Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the category “#1 KNOW- How a Leader Thinks”

The Need of the Hour #2

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.    2 Corinthians 4:18    NIV  1984

What the world needs today is a new generation of believers who will say “no” to this world’s values and live for the unseen world promised by Christ.  The reality of heaven will so impact the lives of this generation that they will not compromise or settle for anything less that than God’s best for themselves and those around them.  They will give themselves unreservedly to Christ–a generation whose watchword will be, “Anything, anywhere, anytime–for Christ!”

What will it take to find a generation of God’s people who will live for the summit of God’s best?  It will begin with individual believers who base their lives on eternal rather than temporal values.  It will take believers who are so convinced about the reality of life in heaven that this world’s pleasures will not be able to grip their lives.  It will begin with an eternal value system in the believer’s life.

Both the seen and unseen world has values.  Individuals adopt these values and life’s choices are based upon them.  This world places value on such things as youth and physical beauty, intelligence and education, the accumulation of money and physical goods, personal power and position, and self-gratification.

The world to come says that this world and its values will soon pass away.  In the world to come we will all be given new bodies that don’t age or deteriorate (1 Cor. 15:35-58), we will know even as we are known (1 Cor. 13:9-12), there will be rewards for faithful service (1 Cor. 3:5-15), and we will reign with Christ forever (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 22:1-5).

Those believers with an eternal value system will have a pilgrim’s mentality.  They will view this life as temporary, a brief interlude on the way to eternity forever with Jesus.  They are only passing through this world on the way to a better life.  The time given for this temporal life will be used for God’s glory, always with the eternal end in view.  Decisions in this life will reflect the reality of the eternal life we await.

Our values determine our choices which result in our behavior.  Do your choices reflect an eternal or a temporal value system?


Groundhog’s Day Syndrome

Insanity:  doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.                        Albert Einstein

German settlers in Pennsylvania brought with them a superstition that on 2 February (halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox) they were able to predict the length of winter yet to come.  A bright day meant cold, wintry weather for another six weeks.  A cloudy day meant a less severe few weeks ahead and the winter was ending.  This superstition was attached to a tradition of a groundhog emerging from his hole and seeing or not seeing his shadow.  Actor Bill Murray solidified the day with his portrayal of a TV weatherman doomed to repeat the same day over and over again in the movie Groundhog Day (1993).

Since the popular movie release many have used the metaphor, “It’s like Groundhog’s Day over and over again” or some variation thereof.  Meaning, here we go again, same process with the same results.

Here’s the connection to leadership.  Many established works can get stuck in repetitive cycles, processes, traditions, etc. that have been around for a long time.  No one ever stops to think about why we do such things, we just do them because we always have done them.  They yield predictable outcomes, but we don’t stop to assess whether we could change or discontinue some things.  We just keep on doing what we have always done.

Good leaders will have a discerning eye on items in their environment that we assume are good, but are rarely evaluated.  Critically evaluating the ‘givens’ are a good way to find new creativity, improvement, and energy for  future change.  Just doing what we have always done will give us the same outcomes.  It’s crazy to think that we will see anything other that what we have seen in the past, no matter how hard or efficient we work.

In their book titled, Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers, Kriegel and Brandt suggest that it is not the expert or the pioneer who usually brings lasting change or innovation.  Rather, it is a new leader, often from outside the context, who acts like a beginner.  Beginners ask lots of questions and have few assumptions other than they don’t yet understand the context.  They are not afraid to question anything.

What things in your leadership world are so entrenched that you haven’t taken a hard look at them in a long time?  What assumptions are you making that need to be re-evaluated because it’s been a long time since they were created and times have changed?  Have the courage to take the hard look!

Giving Feedback in Annual Reviews

We’ve said that leadership and supervision are two wings to the airplane of accomplishing God’s mission.  We lead the people and supervise (manage) their work.  Part of good supervision is giving feedback to those we supervise.  Giving feedback in such a way that it is received and acted upon is an art to be developed.

Below are some notes from an interview with former Navigator International President, Lorne Sanny, on giving feedback, especially in a formal feedback session like an annual progress review.  He framed the topic under the umbrella of leading out of love.

  • Love means we give people feedback on how they are doing
    • Use ‘progress reviews’, not performance reviews
      • Performance reviews – not best term because it means the work is already finished
      • Progress reviews a better term for it implies work is in progress and we can still affect the outcome
      • Progress reviews are based on agreed upon goals, outcomes, or “focus items”
        • Some personalities don’t like the term ‘goals’ – can use the term “focus items” instead
      • Have those we supervise evaluate themselves by asking questions
        • Many are harder on themselves than we would be, so we can affirm them and bring true perspective to them
        • “The imagination is often worse than the realization.”
      • A good question to ask, “Is there anything I can do to help you accomplish your goals?”
        • “What do you think you will need to accomplish this?”
      • End the review by asking, “Is there anything else you want to say to me?”
      • On difficult issues, help them think by asking reflection and open-ended questions
      • Don’t use progress reviews to correct problems!  Do that on day-to-day basis.
    • Romans 14:17-18  – a good outline for progress reviews
      • For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
        • Righteousness –  What is right?                  What
        • Peace –  Do I have peace (settledness in my spirit) about it?                                                           When
        • Joy –  Should be a positive experience         How

Certainly feedback takes many forms beyond just annual progress reviews.  Becoming a skilled giver (and receiver) of feedback will help you supervise well and ultimately accomplish your God-given mission.

Managing the Work of Others

Perhaps you have heard it said, “I’m a leader, not a manager.”  This suggests that these are two distinctive people types and implying (sometimes not so subtly) that there is a value difference between the two and that leader types are better than manager types.

While there are ‘type’ or design differences, this is really a false dichotomy.  Yes, there are gifting and design differences and individual strengths, but there is no difference in individual worth or value and both functions are necessary to accomplish mission.

Leading and managing are two wings of the same airplane.  We need both to fly or the plane will crash.  The ‘plane’ in this metaphor is the mission of God and those Kingdom people assigned to accomplish it.

We lead people into an agreed upon mission or task by clearly communicating vision for the mission, setting clear directions and outcomes.  Part of this leading function is then recruiting others and assigning responsibilities and resources to those who join up with us in the mission.

But once people are in place and moving, we now must manage their work.  Note, we are managing the work of people, not the people themselves.  We lead people and manage their work, all to accomplish our agreed upon mission or task.

Another synonym for managing is supervising.  We supervise the work of people by providing accountability, feedback – both affirmation and correction, review and reward related to their work.   Supervision seeks to ensure that the work done is the best possible and those working are contributing to the best of their ability and potential.

Some of us will have God-given designs that allow us to more naturally to function in the lead mode.  Some others will be more naturally gifted in the managing or supervising function.  Both are necessary to accomplish mission.  One can’t say, “Well, I’m just a leader and I delegate the managing side of things to others.”

While you may have a strength in one, you are ultimately responsible for both functions – leading and managing.  Yes, we do seek to operate in our strengths and delegate or staff to our weaknesses.  But we seek to delegate, not abdicate!  ‘Big picture’ types must be well-informed on details, policies, finances, operations, etc.  ‘Detail’ types must be able to band people together to accomplish task.

Self-awareness of your design is the beginning of a healthy, balanced impact.  Knowing your design can help you maximize your strengths and shore up any crippling weaknesses that are preventing you from operating in your strengths.

Martin Luther – Courageous and Combative!

We have just come through the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenburg church which helped launch the Protestant Reformation in 1517.  I decided to read a biography on Luther (Luther the Reformer: The Story of the Man and His Career by Kittelson) to better familiarize myself with the life of one used by God in such a mighty way.  Here are some of my favorite quotes attributed to this amazing man.

I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.  Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.  Amen.

Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.

Pray, and let God worry.

You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.
Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.

Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.

I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.

The Bible is the cradle wherein Christ is laid.

I more fear what is within me than what comes from without.
If I am not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there.

Faith is permitting ourselves to be seized by the things we do not see.

You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the word which the Lord who receives sinners preaches to you.

May the Lord use the example of Martin Luther and many others like him who have the courage to stand for the Lord against the cultural tide of the day!

A New Beginning

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… 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.


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 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.


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!

Fixing Your Thoughts and Gaze

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.      Hebrews 3:1  (NIV)

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.      Hebrews 12:2   (NIV)

Someone has said, “A fog in the pulpit is a mist in the pew.”  Another common saying is, “If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.”  Clarity of purpose and destination are essential for good leadership.

The daily flurry of activity and leadership demands can take what at one time was crystal clear and make it seem distant or out of focus.  I call this the “leadership whiteout.”  If you have ever driven in a blinding snow storm where the blowing snow does not allow you to see the road in front you will know what I mean.

A leader’s job is to bring clarity.  But if the leader is not certain of their destination or purpose themselves, then it will certainly only be less clear for those seeking to follow their lead.

The author of Hebrews exhorts his readers to fixate on Jesus and Him alone in the midst of the daily hum.  We are to fix our thoughts on Him and not become distracted by those many voices clamoring for our attention.  In our leadership we seek to hear His voice and obey His voice, wanting to please only Him.

We are to fix our eyes on Him – He is the true north on our personal compass.  He keeps us oriented to eternal purposes rather than be consumed by the temporal tyranny of the urgent.

And so, where are your thoughts today?  Where are your eyes focused today?  Take a moment right now to reorient and refocus.


How to Develop Yourself at a Meeting

I was recently asked for some thoughts on how to really benefit from participating in a gathering of leaders.  Below are some practical suggestions on maximizing your growth and development from such a meeting.

  1. It’s easy just to let the meeting just happen and you take it as it comes – more reactive than pro-active.  While this may be of some benefit, it will not maximize your experience.  A little planning and forethought can be a great benefit.
  2. Don’t be afraid to take initiative with anyone while there or try to book an appointment beforehand.  You will usually find them very responsive if at all possible.  You will need to have a clear reason for wanting to spend time with them.  Express what you hope to get out of the time together.
  3. It can be easy to feel like a grasshopper in the land of giants, but that is not reality.  While a gathering of leaders will have those attending with different leadership roles, but there is no value or importance implied by those various roles.
  4. So, think ahead and do some pro-active planning.  Who would you want to spend time with?  Who would you want to learn from?  Are their strategic linkages that you want to work develop or initiate?
  5. Though you have a plan, expect that the Lord will guide you into some ‘divine appointments’ that He arranges for you.  Be anticipating that and listening to the Spirit as He directs you in your conversations.  Be slow to speak and quick to listen.
  6. Go as a learner.  Go asking questions.  It might be helpful to have several questions related to leadership that you ask repeatedly to several participants and then compare their answers.  The questions can be specific (i.e. What one lesson have you learned that has helped you most to be a strategic leader?) or more general (i.e. What advice would you give someone like me who is just beginning to lead geographically dispersed staff teams?)
  7. Don’t make any long-term commitments while there.  You may be invited to visit, send staff teams, partner, commit resources , etc. to many wonderful opportunities.  Thank them for the invitation, but tell them you will want to pray and think about this and discuss it with your leadership before making any long-term decisions.  When you return, and decompress, you will be able to make much better and wiser decisions.
  8. Debrief with someone afterwards on what you learned.

Gatherings of leaders can be very stimulating and helpful for your growth and development.  But a little forethought can truly make them life-altering.  Plan ahead!

The 24 Hours of Life

The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.                                                       Moses – Psalm 90:10,12

Some time ago I was meditating on these verses and thinking about the length of life.  It is but a mist that appears for a short time and then vanishes (see James 4:14).  To help me gain some perspective I created the chart below and review it regularly.  It helps remind me of my mortality and of the brevity of life.  It is a comparison of a seventy-year life span to a 24 hour day.

At 66 years of age (I was born in 1951) you can see that the vast majority of my life is now in the rear-view mirror.  This does not mean that life is over, for no one knows their span of years.  But whether it be seventy years, eighty years or more, we are to ‘number our days’ and make the most of them for His glory.

Reflect on these things and make the most of every opportunity.  For this life will soon be past and only what is done for Christ will last.

YEAR  AGE   TIME             YEAR   AGE   TIME

1952       1       00.20               1987      36      12.20
1953       2       00.41               1988      37      12.41
1954       3       01.02               1989      38      13.02
1955       4       01.23                1990      39      13.23
1956       5       01.43                1991      40      13.43
1957       6       02.03               1992      41      14.03
1958       7       02.24               1993      42      14.24
1959       8       02.45               1994      43      14.45
1960       9       03.05              1995      44      15.05
1961      10      03.25               1996      45      15.25

1962      11      03.46               1997      46      15.46
1963      12      04.06              1998      47      16.06
1964      13      04.27               1999      48      16.27
1965      14      04.48              2000      49      16.48
1966      15      05.09               2001      50      17.09
1967      16      05.29               2002      51      17.29
1968      17      05.50               2003      52      17.50
1969      18      06.10               2004      53      18.10
1970      19      06.31               2005      54      18.31
1971      20      06.51               2006      55      18.51

1972      21      07.12               2007      56      19.12
1973      22      07.32              2008      57      19.32
1974      23      07.53              2009      58      19.53
1975      24      08.14              2010      59      20.14
1976      25      08.35              2011      60      20.35
1977      26      08.55               2012      61      20.55
1978      27      09.15                2013      62      21.15
1979      28      09.36               2014      63      21.36
1980      29      09.57               2015      64      21.57
1981      30      10.17                2016      65      22.17

1982      31      10.38               2017      66      22.38
1983      32      10.58               2018      67      22.58
1984      33      11.19                2019      68      23.19
1985      34      11.39               2020      69      23.39
1986      35      12.00               2021      70      24.00

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