steps to move from here to there and the timing of the “travel” is key to accomplishing the mission.  Great plans can come to naught due to a lack of careful attention to the timing of implementation.

What time is it?  Do you know?

 

Watch Over Yourselves

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.    Acts 20:28   (NIV  1984)

Paul had called together the elders from the church at Ephesus for a final word of instruction and exhortation.  In the passage above, he challenges them to “keep watch over yourselves” first and then to watch over the flock of God entrusted to them.  The order is important!

Jesus, when washing the feet of His disciples the night before His crucifixion, instructs them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.”  John 13:14  (NIV  1984)  Note that the disciples were told to “wash one another’s feet,” but who were the ‘one-anothers’?  The context says that it was the 11 present with Him.

We easily translate these two passages into the context of our leadership, understanding that as Kingdom leaders we watch over those whom we lead and use our position as leader to serve those under our care.  But, while true, we miss the first context in doing so.

As a leadership team or community of leaders, we are to watch over the other leaders and team members first, then look after the needs of others.  We are to serve the other leaders on our team and then those others who we have responsibility for.  Yes, I am my brother’s keeper!

Too easily we assume that our leadership team members can get by without our help.  “They are the mature ones and the seemingly stable ones,” we think.  But, the enemy of our souls is not so foolish.  He knows that by crippling the shepherd, he can then ravage the flock.

Maybe it’s time to check in with each other on your team?  How’s it going?  No, how’s it really going?  How’s your soul?  How’s your family?  How’s your heart for the work entrusted to you? Are you thriving or just surviving in this work?  What can I do to better lead you well?

Watch over yourselves first and then watch over the flock entrusted to your care!

Fight or Flight?

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.   Matthew 10:16   NIV  1984

The Good Shepherd of the sheep here makes an amazing proclamation:  He is sending His sheep into a pack of wolves!  What is He thinking?  Doesn’t He care?  Doesn’t He know that these sheep are defenseless and are going to attacked by these ravenous wolves?

Yes, the Lord knows very well what He is doing and why He is doing it.  Therefore, as we engage in His grand mission of making disciples of all the nations, we must go with the shrewdness of snakes and the innocence of doves.  He can send His sheep among the pack of snarling wolves because of two things:  He has all authority in heaven and on earth to do so and He has promised to be with His sheep and never leave them.  (see Matthew 28:18-20)

Shrewdness alone would force us to rely upon our own cleverness and intellectual keenness.  Innocence alone would be simple weakness and a passive surrender.  But, combined, they present a posture and an attitude of wisdom and dependence upon the Shepherd who sends His sheep into areas where packs of wolves roam.

Note, that immediately after this statement, the Lord exhorts His sheep to, “Be on your guard again men…” (Matthew 10:17).  This sending of the sheep in not foolish ignorance, but rather a watchful, careful knowledge of the dangers faced and how best to respond to them.

When threatened, we have two natural responses – fight or flight.  There may be times when facing ‘wolves’ that we stand and fight.  We engage in the battle trusting not in our own strength, but the Lord.  The battle is the Lord’s!  (2 Chronicles 20:15)  Our fight is not against flesh and blood, but rather against the forces of evil behind those who oppose us. (Ephesian 6:12)  We engage knowing that the Lord is with us, helping us respond to the threat and trusting Him regardless of the outcome of the battle.

But, there are other times when the way of wisdom is flight instead of fight.  In Ecclesiastes 9:4 we read, “Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!”  Martyrdom may come, and should the Lord ask of us that supreme sacrifice, we can trust Him for the courage and faith to face that trial.  But, we need not go looking for martyrdom!  If it comes, so be it.  But, sometimes the best course of action is a strategic retreat!

What to do when facing a threat?  Should we stand and fight or flee to fight another day?  Trust in the Lord’s leading through His Spirit who lives within His sheep.  You will know which way to go.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”  Isaiah 30:21   NIV  1984

Developing Kingdom Leaders for What?

In Genesis 12:1-3 we read of God’s promise to Abram that the blessing upon Abram and his descendants would be a blessing to all the world.  1500 years later, Isaiah writes a prophecy about the coming Messiah and states that the mission of the Messiah would be to take the message of salvation not just to the tribes of Jacob, but to all the nations (peoples) of the world.

500 years after Isaiah, Jesus summarizes His entire public ministry with a commission to make disciples of all the nations (see Matthew 28:18-20).  And at His final public appearance, the Ascension from the Mount of Olives, the Lord instructs them to begin at Jerusalem and reach to ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

This mission of discipling the nations is why we need Kingdom leaders.  These missional leaders will seek to advance the gospel and the Kingdom into the various peoples of the world.  These leaders will be called of God to engage in this great cosmic task.  They will hear His voice and raise their hand.

The grand vision of making disciples of all the peoples of the world will need leaders of disciplemaking ministries and disciplemaking movements; leaders who see globally and act locally.  They will not be discouraged or shrink back from the immensity of the task.  Rather, they will rise to the challenge, trusting God by faith to use them is some way to further His purposes.

What better way to spend your life?  Some will be called to engage in this vocationally as full-time workers.  Others will have differing vocations, but their missional commitment will not waver as they engage in the grand enterprise of seeing the nations come to know Him.

These Kingdom leaders must be prayed for, worked for, recruited, trained, developed, and deployed strategically into the peoples of the world.  They will be few in number, given that the ‘laborers are few’ (see Matthew 9:35-38).  But, God does accomplish this mission with just a few (see Revelation 9:7).

We are not disheartened by the few who may raise their hand and volunteer for this daunting mission.  With God, one is a majority!  And with Him we have all the resources needed to accomplish everything He desires of us.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?    Romans 8:31  (NIV  1984)

How’s Your Leadership Posture?

Posture  –  a particular way of dealing with or considering something; an approach or attitude

As you lead into a particular context you will want to be self-aware of your leadership posture in the context – how you will act in this situation.

There are two general types of leadership postures that you can adopt – directive or supportive.  Both are appropriate with neither being better or more valuable.  The context you are leading in will determine which of the two general postures is most appropriate for the situation.

The directive posture is often the one seen as the ‘typical’ leadership style.  It is where the leader is giving direction, making decisions, and assigning responsibilities.  They are out in front, setting the pace, and visibly rallying the people towards the goal.

The directive posture is needed when one is leading an inexperienced team who are unclear on what to do or how to do it.  This leadership posture is also necessary in a crisis environment.  You don’t want the ER doctor leading a brainstorm session with his staff when the patient is bleeding out from gunshot wounds!

The supportive posture is fitting when leading in a context where the team is more experienced.  They know what to do and how to do it; now they need to know specifically from you what their contribution will be to the whole team effort.  After delegating responsibilities, you then come alongside and help them solve problems, motivate and encourage them, all the time letting them bear the weight of their responsibility.

If a leader assumes a directive posture with a highly experienced team he or she will stifle initiative, for they soon realize that there is little room for independent action.  Instead of feeling empowered, they will feel controlled and micro-managed.  If leading a team of volunteers, they will choose to ‘vote with their feet’ and leave your leadership.  Leaders want to be empowered, not controlled.

The key is knowing which posture to adopt when.  We all have a natural, default posture.  But, if we only do what comes naturally or easy for us, we will miss bringing our best to those we lead.  Pray for discernment and self-awareness on which posture you need to assume and how to deliver it well.

How’s your posture?

The Leader and Authority

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you…    Matthew 20:25-26   (NIV  1984)

Were you to ask many people today under the age of 30 how they view authority, the overwhelming response is negative.  And with good reason.  Throughout their lives those authorities in whom they put their trust have disappointed, hurt, or taken advantage of them.  No wonder some younger leader stated, “I’m trying to learn how to lead without authority.”

Leaders must exercise authority to lead.  Leadership authority is morally neutral – it’s not good, bad, or purple.  It’s how you exercise your authority that makes it beneficial or tyrannical.

A leader has two types of authority – positional and personal.  Positional authority comes with the title or role one has.  It is vested with the responsibility of leading.  It can be used to bless others – making exceptions to rules or policies, providing resources not available to those they lead, creating tone and environment, and solving problems others can’t solve.  Negatively it can be used to dominate (lord it over), micro-manage, control, and stifle initiative of those we lead.

The second type of authority is personal authority.  It is not linked to one’s position and allows great influence in the lives of others, whether we have line responsibility for them or not.  You’ve seen this in action in groups when someone with this type of authority speaks, all turn and pay close attention.  Personal authority is given voluntarily to others based upon their perceived character (particularly wisdom and integrity) and competency in particular areas.

Personal authority allows you to speak truth to others, guide, counsel, mentor, and coach them as they trust your influence.  Negatively it can be used to manipulate others, promote yourself, or seek your purposes instead of what’s best for others.  Personal authority is the greatest authority one can have for it lasts beyond any position one may have.

Positional authority comes instantly when one assumes the title of leader.  Personal authority is built over time as one interacts with others and demonstrates Christlike character and competency.  It’s like making deposits into the personal authority bank account.  Unfortunately, one can also make major withdrawals from this account by demonstrating foolishness, poor choices, or sinful behavior.

Authority – you must have it to lead well in the Kingdom.  Don’t shy away for exercising your authority.  Just be sure that you’re using it for advancing the King’s purposes and not your own!

Missional Mindset #3

Our God is a missional God who works. Jesus reminds us that the Father is always at work and that He too is working (see John 5:17).  Because we are created in His image, we too are to have a missional mindset that sets a context for our life and leadership.

In the past two blogs, we have looked at how Jesus communicated His mission-task to those around Him.  For three and one-half years He executed His mission and then, having completed it, returned to His Father.  Below are some of the passages that show the completion of that world-changing mission.

John 13:1  It was just before the Passover Festival.  Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

John 17:4  I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.

John 17:6  “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world.  They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.

John 17:8  For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them.  They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.

John 17:14  I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.

John 19:30  When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”  With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

It’s not enough to know your God-assigned mission or task.  And it’s not even enough to begin to work at it.  We must complete or finish the mission that we begin.  Paul’s exhortation to Archippus is a great reminder –  Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”   (Colossians 4:17  NIV  1984)

Missional Mindset and Leadership #2

Our God is a missional God who works.  Jesus reminds us that the Father is always at work and that He too is working (see John 5:17).  Because we are created in His image, we too are to have a missional mindset that sets a context for our life and leadership.

Jesus was repeatedly stating that He was sent by His Father to accomplish a mission or task.  Below are some of the passages where Jesus talks about being sent by His Father.

John 4:34  “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.

John 5:23-24  …that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.  Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.  “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

John 5:36  “I have testimony weightier than that of John.  For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me.

John 6:38-39  For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.

John 7:16  Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own.  It comes from the one who sent me.

John 8:29  The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”

John 8:42  Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God.  I have not come on my own; God sent me.

John 9:4  As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.

John 17:3  Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

John 17:8  For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them.  They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.

John 17:18  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.

John 20:21  Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

Are you clear on your purpose or mission?  Are you engaged in carrying out your God-given mission?

Rejoice With Me!

Michael Yeakley     1976 – 2017

One year ago, our son, Michael, finished his race and transitioned into the presence of Jesus shortly before reaching his 40th birthday.  Now, one year later into our journey of grief, our family continues to remember him with love and how he made our lives so much richer because of his presence.

Yes, we miss him greatly.  But, we realize he is now rejoicing in the presence of Christ.  We continue to be comforted by his personal faith and testimony.  Below is the introduction to his will we discovered the day after he died.

“I, Michael R. Yeakley…invite you to rejoice with me as my life’s journey is finally over.  I am convinced by faith, that after this life of joy and sorrow, triumph and failure, I will live eternally in heaven with my friend, savior, priest, and king – Jesus Christ.  This is possible not because I have earned or deserved it, but because of God’s gracious gift of life through Jesus Christ.  For Jesus is the one and only mediator between both God and man, who saved me from eternal death by sacrificing his life on the cross, who was raised from the dead three days later, who is now in heaven preparing a place for me, and who will come back one day.

“So, rejoice with me that my spirit is finally free from its earthly shackles.  Rejoice with me as I am no longer an alien and a stranger in the world.  Rejoice with me as I am finally home.”

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.     1 Thessalonians 4:13-14   (NIV  1984)

We rejoice with him!

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