Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Doing Well

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.     James 2:8   ESV

Last week we looked at Doing Good – especially in the context of Jesus who “went about doing good” (see Acts 10:38).  Doing good is ‘what’ Jesus did.  James draws our attention to the ‘how’ of that which we do.  We can know if we are doing well.

James sets the context for us by addressing the ‘second commandment’ (see Matthew 22:36-40) that sums up all the Law and the Prophets.  The greatest commandment is to love God with all that we have.  The second is to love your neighbor as you love yourself.  James refers to this as the “royal law of Scripture.”  Quite the label, for sure!

Note that we will fulfill this ‘royal law’ if we actually do it.  It’s not enough just to know it, give it intellectual assent and agree with it.  We have to put it into practice.  We are to love others as we love ourselves.  In so doing, we are doing well.  So, what does this look like for Kingdom leaders?

First, it means that our leadership is not focused upon ourselves, but upon others.  It’s not about ‘me, the leader’ but rather, it’s about those we lead.  Yes, I love myself.  But, that is the standard from which to measure my love for others.  To paraphrase the Golden Rule, we lead others the way we would like to be led” (see Luke 6:31).

Secondly, we use our leadership authority and influence to serve and help others in the midst of accomplishing our mission.  Yes, finishing the task is important.  But, we don’t do so at the expense of those we lead or serve with.  Those we lead are not a means to an end (mission accomplished), but they too are an end – in loving and serving them as we complete mission together.

If we lead others well – loving them as we love ourselves – and if we lead others the way we would want someone to lead us – if we use our leadership to serve, not use those we lead, then we are doing well.

As you go about doing good, are you doing well?

 

Doing Good

… God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.  He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.     Acts 10:38  ESV

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.     1 Thessalonians 5:15   ESV

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.   Galatians 6:10   ESV

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.   Ephesians 2:10   ESV

Doing good is not a way to salvation of our souls… let’s be clear.  But, doing good is to be a lifestyle of those of us who have put our faith and trust in Christ.  Faith in Christ is the engine of the ‘salvation train’, but a train car that follows that engine is good works towards others.

Note that Jesus modeled doing good to others.  His message was one of faith in Him as the Messiah and salvation as a free gift, not by following works of the Law.  But, He did good to those around Him – healing and giving Himself away to those in need.

Paul reminds us also that we are to be doing good to everyone – especially those who are of the household of faith.  It’s interesting that ‘doing good’ is not defined.  It’s assumed that we will understand what is good to do and conversely, what is not good.

As Kingdom leaders we have access to resources and authority to do good in ways others can’t.  We can make the exception to the policy, we can reward others when not expected, we can help when others are incapable of helping themselves, and we can open doors of opportunity for those who need a boost.

Doing good to others is the lifestyle of all Christ followers and a part of our mission on earth.  And it is the special privilege of Kingdom leaders who represent the King of Kings!  Are you doing good?

Optimistic or Delusional?

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?    Romans 8:31   ESV

Perhaps you’ve heard it said, “One with God is a majority.”  Thinking realistically, this is very true.  But, living this truth can be a very different reality.

Part of strategic leadership is thinking and planning ahead with a good understanding of risk assessment.  The inexperienced idealist would simply ignore perceived risk, plan and execute those plans hoping that it all works out well.

Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.”  Prudence, a component of godly wisdom, assesses risk, and if judged to be too great, seeks protection from it.  The simple person sees the risk also, but ignores it and pays the price.

The question is how to evaluate risk?  All of life is a risk, for none of us knows for certain about tomorrow, next week or next year.  We don’t even know with absolute certainty our next breath!  As Kingdom leaders, what do we do to wisely assess risk and then act accordingly?

First, we acknowledge our limitations in knowing with any degree of certainty what the future holds.  We acknowledge how dependent we are on the Lord to guide us, give us insight and discernment as we plan, and wisely choose courses of action that are pleasing to Him. This self-awareness should move us to prayer and listening to His Spirit as He guides us.

Second, we seek what information we can to learn of the risks that we face.  Some will be clearly visible and some not so.  Risk is assessed in light of the potential impact on our mission.  Scenario planning can be helpful in thinking what courses of action might be available if things go poorly.  Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Third, make your decision by faith in trusting the Lord that He is with you and will never leave you.  He and His resources will be with you.  And should things not go as well as hoped for, you know that He has control of it all and will use it for good – for you and for His purposes in and through you.  Romans 8:28

Lastly, should things really go poorly, we must be flexible enough to change our plans.

Leading is risky business!  How’s your risk assessment?

Help – I Need a Mentor!

Many a conversation with next generation emerging leaders sooner or later comes to their felt need to be mentored for their development.  This is frequently followed by a complaint that there is no one to help them.  “I’ve looked and asked, and no one is willing to help me,” they say.  What to do?

First of all, the absence of a mentor is no excuse for not pursuing your own development.  There are multiple resources available to us online for growth.  We can read biographies of leaders and glean valuable leadership lessons.  We can do personal bible studies of leaders, both good and bad, and seek to learn from their examples.  But, it is nice to have someone to interact with – a mentor who can bring perspective and personal help.

Yes, leaders are busy people with very full schedules.  Few are looking for mentoring opportunities.  What to do?  Here’s my suggestion.

Identify someone who you think can be of some help.  Approach them with this question, “Could we meet for me to ask you some questions about how I can be a better leader?”  Note that you’re not asking them to mentor you.  Many busy leaders will immediately decline this offer… they have too many things to do!  But they all have to eat sometime, so invite them to a meal (you offer to pay!) and come with specific questions.  Take good notes and reflect on their answers for your growth and development.

I’ve done this over the years, targeting specific leaders for specific topics of development.  Topics I’ve benefited from are things like:  how to work with an executive assistant, how to select a leadership team, how to lead a meeting, how to manage your schedule, how to lead a geographically dispersed team, lessons learned about travel, how to handle communication demands, how to arrange an office, and many, many more.  All were practical and immediately applicable.

Another frequent objection is that they have never done this type of mentoring.  To answer this I’ve said, “I realize that this may be new for you.  But, you’ve been preparing for this all of your life.  It’s my job to get from you what you have learned by asking you questions.  All you have to do is answer my questions.”  This makes it doable, as they realize that they are not expected to prep anything – they’ve already done the preparation.

Don’t let the absence of a mentor stop you from your own growth and development!  Get after it!!!  And if you do have someone, pursue them – now!!!

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.

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