Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Intentional leader development”

Who’s Responsible for My Development?

The heights of great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upwards in the night.

The Ladder of St. Augustine,  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My conversation with this 30-year-old leader had come to a point of discussing his ongoing development as a leader.  “But my organization is not even thinking about my development,” he explained in exasperation.  “When will I be developed as a leader so that I can truly make my contribution?”

I’ve reflected on that conversation many times.  Who is responsible for our development as leaders?

Certainly, God Himself is very interested in our development.  We understand that we are created for a purpose (Ephesian 2:10), and are all works in progress, being shaped into the image of Christ daily as we grow toward maturity in Him.   He is at work within us, developing us through the work of the Spirit.

Our second source of development may be our organization or workplace.  Businesses and organizations that purposefully invest in developing their leadership communities tend to do well over time.

These developmental opportunities can be:  1) formal (academic credentialing – i.e. secondary degrees) or 2) semi-formal (certifications, symposiums, or seminars).  Some workplaces are better than others about providing this type of intentional development.  And even those who are committed to this intentional development of leaders will often greatly cut the budget or staffing for it when there is an overall budget tightening.

But, the primary source for our development must come from within.  We must own our own development as leaders.  Rather than waiting or complaining, take the responsibility upon yourself to be the best leader you can possibly be.  Pursue your development and don’t let any excuse keep you from it.

Be the best leader you can be for Jesus sake and embrace your own development!

Beware of the Root of Bitterness

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…   Hebrews 12:15  (ESV)

Life will bring wounds and hurts from others, even those we love and who love us.  It’s the nature of the fall and the curse that we now live under.  Though Kingdom people have been saved by God’s grace and mercy, we are still people in process, being conformed into the image of Christ daily.  To expect to never hurt or be hurt-wounded by another, even those who are followers of Christ, is unrealistic and only setting ourselves up for great disappointment.

When wounded by another we have a choice to make.  We can choose to forgive the offending party or we can harbor this wound, cultivate it, letting it take root in our souls.  This wound now becomes a ‘generalized infection’ within us and poisons our life.  Someone has said, “Harboring bitterness is like drinking poison thinking it will hurt the other person.”  How foolish of us, yet many still hang onto past memories and hurts, dwelling on them and letting these control our emotional well-being.

God’s solution for relational hurts and wounds is forgiveness.  It frees the offended person from the bitterness and the pain of the offense.  While we may not be able to forget the offense, the pain of it is removed.  Much like a physical scar can bring to mind past injuries, when the scar it touched there is no associated pain.

The only way possible to be free from past wounds is to forgive others.  And the only possible way to forgive others is to first, fully understand how much we have been forgiven.  Jesus reminds us that those who have been forgiven much love much (see Luke 7:47).

Is there some offense that you have been clinging too that has taken root and bears toxic fruit in your heart?  Release that offense and forgive the offender, knowing that you have been forgiven a much, much larger debt due to your sin against the God Himself.  The truth will set you free!

New Beginnings

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…..now 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.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

God Uses All for His Good Purposes

So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia.      Ezra 6:14  (NIV  1984)

The Lord used ungodly, pagan kings to further His purposes with His people.  Note the kings mentioned by Ezra in this verse.

Cyrus was spoken to by the Lord in a dream and told that he would rule over all the kingdoms of the world.  When he came to power having conquered the Babylonians, he decreed that the Jewish exiles could return from Babylon to their home in Judah.  Zerubbabel and Ezra lead groups of exiles back to the Promised Land and began to rebuild the temple.  This was a fulfillment of the prophecy through Jeremiah that the captivity was to last 70 years.

Artaxerxes granted Nehemiah permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, beginning with the city walls.  He appointed Nehemiah governor of the province and he gave permission for materials needed for the rebuilding project.

Local opposition arose to the rebuilding project, but he Lord used Darius to put a final end to the opposition, decreeing that the Jewish people should be allowed to continue their rebuilding without any further resistance (see Ezra 6).  Darius said, “Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God.  Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site.” (Ezra 6:7)

All three of these kings were not worshipers or followers of the living God.  Yet, the Lord used each to further His good plan for His people.

There are times when we may find ourselves serving under the leadership of those who are not the best of leaders – not necessarily ones we would choose, if given the opportunity.  Yet, there is no authority over us who can frustrate God’s plan or destiny for us.  He is the final authority and He will not allow any human authority to block, delay, or hinder His plan for your life.  Do not fear – if needed, He can work through, around, or even remove them.

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”  Nahum 1:7  (NIV 1984)

Rest in Him!  Trust in Him!  He is good and all that He is doing is good.  Even when it doesn’t feel good!

Defending Your Reputation

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.                 Isaiah 53:7   (NIV 1984)

When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer.  Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?”  But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge–to the great amazement of the governor.        Matthew 27:12-14

The chief priests accused him of many things.  So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer?  See how many things they are accusing you of.”  But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.    Mark 15:3-5

We have recently seen how accusations – whether verifiable or not, accurate or not – have become accepted as true.  The seeming emotional state of the accuser was proof of the accusations, rather than their veracity or falsehood.  The resulting damage done to both the accused and the process of law are hard to measure.

Jesus too was accused at His trials. Before the Sanhedrin it says, “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they
could put him to death.  But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.”  Matthew 26:59-60  (NIV  1984)

Before the governor He acknowledged that He was the King of the Jews as accused (Matthew 27:11).  But, the other accusations against Him made by the Jewish leaders of inciting rebellion or insurrection against Caesar, He declined to answer – to the amazement of His accusers.

Jesus entrusted His fate to His heavenly Father.  Knowing that His destiny was to die for His people, He chose not to defend Himself or correct the accusations.  Rather, He asked His Father to forgive them for they did not know what they were doing.

How important is your public reputation?  Can God be trusted to defend you and your reputation should the need arise?  In what circumstances should we offer a rebuttal or a defense?  Wisdom is needed for sure!

 

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?

Leading in a Matrix

Organizations can structure themselves into one of three shapes:  geographical, functional, or a combination of the two known as a matrix.  All of these structures have strengths and weaknesses.  Wise leaders know the times and which structure best fits the context in which they are seeking to accomplish mission.

Much is written about geographical and functional alignments in various contexts, but I recently came across an excellent work by Stanley McChrystal titled, Team of Teams, in which he describes how he led the mission against terror in Iraq by forming a matrix of many highly specialized military units.  It’s an engaging read and very practical, with an easy application for those in business and ministry.

In a matrix structure, geographical and functional lines of authority overlap and cross.  Where these intersections happen, over-communication is needed to insure common objectives and outcomes. McChrystal talks about creating a shared level of organizational consciousness, where everyone shares common information, with no silos, helping to create organizational transparency which enables easier alignment and accountability for missional objectives.

Having created this common organizational consciousness, the role of the primary leader is to focus on organizational tone and culture, allowing the individual parts to function in their strengths.  When that happens, we will get true synergy, where the total is greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Kingdom leaders today are leading in a world full of complexity that is changing at an ever-increasing pace.  The good news is that we have the Holy Spirit within us to guide us through this complexity.  He will show us which structure fits our missional needs at this time.  We rest in knowing that we are not trying to ‘get it right, once and for all.’  Rather, we are trying to get it right for now, knowing that our context will change at some time in the future and we will once again be forced to rethink how best to re-organize.

Organization structure can be consuming and distract us from mission, if we are not careful.  It is a means to an end, not an end.  We are not looking for a perfect structure, just one that optimally serves us to carry out our mission for the glory of Christ at this time in this context.

How long has it been since you rethought your mission, strategy, and which organizational structure best serves you for the coming decade?  Maybe it’s time for a prayerful and thoughtful review?

Names are Important

As we look throughout the Bible we see many occasions where God determines the name for a person.  On some occasions these names are selected before birth and speak about God’s purposes for this child.  At other times the Lord changes the name of a person when they are adults.  This adult name change marks a turning point in their life as they carry out God’s purposes.

The outstanding example of a child’s name given by God to parents before birth is Jesus.  In Matthew 1:21 we read about the Lord speaking to Joseph in a dream concerning Mary’s pregnancy, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (NIV 1984)  Other examples of names given before birth are John the Baptist (Luke 1:13), Ishmael (Genesis 16:11), Isaac (Genesis 17:19) and Hosea’s three children (Hosea 1:4, 6, 9).

At other times the Lord changed the names of people to signify a new season and purpose of their life.  This can be shortly after birth or as adults.  The classic example is Abram being renamed Abraham and Sarai renamed Sarah.  “No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.” (Genesis 17:5-6  NIV 1984)  “God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” (Genesis 17:15-16  NIV 1984)

Other examples of name changes are:  Jacob becomes Israel (Genesis 32:27-28), Solomon becomes Jedidiah (2 Samuel 12:24-25), Simon becomes Peter (Matthew 16:17-18) and James and John are named Sons of Thunder due to their apparent volatile temperaments (Mark 3:17; Luke 9:53-55).

And in Revelation 2:17 we read that to those who overcome the world, the Lord will give a white stone with a new name written on it.

Our names go before us and create an identity.  They can create a sense of destiny for our children as we explain why they were given the name we chose for them.  Even nicknames can be important, creating an image or impression, whether positive or negative.

As leaders, we can ‘name’ someone with a nickname that sets them up for positive influence or we can ‘name’ them with a moniker that hinders or creates difficulty for them.  It’s our choice and how we steward our influence on others is very important.

What ‘name’ is on your public name tag?  What names are you using to describe those you lead? Are you setting them up for success?

 

God’s Help in Generations

The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you.       Deuteronomy 7:22    (NIV  1984)

These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience) … They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the LORD ‘s commands, which he had given their forefathers through Moses.        Judges 3:1-2, 4   (NIV  1984)

The Lord’s promise to deliver the land to Israel was a sure thing.  When God makes a promise, He backs it up with His unchanging character and His ability (omnipotence) to do whatever He says.  But, what His promise does not include is the process for handing the land over to Israel.  The ‘how’ of the fulfillment will be different than thought or imagined.

The Lord’s promises and purposes have a long time-horizon.  He was preparing Israel for a long-term occupancy.  Certainly, He could have wiped out all the occupants with the wave of His hand or the breath of His mouth.  But, knowing what was best for His people long-term, He chose to deliver it ‘little by little.’

The Lord’s ways and thoughts are not our ways or thoughts (see Isaiah 55:8-9).  Therefore, as Kingdom leaders, we must be filled and led by His Holy Spirit who indwells us to know how to execute our leadership in alignment with His purposes.  Learning to turn our hearts and minds to the Lord’s voice within us will enable us to do what He desires.

While this may seem a very subjective process, there is a very objective component.  The Holy Spirit will never lead us in ways or thoughts contrary to His Word.  Thus, our own familiarity and depth in the Scriptures enables the Spirit within to guide and direct us.

So, is it your ways and thoughts or His that you are executing?  Are you sure?

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