Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

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)

Lasting Impact

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” …. Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”    Matthew 16:13,15  (NLT)

Jesus was asking these questions to bring into focus of the Twelve what they believed about Him.  He used questions to force them to reflect on their personal beliefs.  He was not having an identity crisis!

How to insure that your investment in others will have a lasting impact?  It’s a matter of focus – focusing on beliefs.

You can influence another my focusing on their outward actions or behavior.  Accountability structures or ‘rules’ will insure that others conform to the expected performance standards.  But, as soon as they step out of this environment, they will revert back to their ‘default’ behavior patterns or adopt new patterns that align with the new environment they are in.

A more lasting impact can be had by focusing on a person’s values.  By helping shape values, we can impact behavior because values determine choices which result in behavior.  Values can be encouraged and re-enforced by the environment we create.  But, once again, when others leave this environment they will find themselves in a new one with different values that are influencing them to conform.

By focusing on beliefs / convictions and deeper matters of the heart, we can see true transformation in the lives of others that will last.  Personal beliefs will deepen and mature over time, but need to be rooted in the Scriptures which do not change and God’s character which is immutable.  Beliefs drive values which cause choices resulting in behavior.

These three levels of focus – beliefs, values, or actions (behavior) all will have impact.  But, impact that lasts comes from influencing what one believes.  Helping others answer “why,” not just “what” or “how” will plant seeds that grow to a fruitful maturity over time.

So, where’s your focus?

Being Surpassed by Your Protégé

In Acts 13:2 we read this fascinating account:  “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”” (NIV 1984)  We know from the previous chapters that Barnabas had gone to Tarsus, recruited Paul to come back with him to Antioch, and there, for a year or more, they discipled new believers.

Now, the Holy Spirit is setting them apart for a new initiative, to take the gospel to the Gentile peoples of the surrounding provinces of the Roman Empire.  It was natural that Barnabas would be the leader of the enterprise, given his maturity, history with Paul as his mentor, and his experience.

But something interesting happened on their first journey.  Having left Cyprus, they landed on the shore of modern-day Turkey.  Their John Mark leaves the missionary band and from here forward the order of leadership is reversed.  Now the team is referred to as Paul and Barnabas, not the previous order.  Paul has now surpassed his mentor in authority and influence.

Later Paul and Barnabas once again tried to team up for a second journey, but could not agree on whether to take John Mark with them.  Certainly, Barnabas, being a relative of John Mark, had the personal development of his nephew in mind when he selected him.  And he was successful in the end, for Paul later refers to John Mark as being “helpful to me for my ministry.”  (see 2 Timothy 4:11)  But, at this time, they disagreed and split – Paul taking Silas with him instead.

Paul’s separation and surpassing of Barnabas was now complete.  He had outgrown his mentor and now was well-established as a Kingdom leader in his own right.  He was leading his own team and initiative and God’s hand was clearly on him, using him to advance the gospel among peoples who had not heard.

Mentors are often surpassed by their protégés in influence and impact.  In fact, it should be an objective for all mentors and coaches that those we help far outstrip and surpass us.  Our attitude should be that of John the Baptist who was losing influence and people to Jesus.  When John’s disciples noted that “… everyone is going to him,” John replied with a humble recognition of Jesus’ future as well as his own, “He must become greater; I must become less.”  (John 3:30  NIV 1984)

For some who find their significance in being the leader, the development of a mentee can be seen as a threat and they find it hard to platform this ‘young Turk,’ knowing that the spotlight is now moving away from them to another.  Rather than being threatened, we should rejoice in this reality.

Who can you shine the spotlight on today, taking it off of yourself and placing it squarely on one who you know has a future more than you?  Can you do this with a good attitude and in true sincerity?

Lead from Your Strengths

Every job description will be shaped by the leader around their individual strengths.  No JD is so tight that one can’t bring their best into how it will be executed.  Thus, the same role will be done differently by two different individuals.

A key mantra for success is, “Operate in your strengths and staff to your weaknesses.”  Now this implies that:  1) you are self-aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, and 2) you are able to recruit others with complimentary gifting and strengths.  If, for example, you are in a start-up or pioneering situation, then one may not have the luxury of delegating to others for there may not be anyone to delegate to.

In 1 Timothy 4:14, Paul exhorts his son in the faith, Timothy: “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.”  (NIV  1984)  Paul encourages Timothy to use his gift (a potential strength) in the exercise of his leadership.  And later in 2 Timothy 1:6 he says, “… I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (NIV  1984)  That is, Timothy was to continually develop the gift (turn it into a strength) that was given him.  Our gifting and abilities need to be maximized and grown to strengths for the exercise of our leadership.

It has been said, “You are to concentrate on the depth of your message and God will take care of the breadth of your influence.”  Seek to grow in your gifting and turn potential into realized strength.  Deepen the messages that God has given you.  Put a sharp point on them and then wait on the Lord to give you the platform for their delivery.  His ways and timing for platforming leaders are often different from ours and thus, it will be a walk of faith as you trust him for that influence with others.

Do you know your spiritual gifts?  What are your natural abilities?  Are you developing or neglecting these?  Are you shaping your current job description around those abilities and gifts that the Lord has given you to steward?

A Healthy Fear of God

This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.       Isaiah 66:2   (NIV 1984)

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.    Hebrews 10:31   (NIV  1984)

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)

There’s a certain perspective when it comes to accountability for our leadership in the Kingdom.  This perspective knows that our leadership roles and responsibilities are given to us by the Lord.  They are delegated to us for a period of time and then we will be asked to transition them to another.  All roles are temporary and are a privilege, not a right!

When serving in our leadership roles, we are asked to steward the Lord’s resources – people, money, time, opportunities – for His glory.  We are expected to increase Kingdom assets (growth is a Kingdom value) – see the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25) and the Parable of the Ten Coins (Luke 19).  And when our leadership is done, we will have to give an account to the One who gave us the responsibility in the first place.

This accounting should be sobering and humbling.  It should inspire and motivate us, as well as help us purify our motives.  It can be an accounting that yields rewards for faithful service.  Or, it can be a time of loss for unfaithfulness and a revealing of impure motives (see I Corinthians 3).

Whose glory am I seeking?  My flesh cries out for attention, credit, and honor from others.  I want to be successful!  But, why?   Is it for the Lord and to advance His Kingdom that I strive so hard?  Or is it for myself?  Whose glory am I really seeking?

Lord – may you purify my impure motives and may any credit that comes my way be rightly reserved for you alone.

What’s motivating you…. really?

Leading in a Matrix

Organizations can structure themselves into one of three shapes:  geographical, functional, or a combination of the two known as a matrix.  All of these structures have strengths and weaknesses.  Wise leaders know the times and which structure best fits the context in which they are seeking to accomplish mission.

Much is written about geographical and functional alignments in various contexts, but I recently came across an excellent work by Stanley McChrystal titled, Team of Teams, in which he describes how he led the mission against terror in Iraq by forming a matrix of many highly specialized military units.  It’s an engaging read and very practical, with an easy application for those in business and ministry.

In a matrix structure, geographical and functional lines of authority overlap and cross.  Where these intersections happen, over-communication is needed to insure common objectives and outcomes. McChrystal talks about creating a shared level of organizational consciousness, where everyone shares common information, with no silos, helping to create organizational transparency which enables easier alignment and accountability for missional objectives.

Having created this common organizational consciousness, the role of the primary leader is to focus on organizational tone and culture, allowing the individual parts to function in their strengths.  When that happens, we will get true synergy, where the total is greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Kingdom leaders today are leading in a world full of complexity that is changing at an ever-increasing pace.  The good news is that we have the Holy Spirit within us to guide us through this complexity.  He will show us which structure fits our missional needs at this time.  We rest in knowing that we are not trying to ‘get it right, once and for all.’  Rather, we are trying to get it right for now, knowing that our context will change at some time in the future and we will once again be forced to rethink how best to re-organize.

Organization structure can be consuming and distract us from mission, if we are not careful.  It is a means to an end, not an end.  We are not looking for a perfect structure, just one that optimally serves us to carry out our mission for the glory of Christ at this time in this context.

How long has it been since you rethought your mission, strategy, and which organizational structure best serves you for the coming decade?  Maybe it’s time for a prayerful and thoughtful review?

Names are Important

As we look throughout the Bible we see many occasions where God determines the name for a person.  On some occasions these names are selected before birth and speak about God’s purposes for this child.  At other times the Lord changes the name of a person when they are adults.  This adult name change marks a turning point in their life as they carry out God’s purposes.

The outstanding example of a child’s name given by God to parents before birth is Jesus.  In Matthew 1:21 we read about the Lord speaking to Joseph in a dream concerning Mary’s pregnancy, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (NIV 1984)  Other examples of names given before birth are John the Baptist (Luke 1:13), Ishmael (Genesis 16:11), Isaac (Genesis 17:19) and Hosea’s three children (Hosea 1:4, 6, 9).

At other times the Lord changed the names of people to signify a new season and purpose of their life.  This can be shortly after birth or as adults.  The classic example is Abram being renamed Abraham and Sarai renamed Sarah.  “No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.” (Genesis 17:5-6  NIV 1984)  “God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” (Genesis 17:15-16  NIV 1984)

Other examples of name changes are:  Jacob becomes Israel (Genesis 32:27-28), Solomon becomes Jedidiah (2 Samuel 12:24-25), Simon becomes Peter (Matthew 16:17-18) and James and John are named Sons of Thunder due to their apparent volatile temperaments (Mark 3:17; Luke 9:53-55).

And in Revelation 2:17 we read that to those who overcome the world, the Lord will give a white stone with a new name written on it.

Our names go before us and create an identity.  They can create a sense of destiny for our children as we explain why they were given the name we chose for them.  Even nicknames can be important, creating an image or impression, whether positive or negative.

As leaders, we can ‘name’ someone with a nickname that sets them up for positive influence or we can ‘name’ them with a moniker that hinders or creates difficulty for them.  It’s our choice and how we steward our influence on others is very important.

What ‘name’ is on your public name tag?  What names are you using to describe those you lead? Are you setting them up for success?

 

Present Yourself Like a Leader

Then Gideon asked Zebah and Zalmunna, “The men you killed at Tabor—what were they like?” “Like you,” they replied. “They all had the look of a king’s son.”    Judges 8:18  (NLT)

Gideon had a look about him – one that presented itself like a prince, the son of a king.  When in his presence there must have been something about him that made others notice a difference between the way he carried himself and others.  It was the presence of a leader.

Leaders must look and act the part and Kingdom leaders must carry themselves in such a way as knowing that they are representing the King of Kings.  This is not to suggest that one must pretend to be something we are not, nor does it mean that we must flaunt our position, power, or authority.  This will exude naturally as we grow in understanding our sense of purpose, destiny, and responsibility to accomplish His plans for and through us as His servants.

1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that, “… People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (NLT)  While the second part of this verse is most important, the first part is also true.  People do look and judge at outward appearance.  While Samuel is reminded not to judge leadership potential or base his selection on what he sees externally, people do still look at the externals.

As Kingdom leaders, we serve the King of Kings as His representative.  Those around us are forming opinions about Him based upon what they see and perceive in us. Certainly that opinion will be better informed as they get to know us more and experience our Christlike leadership.  But, first impressions are made and we want that to be as potentially positive as possible.

It’s the hard-learned lessons of contextualization of the messenger and the message when crossing cultures for the sake of the Gospel.  We don’t want people around us to stumble over anything except Christ alone.  Let Christ be the sole offense, if indeed they are offended, and not me His ambassador.

And so, we think about what impressions we leave as we interact with others.  We refrain from having certain public opinions about a lot of things that may detract from our primary purpose.  We limit our involvements in endeavors that may confuse the message of our leadership or distract from our mission.  We are aware at all times that, though we may have many personal rights, we can choose not to exercise those rights for His sake.

Are you self-aware of how others are perceiving you and the One you serve?  Is there something that needs to change to create a better impression?

God’s Help in Generations

The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you.       Deuteronomy 7:22    (NIV  1984)

These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience) … They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the LORD ‘s commands, which he had given their forefathers through Moses.        Judges 3:1-2, 4   (NIV  1984)

The Lord’s promise to deliver the land to Israel was a sure thing.  When God makes a promise, He backs it up with His unchanging character and His ability (omnipotence) to do whatever He says.  But, what His promise does not include is the process for handing the land over to Israel.  The ‘how’ of the fulfillment will be different than thought or imagined.

The Lord’s promises and purposes have a long time-horizon.  He was preparing Israel for a long-term occupancy.  Certainly, He could have wiped out all the occupants with the wave of His hand or the breath of His mouth.  But, knowing what was best for His people long-term, He chose to deliver it ‘little by little.’

The Lord’s ways and thoughts are not our ways or thoughts (see Isaiah 55:8-9).  Therefore, as Kingdom leaders, we must be filled and led by His Holy Spirit who indwells us to know how to execute our leadership in alignment with His purposes.  Learning to turn our hearts and minds to the Lord’s voice within us will enable us to do what He desires.

While this may seem a very subjective process, there is a very objective component.  The Holy Spirit will never lead us in ways or thoughts contrary to His Word.  Thus, our own familiarity and depth in the Scriptures enables the Spirit within to guide and direct us.

So, is it your ways and thoughts or His that you are executing?  Are you sure?

Faithfulness through the Generations

The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel… After that whole generations had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel.            Judges 2:7,10     (NIV  1984)

Israel walked in obedience to God and His law throughout the lifetime of Moses, Joshua, and the elders who led after Joshua.  For three generations they remembered the great deeds that the Lord had done and how He had delivered them from bondage in Egypt and preserved them for forty years in the desert.  They remembered how He had helped them cross the Jordan River and conquer the land promised to them when Moses sent Joshua, Caleb, and the other spies into the ‘land flowing with milk and honey.’

But, now a new generation grew who did not know the Lord or His deeds.  Something had been lost in transmission through the generations.  The author of Judges reminds us that this fourth generation did not know the Lord or His deeds done for Israel.  Something happened after the generation of elders – they failed to raise their children in the ways of the Lord and also failed to connect them to their spiritual history.

To see spiritual generations continue for the fourth, fifth, and more generations, we will need both a dynamic walk with God personally and some intentionality.  Our ‘children’ – those we lead and influence (whether spiritual or biological) will need to see our own pursuit of Christ and embrace it as their own faith when they grow to maturity.  While we cannot force or make others grow, our example can be so compelling that others will desire it for themselves.  It has been said, “Set yourself on fire and others will come and watch you burn!”

Secondly, generations who do not experience the great God doing great things will drift into spiritual doldrums and their faith will be more intellectual rather than personal.  They will have many opinions, but few convictions.  The previous generations will have to be intentionally helping the new ones to know their spiritual heritage and live a life that takes new steps of faith based on God’s promises to them and their spiritual forefathers.

Isaiah 50:1-2 says, “”Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord : Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth.  When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many.”

Are you planning and leading for a legacy of many spiritual generations?

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