Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Who’s Responsible for My Development?

The heights of great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upwards in the night.

The Ladder of St. Augustine,  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My conversation with this 30-year-old leader had come to a point of discussing his ongoing development as a leader.  “But my organization is not even thinking about my development,” he explained in exasperation.  “When will I be developed as a leader so that I can truly make my contribution?”

I’ve reflected on that conversation many times.  Who is responsible for our development as leaders?

Certainly, God Himself is very interested in our development.  We understand that we are created for a purpose (Ephesian 2:10), and are all works in progress, being shaped into the image of Christ daily as we grow toward maturity in Him.   He is at work within us, developing us through the work of the Spirit.

Our second source of development may be our organization or workplace.  Businesses and organizations that purposefully invest in developing their leadership communities tend to do well over time.

These developmental opportunities can be:  1) formal (academic credentialing – i.e. secondary degrees) or 2) semi-formal (certifications, symposiums, or seminars).  Some workplaces are better than others about providing this type of intentional development.  And even those who are committed to this intentional development of leaders will often greatly cut the budget or staffing for it when there is an overall budget tightening.

But, the primary source for our development must come from within.  We must own our own development as leaders.  Rather than waiting or complaining, take the responsibility upon yourself to be the best leader you can possibly be.  Pursue your development and don’t let any excuse keep you from it.

Be the best leader you can be for Jesus sake and embrace your own development!

Wise Travel and the Kingdom Leader

Often, one of the consequences of increased leadership responsibilities is more travel away from home.  This increased ‘away time’ puts added stress on family, local, and routine operational responsibilities.  How to wisely handle this travel and optimize it for all involved is key to being an effective leader.

1.  The first question to ask is, “Why am I making this trip?  Is it truly essential that I go, or could someone else represent me?  Could what I hope to accomplish be handled via phone or video conference?”  Maybe you don’t have to make the trip at all!

2.  When booking air travel, have you allowed enough time for the seemingly inevitable delays in arrivals, departures or connections?  Booking too tightly increases stress load and decreases enjoyment if you are running from gate to gate to make a connecting flight.

3. When planning your schedule at the destination, think of dividing the work day into three parts – morning, afternoon and evening.  Those planning your schedule upon arrival should be informed that they can only fill two of these three parts each day.  Thus, you will have a portion of each day for rest, reflection, catch up and dealing with any unexpected crisis.

4.  Be wise on what you eat and when you get to sleep on trips, especially if you have time zone changes such as on international trips.  If hosted, you will often be treated with great generosity of sight-seeing events, shopping for family gifts, wonderful meals, etc.  Being out of your normal routines can make self-control and self-discipline difficult.  Pace yourself!

5.  For truly extended trips of a couple of weeks, consider a one or two-day break in the middle of the trip for restoration and rejuvenation.

6.  Be sure your spouse knows how to contact you if needed, especially for emergencies.  Even today, not every place has easy internet or mobile phone connections.

7.  When returning home, it’s easy to think that the trips is over when you ‘hit the front door’ upon your return.  You’ve been giving out for some time and now you just want to crash and relax.  On the other hand, your spouse has been at home while you’ve been away, and you have a lot to catch up on.  If there are children still at home, the one who stayed home probably needs a break from the kids.

A wise mindset is this, when returning home from a trip, tell yourself that the trip ends the day after you return.  That is, you are still in the ‘giving out’ mindset when you hit the home front – especially the first 24 hours after your return.  Focus on the kids and your spouse’s needs, not your own.  Seek to serve them, not be served by them.

When’s your next trip?  Are you planning ahead for more than just how you will spend the days away?  Are you planning wisely not only for the trip, but for your return?

Beware of the Root of Bitterness

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…   Hebrews 12:15  (ESV)

Life will bring wounds and hurts from others, even those we love and who love us.  It’s the nature of the fall and the curse that we now live under.  Though Kingdom people have been saved by God’s grace and mercy, we are still people in process, being conformed into the image of Christ daily.  To expect to never hurt or be hurt-wounded by another, even those who are followers of Christ, is unrealistic and only setting ourselves up for great disappointment.

When wounded by another we have a choice to make.  We can choose to forgive the offending party or we can harbor this wound, cultivate it, letting it take root in our souls.  This wound now becomes a ‘generalized infection’ within us and poisons our life.  Someone has said, “Harboring bitterness is like drinking poison thinking it will hurt the other person.”  How foolish of us, yet many still hang onto past memories and hurts, dwelling on them and letting these control our emotional well-being.

God’s solution for relational hurts and wounds is forgiveness.  It frees the offended person from the bitterness and the pain of the offense.  While we may not be able to forget the offense, the pain of it is removed.  Much like a physical scar can bring to mind past injuries, when the scar it touched there is no associated pain.

The only way possible to be free from past wounds is to forgive others.  And the only possible way to forgive others is to first, fully understand how much we have been forgiven.  Jesus reminds us that those who have been forgiven much love much (see Luke 7:47).

Is there some offense that you have been clinging too that has taken root and bears toxic fruit in your heart?  Release that offense and forgive the offender, knowing that you have been forgiven a much, much larger debt due to your sin against the God Himself.  The truth will set you free!

New Beginnings

As we begin a new calendar year, it’s good to pause and reflect upon what was and what will be.  It is through reflection that we can gain perspective and see more clearly the overarching, God-orchestrated, macro movements of our lives.

Leaders are often too busy to stop and reflect.  We always have more things to do and people to see.  We take one item off of the do-list and add three more!  Who has time to stop and think?

Today…..now is the time to stop and reflect upon who you are becoming and what you are doing!  Here are some questions to get you started in this reflection time.

Are you pleased with your own personal spiritual walk?  More importantly, is Jesus pleased with your pursuit of Him?  How’s the pace of life?  Do you have a margin in your life?  Are you living and leading from an overflow?  How’s the family doing?  Are you paying the price to experience the marriage you committed to on your wedding day?  Are you investing deeply in your children and grandchildren, knowing that the years for significant influence are rapidly passing you by?

What fears are you trying to ignore related to your leadership?  Are you leading with faith and courage?  Is the vision of where you are leading to focused or foggy?  Do you have a team that is unified and empowered around a shared vision?  Are you accomplishing the mission that you intended to accomplish?

These and many more questions are helpful for taking stock of where you are today and where you need to be/go tomorrow.  Use this season for reflection and refocus as you start a new year full of new hope and new beginnings.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Merry Christmas!!!

Perhaps like me, you’ve wondered where all of the Christmas traditions came from.  Here’s some background to help with giving some new (old?) meaning to these seasonal traditions.

December 25 – The Day of Jesus’ Birth

In ancient times birthdays were celebrated only by kings and royalty.  It was not customary to record the specific date of an individual’s birth.  Being unsure of the exact date of Jesus’ birth, many dates began to be observed as Christianity spread from country to country.

Bishop Hippolytus calculated the birth of Jesus to be December 25 in 235 AD.  Emperor Constantine ordered the celebration of Christmas in 320 AD.  Since 400 AD Christendom has accepted this date as the traditional date of Jesus’ birth.

Christmas was first celebrated in America in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia.  In 1836 Alabama became the first state to establish Christmas as a legal holiday.  Colorado recognized Christmas as a state holiday in 1861.

St. Nicholas or Santa Claus

Nicholas was born and raised in Turkey in 280 AD.  When Nicholas reached age 19 he entered the priesthood.  He became known as the ‘patron saint of children’ because of his habit of leaving unidentified gifts at the homes of needy families.  This mysterious donor is called “Father Christmas” in England.

Introduced as “Sinterklass”  to America by the Dutch as the patron saint of their colonies or as the English and French said, “Saneta Claas.”  In 1809 Washington Irving portrayed a jolly fellow who rode in a sleigh pulled by reindeer; a far cry from the original St. Nicholas.  The giving spirit of St. Nicholas should inspire us all.

Candy Canes

A popular account says that a candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy to celebrate the birth of Jesus, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane.  He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus.

He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy.  He chose white to symbolize the purity and Virgin Birth of Jesus.  He made it in the “J” shape for the name of Jesus.  The shape is also that of a shepherd’s staff, to remind us that the Bible calls Jesus the Good Shepherd.  The red stripe is to remind us of the blood Christ shed for us when he died on a cross.

Christmas Carols

Until the Middle Ages there was no congregational singing in Christian churches.  Trained choirs sang chants and monotonous songs.  After the Christmas services, the church members would often gather in the streets to sing songs about the birth of Jesus, called ‘carola.’  Martin Luther introduced congregational singing to the churches.

“Silent Night” is the most popular Christmas carol.  Written on Christmas eve in Obendorf, Austria in 1818 by a priest as he walked in the snow house-to-house inviting his members to the service that evening.  Returning to his church, the priest asked the organist to write the melody to the lyrics he had composed on his walk.  Sung for the first time at the service that evening, it was sung to guitar as the church organ was broken!

Christmas Trees

This tradition was borrowed from the non-Christian people of northern Europe and given a new meaning.  These people would bring evergreens into their homes during the winter months to remind them of the hope of the coming spring.

Christians adapted this custom and added that the evergreen symbolizes the everlasting life offered through belief in Jesus as our Savior.  Trees were set up on Christmas and decorated with lights (candles) to symbolize that Jesus was born on a beautiful, starry night in Bethlehem.  Tradition says that Martin Luther was the first to add lights to the decorated tree.

Creche or Manger Scene

Until the 13th century, those that celebrated Christmas generally overlooked the lowly conditions of Jesus’ birth.  In 1219, St. Francis of Assisi visited Bethlehem where he was struck by the simplicity of Christ’s birthplace.  He was dismayed by the contrast of Jesus’ humble beginnings and the lavish church celebrations of his birth.

St. Francis created a rustic stable scene for midnight mass on Christmas Eve 1223.  He used live animals and people portrayed Mary and Joseph, shepherds and the angels.

Stockings

Long before Christmas trees were a part of the common Christmas traditions, stockings were hung in anticipation of the arrival of St. Nicholas.  English immigrants brought this custom with them to America.

The original Christmas stockings that were hung were those worn for everyday apparel.  They were hung with the hopes of being filled with treats from the visit of St. Nick.

What traditions are a part of your Christmas celebrations?  What values are you communicating as you celebrate?  Perhaps you can lead your family or your friends in remembering the true reason for the season as you reflect upon some of these established traditions.     MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Leading iGen People – 2

Jean Twenge has studied generational differences for many years and has some sobering thoughts in her Ted Talk regarding iGen, those born between 1995 and 2012, the Smartphone Generation.

She reminds us that iGen is the first generation to grow up always having a smartphone.  They tend to stay at home, spending hours of screen time with video games.  They are more likely to feel unhappy.  They are on the forefront of the worst mental health crisis in decades, with rates of teen depression and suicide skyrocketing since 2011.

They are less likely than all teens from other generations to go out without their parents, to date, have sex, drive or drink.  They are obsessed with safety and fearful of their economic futures.  They are in no hurry to grow up, with many not having driving licenses by the 12th grade.  By 2016, one in four men in their early twenties was not working.  Instead, the majority of their day was spent playing video games.

Wow… not a pretty picture it would seem.  As one who is identified as a Baby Boomer, we were the ones who rebelled against our parental norms, promoting the Hippie lifestyles of free love and protesting all things our parents had built.  No doubt our parents wondered what we would become.  Yes, we grew up eventually, just as iGen will.  Yes, it will take time, maybe longer than previous generations, but they will grow and mature.  But, they will be different that those before them.

Kingdom leaders must lead in the power of the Holy Spirit if they are to be able to lead into these generational complexities.  It’s definitely not one-size fits all when it comes to leadership style and execution.  The Spirit within those who lead in the Kingdom will give us discernment, awareness, and guide us to the truth of how best to fulfill our responsibilities.  We need not become expert social anthropologists to be very effective leaders for advancing the Kingdom.

Let’s not give way to fear of the future or live in despair of the challenging complexity we face today.  Rather, let’s depend upon the power of the Spirit who resides within us to enable us to lead this generation well, for His glory.  He made each and every one of them and wants them to be well-led.  Count on it – God cares for His people!

Let’s lead like Jesus who came out of the wilderness “in the power of the Spirit” as He began His public ministry (see Luke 4:14).  May we be Spirit-led and Spirit filled as we lead in these challenging times.

Leading iGen People – 1

Every generation tends to be reactive to the generation immediately before it.  Or, in another way of looking at it, every generation tends to be more like their grandparents than their parents.  Now obviously, these are broad generalities and every person individuates.  But, broad categories can be helpful in conceptualizing our leadership thinking and methodologies.

Thus, in general, GenX has more in common with Builders than their parents who were Boomers.  Millennials (GenY) has more in common with Boomers than GenX.  And today, GenZ, (iGen), is more like GenX than the Millennials.  Wise leaders are aware of these generational differences and adapt their leadership styles accordingly.

Ken Blanchard’s seminal concept called Situational Leadership reminds us to adapt our leadership style to the situation of those we are leading.  It requires an understanding of the needs and experience of those we are leading, with a balance between being both directive and supportive in our leadership approach.

Wise leaders today will also have to take into account not only the situation they lead into, but also the generational differences of those they are leading.  For Baby Boomer leaders to lead a mixed team of Millennials and GenZ, requires a basic understanding of their uniqueness.  Adding in differences in gender or culture and you can quickly see how complexity multiplies.

For Kingdom leaders there is good news.  We have the Holy Spirit within us to give us the wisdom needed to lead into this complexity with confidence.  Yes, pay attention to these generational traits.  Be aware of your team’s experience levels as well as cultural or gender differences.  But, in the end, listen carefully to the Spirit within you.  He knows and He will guide you.

He promises, “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)

Are you aware of your default leadership style?  Are you aware of the needs of your team and their individual differences, or are you expecting them to adapt to you?  Are you listening to the voice of His Spirit within you as He guides you in your leadership?

God Uses All for His Good Purposes

So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia.      Ezra 6:14  (NIV  1984)

The Lord used ungodly, pagan kings to further His purposes with His people.  Note the kings mentioned by Ezra in this verse.

Cyrus was spoken to by the Lord in a dream and told that he would rule over all the kingdoms of the world.  When he came to power having conquered the Babylonians, he decreed that the Jewish exiles could return from Babylon to their home in Judah.  Zerubbabel and Ezra lead groups of exiles back to the Promised Land and began to rebuild the temple.  This was a fulfillment of the prophecy through Jeremiah that the captivity was to last 70 years.

Artaxerxes granted Nehemiah permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, beginning with the city walls.  He appointed Nehemiah governor of the province and he gave permission for materials needed for the rebuilding project.

Local opposition arose to the rebuilding project, but he Lord used Darius to put a final end to the opposition, decreeing that the Jewish people should be allowed to continue their rebuilding without any further resistance (see Ezra 6).  Darius said, “Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God.  Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site.” (Ezra 6:7)

All three of these kings were not worshipers or followers of the living God.  Yet, the Lord used each to further His good plan for His people.

There are times when we may find ourselves serving under the leadership of those who are not the best of leaders – not necessarily ones we would choose, if given the opportunity.  Yet, there is no authority over us who can frustrate God’s plan or destiny for us.  He is the final authority and He will not allow any human authority to block, delay, or hinder His plan for your life.  Do not fear – if needed, He can work through, around, or even remove them.

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”  Nahum 1:7  (NIV 1984)

Rest in Him!  Trust in Him!  He is good and all that He is doing is good.  Even when it doesn’t feel good!

Defending Your Reputation

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.                 Isaiah 53:7   (NIV 1984)

When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer.  Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?”  But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge–to the great amazement of the governor.        Matthew 27:12-14

The chief priests accused him of many things.  So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer?  See how many things they are accusing you of.”  But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.    Mark 15:3-5

We have recently seen how accusations – whether verifiable or not, accurate or not – have become accepted as true.  The seeming emotional state of the accuser was proof of the accusations, rather than their veracity or falsehood.  The resulting damage done to both the accused and the process of law are hard to measure.

Jesus too was accused at His trials. Before the Sanhedrin it says, “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they
could put him to death.  But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.”  Matthew 26:59-60  (NIV  1984)

Before the governor He acknowledged that He was the King of the Jews as accused (Matthew 27:11).  But, the other accusations against Him made by the Jewish leaders of inciting rebellion or insurrection against Caesar, He declined to answer – to the amazement of His accusers.

Jesus entrusted His fate to His heavenly Father.  Knowing that His destiny was to die for His people, He chose not to defend Himself or correct the accusations.  Rather, He asked His Father to forgive them for they did not know what they were doing.

How important is your public reputation?  Can God be trusted to defend you and your reputation should the need arise?  In what circumstances should we offer a rebuttal or a defense?  Wisdom is needed for sure!

 

Trusting God with your Legacy

Remember me with favor, O my God.          Nehemiah 6:31   (NIV 1984)

Four times Nehemiah asks that the Lord “remember” him for his faithful and sacrificial leadership (Nehemiah 5:19; 13:14, 22, 31).  Nehemiah entrusted the lasting impact and any possible reward for his labors to the Lord who sees all and rewards those who are faithful (see Hebrews 11:6; Matthew 25 – Parable of the Talents; Luke 19 – Parable of the 10 Gold Coins).  Unfortunately, for many leaders, we seek to ensure that we get the credit, reward, accolades, and affirmation of success we think are due us, rather than leaving those outcomes to the Lord.

Here’s several spiritual checks that help keep us on the right path:

  1.  We all want to be well-thought-of.  That’s natural.  But, do we tend to grab the ‘spotlight’ and make sure that it is shining directly upon us?  Can we share the spotlight with others, acknowledging their contribution in our success?
  2. Leaders often sacrifice much – many times without the knowledge of others.  Is it enough that Jesus sees my sacrifices and the hard work I put in?  Or, do I need to let others know of my labors on their behalf, seeking words or deeds of appreciation back from them?
  3. Can I trust Jesus that He not only sees my labor and sacrifice, but that He will also reward me in His way and in His time for my labor?
  4. How important is it that I get the credit for any successes or contributions?
  5. Do I see my leadership as a right or a privilege?  Do I have a sense of stewardship of my leadership responsibility – a responsibility that one day I will have to give an account to God for?

Jesus says in Luke 17:7-10 – “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep.  Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’?  Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’?  Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?  So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ”

For who makes you different from anyone else?  What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?     1 Corinthians 4:7   (NIV  1984)

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