Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “emerging leaders”

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.

7 Woes for Leaders – #7

Jesus launches into a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders around Him at the dinner table of a local Pharisee (see Luke 11:37-52).  This passage begins a list of seven failures that these leaders experienced.  The following continues the list of six failures that are prefaced with a dire warning, “Woe to you…”

Here’s #7  –  “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge.  You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”  v 52   (NIV 1984)

These leaders were accused by Jesus of hindering the personal growth and development of others by not providing opportunities for them and by not modeling it themselves.

As Kingdom leaders, we are responsible for the growth and development of those we lead.  Yes, each individual is ultimately responsible for their own maturation, but leaders can create opportunities for growth for those around them.   We can provide a ‘buffet line’ of resources to choose from for those we lead, for their own development.  We can create an environment where growth is expected and valued.

Additionally, we can model life-long learning to those around us.  One never ‘arrives’ and leaders who continue a lifetime of learning will inspire and motivate others to do the same.  Nothing is more discouraging to personal growth than having a ‘plateaued learner’ as their leader.

But, Jesus’ accusation goes a step further, for these leaders were not just passive in their poor example, but He said that they hindered others by their leadership.  It wasn’t that they themselves had not entered into the Kingdom, but they actively hindered others from doing so.

James reminds those who would be teachers, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”  James 3:1   (NIV  1984)  The author of Hebrews reminds leaders of their accountability to the Lord when he says, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.  They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.”  Hebrews 13:17  (NIV  1984)

Leadership and its accompanying authority carries with it a sobering reality that we will be accountable for what we did with our leadership.  Did we accomplish the mission?  Did we care well for those under our charge?  And, did we seek to develop them, maximizing their potential?

What’s new that you’ve recently learned?

7 Woes for Leaders – #6

Jesus launches into a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders around Him at the dinner table of a local Pharisee (see Luke 11:37-52).  This passage begins a list of seven failures that these leaders experienced.  The following continues the list of six failures that are prefaced with a dire warning, “Woe to you…”

Here’s #6  –  “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them.  So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs.”  v 47-48   (NIV 1984)

These leaders were charged with giving superficial or temporary solutions to long-standing problems, rather than dealing with root issues or causes that would yield lasting, positive change.

There is a reason why long-standing problems are not dealt with in a lasting way.  They are messy, complicated, the change may require systemic changes, solutions may point out failures of previous leaders, they may be financially or emotionally costly, or disruptive to the status quo.  These religious leaders built nice looking monuments to the prophets killed by their predecessors, instead of addressing the root of why those prophets were ignored and killed by their forefathers.

We often make decisions on the ‘mini-max’ principle.  When making decisions, we seek to minimize the cost and maximize the benefit.  It’s easy just to give a temporary solution that makes us feel like we are solving something, rather than address the core of it.  We kick the can down the road and realize that the next leader will have to deal with it.  Someone will have to have the moral courage to take it on at its root and bring a lasting change for the good.

Doing what is right, instead of doing what is easy is the way of the leader who is pleasing to God.  Half-way solutions are not solutions!  They are simply patches on a leaky hull.  They stop the water flow for the time being, but later, they loosen and the water again begins to flood our ship.

What long-standing, messy problems are on your do list?  What can you do to address at least one of them?  Screw up your courage and lead!

7 Woes for Leaders – #5

Jesus launches into a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders around Him at the dinner table of a local Pharisee (see Luke 11:37-52).  This passage begins a list of seven failures that these leaders experienced.  The following continues the list of six failures that are prefaced with a dire warning, “Woe to you…”

Here’s #5  –  “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”   v 46   (NIV 1984)

These leaders had been consumed with adding to the daily burdens of those they lead, while all the time not seeking to help in any way.  Life is hard enough, but when leaders add to the weight of our already full ‘wagons,’ especially without volunteering to help, those pulling can begin to feel cynical and feel like giving up.

Paul was concerned about burdening those whom he led.  In 1 Thessalonians 2:9 we read, “Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.” (NIV 1984)  Paul was concerned about becoming a financial burden to those he loved and ministered to, therefore, he chose to work night and day (probably making and selling tents) so as to not add to their already heavy load.  He modeled sacrificial leadership.

Kingdom leaders can inadvertently become burdensome to those we lead by asking those under our care to ‘just do this one little thing more.’  But one little thing here and then another there, and suddenly these ‘little things’ become big over time, often without realizing it.  Just another little policy, another little meeting, another expectation all add up.  Every one of the little things have good reasons and good intentions, but without stopping to assess the overall impact, the burden becomes too much.  People grow tired and stop or ignore the next ‘little thing’ that gets added to their overflowing wagons.

Wise, sensitive leaders will periodically assess the ‘load’ they are asking those they lead to pull.  They will gather feedback on how leadership can lighten the burden.  They will volunteer to help pull the weight.  The result is increased morale and esprit de corps.

Be a blessing, not a burden to those you lead!

 

7 Woes for Leaders – #3

Jesus launches into a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders around Him at the dinner table of a local Pharisee (see Luke 11:37-52).  This passage begins a list of seven failures that these leaders experienced.  The following continues the list of six failures that are prefaced with a dire warning, “Woe to you…”

Here’s #3  –  “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.”  v. 43   (NIV  1984)

Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees were very interested in appearance.  They wanted the prominent seats in worship services at the synagogue.  They wanted to be noticed by others when they strolled through the public marketplaces.  They were more interested in seeking the approval of others, rather than doing what is right.

Ego and pride can be very insidious in their growth within us.  Prominence, success, platform, recognition can all plant seeds within our hearts that sprout into the strangle vine of pride.  Leaders, because of our positions and prominence can be susceptible to this noxious weed in our life.  How we respond when praised and recognized is key to keeping these weeds out of our garden.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Any man can handle adversity, but it is success that is the true test of a man.”

Instead of seeking the approval of others in order to win their recognition or praise, do what is right.  But what is this “right” that we are to do.  Numerous passages in the Bible describe leaders doing what is right in the eyes of God, not men.  For example, “For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite (1 Kgs 15:5).   NIV  1984

Doing what is right is doing what is pleasing to God.  It is living and leading in such a way as to seek His approval – His alone.  For in pleasing God, by doing what is right, we may run counter-cultural to the times or the wisdom of the world.

So where do you find your approval?  Your heart will tell you and God knows.

Read and Reread Your Bible

Leaders are readers!

J.O. Sanders

The quote from J.O. Sanders is certainly true.  Leaders must be living and leading from an overflow.  But, what to read?  There is an overabundance of books – especially leadership books!

For Kingdom leaders the primary reading material must begin with the Word of God – the bible.  It is our instruction manual for life and leadership.  It is a love letter from our Heavenly Father.  It is our comfort and anchor of hope when we face tough times.  We must saturate our life with the Scriptures in order to lead well as a Kingdom leader.

Some years ago I met a missionary who so impressed me with his grasp of the Scriptures that I had to know what led to his mastery.  Over lunch, he mentioned that as a younger missionary 25 years before he had begun the habit of reading the entire bible through once a month!  Two and one-half hours a day of reading led him to accomplish that impressive monthly task.  Well, that was a pretty discouraging lunch!

“No way,” I thought.  “Can’t do that.”  But I did ask him how he knew how much to read each day.  He replied, “I counted the number of pages in my bible and divided by 30.”  “Hmmm.  I can’t do the entire bible, but I bet I could do the New Testament,” I thought.  So I counted the pages and divided and thirty and read the entire NT in one month.  I took me about 30 minutes a day of reading.  I continued to do that for the next 8 years and was extremely blessed by this habit.  Today, several times a year I’ll read the entire NT in a month. Last year for my devotions, I read the NT through each month for the year.

Everyone of you reading this blog is capable of the same.  You can read the entire NT in a month by allocating 30 minutes each day for reading.  You’ll find that through repetition, you will soon be able to quote passages, though never having memorized them, just because you have read them over and over.

So, what’s stopping you from this developmental habit?  Only you.  How about launching out and see if you can do it?  Your depth will overflow into all areas of your life and leadership.

The Impact of a Godly Leader

“The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me;
    his word was on my tongue.
The God of Israel spoke,
    the Rock of Israel said to me:
‘When one rules over people in righteousness,
    when he rules in the fear of God,
he is like the light of morning at sunrise
    on a cloudless morning,
like the brightness after rain
    that brings grass from the earth.’   2 Samuel 23:2-4

David here describes the impact of a leader who walks with God and leads in light of this reality.  Note that he testifies that it was the Spirit of the Lord who spoke through him (v. 2), thus this summary regarding the impact of godly leadership is one for our attention.

David mentions two characteristics of this type of godly leadership.  This leader ‘rules over people in righteousness.’  That is, they do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, for He alone, expressing Himself through His Word, is the true standard for which we can determine what is right or wrong.  David’s leadership became the standard for righteousness.  Note the number of passages that compare the leaders who followed David and their leadership with David and his leadership.  For example, regarding King Josiah it says, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.  In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David.”    2 Chronicles 34:2-3

The second characteristic of godly leadership is that they ‘rule in the fear of God.’  Now what does that look like?  It would seem that one who walks and leads in the fear of God is one who has a proper perspective on life and leadership.  They understand that they have arrived at a position of influence not due to their own effort as much as it is God who has provided this opportunity for them to lead.

They too know that any leadership ability they have comes from Him, their Maker.  He places leaders, He also removes them, and we all will be asked to give an account of our leadership to Him who gave it to us (see Hebrews 13:17).  Speaking about David’s life, Paul says, “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep…”    Acts 13:36

The impact of this leader is similar to the impact of sunshine and bright light upon well-watered, nutritious earth – it brings forth growth.  This fruitfulness is seen by all and God’s hand is recognized as being upon this leader.

David was not a perfect leader, yet God used Him to lead others and become a standard for which other leaders were measured.  That inspires and motivates me to strive to be the best I can be, for His glory.

How about you?

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.

 

My Weaknesses – Blessing or Curse?

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.   Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.   But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.     2 Corinthians 12:7-10  (ESV)

Paul, a man used greatly of God and also a man given many advantages and special privileges (like personally seeing heaven and the glory that awaits all who believe), also had a great struggle.  He confesses that these wonderful things that he experienced could become a root of pride within his life.  Therefore, the Lord ‘gifted’ him with a ‘thorn’ that he might not become conceited.

This difficulty-weakness-handicap was something physical that limited Paul and made him depend upon the Lord for ability to accomplish his mission.  While not clear what this was (perhaps poor eyesight or partial blindness – see Galatians 4:15 and 6:11), it was burdensome enough for Paul to ask the Lord to heal him and remove the handicap from him.  Three times he asked the Lord for help and three times he was told ‘no.’

Finally Paul came to understand that this thorn was not something to be removed, but rather something to be gloried in.  It demonstrated his weakness and therefore, his total dependence upon the Lord for help.  Therefore, he says, I learned that in my weakness God’s power is manifested more clearly.

What is it that comes to your mind as an impediment to your leadership?  What physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual weakness do you wish were changed or removed in order for you to better serve His purposes?

Perhaps, like Paul’s thorn, what you see as weakness is a gift from the Lord to help you demonstrate His power in and through you.

Are you wishing it were removed from you?  Are you just tolerating it – gritting your teeth and grinding on?  Or are you boasting in your weakness, knowing that He is glorified through it and His power now more evident in you?

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.”

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