Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Intentional leader development”

Paul’s Partners in the Work of the Kingdom

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.                               1 Corinthians 3:9     (NIV  1984)

As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ.                                  2 Corinthians 8:23     (NIV  1984)

In Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthian church, he addresses the issue of factions forming around certain leaders – particularly Apollos and himself.  He defuses the argument with the statement that all are nothing more than God’s servants (doulos) and fellow workers (synergos) with God.  And he continues that it was truly God who brought about the spiritual growth in their lives.

Paul’s perspective on the work was what Jesus taught in Matthew 11 – “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:29-30  (NIV  1984)

Paul was very clear that he was yoked together with Jesus as he sought to bring the gospel to the Gentiles.  And yet, while he was laboring as an “expert builder,” he was under no illusion as to who was truly bringing about the results.  It was Christ!

Paul uses that same word picture of a “fellow worker” (co-laborer) in his second letter to the Corinthian church.  But this time the term is used to refer to Titus, who had recently met Paul to report the response to his first letter.

It appears that Paul had entrusted the delivery of the first letter to Titus with that plan that they would meet in Troas to debrief on the response (see 2 Corinthians 2:12ff).  But, for some reason Titus was delayed, and therefore Paul moved on to northern Greece and it was there that they met and Paul sent his second letter, again carried by Titus.

In describing his relationship to Titus, he says that Titus is a “partner and fellow worker.”  Titus had previously joined Paul from Antioch to meet with the Twelve in the Jerusalem to discuss the essence of the gospel message that Paul was teaching among the Gentiles (see Galatians 2).  Titus (probably a Gentile believer), joined with Paul and Barnabas on the trip to Jerusalem as “exhibit A” of what a Gentile believer looked like.  And Titus was later sent on special assignment to Crete by Paul to help establish the work after Paul had left behind a foundation for the spread of the gospel (see the book of Titus).

Paul acknowledges two partners in his work – Christ, first and foremost, and Titus, illustrative of his teammates like Apollos, Silas, Timothy, and  Luke.  Both are key to accomplishing the work.  Christ the center of our work as Kingdom leaders and then the team whom God gives us to accomplish our calling.

Who are your ‘fellow workers’ or ‘co-laborers.’  Have you told the Lord recently how grateful you are for the privilege of being yoked to Him?  And have you expressed to your co-laboring team (including your spouse) how appreciative you are for their hard work and sacrifices that they are making?

Aim for Perfection!

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.          Matthew 5:48     (NIV  1984)

Finally, brothers, good-by.  Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace.     2 Corinthians 13:11     (NIV  1984)

Perfection seems like such an impossible goal.  How could Jesus or Paul set this before us as something to be pursued, much less attained?  Are you kidding me?  Come on – get real!

If we understand this goal of perfection as sinless perfection, then it truly is an unattainable pursuit.  Though we are hopefully making progress daily in our battle against sin, we are under no illusion that we will attain sinlessness until we exit this body and live in heaven.

So, what is the aim here?

Paul helps bring some deeper understanding when he speaks of the goal of his ministry in Colossians 1:28.  “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.”  (NIV  1984)  The word ‘perfect’ here actually means mature.  Paul’s goal was to seek to bring all those he ministered to into a state of maturity in Christ.

Thus, when Jesus says we are to ‘be perfect,’ He is saying that we are to be mature in our relationship with our Father – especially in how we love others (see the context of Matthew 5).  When Paul exhorts the Corinthians to ‘aim for perfection,’ he is encouraging their pursuit of maturity in Christ, not some sinless perfection.

Peter encourages us all, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.   1 Peter 2:2-3   (NIV  1984)  We are to grow up in our salvation to maturity in Christ.  This pursuit is grounded in developing intimacy with Jesus, especially as we spend time with Him in His Word.

Perfect maturity in Christ is attainable.  It will be found over a life-long pursuit of Him – being filled with His Spirit and knowing Him and His ways as we know the Bible and apply it to our life and leadership. Maturity is not necessarily a factor of age, but rather a result of spending time with the Lord.

So….. how’s your aim?

Leaders Bring Clarity!

We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.    2 Corinthians 11:6     (NIV  1984)

One of a leader’s primary contributions in the mission is to bring clarity to those they are leading.  The old saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there” is true for many.  Leaders who fail to bring clarity settle for busyness and the assumption that lots of activity must mean that we are accomplishing something.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

As a leader, you have a platform to influence others through what you say and do.  You will be quoted and you are being watched by others as they seek to follow your lead.  Making sure that your quotes are worth repeating and that your example aligns with your mission and values is essential for clarifying direction.  Intentionality and forethought are key.

The enemy is seeking to sow confusion and doubt about the mission direction and outcomes.  He started with Eve, causing her to question God’s clear mandate about not eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Today’s pace of life and rapidly changing context also add to a lack of clarity on what we are doing and why.  It’s clear for a moment and then that clarity fades very quickly as we engage in life’s activities.

As the leader, it is your responsibility to insure that there is no doubt as to what the mission is and what the directions / outcomes are for all.  You will need to over-communicate this many times and in many ways, knowing that what is clear for the moment will become unclear as time passes.

The art of this ‘over-communication’ is the ability to say the same thing in many different ways so that it is heard and not dismissed.  If you simply repeat the same thing, your audience will tune you out.  Keeping the main thing the main thing and keeping it in clear focus for those you lead is a challenge!

Leaders bring clarity to the main thing!  Keep the focus tight and clear!  Don’t let mission creep sweep in and divert what was once a sharp, clear focus on your mission, values, and strategic directions.  And just because you said it once, does not mean that you are understood or remembered.

How’s your clarity?  Are you continuing to bring clarity on the main thing to those you lead?

How’s Your Leadership Posture?

Posture  –  a particular way of dealing with or considering something; an approach or attitude

As you lead into a particular context you will want to be self-aware of your leadership posture in the context – how you will act in this situation.

There are two general types of leadership postures that you can adopt – directive or supportive.  Both are appropriate with neither being better or more valuable.  The context you are leading in will determine which of the two general postures is most appropriate for the situation.

The directive posture is often the one seen as the ‘typical’ leadership style.  It is where the leader is giving direction, making decisions, and assigning responsibilities.  They are out in front, setting the pace, and visibly rallying the people towards the goal.

The directive posture is needed when one is leading an inexperienced team who are unclear on what to do or how to do it.  This leadership posture is also necessary in a crisis environment.  You don’t want the ER doctor leading a brainstorm session with his staff when the patient is bleeding out from gunshot wounds!

The supportive posture is fitting when leading in a context where the team is more experienced.  They know what to do and how to do it; now they need to know specifically from you what their contribution will be to the whole team effort.  After delegating responsibilities, you then come alongside and help them solve problems, motivate and encourage them, all the time letting them bear the weight of their responsibility.

If a leader assumes a directive posture with a highly experienced team he or she will stifle initiative, for they soon realize that there is little room for independent action.  Instead of feeling empowered, they will feel controlled and micro-managed.  If leading a team of volunteers, they will choose to ‘vote with their feet’ and leave your leadership.  Leaders want to be empowered, not controlled.

The key is knowing which posture to adopt when.  We all have a natural, default posture.  But, if we only do what comes naturally or easy for us, we will miss bringing our best to those we lead.  Pray for discernment and self-awareness on which posture you need to assume and how to deliver it well.

How’s your posture?

Creating a Platform for Influence

One of your primary functions as a leader is to develop those leaders around you, helping them grow in their capacity to contribute to the mission.  The ability to influence and help them grow is built upon the foundation of trust in the relationship that you have with them.  But, what do you do when you do not have that kind of history with them–when there is no real relationship established?

In a recent conversation with Paul Stanley, former International VP of The Navigators, we discussed how to address this challenge.  Below are some of our practical ideas on how to build this kind of relationship, especially one that is geographically distant from you, so that you can help them grow and develop.

  1.  The first step is to begin to create trust
    • Remember, the depth of your relationship will determine the impact of your influence
    • You as their leader and mentor, want to be viewed as a ‘value-added’ asset to their life and leadership
    • Mutual vulnerability will create a growing bond of trust, with you, their supervisor, initiating the self-disclosure and openness
    • Mutual confidentiality must be assured, for any ‘leakage’ will quickly destroy any trust that has been built
  1. Seek to create a sense where they know that you are in it with them – we are in it together to help them succeed
    • Join their team in spirit, becoming their fan and champion
  1. Help them see a bigger vision for their life and future contribution beyond their current role
    • Help them believe that their future destiny is more than what they can currently ‘see’
  1. Early on in the relationship, they must feel practically helped in their current responsibility
    • Identify 2 or 3 leverage points for them to focus on in the next 1-2 years that will truly help them make progress and bring change to their mission
  1. Help them clarify their responsibilities before God and the organization that they are to steward
    • Help them shape the stewardship of these responsibilities, seeking to prioritize them into what is most strategic at this time
    • Help them identify 3-4 key responsibilities to focus on for the next 1-2 years
    • Pray for them and with them over these 3-4 key responsibilities
    • Talk with them regularly about progress in these 3-4 items
  1. Help them grow in confidence as a leader
    • Affirm, encourage, advocate for, and champion them
    • Help them identify certain leadership principles that they are already doing that models good leadership
      • Ken Blanchard reminds us to, “Find somebody doing something right and tell them about it.”
  1. Help them grow in self-awareness as a leader
    • What are their personal strengths and weaknesses as a leader
    • Help them learn how to lead from their strengths and staff to their weaknesses
  1. As you supervise and mentor them, adopt the attitude of asking, not telling!
    • Lead with questions, not answers!
  1. Open the bible together and pray together on a regular basis

Qualified to Lead

But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens… Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.  He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.      Exodus 18:21; 24-25   (NIV  1984  Italics added)

Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you…  So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you—as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials.       Deuteronomy 1:13, 15  (NIV  1984  Italics added)

In Deuteronomy we have several messages from Moses to the people of Israel before they were to cross into the Promised Land.  In these words, Moses reminds them of their history – how they arrived at this point in time.  In the first chapter he reviews the change of leadership structure that came about from the advice given to him from his father-in-law, Jethro, some forty years earlier (see Exodus 18).

Jethro saw that Moses was being worn down by the daily leadership demands of the people, and thus needed some help.  The advice given and heeded was to set up a hierarchy of leaders to help carry the leadership load and thus free Moses to focus on teaching the people the Law of God and only handling the most difficult cases.

Note the selection criteria for those who were chosen to judge the people:  capable men who feared God and were trustworthy (Jethro’s advice).  Moses’ summary forty years later was the choosing of those who were wise, understanding, and respected.

Here’s two general observations on who was considered qualified to lead.  First, they were to be capable, wise, and respected.  To determine if someone meets these criteria, they must have a track record of their leadership.  We need to be able to assess the results of their decisions and evaluate the outcomes of their choices.  We are to select based upon demonstrated, realized potential, not just potential. We are looking for proven leadership ability, not just raw potential.  Competency counts!

Secondly, they were to be men of godly character.  They were to be – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain, wise, and understanding.  They were to be able to lead from a foundation of seeing their leadership as a servant and steward of God.  They must be people of integrity.  And they must have wisdom and discernment to see solutions to problems and able to discern root issues.  Character counts!

When selecting leaders for Kingdom leadership we are to choose those with both proven competency to lead and Christlike character.  Competency and character are two wings of the leadership airplane.  We need both for it to fly!

Intentionality – A Little Goes a Long Way

One of your primary responsibilities as a Kingdom leader is to leave behind more leaders.  You are tasked with developing those leaders around you, helping them grow in their capacity to contribute to the mission of discipling the nations.

But what if you don’t have the ‘gift mix’ for developing others?  Often this development gets ignored or we silently hope that with the gaining of more experience that those leaders around us are being developed.  While experience does help, it may or may not be good and certainly does not maximize one’s development opportunities.  What to do?

When it comes to developing others, a little bit of intentionality goes a long way.   A little bit of forethought or planning on how to develop those you are leading in their leadership can bring great gains.  And here’s the secret – you don’t have to be the ‘developer.’  All you have to do is lead them in their development.

Many leaders accept the responsibility for developing the leaders around them, but are paralyzed into inaction because they assume they must be the ones to do the development.  The answer is not in delegating the development of your leaders to another.  Rather, simply lead them in development as you do mission together.  It does not take much effort on your part and those you lead will love you for it.

As you put together your team meeting agendas, set apart some time for leader development.  Depending upon the meeting, the length of time can be short or long.  By setting time for this in the agenda, you will focus the team on the importance of their own development as leaders.  If not, then ‘business items’ will take all available meeting time and still not be completed.

Here’s some simple ideas on how to lead your team in development as leaders:

  1. Select a passage from the Gospels to read about Jesus developing the 12 Apostles.  Read it together and discuss leadership principles you observe and how they might apply to your context.
  2. Print out a short article on leadership or a topic of current interest to discuss together and then relate it to your mission.
  3. Read a book together and discuss it at your team meetings.
  4. Visit another organization as a team.  Meet with their leaders and discuss what you learned that may be applicable when you next meet as a team.
  5. Watch a film that has leadership related themes you believe are applicable for your context and discuss lessons you observed and how to apply them.

In all of these situations you do not have to be the ‘answer person’ for your team’s development.  You just have to take the time to plan ahead and lead them in their development experience.  You can learn and develop right along with them.

Do you have leader development as a part of your team meeting agenda?

Conflict Resolution Tips

As the sun rises in the east, so will conflicts arise in your life as you lead.  What to do when they arise makes all the difference.  Below are some very practical ideas on what to do when you have an interpersonal conflict with another.

  1.  Seek to resolve small conflicts before they become big ones!  And remember that your small issue can be a big issue for someone else.
  2. If you know there is an issue with someone, take the initiative.  Move towards them to resolve it.
  3. If you are upset-angry-frustrated, be sure that you focus the expression of those feelings on the issue and not the person.
  4. Anger is not necessarily bad.  All emotions are morally neutral.  But, it is how we express our anger-frustration that can make it sin for us.
  5. If your beginning to lose self-control and sensing an inability to express deep feelings constructively, call a ‘time out’ to allow yourself to regain control of your emotions.  But, be honest to not use this tactic as a tool to manipulate others.
  6. Taking a ’20-year look’ on issues can bring some better perspective on how important this issue really is.  Is this really something that 20 years from now is worth going to battle over now?
  7. If possible, keep the issue private and settle it privately.  The circle of those included in settling an issue is the circle of those involved-offended.
  8. Once settled, don’t bring the issue up again.  Bury it and leave it buried!
  9. Using words like, “You always….” or “You never….” will not lead to resolution of a conflict.  The accused will feel personally threatened and move into a ‘flight or fight’ response mode.  Neither response will lead to a lasting resolution of a conflict.
  10. Just because someone disagrees with you does not mean that they don’t like you as a person or a leader.  Don’t take it so personally!

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.              Romans 12:18   (NIV 1984)

Groundhog’s Day Syndrome

Insanity:  doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.                        Albert Einstein

German settlers in Pennsylvania brought with them a superstition that on 2 February (halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox) they were able to predict the length of winter yet to come.  A bright day meant cold, wintry weather for another six weeks.  A cloudy day meant a less severe few weeks ahead and the winter was ending.  This superstition was attached to a tradition of a groundhog emerging from his hole and seeing or not seeing his shadow.  Actor Bill Murray solidified the day with his portrayal of a TV weatherman doomed to repeat the same day over and over again in the movie Groundhog Day (1993).

Since the popular movie release many have used the metaphor, “It’s like Groundhog’s Day over and over again” or some variation thereof.  Meaning, here we go again, same process with the same results.

Here’s the connection to leadership.  Many established works can get stuck in repetitive cycles, processes, traditions, etc. that have been around for a long time.  No one ever stops to think about why we do such things, we just do them because we always have done them.  They yield predictable outcomes, but we don’t stop to assess whether we could change or discontinue some things.  We just keep on doing what we have always done.

Good leaders will have a discerning eye on items in their environment that we assume are good, but are rarely evaluated.  Critically evaluating the ‘givens’ are a good way to find new creativity, improvement, and energy for  future change.  Just doing what we have always done will give us the same outcomes.  It’s crazy to think that we will see anything other that what we have seen in the past, no matter how hard or efficient we work.

In their book titled, Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers, Kriegel and Brandt suggest that it is not the expert or the pioneer who usually brings lasting change or innovation.  Rather, it is a new leader, often from outside the context, who acts like a beginner.  Beginners ask lots of questions and have few assumptions other than they don’t yet understand the context.  They are not afraid to question anything.

What things in your leadership world are so entrenched that you haven’t taken a hard look at them in a long time?  What assumptions are you making that need to be re-evaluated because it’s been a long time since they were created and times have changed?  Have the courage to take the hard look!

Handling Our Fears

It is interesting to note the number of times that the Bible says, “Don’t be afraid.”  By my count, that phrase is repeated 77 times in the Scriptures (NIV).  We know that all emotions are God-given and morally neutral.  It is what we do with our emotions, how we express them and act upon them, that make them good or bad.   If that is true, then why does God say many times, “Don’t be afraid?”

My understanding is that the exhortation is not to deny the natural response to threat and become some type of unfeeling, machine-like personality.  Rather, a better way to understand this is to say, “Don’t be controlled by the fear that you are now feeling.”

Fear is one of our God-given emotions.  It can protect us from threats, initiating a ‘flight or fight’ response that can, in some serious situations, save our lives.  But fear can also paralyze us – like a deer caught in the headlights; we freeze, don’t act and are rolled up by the rapidly approaching threat.

Some leaders seek to manage fear by becoming more risk averse.  They reason that by not taking any (or minimal) risks, they will be safe and not have to face their fears.  But, leadership means we have to take risks, for leaders bring change.  The exact outcome of that change is unknown because it is in the future.  Fear of unknown future outcomes can paralyze leaders into simply maintaining the status quo instead of initiating risk-taking change for the better.

Another common fear of leaders is a fear of failure or looking incompetent before others.  This finds its root in our ego or in finding our identity in our leadership role.  Failure is perceived as exposing my incompetence before others and perhaps resulting in my loss of leadership responsibilities.  Mature Kingdom leaders recognize that all leadership roles are God-given and we will all transition these roles at sometime.  We don’t find our security or identity in being a leader.  Rather, we find it in being a servant who has the privilege, for a time, of leading others.

Mature leaders also know that everyone fails sometime.  It’s only a matter of when, not if, we fail.  Failure is not necessarily a bad thing.  It’s how we respond to failure that makes the difference.  Winston Churchill said, “Success in never final; failure is seldom fatal; it’s courage that counts!”  It is the courage to get up and try again that is key when one fails.  The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, “You need to persevere, so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”  (Hebrews 10:36   NIV  1984)

Leadership is a long journey filled with highs and lows, successes and failures, safety and threats.  Learning to take appropriate risks will enable us to accomplish our God-given tasks for His glory.

How’s your risk tolerance?  Don’t be afraid!

 

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