Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “emerging leaders”

Optimistic or Delusional?

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?    Romans 8:31   ESV

Perhaps you’ve heard it said, “One with God is a majority.”  Thinking realistically, this is very true.  But, living this truth can be a very different reality.

Part of strategic leadership is thinking and planning ahead with a good understanding of risk assessment.  The inexperienced idealist would simply ignore perceived risk, plan and execute those plans hoping that it all works out well.

Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.”  Prudence, a component of godly wisdom, assesses risk, and if judged to be too great, seeks protection from it.  The simple person sees the risk also, but ignores it and pays the price.

The question is how to evaluate risk?  All of life is a risk, for none of us knows for certain about tomorrow, next week or next year.  We don’t even know with absolute certainty our next breath!  As Kingdom leaders, what do we do to wisely assess risk and then act accordingly?

First, we acknowledge our limitations in knowing with any degree of certainty what the future holds.  We acknowledge how dependent we are on the Lord to guide us, give us insight and discernment as we plan, and wisely choose courses of action that are pleasing to Him. This self-awareness should move us to prayer and listening to His Spirit as He guides us.

Second, we seek what information we can to learn of the risks that we face.  Some will be clearly visible and some not so.  Risk is assessed in light of the potential impact on our mission.  Scenario planning can be helpful in thinking what courses of action might be available if things go poorly.  Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Third, make your decision by faith in trusting the Lord that He is with you and will never leave you.  He and His resources will be with you.  And should things not go as well as hoped for, you know that He has control of it all and will use it for good – for you and for His purposes in and through you.  Romans 8:28

Lastly, should things really go poorly, we must be flexible enough to change our plans.

Leading is risky business!  How’s your risk assessment?

Help – I Need a Mentor!

Many a conversation with next generation emerging leaders sooner or later comes to their felt need to be mentored for their development.  This is frequently followed by a complaint that there is no one to help them.  “I’ve looked and asked, and no one is willing to help me,” they say.  What to do?

First of all, the absence of a mentor is no excuse for not pursuing your own development.  There are multiple resources available to us online for growth.  We can read biographies of leaders and glean valuable leadership lessons.  We can do personal bible studies of leaders, both good and bad, and seek to learn from their examples.  But, it is nice to have someone to interact with – a mentor who can bring perspective and personal help.

Yes, leaders are busy people with very full schedules.  Few are looking for mentoring opportunities.  What to do?  Here’s my suggestion.

Identify someone who you think can be of some help.  Approach them with this question, “Could we meet for me to ask you some questions about how I can be a better leader?”  Note that you’re not asking them to mentor you.  Many busy leaders will immediately decline this offer… they have too many things to do!  But they all have to eat sometime, so invite them to a meal (you offer to pay!) and come with specific questions.  Take good notes and reflect on their answers for your growth and development.

I’ve done this over the years, targeting specific leaders for specific topics of development.  Topics I’ve benefited from are things like:  how to work with an executive assistant, how to select a leadership team, how to lead a meeting, how to manage your schedule, how to lead a geographically dispersed team, lessons learned about travel, how to handle communication demands, how to arrange an office, and many, many more.  All were practical and immediately applicable.

Another frequent objection is that they have never done this type of mentoring.  To answer this I’ve said, “I realize that this may be new for you.  But, you’ve been preparing for this all of your life.  It’s my job to get from you what you have learned by asking you questions.  All you have to do is answer my questions.”  This makes it doable, as they realize that they are not expected to prep anything – they’ve already done the preparation.

Don’t let the absence of a mentor stop you from your own growth and development!  Get after it!!!  And if you do have someone, pursue them – now!!!

Wise Travel and the Kingdom Leader

Often, one of the consequences of increased leadership responsibilities is more travel away from home.  This increased ‘away time’ puts added stress on family, local, and routine operational responsibilities.  How to wisely handle this travel and optimize it for all involved is key to being an effective leader.

1.  The first question to ask is, “Why am I making this trip?  Is it truly essential that I go, or could someone else represent me?  Could what I hope to accomplish be handled via phone or video conference?”  Maybe you don’t have to make the trip at all!

2.  When booking air travel, have you allowed enough time for the seemingly inevitable delays in arrivals, departures or connections?  Booking too tightly increases stress load and decreases enjoyment if you are running from gate to gate to make a connecting flight.

3. When planning your schedule at the destination, think of dividing the work day into three parts – morning, afternoon and evening.  Those planning your schedule upon arrival should be informed that they can only fill two of these three parts each day.  Thus, you will have a portion of each day for rest, reflection, catch up and dealing with any unexpected crisis.

4.  Be wise on what you eat and when you get to sleep on trips, especially if you have time zone changes such as on international trips.  If hosted, you will often be treated with great generosity of sight-seeing events, shopping for family gifts, wonderful meals, etc.  Being out of your normal routines can make self-control and self-discipline difficult.  Pace yourself!

5.  For truly extended trips of a couple of weeks, consider a one or two-day break in the middle of the trip for restoration and rejuvenation.

6.  Be sure your spouse knows how to contact you if needed, especially for emergencies.  Even today, not every place has easy internet or mobile phone connections.

7.  When returning home, it’s easy to think that the trips is over when you ‘hit the front door’ upon your return.  You’ve been giving out for some time and now you just want to crash and relax.  On the other hand, your spouse has been at home while you’ve been away, and you have a lot to catch up on.  If there are children still at home, the one who stayed home probably needs a break from the kids.

A wise mindset is this, when returning home from a trip, tell yourself that the trip ends the day after you return.  That is, you are still in the ‘giving out’ mindset when you hit the home front – especially the first 24 hours after your return.  Focus on the kids and your spouse’s needs, not your own.  Seek to serve them, not be served by them.

When’s your next trip?  Are you planning ahead for more than just how you will spend the days away?  Are you planning wisely not only for the trip, but for your return?

Leading iGen People – 2

Jean Twenge has studied generational differences for many years and has some sobering thoughts in her Ted Talk regarding iGen, those born between 1995 and 2012, the Smartphone Generation.

She reminds us that iGen is the first generation to grow up always having a smartphone.  They tend to stay at home, spending hours of screen time with video games.  They are more likely to feel unhappy.  They are on the forefront of the worst mental health crisis in decades, with rates of teen depression and suicide skyrocketing since 2011.

They are less likely than all teens from other generations to go out without their parents, to date, have sex, drive or drink.  They are obsessed with safety and fearful of their economic futures.  They are in no hurry to grow up, with many not having driving licenses by the 12th grade.  By 2016, one in four men in their early twenties was not working.  Instead, the majority of their day was spent playing video games.

Wow… not a pretty picture it would seem.  As one who is identified as a Baby Boomer, we were the ones who rebelled against our parental norms, promoting the Hippie lifestyles of free love and protesting all things our parents had built.  No doubt our parents wondered what we would become.  Yes, we grew up eventually, just as iGen will.  Yes, it will take time, maybe longer than previous generations, but they will grow and mature.  But, they will be different that those before them.

Kingdom leaders must lead in the power of the Holy Spirit if they are to be able to lead into these generational complexities.  It’s definitely not one-size fits all when it comes to leadership style and execution.  The Spirit within those who lead in the Kingdom will give us discernment, awareness, and guide us to the truth of how best to fulfill our responsibilities.  We need not become expert social anthropologists to be very effective leaders for advancing the Kingdom.

Let’s not give way to fear of the future or live in despair of the challenging complexity we face today.  Rather, let’s depend upon the power of the Spirit who resides within us to enable us to lead this generation well, for His glory.  He made each and every one of them and wants them to be well-led.  Count on it – God cares for His people!

Let’s lead like Jesus who came out of the wilderness “in the power of the Spirit” as He began His public ministry (see Luke 4:14).  May we be Spirit-led and Spirit filled as we lead in these challenging times.

Leading iGen People – 1

Every generation tends to be reactive to the generation immediately before it.  Or, in another way of looking at it, every generation tends to be more like their grandparents than their parents.  Now obviously, these are broad generalities and every person individuates.  But, broad categories can be helpful in conceptualizing our leadership thinking and methodologies.

Thus, in general, GenX has more in common with Builders than their parents who were Boomers.  Millennials (GenY) has more in common with Boomers than GenX.  And today, GenZ, (iGen), is more like GenX than the Millennials.  Wise leaders are aware of these generational differences and adapt their leadership styles accordingly.

Ken Blanchard’s seminal concept called Situational Leadership reminds us to adapt our leadership style to the situation of those we are leading.  It requires an understanding of the needs and experience of those we are leading, with a balance between being both directive and supportive in our leadership approach.

Wise leaders today will also have to take into account not only the situation they lead into, but also the generational differences of those they are leading.  For Baby Boomer leaders to lead a mixed team of Millennials and GenZ, requires a basic understanding of their uniqueness.  Adding in differences in gender or culture and you can quickly see how complexity multiplies.

For Kingdom leaders there is good news.  We have the Holy Spirit within us to give us the wisdom needed to lead into this complexity with confidence.  Yes, pay attention to these generational traits.  Be aware of your team’s experience levels as well as cultural or gender differences.  But, in the end, listen carefully to the Spirit within you.  He knows and He will guide you.

He promises, “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)

Are you aware of your default leadership style?  Are you aware of the needs of your team and their individual differences, or are you expecting them to adapt to you?  Are you listening to the voice of His Spirit within you as He guides you in your leadership?

Trusting God with your Legacy

Remember me with favor, O my God.          Nehemiah 6:31   (NIV 1984)

Four times Nehemiah asks that the Lord “remember” him for his faithful and sacrificial leadership (Nehemiah 5:19; 13:14, 22, 31).  Nehemiah entrusted the lasting impact and any possible reward for his labors to the Lord who sees all and rewards those who are faithful (see Hebrews 11:6; Matthew 25 – Parable of the Talents; Luke 19 – Parable of the 10 Gold Coins).  Unfortunately, for many leaders, we seek to ensure that we get the credit, reward, accolades, and affirmation of success we think are due us, rather than leaving those outcomes to the Lord.

Here’s several spiritual checks that help keep us on the right path:

  1.  We all want to be well-thought-of.  That’s natural.  But, do we tend to grab the ‘spotlight’ and make sure that it is shining directly upon us?  Can we share the spotlight with others, acknowledging their contribution in our success?
  2. Leaders often sacrifice much – many times without the knowledge of others.  Is it enough that Jesus sees my sacrifices and the hard work I put in?  Or, do I need to let others know of my labors on their behalf, seeking words or deeds of appreciation back from them?
  3. Can I trust Jesus that He not only sees my labor and sacrifice, but that He will also reward me in His way and in His time for my labor?
  4. How important is it that I get the credit for any successes or contributions?
  5. Do I see my leadership as a right or a privilege?  Do I have a sense of stewardship of my leadership responsibility – a responsibility that one day I will have to give an account to God for?

Jesus says in Luke 17:7-10 – “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep.  Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’?  Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’?  Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?  So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ”

For who makes you different from anyone else?  What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?     1 Corinthians 4:7   (NIV  1984)

Lasting Impact

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” …. Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”    Matthew 16:13,15  (NLT)

Jesus was asking these questions to bring into focus of the Twelve what they believed about Him.  He used questions to force them to reflect on their personal beliefs.  He was not having an identity crisis!

How to insure that your investment in others will have a lasting impact?  It’s a matter of focus – focusing on beliefs.

You can influence another my focusing on their outward actions or behavior.  Accountability structures or ‘rules’ will insure that others conform to the expected performance standards.  But, as soon as they step out of this environment, they will revert back to their ‘default’ behavior patterns or adopt new patterns that align with the new environment they are in.

A more lasting impact can be had by focusing on a person’s values.  By helping shape values, we can impact behavior because values determine choices which result in behavior.  Values can be encouraged and re-enforced by the environment we create.  But, once again, when others leave this environment they will find themselves in a new one with different values that are influencing them to conform.

By focusing on beliefs / convictions and deeper matters of the heart, we can see true transformation in the lives of others that will last.  Personal beliefs will deepen and mature over time, but need to be rooted in the Scriptures which do not change and God’s character which is immutable.  Beliefs drive values which cause choices resulting in behavior.

These three levels of focus – beliefs, values, or actions (behavior) all will have impact.  But, impact that lasts comes from influencing what one believes.  Helping others answer “why,” not just “what” or “how” will plant seeds that grow to a fruitful maturity over time.

So, where’s your focus?

Being Surpassed by Your Protégé

In Acts 13:2 we read this fascinating account:  “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”” (NIV 1984)  We know from the previous chapters that Barnabas had gone to Tarsus, recruited Paul to come back with him to Antioch, and there, for a year or more, they discipled new believers.

Now, the Holy Spirit is setting them apart for a new initiative, to take the gospel to the Gentile peoples of the surrounding provinces of the Roman Empire.  It was natural that Barnabas would be the leader of the enterprise, given his maturity, history with Paul as his mentor, and his experience.

But something interesting happened on their first journey.  Having left Cyprus, they landed on the shore of modern-day Turkey.  Their John Mark leaves the missionary band and from here forward the order of leadership is reversed.  Now the team is referred to as Paul and Barnabas, not the previous order.  Paul has now surpassed his mentor in authority and influence.

Later Paul and Barnabas once again tried to team up for a second journey, but could not agree on whether to take John Mark with them.  Certainly, Barnabas, being a relative of John Mark, had the personal development of his nephew in mind when he selected him.  And he was successful in the end, for Paul later refers to John Mark as being “helpful to me for my ministry.”  (see 2 Timothy 4:11)  But, at this time, they disagreed and split – Paul taking Silas with him instead.

Paul’s separation and surpassing of Barnabas was now complete.  He had outgrown his mentor and now was well-established as a Kingdom leader in his own right.  He was leading his own team and initiative and God’s hand was clearly on him, using him to advance the gospel among peoples who had not heard.

Mentors are often surpassed by their protégés in influence and impact.  In fact, it should be an objective for all mentors and coaches that those we help far outstrip and surpass us.  Our attitude should be that of John the Baptist who was losing influence and people to Jesus.  When John’s disciples noted that “… everyone is going to him,” John replied with a humble recognition of Jesus’ future as well as his own, “He must become greater; I must become less.”  (John 3:30  NIV 1984)

For some who find their significance in being the leader, the development of a mentee can be seen as a threat and they find it hard to platform this ‘young Turk,’ knowing that the spotlight is now moving away from them to another.  Rather than being threatened, we should rejoice in this reality.

Who can you shine the spotlight on today, taking it off of yourself and placing it squarely on one who you know has a future more than you?  Can you do this with a good attitude and in true sincerity?

Lead from Your Strengths

Every job description will be shaped by the leader around their individual strengths.  No JD is so tight that one can’t bring their best into how it will be executed.  Thus, the same role will be done differently by two different individuals.

A key mantra for success is, “Operate in your strengths and staff to your weaknesses.”  Now this implies that:  1) you are self-aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, and 2) you are able to recruit others with complimentary gifting and strengths.  If, for example, you are in a start-up or pioneering situation, then one may not have the luxury of delegating to others for there may not be anyone to delegate to.

In 1 Timothy 4:14, Paul exhorts his son in the faith, Timothy: “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.”  (NIV  1984)  Paul encourages Timothy to use his gift (a potential strength) in the exercise of his leadership.  And later in 2 Timothy 1:6 he says, “… I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (NIV  1984)  That is, Timothy was to continually develop the gift (turn it into a strength) that was given him.  Our gifting and abilities need to be maximized and grown to strengths for the exercise of our leadership.

It has been said, “You are to concentrate on the depth of your message and God will take care of the breadth of your influence.”  Seek to grow in your gifting and turn potential into realized strength.  Deepen the messages that God has given you.  Put a sharp point on them and then wait on the Lord to give you the platform for their delivery.  His ways and timing for platforming leaders are often different from ours and thus, it will be a walk of faith as you trust him for that influence with others.

Do you know your spiritual gifts?  What are your natural abilities?  Are you developing or neglecting these?  Are you shaping your current job description around those abilities and gifts that the Lord has given you to steward?

A Healthy Fear of God

This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.       Isaiah 66:2   (NIV 1984)

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.    Hebrews 10:31   (NIV  1984)

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)

There’s a certain perspective when it comes to accountability for our leadership in the Kingdom.  This perspective knows that our leadership roles and responsibilities are given to us by the Lord.  They are delegated to us for a period of time and then we will be asked to transition them to another.  All roles are temporary and are a privilege, not a right!

When serving in our leadership roles, we are asked to steward the Lord’s resources – people, money, time, opportunities – for His glory.  We are expected to increase Kingdom assets (growth is a Kingdom value) – see the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25) and the Parable of the Ten Coins (Luke 19).  And when our leadership is done, we will have to give an account to the One who gave us the responsibility in the first place.

This accounting should be sobering and humbling.  It should inspire and motivate us, as well as help us purify our motives.  It can be an accounting that yields rewards for faithful service.  Or, it can be a time of loss for unfaithfulness and a revealing of impure motives (see I Corinthians 3).

Whose glory am I seeking?  My flesh cries out for attention, credit, and honor from others.  I want to be successful!  But, why?   Is it for the Lord and to advance His Kingdom that I strive so hard?  Or is it for myself?  Whose glory am I really seeking?

Lord – may you purify my impure motives and may any credit that comes my way be rightly reserved for you alone.

What’s motivating you…. really?

Post Navigation