Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the category “#2 BE – Who a Leader Is”

Bend Your Neck

“I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people.      Deuteronomy 32:9   (NIV 1984)

Isn’t it interesting that the Lord uses a phrase – stiff-necked – to describe a people who are unwilling to obey Him or submit to His authority over them.  Why not something like ‘cold-hearted’ or ‘hard-headed’ or just ‘strong-willed?’

A ‘stiff-necked’ person is one who holds their head rigidly erect.  It’s a sign of inward pride and self-confidence gone to an extreme.  The stiff-necked person is one who is inwardly (sometimes outwardly also) rebellious to the rule and reign of God in them. They would rather trust themselves than take the risk of entrusting themselves to the Lord.

The person who bends their neck demonstrates a sign of submission and a willingness to trust the Lord’s leadership in their lives.  They acknowledge their limits and willingly invite the Lord into their leadership knowing that they are really not that important in the grand scheme of things.

Signs of a ‘stiff-necked’ person:

  1.  A shallow, hurried, perfunctory prayer life.
  2.  An unwillingness to delegate responsibility to others.
  3.  A leader who is focused more on control than outcomes.
  4.  An unteachable attitude to others, especially those who they are leading.
  5.  A selective teachability, picking and choosing from those who they see as worthy of their attention.
  6.  In decision-making – especially important decisions – made without taking counsel from the Lord or others.
  7.  Self-centered talk with a lack of active listening and few questions for others.
  8.  Taking credit for the success of others.

The stiff-necked leader may be one who has some ‘success’ – at least short-term.  They seem to get things done.  But, this is a short-lived result.  For the Lord says that He actively opposes the proud (see 1 Peter 5:5-6).  He will not share His glory with another.

So… how’s that stiffening feeling in your neck these days?

Zeal and the Frenetic Leader

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.                         Romans 12:11   (NIV  1984)

Frenetic = fast and energetic in a rather wild and uncontrolled way.  When I think of the leadership of Jesus and His leadership lifestyle, the word ‘frenetic’ never enters into my description.  Yet, there were so many demands upon Him – “everyone is looking for you,” and “so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat.”  But, Jesus never seemed to give into the hurry, rather, he took steps to deal with these demands.

He told His disciples to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” And, “When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.”  He continually made time to pray and spend with His Father amidst all the crushing demands pressing in on Him daily.

Today I see many leaders who seem to draw their significance for their busyness.  They fill their schedules with back to back appointments and then complain about not having enough time for rest or relaxation.  The reality is this, “You are only as busy as you want to be.”  No excuses!  No complaints!  Own your reality – it’s on you!

This reality is illustrated every time a ‘crisis’ interrupts our packed schedules.  Suddenly, adjustments can be made, appointments can be cancelled or rescheduled for later.  What makes this happen is that we now have a ‘good excuse’ for making these changes.  We are in control of the schedule; we just needed a good reason to make some major adjustments.

The goal is not pursuing a life of ease or comfort.  Leaders are busy people.  If you don’t want to be busy, then don’t lead!  But… are you so busy ‘doing for Jesus’ that you have neglected ‘being with Jesus’?  Are you pegging life’s RPM meter into the red?  It’s not sustainable for a long push.  Something with give way – health, relationships with spouse or family members, spiritual dryness, etc.  We are not made for it.

The Lord not only modeled a sustainable pace in His life and ministry, but he created a framework for us to thrive long-term.  It’s called the ‘sabbath.’  Periodic times of recharging and renewal are essential.  God’s design was that we get this sabbath time weekly.

For me, the measure of how I’m doing in this sustainable lifestyle is my prayer life.  Am I making the time to really spend adequate time for prayer or is my prayer life often hurried, rushed, and superficial?

Are you a frenetic leader or are you a leader who lives within your God-given boundaries?  How’s your prayer life these days?

Be Very Careful How You Live

The late Francis Schaeffer titled his now famous book on Western culture and a Christian apologetic, How Should We Then Live?  In light of who we are and who we represent as Kingdom leaders, how should we live?  How should we lead?  Paul has much to say in answer to this question in his book, Ephesians.

In Ephesians 4:1-2, Paul states, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  The exhortation to live a certain lifestyle is couched in the heavenly calling that we have received as followers of Christ.  He immediately follows this contextual reminder with an exhortation on ‘being,’ not doing.  Note the character qualities listed as keys to being able to live out this calling lifestyle – humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance rooted in love.  The ability to live and lead a life worthy of our calling flows out of Christlike character.

Paul continues the theme on how to live the Christian life in verses 17-19 of the same chapter – “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking…Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”  The wasted (futile) life is one that gives itself to sensuality and temporal pleasure.

In the following chapter, Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul encourages us to, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  The mature Christian life will be marked by love in all areas.  Like the love of God, it will the a sacrificial love that unconditionally accepts others.

He ends the qualities of this life we are to live with one final exhortation in Ephesians 5:8-10 – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”  He comes back full circle to the necessity of Christlike character in the Christlike life – goodness, righteousness, and truthfulness in all we say and do.

And now we come to the conclusion of the question we began with, “How to live a life pleasing to God?”  In Ephesians 5:15-17 we read, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.   Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”   (NIV  1984)

May we live and lead in such a wise way, understanding the Lord’s will and seeking to please Him alone, that we hear Him say at the end of our life, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Aim for Perfection!

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.          Matthew 5:48     (NIV  1984)

Finally, brothers, good-by.  Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace.     2 Corinthians 13:11     (NIV  1984)

Perfection seems like such an impossible goal.  How could Jesus or Paul set this before us as something to be pursued, much less attained?  Are you kidding me?  Come on – get real!

If we understand this goal of perfection as sinless perfection, then it truly is an unattainable pursuit.  Though we are hopefully making progress daily in our battle against sin, we are under no illusion that we will attain sinlessness until we exit this body and live in heaven.

So, what is the aim here?

Paul helps bring some deeper understanding when he speaks of the goal of his ministry in Colossians 1:28.  “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.”  (NIV  1984)  The word ‘perfect’ here actually means mature.  Paul’s goal was to seek to bring all those he ministered to into a state of maturity in Christ.

Thus, when Jesus says we are to ‘be perfect,’ He is saying that we are to be mature in our relationship with our Father – especially in how we love others (see the context of Matthew 5).  When Paul exhorts the Corinthians to ‘aim for perfection,’ he is encouraging their pursuit of maturity in Christ, not some sinless perfection.

Peter encourages us all, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.   1 Peter 2:2-3   (NIV  1984)  We are to grow up in our salvation to maturity in Christ.  This pursuit is grounded in developing intimacy with Jesus, especially as we spend time with Him in His Word.

Perfect maturity in Christ is attainable.  It will be found over a life-long pursuit of Him – being filled with His Spirit and knowing Him and His ways as we know the Bible and apply it to our life and leadership. Maturity is not necessarily a factor of age, but rather a result of spending time with the Lord.

So….. how’s your aim?

You’re Really Not That Important!

You’re really not that important!  Really!

For many leaders, especially those that have experienced some measure of success, the temptation to promote themselves and their accomplishments is a temptation that is easy to embrace.  When young and inexperienced, it was easy to acknowledge our inabilities or weaknesses.  But with more experience and more accolades can come a subtle (sometimes not so subtle) shift.

We can begin to believe our ‘press clippings’ and pride takes root.  Initially it’s not so obvious as we seek to cover up the shifting ground within our hearts.  But, what is taking root finally bursts forth in our behavior.  We talk more and more about ourselves and take more and more credit for our accomplishments without giving at least tacit credit to others who truly did a lot of the work.  It becomes more and more about ‘me’ and less and less about the Lord.

Here’s some reminders on what the Lord has to say about self-promotion and its root – pride.

But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”  For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.                                  2 Corinthians 10:17-18

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
someone else, and not your own lips.     Proverbs 27:2

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.     1 Corinthians 3:5-7

It is not good to eat too much honey,
nor is it honorable to seek one’s own honor.     Proverbs 25:27

The greatest among you will be your servant.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.     Matthew 23:11-12

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.     1 Peter 5:5-6   (NIV  1984)

So, how’s your heart when people praise you?  Think back on some recent conversations – how much did you talk about yourself and your accomplishments?

It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power.  Any man can stand adversity–only a great man can stand prosperity.”

Fight or Flight?

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.   Matthew 10:16   NIV  1984

The Good Shepherd of the sheep here makes an amazing proclamation:  He is sending His sheep into a pack of wolves!  What is He thinking?  Doesn’t He care?  Doesn’t He know that these sheep are defenseless and are going to attacked by these ravenous wolves?

Yes, the Lord knows very well what He is doing and why He is doing it.  Therefore, as we engage in His grand mission of making disciples of all the nations, we must go with the shrewdness of snakes and the innocence of doves.  He can send His sheep among the pack of snarling wolves because of two things:  He has all authority in heaven and on earth to do so and He has promised to be with His sheep and never leave them.  (see Matthew 28:18-20)

Shrewdness alone would force us to rely upon our own cleverness and intellectual keenness.  Innocence alone would be simple weakness and a passive surrender.  But, combined, they present a posture and an attitude of wisdom and dependence upon the Shepherd who sends His sheep into areas where packs of wolves roam.

Note, that immediately after this statement, the Lord exhorts His sheep to, “Be on your guard again men…” (Matthew 10:17).  This sending of the sheep in not foolish ignorance, but rather a watchful, careful knowledge of the dangers faced and how best to respond to them.

When threatened, we have two natural responses – fight or flight.  There may be times when facing ‘wolves’ that we stand and fight.  We engage in the battle trusting not in our own strength, but the Lord.  The battle is the Lord’s!  (2 Chronicles 20:15)  Our fight is not against flesh and blood, but rather against the forces of evil behind those who oppose us. (Ephesian 6:12)  We engage knowing that the Lord is with us, helping us respond to the threat and trusting Him regardless of the outcome of the battle.

But, there are other times when the way of wisdom is flight instead of fight.  In Ecclesiastes 9:4 we read, “Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!”  Martyrdom may come, and should the Lord ask of us that supreme sacrifice, we can trust Him for the courage and faith to face that trial.  But, we need not go looking for martyrdom!  If it comes, so be it.  But, sometimes the best course of action is a strategic retreat!

What to do when facing a threat?  Should we stand and fight or flee to fight another day?  Trust in the Lord’s leading through His Spirit who lives within His sheep.  You will know which way to go.

“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

The Leader and Authority

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you…    Matthew 20:25-26   (NIV  1984)

Were you to ask many people today under the age of 30 how they view authority, the overwhelming response is negative.  And with good reason.  Throughout their lives those authorities in whom they put their trust have disappointed, hurt, or taken advantage of them.  No wonder some younger leader stated, “I’m trying to learn how to lead without authority.”

Leaders must exercise authority to lead.  Leadership authority is morally neutral – it’s not good, bad, or purple.  It’s how you exercise your authority that makes it beneficial or tyrannical.

A leader has two types of authority – positional and personal.  Positional authority comes with the title or role one has.  It is vested with the responsibility of leading.  It can be used to bless others – making exceptions to rules or policies, providing resources not available to those they lead, creating tone and environment, and solving problems others can’t solve.  Negatively it can be used to dominate (lord it over), micro-manage, control, and stifle initiative of those we lead.

The second type of authority is personal authority.  It is not linked to one’s position and allows great influence in the lives of others, whether we have line responsibility for them or not.  You’ve seen this in action in groups when someone with this type of authority speaks, all turn and pay close attention.  Personal authority is given voluntarily to others based upon their perceived character (particularly wisdom and integrity) and competency in particular areas.

Personal authority allows you to speak truth to others, guide, counsel, mentor, and coach them as they trust your influence.  Negatively it can be used to manipulate others, promote yourself, or seek your purposes instead of what’s best for others.  Personal authority is the greatest authority one can have for it lasts beyond any position one may have.

Positional authority comes instantly when one assumes the title of leader.  Personal authority is built over time as one interacts with others and demonstrates Christlike character and competency.  It’s like making deposits into the personal authority bank account.  Unfortunately, one can also make major withdrawals from this account by demonstrating foolishness, poor choices, or sinful behavior.

Authority – you must have it to lead well in the Kingdom.  Don’t shy away for exercising your authority.  Just be sure that you’re using it for advancing the King’s purposes and not your own!

Qualified to Lead

But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens… Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.  He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.      Exodus 18:21; 24-25   (NIV  1984  Italics added)

Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you…  So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you—as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials.       Deuteronomy 1:13, 15  (NIV  1984  Italics added)

In Deuteronomy we have several messages from Moses to the people of Israel before they were to cross into the Promised Land.  In these words, Moses reminds them of their history – how they arrived at this point in time.  In the first chapter he reviews the change of leadership structure that came about from the advice given to him from his father-in-law, Jethro, some forty years earlier (see Exodus 18).

Jethro saw that Moses was being worn down by the daily leadership demands of the people, and thus needed some help.  The advice given and heeded was to set up a hierarchy of leaders to help carry the leadership load and thus free Moses to focus on teaching the people the Law of God and only handling the most difficult cases.

Note the selection criteria for those who were chosen to judge the people:  capable men who feared God and were trustworthy (Jethro’s advice).  Moses’ summary forty years later was the choosing of those who were wise, understanding, and respected.

Here’s two general observations on who was considered qualified to lead.  First, they were to be capable, wise, and respected.  To determine if someone meets these criteria, they must have a track record of their leadership.  We need to be able to assess the results of their decisions and evaluate the outcomes of their choices.  We are to select based upon demonstrated, realized potential, not just potential. We are looking for proven leadership ability, not just raw potential.  Competency counts!

Secondly, they were to be men of godly character.  They were to be – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain, wise, and understanding.  They were to be able to lead from a foundation of seeing their leadership as a servant and steward of God.  They must be people of integrity.  And they must have wisdom and discernment to see solutions to problems and able to discern root issues.  Character counts!

When selecting leaders for Kingdom leadership we are to choose those with both proven competency to lead and Christlike character.  Competency and character are two wings of the leadership airplane.  We need both for it to fly!

A Servant of the Lord

And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said.  Deuteronomy 34:5

After these things, Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten.   Joshua 24:29

The descriptive phrase “servant of the Lord” is used of very few people in the Scriptures.  Moses was the first to have this said about him and it became synonymous with him when describing his leadership.  It is used 16 times to refer to this leader who served God in his leadership for forty years.

His successor, Joshua has the same phrase said of him and his leadership.  It is used of Joshua twice – both times in describing him after he died (Joshua 24 and Judges 2).  David also has this phrase describing him twice – found in Psalm 18 and 86.  The final people described as servants of the Lord were the prophets of God killed by the evil Jezebel in 2 Kings 9.

A slightly different phrase with similar meaning – “the Lord’s servant” – is used three times in the bible.  Once again it describes Moses in 2 Chronicles 1.  Mary describes herself as the Lord’s servant when submitting to God’s plan for her life in Luke 1.  And Paul reminds Timothy that the Lord’s servants are not to be quarrelsome in attitude or action in 2 Timothy 2.

While all of us who claim Jesus as our Savior are now servants of the King and slaves of righteous, this particular description seems to designate a special role or contribution. A servant of the Lord or one who is the Lord’s servant is one who serves in a special capacity or function.  Whether they be OT prophets, leaders of the nation of Israel, or in the NT, the mother of Jesus or one who serves in leading the people of God. There is no value difference with this description, but there does seem to be a unique description of function and/or relationship difference.

One who is the Lord’s servant is one who submits to the Lord’s will for their life and seeks to please the One who is their Master.  There is an intimacy in their relationship with the Living God.  They walk closely with Him and are chosen for special contributions.

To be known as a servant of the Lord is a wonderful compliment and a great reputation to have.  To finish your race, as did Moses and Joshua, and have this description used of you in remembrance, is a great honor.

So what would be the description others use to describe you and your leadership?  Would the phrase “a servant of the Lord” or “the Lord’s servant” be on a short list?

Conflict Resolution Tips

As the sun rises in the east, so will conflicts arise in your life as you lead.  What to do when they arise makes all the difference.  Below are some very practical ideas on what to do when you have an interpersonal conflict with another.

  1.  Seek to resolve small conflicts before they become big ones!  And remember that your small issue can be a big issue for someone else.
  2. If you know there is an issue with someone, take the initiative.  Move towards them to resolve it.
  3. If you are upset-angry-frustrated, be sure that you focus the expression of those feelings on the issue and not the person.
  4. Anger is not necessarily bad.  All emotions are morally neutral.  But, it is how we express our anger-frustration that can make it sin for us.
  5. If your beginning to lose self-control and sensing an inability to express deep feelings constructively, call a ‘time out’ to allow yourself to regain control of your emotions.  But, be honest to not use this tactic as a tool to manipulate others.
  6. Taking a ’20-year look’ on issues can bring some better perspective on how important this issue really is.  Is this really something that 20 years from now is worth going to battle over now?
  7. If possible, keep the issue private and settle it privately.  The circle of those included in settling an issue is the circle of those involved-offended.
  8. Once settled, don’t bring the issue up again.  Bury it and leave it buried!
  9. Using words like, “You always….” or “You never….” will not lead to resolution of a conflict.  The accused will feel personally threatened and move into a ‘flight or fight’ response mode.  Neither response will lead to a lasting resolution of a conflict.
  10. Just because someone disagrees with you does not mean that they don’t like you as a person or a leader.  Don’t take it so personally!

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.              Romans 12:18   (NIV 1984)

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