Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Intentional leader development”

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!


Managing the Work of Others

Perhaps you have heard it said, “I’m a leader, not a manager.”  This suggests that these are two distinctive people types and implying (sometimes not so subtly) that there is a value difference between the two and that leader types are better than manager types.

While there are ‘type’ or design differences, this is really a false dichotomy.  Yes, there are gifting and design differences and individual strengths, but there is no difference in individual worth or value and both functions are necessary to accomplish mission.

Leading and managing are two wings of the same airplane.  We need both to fly or the plane will crash.  The ‘plane’ in this metaphor is the mission of God and those Kingdom people assigned to accomplish it.

We lead people into an agreed upon mission or task by clearly communicating vision for the mission, setting clear directions and outcomes.  Part of this leading function is then recruiting others and assigning responsibilities and resources to those who join up with us in the mission.

But once people are in place and moving, we now must manage their work.  Note, we are managing the work of people, not the people themselves.  We lead people and manage their work, all to accomplish our agreed upon mission or task.

Another synonym for managing is supervising.  We supervise the work of people by providing accountability, feedback – both affirmation and correction, review and reward related to their work.   Supervision seeks to ensure that the work done is the best possible and those working are contributing to the best of their ability and potential.

Some of us will have God-given designs that allow us to more naturally to function in the lead mode.  Some others will be more naturally gifted in the managing or supervising function.  Both are necessary to accomplish mission.  One can’t say, “Well, I’m just a leader and I delegate the managing side of things to others.”

While you may have a strength in one, you are ultimately responsible for both functions – leading and managing.  Yes, we do seek to operate in our strengths and delegate or staff to our weaknesses.  But we seek to delegate, not abdicate!  ‘Big picture’ types must be well-informed on details, policies, finances, operations, etc.  ‘Detail’ types must be able to band people together to accomplish task.

Self-awareness of your design is the beginning of a healthy, balanced impact.  Knowing your design can help you maximize your strengths and shore up any crippling weaknesses that are preventing you from operating in your strengths.

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?

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