Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Intentional leader development”

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 – #2

Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.  You foolish people!  Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?  But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.    Luke 11:39–42  (NIV 1984)

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

Here’s #2  –  Majoring on the minors, while neglecting what’s really important  – v. 42  (NIV  1984)

Jesus points out that the Pharisees were fastidious in their tithing practices.  Even giving a tenth of the herbs from their garden to the Lord.  But their myopia in focusing on the minor issues of tithing down to counting the herbal seeds of their garden caused them to miss the bigger issues.

He pointed out two big misses in particular – the neglect of justice and the love of God.   These issues are reflective of the very heart and character of God.  They had majored on the minors while neglecting the more important matters.

Note that Jesus says that they should not have neglected the former.  That is, don’t stop your attention to giving of your income to God. But, at the same time, don’t neglect the macro Kingdom issues that align with His overall purposes and character.

For Kingdom leaders, we can get so consumed with the operations – the doing of the Kingdom work that we neglect the King.  We can focus on the tactical and miss the strategic.  We be consumed with the immediate and neglect the long-term.

Both the work of the Kingdom and the King, the tactical and the strategic, and the urgent, immediate as well as the long-term are needed.  It is a both-and, not an either-or.

Are you majoring on the majors or the minors?

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?

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?

Modeling Humility as a Kingdom Leader

Humility is a powerful tool for influence when it emanates from the life of a leader.  Jesus was the perfect model for a leader who consistently demonstrated humility in a variety of situations.

Here’s some examples of Jesus’ choosing to humble Himself…

  1. He became a man and took the form of a servant  –  Philippians 2:5-11
  2. He submitted Himself to baptism by John the Baptist  –  Matthew 3:13-16
  3. He paid the temple tax even though a Son of the King  –  Matthew 17:24-27
  4. He submitted to the Father’s will for the cross  –  Mark 14:32-36

Humility is attractive when it’s genuine.  We can sense it in others when it is not genuine.  We can also pick up very quickly when someone is proud or simply pretending to be humble.

As the Lord will not share His glory with another (Isaiah 42:8), leaders who do not lead with humility, but rather take credit themselves for their accomplishments, are in for a rude awakening.  The proud who don’t demonstrate humility are in for a tough lesson when the Lord finally runs out of patience and acts to humble them (see 1 Peter 5:5).

Nebuchadnezzar was one such leader who learned the lesson of humility through having God humble him.  After a long, painful process, he summarizes his journey with this pointed statement:   “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just.  And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”  (Daniel 4:28-37)

We have this choice – to humble ourselves or to wait and have the Lord humble us.  Could I suggest that the former is preferable, for when God acts to humble the proud, it will be a very thorough, life-altering lesson.

What will you choose?

How to Develop Yourself at a Meeting

I was recently asked for some thoughts on how to really benefit from participating in a gathering of leaders.  Below are some practical suggestions on maximizing your growth and development from such a meeting.

  1. It’s easy just to let the meeting just happen and you take it as it comes – more reactive than pro-active.  While this may be of some benefit, it will not maximize your experience.  A little planning and forethought can be a great benefit.
  2. Don’t be afraid to take initiative with anyone while there or try to book an appointment beforehand.  You will usually find them very responsive if at all possible.  You will need to have a clear reason for wanting to spend time with them.  Express what you hope to get out of the time together.
  3. It can be easy to feel like a grasshopper in the land of giants, but that is not reality.  While a gathering of leaders will have those attending with different leadership roles, but there is no value or importance implied by those various roles.
  4. So, think ahead and do some pro-active planning.  Who would you want to spend time with?  Who would you want to learn from?  Are their strategic linkages that you want to work develop or initiate?
  5. Though you have a plan, expect that the Lord will guide you into some ‘divine appointments’ that He arranges for you.  Be anticipating that and listening to the Spirit as He directs you in your conversations.  Be slow to speak and quick to listen.
  6. Go as a learner.  Go asking questions.  It might be helpful to have several questions related to leadership that you ask repeatedly to several participants and then compare their answers.  The questions can be specific (i.e. What one lesson have you learned that has helped you most to be a strategic leader?) or more general (i.e. What advice would you give someone like me who is just beginning to lead geographically dispersed staff teams?)
  7. Don’t make any long-term commitments while there.  You may be invited to visit, send staff teams, partner, commit resources , etc. to many wonderful opportunities.  Thank them for the invitation, but tell them you will want to pray and think about this and discuss it with your leadership before making any long-term decisions.  When you return, and decompress, you will be able to make much better and wiser decisions.
  8. Debrief with someone afterwards on what you learned.

Gatherings of leaders can be very stimulating and helpful for your growth and development.  But a little forethought can truly make them life-altering.  Plan ahead!

The 24 Hours of Life

The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.                                                       Moses – Psalm 90:10,12

Some time ago I was meditating on these verses and thinking about the length of life.  It is but a mist that appears for a short time and then vanishes (see James 4:14).  To help me gain some perspective I created the chart below and review it regularly.  It helps remind me of my mortality and of the brevity of life.  It is a comparison of a seventy-year life span to a 24 hour day.

At 66 years of age (I was born in 1951) you can see that the vast majority of my life is now in the rear-view mirror.  This does not mean that life is over, for no one knows their span of years.  But whether it be seventy years, eighty years or more, we are to ‘number our days’ and make the most of them for His glory.

Reflect on these things and make the most of every opportunity.  For this life will soon be past and only what is done for Christ will last.

YEAR  AGE   TIME             YEAR   AGE   TIME

1952       1       00.20               1987      36      12.20
1953       2       00.41               1988      37      12.41
1954       3       01.02               1989      38      13.02
1955       4       01.23                1990      39      13.23
1956       5       01.43                1991      40      13.43
1957       6       02.03               1992      41      14.03
1958       7       02.24               1993      42      14.24
1959       8       02.45               1994      43      14.45
1960       9       03.05              1995      44      15.05
1961      10      03.25               1996      45      15.25

1962      11      03.46               1997      46      15.46
1963      12      04.06              1998      47      16.06
1964      13      04.27               1999      48      16.27
1965      14      04.48              2000      49      16.48
1966      15      05.09               2001      50      17.09
1967      16      05.29               2002      51      17.29
1968      17      05.50               2003      52      17.50
1969      18      06.10               2004      53      18.10
1970      19      06.31               2005      54      18.31
1971      20      06.51               2006      55      18.51

1972      21      07.12               2007      56      19.12
1973      22      07.32              2008      57      19.32
1974      23      07.53              2009      58      19.53
1975      24      08.14              2010      59      20.14
1976      25      08.35              2011      60      20.35
1977      26      08.55               2012      61      20.55
1978      27      09.15                2013      62      21.15
1979      28      09.36               2014      63      21.36
1980      29      09.57               2015      64      21.57
1981      30      10.17                2016      65      22.17

1982      31      10.38               2017      66      22.38
1983      32      10.58               2018      67      22.58
1984      33      11.19                2019      68      23.19
1985      34      11.39               2020      69      23.39
1986      35      12.00               2021      70      24.00

The Learning Cycle Applied – 3

Experience is not the best teacher.  It is evaluated experience that makes for truly developmental learning.  For those of us who seek to intentionally develop others, especially leaders, helping them to evaluate their experiences will maximize the developmental opportunity.

David A. Kolb, an American educational theorist, captured a model on how adults learn.  Later Peter Honey and Alan Mumford adapted model for use with a population of middle/senior managers in business.  Here is their Learning Cycle with minor adaptations.

The Adult Learning Cycle

Learning Cycle diagram

4 Phases of the Adult Learning Cycle

  • Experience – The circumstances, people, responsibilities and opportunities that make up the reality of life.
  • Reflection – People need to reflect on their experiences. Questions need to be asked about what happened and why it happened.
  • Conclusion – Having reflected, the learner draws conclusions that form applications for future activity.
  • Application – Applications form the basis of ongoing activities and experience.

Too often busy leaders fail to stop and reflect adequately upon their leadership experiences.  One of a leader developer’s tools for helping others is the ability to cause busy leaders to stop long enough to adequately reflect upon their experiences.  We do this by asking them questions.  Becoming a good questioner is key to helping other adults learn from their experiences.  But many fail to probe another’s experience by failing to ask.  Why?

One of the greatest obstacles to overcome is the desire to talk about yourself and your own experiences.  This self-centeredness flows from an inflated ego and an assumption that my experiences are more important than yours.  We can ramble on and on about ourselves without seeming to take a breath and the listener, though hopefully polite, has really not benefited.  You may feel good about the time, but it is a wasted opportunity for them to reflect upon their own experience because you lacked the self-control to shut up about yourself and listen to them.

Jesus asked hundreds of questions to those around Him, especially The Twelve leaders in training.  Not one time was He asking for information!  It was all for their benefit.

So, are you a ‘teller’ or an ‘asker?’  How you answer can determine how well you develop other leaders.

 

The Learning Cycle Applied – Five Questions for Reflection – 2

Experience is not the best teacher.  It is evaluated experience that makes for truly developmental learning.  For those of us who seek to intentionally develop others, especially leaders, helping them to evaluate their experiences will maximize the developmental opportunity.

David A. Kolb, an American educational theorist, captured a model on how adults learn.  Later Peter Honey and Alan Mumford adapted model for use with a population of middle/senior managers in business.  Here is their Learning Cycle with minor adaptations.

The Adult Learning Cycle

Learning Cycle diagram

4 Phases of the Adult Learning Cycle

  • Experience – The circumstances, people, responsibilities and opportunities that make up the reality of life.
  • Reflection – People need to reflect on their experiences. Questions need to be asked about what happened and why it happened.
  • Conclusion – Having reflected, the learner draws conclusions that form applications for future activity.
  • Application – Applications form the basis of ongoing activities and experience.

Too often busy leaders fail to stop and reflect adequately upon their leadership experiences.  One of a leader developer’s tools for helping others is the ability to cause busy leaders to stop long enough to adequately reflect upon their experiences.  We do this by asking them questions.  Becoming a good questioner is key to helping other adults learn from their experiences.  Here are five of my favorite questions to ask leaders about a recent leadership experience.

  1. What did you learn about yourself from this experience?
  2. What did about your God from this experience?
  3. What did you learn about leadership from this experience?
  4. If you were to repeat this experience, what would you do again and why?
  5. If you were to repeat this experience, what would you not do again and why?

These simple questions will cause a person to stop and think carefully about their life and leadership and help them arrive at good conclusions.  They ‘why’ part of the final two questions is most insightful as it helps us understand their reasoning and values.

So, are you a ‘teller’ or an ‘asker?’  How you answer can determine how well you develop other adults.

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