Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the month “June, 2013”

4 Core Qualities for Leadership Success

When our children were born, actually even before they were born, we began to pray for them daily (sometimes it was multiple times a day, especially if they were not having a good day).  We prayed many things for them, but the main thing was that they would come to know Christ at an early age, never experiencing a time of rebellion or walking away from Him, and that they would serve Him with their whole heart in whatever calling He would have for them.  As we got to know them and their personality / temperament, we were also able to add specific prayer requests related to their character needs.

The lists grew longer as time passed and I began to re-think what I was praying for each of the kids.  What was it that was really important for me to pray into their life?  What were the essentials that would see them through life’s trials and challenges?  After much thought and reflection, I boiled it down to just four things that were needed.  Yes, there were (are) still other things that I prayed (and still pray) for each of them, but these four things are the foundation stones that I (we) have prayed into their lives for many years.  Now, these four qualities have also become core qualities for myself as a leader and for other emerging leaders that I coach.   I remember them with the acronym, “PEWC” (rhymes with ‘hurl’).  🙂

“P” stands for Purity of Life.  Many have made shipwrecks of their lives by failing in this area.  Certainly the challenges of moral purity are greater today than when I was younger.  For young men in particular, with the pervasiveness of pornography on the Internet and other media, sexual purity is a growing challenge.  But, purity of life is more than just sexual holiness.

Purity relates to our heart and what grips it.  It means we are wholly devoted to one Master.  It relates to integrity, being a person of our word who can be counted on to do what we say.  It means we are transparent in our life, not playing games with our relationships or wearing masks that hide who we truly are.  What you see is what you get.

“E” stands for Eternal Values.  There is much pressure, especially in the American culture, to become a massive consumer and accumulate all we can.  The mantra seems to be, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”  While I’m not one who would feel guilty for being born and now living in a prosperous culture, I do have a sense of stewardship of whatever resources God places under my care.  We already have much compared to others.  And, “To whom much is given, much is required.”

Having eternal values ultimately means that we are living for a world to come, not this present one.  These values direct our daily choices, lifestyles, spending, consuming, giving, investing, etc.  Our lives are lived in the context of eternity, knowing that we will have to give an account one day of what we did with the resources God entrusted to us.  Our lives are lived out knowing that 70 years will come and go quickly, and we are but a vapor that soon disappears.  And when we exit this planet, we will leave all we have accumulated to others, taking nothing with us.

“W” stands for Wisdom Here is the secret to much of the challenge of parenting and leading.  God entrusts children and people to us without an instruction manual on how to raise or lead them.  Yes, we have the Bible with great principles (Proverbs is especially helpful) and we have our own upbringing (which can have it’s strengths and weaknesses).  What our children and those we lead need is “instant” wisdom that enables them to make wise choices that honor God.

When our children were young and disobedient we would correct them.  One of the statements that we would say again and again was, “That was not a wise thing to do.”  Or when we would talk about a decision or someone’s  decision and the consequences, we would point out wise choices and not so wise ones, labeling it as such.  The point was to reinforce in many ways that a goal in life was to become wise.  To obey God and your parents was a wise thing for them as a child and brought reward.  But, to disobey God and your parents was an unwise (foolish) thing and it brought punishment and pain.  Ouch!

“C” stands for Courage.  If our children and we as leaders are to apply the above three things, Purity, Eternal Values, and Wisdom, then that would mean that we would not be following the norms of the day.  We would be swimming against that cultural tide and standing out as different from the crowd.  There would be much pressure brought to bear on us to conform to the norms of the day, especially by our friends and peers.  Knowing this pressure, it will take great courage to stand for what is pure, eternal, and wise in God’s eyes, and not simply go along with the crowd and do what’s easy, instead of what’s right.

Courage, moral backbone, to say and do what’s right is never easy.  Sometimes there are real consequences for standing up for right.  Some have even had to pay with their lives for this kind of stand.  I pray that we would never have to make that kind of choice, but should it come, may we have the courage to stand, knowing that eternity waits.

These four areas have formed that foundation of what I (we) have prayed for our children since they were very young.  I have also made them a foundation of qualities that I have prayed for myself as a leader.  I’m pleased to say that we have seen these areas demonstrated in our children’s lives over and over again.  God has been and continues to be faithful to build these things into my life as well as theirs.  And now there is the next generation—our grandchildren.  They too are now coming under this prayer covering of PEWC.

But for myself and those emerging leaders who I coach and mentor these core qualities are also the foundation of my prayers.  I pray that we will grow and mature as leaders who demonstrate these qualities in our personal lives, families, and leadership.  For if we do, we will be change agents who the Lord will use to bring hope and help to many.

Becoming a Wise Leader – #2

Some time ago I did a study on the great, bold prayers of the bible.  Two prayers stood out to me.  The first request was Solomon’s prayer for wisdom ( 1 Kings 3:1-15).  As Solomon began his reign as king, he soon realized that the demands upon him were beyond his ability.  When God spoke to him in a dream, he was given permission to ask for anything (3:5).  How would you like to have that permission given you from God Himself?  What would you have asked for?  Now Solomon was already a wise young man (see David, his father’s comment in 1 Kings 2:9), but he knew enough to realize that wisdom was the secret to life and success for him as a leader, and so he asked for a wise and discerning heart (3:6-12).  Note that God was “pleased that Solomon asked for this” (3:10), and granted his request and in addition granted him much more as a result of his wisdom (3:12-14).  What a wise young man!

The second prayer request that impressed me was that of Moses in Exodus 33:12-23.  Moses too was in a position of leadership and was stretched beyond his ability, looking for some help in how to make wise decisions.  Note that Moses asked for the ability to understand the ways of God (33:13) in order to continue to find favor with God.  This request also pleased God (33:17) and it was granted to Him.  David comments on this in Psalm 103:7, where he contrasts Moses who knew the ways of God with Israel who knew the deeds of God.  Moses understood why God acted the way He did, but Israel only knew the acts of God.  They did not understand His ways.

As a result of this study, I began to pray and ask God to grant me the same things that these men asked for—that He would grant me wisdom and that I would understand His ways.  I can do this knowing that God does not show favoritism and therefore, will grant me the same as what others asked and knowing that He will be pleased by my asking for these things.  I do so want to please Him with my life, and here’s a simple way to move towards that goal.

Wisdom is the key to a life that is pleasing to God.  We must pursue it and we begin by asking for it.  That request begins the process of the pursuit of wisdom for life’s decisions.  Often, this request arises from our sense of inadequacy on how to handle our current situation (like Solomon and Moses).  But, we don’t have to be a leader of a nation to need wisdom.  We all need it to fulfill our God-given roles; whether it is as an organizational leader or a husband, wife, father, mother, grandfather, or grandmother, in addition to the other demands of life that constantly press upon us, that we may live a life pleasing to Him.

Wisdom is not a product of age or experience.  There are many older people who are very unwise.  One can obtain wisdom at a young age.  Solomon was young when he asked for wisdom and was given it, even while young.  Rather, wisdom is something to be pursued and sought after.  It is a life-long pursuit.  It is my desire to continue to grow in God’s wisdom and knowledge and understanding of the ways of God.  I pray that for myself and for other leaders that I know and mentor.  May it be your pursuit as well!

Becoming a Wise Leader – #1

Becoming a leader who is wise is a noble pursuit.  The complexity of leadership demands wisdom from above.  But where to begin?  How will I know if I’ve attained it?

It would seem that the place to begin is with the definition of terms.  As we study the book of Proverbs (the book on the subject of wisdom), it becomes apparent that there are three words used frequently in connection to each other.  These three are:  knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.  For a long time I searched for good definitions on these words and their interrelatedness, but was not able to discover it until a few years ago.  Here’s what I currently understand them to mean and how they relate.

Knowledge is the accumulation of facts.  It is the foundation from which understanding and wisdom arise.  There is much knowledge in the world and today, and with the Internet, we have access to amazing resources for accumulating vast amounts of knowledge.  Our challenge is how to keep from being overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge now available and how to search it and categorize it well, so that it becomes useful for us.  Knowledge is helpful (especially for Trivial Pursuit games), but it alone will not help us in leading a life that is pleasing to God.  An example of knowledge (facts) would be:  We know that water is made up of two elements, hydrogen and oxygen.  A water molecule is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.

Understanding is the ability to see the interconnectedness and relationships between a series of seemingly unrelated facts (knowledge).  Once one has gathered a variety of knowledge, these facts must be connected in our minds to give us understanding of how things work or how they impact each other.  Scientific research seeks to demonstrate this through repeatable experiments that demonstrate the relationship of various elements.  Once this is shown to be repeatable, we arrive at understanding.  For example, when we combine heat and water, we know that the water will boil at 212º F.  By combining the facts we know about water and heat, we understand that by turning on a stove and applying heat to the bottom of the pan of water, it will boil at 212º F, given enough heat and time.

Wisdom is the application of knowledge and understanding to life.  All wisdom is a gift from God that allows humans to live lives that are pleasing to Him.  All humans have the ability to understand wisdom on some level.  There is “common wisdom” and then, “spiritual wisdom.”  All have access to common wisdom, but only those who have the Holy Spirit living within will have the ability to understand the deeper things of God and what I refer to as spiritual wisdom.  This type of wisdom must be pursued, it just doesn’t happen by experience.  We can ask for it (James 1:5) and it will be given to us by God.  This wisdom is the secret to life and is the key to success in the eyes of God (I’m defining success as living a life pleasing to God).  We can always grow in wisdom, for we are learning about God Himself, who is infinite, and therefore we will never exhaust the source of this wisdom.

An example of common wisdom is this, following our example above.  I know and understand that water boils when heated on a stove and also that if I touch it, I will be burned.  Then, if I’m in the kitchen heating some water, I decide not to put my hand in the pan of water when I see it bubbling.  That would be a very wise decision!

Spiritual wisdom springs from the knowledge of God, His character, and His Word.  This spiritual knowledge leads to spiritual understanding on how God works – the ways of God.  And spiritual wisdom is the application of our knowledge of God and His ways into our daily decisions.  It is this spiritual wisdom that God gives to Kingdom leaders to help us accomplish His purposes in us and through our leadership.  We will continue this discussion next week.

3 Temptations for Leaders

This is what the LORD says:   “Maintain justice and do what is right.…  But what is right?  How do I know if it is right or wrong?  As leaders we are frequently making judgment calls where it is not black or white, rather it seems as if most of these decisions are “gray.”  What standards or grids can we use to help us?  Here’s one simple guideline  –  if the devil is involved, it’s wrong!

Let’s look at the temptations that Jesus faced and see what lessons and applications we can make for ourselves.

3 Temptations of Jesus/Leader      Luke 4:1-13

 1)  Self-Gratification     –        vs. 3-4

3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”  4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.

This is the temptation to use resources for yourself, instead of the work.  Leaders often have special access to leadership accounts or resources that others don’t have.  Many times there is also a lack of oversight or accountability for these accounts and it can be very easy to justify an expense that is personal and say it was for the work.  The ability to say no to this type of temptation is key for further responsibility in the Kingdom.  See Luke 16:9-11 and Nehemiah 5:14-19.

2)  Self-Promotion        –        vs. 5-8

5The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”  8Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.

The second temptation of Jesus is also a common one leaders face – that is, the temptation to use our position and influence to promote ourselves.  This seeking of power or position or influence flows from a misguided sense of ambition.  Many Kingdom leaders are self-flagellating out of the misconception that any kind of ambition is wrong or bad.  But in the NT we find that there are two types of ambition.  The bad type is self-seeking and wants to gather attention to ourselves.  Our English bibles often translate it with the words “selfish ambition.”   See Philippians 2:3-4.  But there is a good ambition, one that seeks to promote Christ and the Kingdom, rather than self.  Paul mentions this in Romans 15:20 when describing his own ambition.

3)  Self-Glorification     –        vs. 9-12

9The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” ….12Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.

This last temptation is seeking attention for ourselves, turning the spotlight on us, or taking credit for something that was the work of others.  It flows from an enlarged ego that is a common trait among leaders.  Want to know if you are in a danger zone for this?  Here’s a simple test – how much do you talk rather than ask questions and listen?  See 1 Samuel 15:12.

Leadership is not about you, but others!  Beware of these common temptations and pitfalls that have removed others from the race!

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