Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Intentional leader development”

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?

Faithfulness through the Generations

The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel… After that whole generations had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel.            Judges 2:7,10     (NIV  1984)

Israel walked in obedience to God and His law throughout the lifetime of Moses, Joshua, and the elders who led after Joshua.  For three generations they remembered the great deeds that the Lord had done and how He had delivered them from bondage in Egypt and preserved them for forty years in the desert.  They remembered how He had helped them cross the Jordan River and conquer the land promised to them when Moses sent Joshua, Caleb, and the other spies into the ‘land flowing with milk and honey.’

But, now a new generation grew who did not know the Lord or His deeds.  Something had been lost in transmission through the generations.  The author of Judges reminds us that this fourth generation did not know the Lord or His deeds done for Israel.  Something happened after the generation of elders – they failed to raise their children in the ways of the Lord and also failed to connect them to their spiritual history.

To see spiritual generations continue for the fourth, fifth, and more generations, we will need both a dynamic walk with God personally and some intentionality.  Our ‘children’ – those we lead and influence (whether spiritual or biological) will need to see our own pursuit of Christ and embrace it as their own faith when they grow to maturity.  While we cannot force or make others grow, our example can be so compelling that others will desire it for themselves.  It has been said, “Set yourself on fire and others will come and watch you burn!”

Secondly, generations who do not experience the great God doing great things will drift into spiritual doldrums and their faith will be more intellectual rather than personal.  They will have many opinions, but few convictions.  The previous generations will have to be intentionally helping the new ones to know their spiritual heritage and live a life that takes new steps of faith based on God’s promises to them and their spiritual forefathers.

Isaiah 50:1-2 says, “”Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord : Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth.  When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many.”

Are you planning and leading for a legacy of many spiritual generations?

Bend Your Neck

“I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people.      Deuteronomy 32:9   (NIV 1984)

Isn’t it interesting that the Lord uses a phrase – stiff-necked – to describe a people who are unwilling to obey Him or submit to His authority over them.  Why not something like ‘cold-hearted’ or ‘hard-headed’ or just ‘strong-willed?’

A ‘stiff-necked’ person is one who holds their head rigidly erect.  It’s a sign of inward pride and self-confidence gone to an extreme.  The stiff-necked person is one who is inwardly (sometimes outwardly also) rebellious to the rule and reign of God in them. They would rather trust themselves than take the risk of entrusting themselves to the Lord.

The person who bends their neck demonstrates a sign of submission and a willingness to trust the Lord’s leadership in their lives.  They acknowledge their limits and willingly invite the Lord into their leadership knowing that they are really not that important in the grand scheme of things.

Signs of a ‘stiff-necked’ person:

  1.  A shallow, hurried, perfunctory prayer life.
  2.  An unwillingness to delegate responsibility to others.
  3.  A leader who is focused more on control than outcomes.
  4.  An unteachable attitude to others, especially those who they are leading.
  5.  A selective teachability, picking and choosing from those who they see as worthy of their attention.
  6.  In decision-making – especially important decisions – made without taking counsel from the Lord or others.
  7.  Self-centered talk with a lack of active listening and few questions for others.
  8.  Taking credit for the success of others.

The stiff-necked leader may be one who has some ‘success’ – at least short-term.  They seem to get things done.  But, this is a short-lived result.  For the Lord says that He actively opposes the proud (see 1 Peter 5:5-6).  He will not share His glory with another.

So… how’s that stiffening feeling in your neck these days?

Wisdom to Lead

The need for wisdom in leadership is a very easy case to make.  Anyone who has led at just about any level knows the complexities of issues that you feel unprepared to handle.  Before entering into the role, issues seemed so black and white and easily solved.  But, once you sit in the seat of leader, suddenly those easy issues turn gray and the complexities of their reality push you accept that there are few ‘easily solved’ issues.  Thus, Kingdom leaders find themselves praying for wisdom from the Lord.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.    1 Corinthians 1:25   (NIV  1984)

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.                   Ephesians 1:15     (NIV  1984)

Paul contrasts the wisdom of man with the wisdom of God.  Man’s wisdom is based upon experience and perhaps intuition and training.  But, in comparison to God’s wisdom, it is foolishness.  We are reminded to trust in the Lord, not our own understanding (see Proverbs 3:5-6).  Now, note that it does not say to ignore your own understanding.  But, just don’t lean upon it totally, for God’s ways are not man’s ways (see Isaiah 55:8-9).

God Himself, in the presence of His Spirit who indwells all believers, can give us His wisdom.  “…But we have the mind of Christ,” we are told in 1 Corinthians 2:16.  (NIV  1984)  It is this wisdom from above that is needed today to solve the complex challenges of our generation.

God’s wisdom is given to all who ask.  James reminds us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”   James 1:5  (NIV  1984)

So, are you in need of wisdom in the issues or decisions that you are facing today?  Why not stop right now and ask God for the wisdom He has promised you?

Listen carefully to His voice within you and to His wisdom He has placed around you in the form of team members or advisors.  He will guide and direct you to see a way forward.  It may not be the entire solution, but at least you will know the direction to head.  And as you move forward, He will continue to give light for the next step afterwards.

Depend upon Him and you will see that He is faithful to do as He has promised!

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?

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