Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Balanced life”

Hobbies or Hobbles?

I was educated and trained as a veterinarian, specializing in horses.  There were certain times when I needed to restrain a horse in order to work on it.  Hobbles were one of the most useful, simple means for immobilizing a horse and to protect me from getting my brains beat out by a horse hoof!

A 1,200 pound horse can be pretty much immobilized by tethering a couple of its legs together.  Great power and strength can now be brought under control with a small rope around the legs.

Leaders are busy, often intense, and sometimes over-extended people who need times when they unplug from their responsibilities and recharge.  This habit of stepping away from our leadership duties to build reserve is sometimes referred to as living within our boundaries, scheduling with a margin, or simply taking time off.  It’s an excellent discipline and will enable sustained contribution over a long time.

But sometimes our hobbies can become hobbles for us.  What was just a small hobby now becomes an obsession.  The all-in intensity we bring to our leadership now becomes focused on our leisure activities as well.  What was a recharge opportunity now becomes an opportunity for mastery instead.

Living in Colorado, I love being outdoors in God’s creation.  And I especially enjoy fly fishing in the mountains around my home.  People come from all over the world to experience what I have out my door.  It’s a wonderful privilege to live where I live.

Yet, as I enjoy my hobby of the pursuit of trout, I want to be aware that this is a means to an end, not an end for me.  Fly fishing is a recharge opportunity to allow me to pursue my primary calling of seeking to change the world one person at a time by helping them live and lead like Jesus.  If I’m not careful and circumspect, my hobby can become my hobble to keep me from accomplishing my God-given mission.

There are some who may be called to serve as fly fishing guides or in other parts of the industry who, for them, fly fishing is their mission.  They use this as a platform to serve God and influence others.  This is good and right.  I could have been asked by Him to continue as a equine practitioner and should I have done so, it would have been right.  But the Lord asked me to change my vocation and leave vet medicine in order to become a vocational missionary.  Both vocations are honorable and good.  There is no higher value in vocational Christian service.  We do all for Him and His glory whether it is ‘ministry’ or ‘marketplace’ as all are of equal worth and value in His eyes.  It’s simply a matter of personal calling and God’s plans for our lives.

Do you have a hobby or a routine that helps you recharge?  How are you managing that hobby?  Is it truly refreshing you or has your hobby now become your hobble?

Rest and Restoration

I’m taking a break from this weekly blog for rest, relaxation, and restoration.

When was the last time you had a break from your routines?

Scientists at NASA built a gun specifically to launch standard 4-pound dead chickens at the windshields of airliners, military jets and the space shuttle, all traveling at maximum velocity. The idea is to simulate the frequent incidents of collisions with airborne fowl to test the strength of the windshields.

British engineers heard about the gun and were eager to test it on the windshields of their new high-speed trains. Arrangements were made, and a gun was sent to the British engineers.

When the gun was fired, the engineers stood shocked as the chicken hurled out of the barrel, crashed into the shatterproof shield, smashed it to smithereens, blasted through the control console, snapped the engineer’s backrest in two, and embedded itself in the back wall of the cabin, like an arrow shot from a bow. The horrified Brits sent NASA the disastrous results of the experiment, along with the designs of the windshield and begged the US scientists for suggestions.

NASA responded with a one-line memo   –     “Defrost the chicken.”

Rest and Relaxation

I’m taking a break from this weekly blog for rest, relaxation, and restoration.

When was the last time you had a break from your routines?


Here’s a hint at what I’m probably doing while you are reading this….

Character Counts

Some time ago I found myself in a conversation with a man who was the chief head hunter for a Fortune 100 company.  He and his team hire 2000 new graduates each year.  I thought this was a great opportunity to gain some insights into university students from a new perspective, so I began to ask him some questions.

“What are you finding when you recruit these graduates?” I asked.

“Tom, we can hire those with top GPAs, work experience and internships, and resumes’ that are outstanding.  We offer them top salaries and benefits and place them in stimulating, cutting edge job situations.”

“Well, sounds interesting.  How’s that working for you?” I inquired.

“It’s a disaster!” he replied.  “All they want to know is when is the next holiday or how much vacation they get.  They don’t put in a day’s work for a day’s pay.  They have conflicts with their co-workers and supervisors.  They steal from the company.  They take the great salaries we give them and spend it on addictive behaviors, then we end up paying for counselors for them.

“That sounds pretty depressing.  What are you doing about this?” I said.

“Well, I will tell you what I tell my recruiting team.  We can’t put it in writing for we would be charged with hiring bias or discrimination.  But here’s what I tell the team.  When interviewing on campus, look for students who are leaders in The Navigators and other campus ministries.”

“Really?  Why?”  I said.

“We hire these people because they have character.  As we’ve looked at our successful hires, those who do well had this common background.  We can train new hires to do any job that we want them to do in this company.  But we can’t train them in character.  They either have it or they don’t.  Leaders in these campus ministries have what we want, so we look to hire qualified people who were leaders in these campus ministries.  They have character!”

This chief head hunter was not a believer!  But he and his team had figured out that character counts, especially when hiring leaders.  And they had identified a pool of potential leadership hires who had the essential character qualities that they were looking for.

Are you intentionally pursuing your Christlike character development?

Living with Margin

I’m taking a break this week!

Seeking to honor God by living within my margins and boundaries.

How about you?  When was the last time you took some time away for refreshment and rest?

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”      Mark 6:31

Taking Time Away

I’m seeking to model leading from an overflow of my own walk with the Lord.  In doing so I’m taking time away from the routines of leadership in order to refresh my soul and body.

What fills your tank?  When was the last time you had an intentional break from your routine responsibilities?  Are you leading from an overflow or is your tank near empty?

Don’t think you need a break?  Ask your spouse?  🙂


The Amazing John Wesley

John Wesley was the fifteenth child of Samuel and Susanna Wesley.  Born in 1703,  he was converted at the age of 35 after university and a failed ministry attempt with his brother, Charles, in the Georgia Colony.  Though coming to faith later in life, Wesley made up for his ‘late start’ and his energy seemingly knew no bounds.

“John Wesley averaged three sermons a day for fifty-four years, preaching all told more than 44,000 times.  In doing this he traveled by horseback and carriage more than 200,000 miles or about 5,000 miles a year.

“His published words include a four volume commentary on the whole bible, a dictionary of the English language, a five-volume work on natural philosophy, a four volume work on church history; histories of England and Rome; grammars on the Hebrew, Latin, Greek, French and English languages; three works on medicine, six volumes of church music; and seven volumes of sermons and controversial papers.  He also edited a library of fifty volumes know as “The Christian Library.”

“His daily schedule was as follows.  He arose at 4:00am and worked solidly through to 10:00pm, allowing brief periods for meals.  In the midst of all this work he declared, “I have more hours of private retirement than any man in England.”

“At age 83, he was piqued to discover that he could not write more than 15 hours a day without hurting his eyes; and at the age of 86 he was ashamed to admit that he could not preach more than twice a day.  In his 86th year, he preached to almost every shire in England and Wales and often rode thirty to fifty miles a day.”  (Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations by Paul Lee Tan)

John Wesley finished his race just short of his 88th birthday.  While his lifestyle is one few could imitate, his passion for Christ is compelling.  How’s your work ethic?  Are you pursuing hard after Christ and His Kingdom?

Help! I’m Doing Too Much!

Busyness, fast pace, urgency, and crowded schedules are the hallmarks of the life of a leader.  If you don’t want to be busy, then don’t attempt to lead!  But, there is no glory in flaming out young because of foolishness and unwise choices about lifestyle and priorities.  Decades of contribution lost because of our bad choices do not honor God.

As a young missionary in Indonesia I had the great privilege of escorting the missionary statesman, J.O. Sanders from one end of Java to the other.  That day together talking together marked me for life.  After listening to me for some time share my hopes, dreams, aspirations, and those things that I was not yet doing or desired to do he stopped me.  “Tom,” he said, “I’d like to say something to you.”  Now this was J.O. Sanders!  And he had something he wanted to say to me!  I was all ears.

“Tom, you need to come to grips with the possible!”

Some years later I was beginning a different leadership role back in the U.S.  I asked one of our leaders if he had any advice for me as I launched into this new responsibility.  Immediately he said this, “Tom, a mark of maturity is being able to live with unfinished tasks.”

While both leaders used different words, their message to me was the same.  There will always be more things to do than we have time or energy to do them.  The ‘to-do list’ only grows longer for a leader, seemingly never shorter!  The urgent demands for our attention scream for us to stop immediately and address them, only to be followed by more demands.  What to do?

“Come to grips with the possible!”  Put in a good days work, then lay your head down on the pillow and go to sleep.  Let God be God for you and your responsibilities while you rest.  Those demands (and more) will be waiting for you tomorrow.  Work hard and then lay it down!  Taking your cares to bed at night makes for very fitful and unrefreshing sleep!

The words of Jesus are such a penetrating reminder to all of us who are doing too much:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?          Matthew 6:27

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.          Matthew 6:34

In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.          Psalm 127:2

How’s your sleep patterns?  Are you awakening each morning rested or weary from a night of  tossing and turning? Are you able to turn off your mind as it runs to your pressing, urgent issues of life and leadership?  Lay them down at His feet…He is willing and more than able to deal with them, while you get some much-needed rest!


Happy New Year!

As we come to the end of another year and look ahead to the beginning of a new one, it’s a great time to stop and reflect.  Put aside that busyness and reflect upon your life past, present, and future.

Some questions to help with your reflection:

1.  What has God been speaking to you about during these past few months?  Are there general themes or topics that seem to be repeated?

2.  Is your life in alignment with the general purposes of God and does it reflect an eternal value system?

3.  Are you at peace?

4.  Are you contributing in your strengths and operating out of your passions?

5.  Does your lifestyle model something that is attractive for others to imitate?

One of my favorite passages on new beginnings is Isaiah 43:18-19  –

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

May this be the year of new beginnings – a year that brings Him glory!

Happy New Year!

Taking a Break

Yes… I’m taking some time off.  When was the last time you had an extended break?

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Mark 6:31



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