Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Zeal and the Frenetic Leader

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.                         Romans 12:11   (NIV  1984)

Frenetic = fast and energetic in a rather wild and uncontrolled way.  When I think of the leadership of Jesus and His leadership lifestyle, the word ‘frenetic’ never enters into my description.  Yet, there were so many demands upon Him – “everyone is looking for you,” and “so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat.”  But, Jesus never seemed to give into the hurry, rather, he took steps to deal with these demands.

He told His disciples to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” And, “When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.”  He continually made time to pray and spend with His Father amidst all the crushing demands pressing in on Him daily.

Today I see many leaders who seem to draw their significance for their busyness.  They fill their schedules with back to back appointments and then complain about not having enough time for rest or relaxation.  The reality is this, “You are only as busy as you want to be.”  No excuses!  No complaints!  Own your reality – it’s on you!

This reality is illustrated every time a ‘crisis’ interrupts our packed schedules.  Suddenly, adjustments can be made, appointments can be cancelled or rescheduled for later.  What makes this happen is that we now have a ‘good excuse’ for making these changes.  We are in control of the schedule; we just needed a good reason to make some major adjustments.

The goal is not pursuing a life of ease or comfort.  Leaders are busy people.  If you don’t want to be busy, then don’t lead!  But… are you so busy ‘doing for Jesus’ that you have neglected ‘being with Jesus’?  Are you pegging life’s RPM meter into the red?  It’s not sustainable for a long push.  Something with give way – health, relationships with spouse or family members, spiritual dryness, etc.  We are not made for it.

The Lord not only modeled a sustainable pace in His life and ministry, but he created a framework for us to thrive long-term.  It’s called the ‘sabbath.’  Periodic times of recharging and renewal are essential.  God’s design was that we get this sabbath time weekly.

For me, the measure of how I’m doing in this sustainable lifestyle is my prayer life.  Am I making the time to really spend adequate time for prayer or is my prayer life often hurried, rushed, and superficial?

Are you a frenetic leader or are you a leader who lives within your God-given boundaries?  How’s your prayer life these days?

Rewards for Laboring

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.   If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.   1 Corinthians 3:10-15  (NIV  1984)

In the passage above Paul is talking about his labors for Christ.  He, the ‘expert builder’ of people, reminds the Corinthians that there will be rewards given at the ‘bema’ judgment seat at the end of days.  All of our labors will be tested by the fire of God, revealing true motives and outcomes.  Some will lose potential rewards while others will be rewarded for their faithfulness.  Salvation is not at risk, this is rewards for service.

As Kingdom leaders who labor for the Lord and His purposes, the reminder that we will have to give an account of our labors should be sobering.  The writer of Hebrews says, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.”  Hebrews 13:17  (NIV  1984)  We are stewards of a trust given to us by the Lord, the trust of leading His people to accomplish His purposes.

In the parable of the Talents there is an accounting when the servants are called to report to their Master the results of their labor.  Faithfulness is rewarded by the Master (see Matthew 25).  Immediately following this parable is another titled the Sheep and the Goats.  Referring to the final judgment, the sheep (faithful ones) are welcomed into heaven and are surprised at their reward.  Note that in this instance, they are rewarded for service given to other believers -“whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  (Matthew 25:40)  We see similar principles of reward for labor taught in the parable of the Ten Gold Coins (see Luke 19).

Your labor for the Lord does not go unnoticed by Him.  There will be a reckoning one day and rewards will be given for your faithful service.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.   1 Corinthians 15:58   (NIV  1984)

Be Very Careful How You Live

The late Francis Schaeffer titled his now famous book on Western culture and a Christian apologetic, How Should We Then Live?  In light of who we are and who we represent as Kingdom leaders, how should we live?  How should we lead?  Paul has much to say in answer to this question in his book, Ephesians.

In Ephesians 4:1-2, Paul states, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  The exhortation to live a certain lifestyle is couched in the heavenly calling that we have received as followers of Christ.  He immediately follows this contextual reminder with an exhortation on ‘being,’ not doing.  Note the character qualities listed as keys to being able to live out this calling lifestyle – humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance rooted in love.  The ability to live and lead a life worthy of our calling flows out of Christlike character.

Paul continues the theme on how to live the Christian life in verses 17-19 of the same chapter – “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking…Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”  The wasted (futile) life is one that gives itself to sensuality and temporal pleasure.

In the following chapter, Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul encourages us to, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  The mature Christian life will be marked by love in all areas.  Like the love of God, it will the a sacrificial love that unconditionally accepts others.

He ends the qualities of this life we are to live with one final exhortation in Ephesians 5:8-10 – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”  He comes back full circle to the necessity of Christlike character in the Christlike life – goodness, righteousness, and truthfulness in all we say and do.

And now we come to the conclusion of the question we began with, “How to live a life pleasing to God?”  In Ephesians 5:15-17 we read, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.   Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”   (NIV  1984)

May we live and lead in such a wise way, understanding the Lord’s will and seeking to please Him alone, that we hear Him say at the end of our life, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Wisdom to Lead

The need for wisdom in leadership is a very easy case to make.  Anyone who has led at just about any level knows the complexities of issues that you feel unprepared to handle.  Before entering into the role, issues seemed so black and white and easily solved.  But, once you sit in the seat of leader, suddenly those easy issues turn gray and the complexities of their reality push you accept that there are few ‘easily solved’ issues.  Thus, Kingdom leaders find themselves praying for wisdom from the Lord.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.    1 Corinthians 1:25   (NIV  1984)

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.                   Ephesians 1:15     (NIV  1984)

Paul contrasts the wisdom of man with the wisdom of God.  Man’s wisdom is based upon experience and perhaps intuition and training.  But, in comparison to God’s wisdom, it is foolishness.  We are reminded to trust in the Lord, not our own understanding (see Proverbs 3:5-6).  Now, note that it does not say to ignore your own understanding.  But, just don’t lean upon it totally, for God’s ways are not man’s ways (see Isaiah 55:8-9).

God Himself, in the presence of His Spirit who indwells all believers, can give us His wisdom.  “…But we have the mind of Christ,” we are told in 1 Corinthians 2:16.  (NIV  1984)  It is this wisdom from above that is needed today to solve the complex challenges of our generation.

God’s wisdom is given to all who ask.  James reminds us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”   James 1:5  (NIV  1984)

So, are you in need of wisdom in the issues or decisions that you are facing today?  Why not stop right now and ask God for the wisdom He has promised you?

Listen carefully to His voice within you and to His wisdom He has placed around you in the form of team members or advisors.  He will guide and direct you to see a way forward.  It may not be the entire solution, but at least you will know the direction to head.  And as you move forward, He will continue to give light for the next step afterwards.

Depend upon Him and you will see that He is faithful to do as He has promised!

Strategic Supervision

Leader vs Manager – A False Dichotomy *

Below are some general thoughts regarding the important function of leadership – managing the work of others.

  • Managing the work of others = supervision of their work
  • Leading people in mission and supervision of their work are essential –  “two wings on same plane” – we may have strengths in one or the other; good leaders must be able to manage some level of detail/operations; good managers must be able to lead people to accomplish agreed upon outcomes
  • Managing the work of others (not managing the people) includes:
    • Organizational competency, legal aspects, safe and healthy workers, awareness of implications of being an employee – i.e. policies are for individual and organizational protection
    • Emphasize that workers are a part of something larger than themselves, “going rogue” is not wise or helpful when resources are available to inform, help, and protect workers

Strategic Supervision is for Ensuring Execution

Below are some very practical aspects of how to supervise others:

  • Be proactive, not just reactive in your supervision!
    • Thinking ahead – scenario planning / What will we do if….?
    • Hope for the best and plan for the worst!
  • Be both Macro- and Micro-focused
    • Big picture, systems thinking, but also attentive to an appropriate level of detail
  • Provide oversight of the person and the task
    • Attention to the ‘leadership wake’ of people and task
    • Success is thriving people and mission accomplished
  • Ensure the execution and the completion of a task –  stewardship and ownership of the task
    • What are we doing; Why are we doing it?
    • Bring accountability for completion of a task
      • No 3-foot holes, when we intend to dig 10-foot holes!
    • Create a healthy, safe working environment where people can flourish
  • Give feedback (correction, improvement/affirmation) related to responsibilities and desired outcomes – i.e. annual progress reviews, personal improvement plans, personal goals, annual plans and budgets
  • Ensure alignment of people, resources, and task (doing the right things) to our mission statement
    • Aligning up, down, and laterally within the organization
    • Help create collaboration (working partnerships) with other people or functions in the organization
  • Empower people to accomplish their responsibilities and make their contribution (giving authority, providing the needed resources) – having clearly defined, agreed upon outcomes
  • Enable people to accomplish their responsibilities and make their contribution (removing obstacles, solving problems that people are not able to do themselves)
    • Not micro-managing, meddling or doing someone’s job for them
  • Provide excellent stewardship of God’s resources
    • Optimization of process, budgeting, positioning people to succeed, time management
    • Accountability for how and when decisions are made and how resources are used
  • Create healthy team dynamics
    • Ensure that team members are working well together as a team
    • Helping team members contribute in their strengths and protect each other’s weaknesses
  • Bring clarity when needed regarding purpose, process, or outcomes
    • Secure commitment to a common (shared) goal and purpose
  • Create a succession mentality – raise up your replacement from within your team, if possible

You must be doing both – leading people and managing their work!

*   These thoughts were compiled with the helpful input of Ken Hendren

Paul’s Partners in the Work of the Kingdom

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.                               1 Corinthians 3:9     (NIV  1984)

As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ.                                  2 Corinthians 8:23     (NIV  1984)

In Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthian church, he addresses the issue of factions forming around certain leaders – particularly Apollos and himself.  He defuses the argument with the statement that all are nothing more than God’s servants (doulos) and fellow workers (synergos) with God.  And he continues that it was truly God who brought about the spiritual growth in their lives.

Paul’s perspective on the work was what Jesus taught in Matthew 11 – “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:29-30  (NIV  1984)

Paul was very clear that he was yoked together with Jesus as he sought to bring the gospel to the Gentiles.  And yet, while he was laboring as an “expert builder,” he was under no illusion as to who was truly bringing about the results.  It was Christ!

Paul uses that same word picture of a “fellow worker” (co-laborer) in his second letter to the Corinthian church.  But this time the term is used to refer to Titus, who had recently met Paul to report the response to his first letter.

It appears that Paul had entrusted the delivery of the first letter to Titus with that plan that they would meet in Troas to debrief on the response (see 2 Corinthians 2:12ff).  But, for some reason Titus was delayed, and therefore Paul moved on to northern Greece and it was there that they met and Paul sent his second letter, again carried by Titus.

In describing his relationship to Titus, he says that Titus is a “partner and fellow worker.”  Titus had previously joined Paul from Antioch to meet with the Twelve in the Jerusalem to discuss the essence of the gospel message that Paul was teaching among the Gentiles (see Galatians 2).  Titus (probably a Gentile believer), joined with Paul and Barnabas on the trip to Jerusalem as “exhibit A” of what a Gentile believer looked like.  And Titus was later sent on special assignment to Crete by Paul to help establish the work after Paul had left behind a foundation for the spread of the gospel (see the book of Titus).

Paul acknowledges two partners in his work – Christ, first and foremost, and Titus, illustrative of his teammates like Apollos, Silas, Timothy, and  Luke.  Both are key to accomplishing the work.  Christ the center of our work as Kingdom leaders and then the team whom God gives us to accomplish our calling.

Who are your ‘fellow workers’ or ‘co-laborers.’  Have you told the Lord recently how grateful you are for the privilege of being yoked to Him?  And have you expressed to your co-laboring team (including your spouse) how appreciative you are for their hard work and sacrifices that they are making?

Aim for Perfection!

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.          Matthew 5:48     (NIV  1984)

Finally, brothers, good-by.  Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace.     2 Corinthians 13:11     (NIV  1984)

Perfection seems like such an impossible goal.  How could Jesus or Paul set this before us as something to be pursued, much less attained?  Are you kidding me?  Come on – get real!

If we understand this goal of perfection as sinless perfection, then it truly is an unattainable pursuit.  Though we are hopefully making progress daily in our battle against sin, we are under no illusion that we will attain sinlessness until we exit this body and live in heaven.

So, what is the aim here?

Paul helps bring some deeper understanding when he speaks of the goal of his ministry in Colossians 1:28.  “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.”  (NIV  1984)  The word ‘perfect’ here actually means mature.  Paul’s goal was to seek to bring all those he ministered to into a state of maturity in Christ.

Thus, when Jesus says we are to ‘be perfect,’ He is saying that we are to be mature in our relationship with our Father – especially in how we love others (see the context of Matthew 5).  When Paul exhorts the Corinthians to ‘aim for perfection,’ he is encouraging their pursuit of maturity in Christ, not some sinless perfection.

Peter encourages us all, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.   1 Peter 2:2-3   (NIV  1984)  We are to grow up in our salvation to maturity in Christ.  This pursuit is grounded in developing intimacy with Jesus, especially as we spend time with Him in His Word.

Perfect maturity in Christ is attainable.  It will be found over a life-long pursuit of Him – being filled with His Spirit and knowing Him and His ways as we know the Bible and apply it to our life and leadership. Maturity is not necessarily a factor of age, but rather a result of spending time with the Lord.

So….. how’s your aim?

Leaders Bring Clarity!

We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.    2 Corinthians 11:6     (NIV  1984)

One of a leader’s primary contributions in the mission is to bring clarity to those they are leading.  The old saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there” is true for many.  Leaders who fail to bring clarity settle for busyness and the assumption that lots of activity must mean that we are accomplishing something.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

As a leader, you have a platform to influence others through what you say and do.  You will be quoted and you are being watched by others as they seek to follow your lead.  Making sure that your quotes are worth repeating and that your example aligns with your mission and values is essential for clarifying direction.  Intentionality and forethought are key.

The enemy is seeking to sow confusion and doubt about the mission direction and outcomes.  He started with Eve, causing her to question God’s clear mandate about not eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Today’s pace of life and rapidly changing context also add to a lack of clarity on what we are doing and why.  It’s clear for a moment and then that clarity fades very quickly as we engage in life’s activities.

As the leader, it is your responsibility to insure that there is no doubt as to what the mission is and what the directions / outcomes are for all.  You will need to over-communicate this many times and in many ways, knowing that what is clear for the moment will become unclear as time passes.

The art of this ‘over-communication’ is the ability to say the same thing in many different ways so that it is heard and not dismissed.  If you simply repeat the same thing, your audience will tune you out.  Keeping the main thing the main thing and keeping it in clear focus for those you lead is a challenge!

Leaders bring clarity to the main thing!  Keep the focus tight and clear!  Don’t let mission creep sweep in and divert what was once a sharp, clear focus on your mission, values, and strategic directions.  And just because you said it once, does not mean that you are understood or remembered.

How’s your clarity?  Are you continuing to bring clarity on the main thing to those you lead?

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?

 

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