Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “leader development”

Kingdom Wisdom’s 7 Pillars – #2

In Proverbs 9:1 we read, “Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars” (NIV 1984).  What are the seven pillars found in the house of wisdom?

We find them listed for us in the previous chapter in Proverbs 8:12,14 (NIV 1984):  I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretionCounsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power.  And note how verses 15 and 16 connect wisdom to leadership.

Common proverbs are created to capture some of the worldly wisdom based on experiences gathered over time. For example, “Look before you leap,” “A penny saved is a penny earned,” or “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” all catalog observed experiences. But they have no ability to determine right from wrong or good from bad; they simply operate on the assumption that results are good.

Information is a building block of the foundation of understanding and wisdom. Without knowledge (information), there is no understanding or wisdom. But knowledge alone will not help us lead a wise life that is pleasing to God. If we are not careful, much knowledge can lead to an elitist spirit, an “I’m better than you” attitude.

By contrast, Proverbs 1:7 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” This fear is not terror or something that drives us away from the Lord. Rather, it is respect—a healthy awe and recognition that God is our Creator, the one with no beginning and no end, Alpha and Omega, King of kings and Lord of lords.  We are but dust whom He has breathed life into. Truth resides in Him and His Word, and therefore we focus our knowledge pursuit on knowing Him and His Word, with an eye toward applying it in God-pleasing ways.

The knowledge that leads to godly wisdom is rooted in knowing God from His Word. It is knowing Him personally—intimately. It flows out of a growing, dynamic love relationship with Him over a lifetime. This knowledge results from pursuing God, loving Him with all your heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37-38) and living a life pleasing to Him. It is the pursuit of God for the whole of life.

In his prayer for the Colossian believers, Paul asked God that they “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him” (Colossians 1:9-10).

Having knowledge helps us begin our journey to wisdom, but it is not the destination. Knowledge is desirable and good, but it is a contingent good—it is how we get to godly wisdom, the ultimate goal.

For more thoughts on leading with Kingdom wisdom:  Growing Kingdom Wisdom

Kingdom Wisdom’s 7 Pillars – #1

In Proverbs 9:1 we read, “Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars” (NIV 1984).  What are the seven pillars found in the house of wisdom?

We find them listed for us in the previous chapter in Proverbs 8:12,14 (NIV 1984):  I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretionCounsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power.  And note how verses 15 and 16 connect wisdom to leadership.

Let’s begin with what a prudent leader looks like.  One characteristic of a prudent leader is their ability to assess risk well.  All leadership involves some level of risk, because leaders are leading into an unknown future. They make decisions today that bear consequences in an unknown tomorrow.  Nothing is 100 percent certain.  We never have all the information that we want to make a “perfect decision” (as if that were possible).

We must discern when we have enough information to make a good, timely decision, given the circumstances.  Rashness can lead one to assume that deciding now is better than waiting on more information. And we must agree that at times, especially in crisis moments, we must make decisions sooner rather than later.  But don’t confuse decisiveness with making fast decisions.  Truly resolute leaders move forward only when they have the right amount of information to make the best decision.  Once they have that information, they move forward, not delaying any further.

Ecclesiastes 9:4 reminds us that “a living dog is better than a dead lion.”  A prudent leader can assess when risk is too high and avoid the danger.  Those who are not prudent move forward and suffer painful consequences.  Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” (ESV)

Are you being prudent and wise or rash and foolish in your leadership decisions?  The Holy Spirit will help you discern the way forward.  Trust His voice and follow closely after Him as He guides you.

For more thoughts on leading with Kingdom wisdom:  Growing Kingdom Wisdom

Clarify the Mission

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?”  And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”    Acts 9:4-6   ESV

Paul was on his way to Damascus to take any Jewish believers back to Jerusalem as prisoners when the Lord Jesus appeared to him on the road outside of the city.  Note the short response from Jesus to his inquiry as to who was speaking, immediately followed by a command to get up, go into the city and wait to be told what to do.

Within the next three days, having been blinded by the vision on the road, Paul is praying and waiting.  Ananias, a local resident of Damascus and a disciple, receives a vision himself to go and pray over Paul so that he may again be able to see.  After some questioning, the Lord assures Ananias of Paul’s mission – “…he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” (Acts 9:15  ESV)  When recounting his conversion years later, Paul recalls, “And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’”  (Acts 22:10  ESV)

Several years after his conversion, while visiting Jerusalem, Paul had another vision in the temple regarding his mission.  The Lord said to him, “‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quicklyGo, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.‘”

These are but a few examples of the mission-task assigned to Paul to take the gospel to the Gentiles (non-Jews).  The Lord stated and restated the nature of his mission multiple times and in multiple ways.  There was little doubt or ambiguity of what Paul was being asked to do.

The Lord’s assigning of the task to Paul is an excellent example of how to communicate mission.  Good leaders clarify the task for those they are leading.  They state the mission clearly, succinctly and in multiply ways so that there is no doubt about what all are trying to accomplish.

Is your mission clear to you as you fill your days and weeks with much activity?  Is the mission clear for those you are leading?  If not, it is your responsibility to make it clear.

“A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew!”     source unknown

7 Manifestations of Godly Wisdom – 5

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.       James 3:17   NIV 1984

The complexity of leadership in today’s ever-changing contexts calls for wisdom from above.  Kingdom leaders desperately need wisdom as they face the many challenges of our fast-paced world.

But, what does godly wisdom look like?  James describes seven characteristics that paint a picture for Kingdom leaders on how to gauge your leadership (and others) against the standards of wisdom from heaven.

The fifth manifestation of God’s wisdom is that it’s full of mercy and good fruit.

Leaders with this wisdom have compassion for the hurting and seek to help others in their difficulties.  As they move through life and leadership they are sensitive to those around them who are hurting and, when appropriate, move to bring healing.  They model the life Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  (see Luke 10:25-37)

This type of wisdom loves others unconditionally as God loves us.  Wise leaders are able to separate the person from their performance.  They love others just as they are and they seek to enable and empower them to reach their potential for greatest contribution in the Kingdom.

Godly wisdom does what is right, not what is culturally expected or expedient.  They do not seek to offend, being very aware of possible cultural offenses, trying to minimize them so that the only stumbling block is Jesus and not the messenger.  Wise Kingdom leaders courageously speak the truth in love and entrust themselves and their leadership to God for the outcomes.

Wise Kingdom leaders live a life that is blameless and do not give others opportunity for slandering the King or His Kingdom.  They seek to live a life that is above reproach.  (see Titus 1:6-7)

Wise leaders are full of mercy and bear godly fruit.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…   John 15:16   ESV

7 Manifestations of Godly Wisdom – 3

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.       James 3:17   NIV 1984

Leadership in today’s ever-changing contexts calls for wisdom from Him who is its source.  Kingdom leaders especially need wisdom as they seek to navigate the social and legal ‘land mines’ of our day.

James describes seven characteristics that paint a picture for Kingdom leaders on how to measure your leadership (and others) against the standards of wisdom from heaven.

The third manifestation of godly wisdom is that it’s considerate.

Godly wisdom in Kingdom leaders shows itself as kindness and gentleness when dealing with others.  These leaders seek to honor Christ with their leadership and therefore are trying to model a life of love as Christ loves them.  “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness…”  2 Timothy 2:24-25  ESV

Godly wisdom is not harsh or mean-spirited.  It does not seek vengeance or pay back.  It does not flaunt its rights, but rather yields its rights to others, sacrificially serving at one’s own expense.

It is sensitive to its own weaknesses when seeing weaknesses in others.  These leaders recognize their own weaknesses and that tempers and sensitizes them to not criticize others.  “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”   Luke 6:42  ESV

It is not judgmental and seeks the best for others.  In personnel decision-making they consider both what is best for the work and what is best for the person.  If there is any doubt between the two, what is best for the individual rules, for they trust God to provide whatever resources are needed to accomplish His work.

Wisdom seeks to place others before self in all areas of life and service.  It is not self-promoting. These godly, wise Kingdom leaders give credit to others for work done.  They continually push the spotlight of attention onto others instead of themselves.

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.   Titus 3:1-2   NIV  1984

7 Manifestations of Godly Wisdom – 2

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.       James 3:17   NIV 1984

The complexity of leadership in today’s ever-changing contexts calls for wisdom from Him who is its source.  Kingdom leaders desperately need wisdom as they seek to navigate the social and legal challenges of our day.

But, what does godly wisdom look like?  James describes seven characteristics that paint a picture for Kingdom leaders on how to gauge your leadership (and others) against the standards of wisdom from heaven.

The second manifestation of godly wisdom is that it’s peace-loving.

Wise leaders build harmony as they lead, not divisions, factions, or parties.  They seek unity, not uniformity.  They seek to create oneness, for they recognize that a tactic of our adversary is to divide and conquer.

Paul addresses this sectarianism in Corinth where he chastises those who claim allegiance to Christ.  “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.  I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.  And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh.  For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?  For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?”  1 Corinthians 3:1-4  ESV

This demonstration of wisdom seeks to live at peace with everyone, if possible (see Romans 12:18).  Wise Kingdom leaders are not looking for a fight or are they pugilistic in attitude.  But, note that this passage does not say that wise leaders are conflict avoiders.  It does say, do what you can to live at peace with all.  Then, having done all you can to live at peace, stand and face the threat, trusting Him to empower you and work out the consequences for His glory.  “But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.”  Isaiah 50:7  ESV

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.   2 Thessalonians 3:16  ESV

7 Manifestations of Godly Wisdom – 1

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.       James 3:17   NIV 1984

The need for wisdom in leadership is an easy case to make, especially for any who have tried to lead.  The complexity of leadership in today’s ever-changing contexts calls for wisdom from Him who is its source.  Kingdom leaders desperately need wisdom as they seek to navigate the pitfalls and landmines of both the social and legal challenges of our day.

But, what does godly wisdom look like?  James describes seven manifestations or characteristics that paint a picture for Kingdom leaders on how to gauge your leadership (and others) against the standards of wisdom from heaven.

The first manifestation of godly wisdom is that it’s pure.  By pure we mean clean, uncontaminated, undefiled, not polluted, and holy.  This godly wisdom does not co-mingle the world’s wisdom with God’s wisdom. There is no duplicity in our leadership, leaving no room for accusations of false motives or deception.  We are to be ‘above reproach.”  (see 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:5-7)

Wisdom from above discerns the ways of the world from the ways of God.  Godly wisdom seeks to please the Lord in accomplishing His purposes for and through us in ways that are pleasing to Him.  At times these ways may run counter to the social or political tide of our days.  We must lead courageously during these times, without compromise, but also without a ‘martyr syndrome’ of seeking trouble just for the sake of our over-inflated egos.  We are to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (see Matthew 10:16)

Godly wisdom uses the Word of God as the unchanging standard — the rule for life and leadership and will submit itself to its authority.  The Bible is not seen as ‘a source’ for guidance, but rather, ‘the final source’ for instruction on how we must lead.  With today’s prevailing post-modern thought that there is no absolute truth, the Kingdom leader must boldly declare that there is one unchanging measuring rod, God’s Word.  Kingdom leaders who are wise will both know His Word and apply it in their lives first and then as they lead others.

Purity in leadership – it’s first on the list of characteristics for those who would seek to be Kingdom leaders.  Is it first on your list?

Help – I Need a Mentor!

Many a conversation with next generation emerging leaders sooner or later comes to their felt need to be mentored for their development.  This is frequently followed by a complaint that there is no one to help them.  “I’ve looked and asked, and no one is willing to help me,” they say.  What to do?

First of all, the absence of a mentor is no excuse for not pursuing your own development.  There are multiple resources available to us online for growth.  We can read biographies of leaders and glean valuable leadership lessons.  We can do personal bible studies of leaders, both good and bad, and seek to learn from their examples.  But, it is nice to have someone to interact with – a mentor who can bring perspective and personal help.

Yes, leaders are busy people with very full schedules.  Few are looking for mentoring opportunities.  What to do?  Here’s my suggestion.

Identify someone who you think can be of some help.  Approach them with this question, “Could we meet for me to ask you some questions about how I can be a better leader?”  Note that you’re not asking them to mentor you.  Many busy leaders will immediately decline this offer… they have too many things to do!  But they all have to eat sometime, so invite them to a meal (you offer to pay!) and come with specific questions.  Take good notes and reflect on their answers for your growth and development.

I’ve done this over the years, targeting specific leaders for specific topics of development.  Topics I’ve benefited from are things like:  how to work with an executive assistant, how to select a leadership team, how to lead a meeting, how to manage your schedule, how to lead a geographically dispersed team, lessons learned about travel, how to handle communication demands, how to arrange an office, and many, many more.  All were practical and immediately applicable.

Another frequent objection is that they have never done this type of mentoring.  To answer this I’ve said, “I realize that this may be new for you.  But, you’ve been preparing for this all of your life.  It’s my job to get from you what you have learned by asking you questions.  All you have to do is answer my questions.”  This makes it doable, as they realize that they are not expected to prep anything – they’ve already done the preparation.

Don’t let the absence of a mentor stop you from your own growth and development!  Get after it!!!  And if you do have someone, pursue them – now!!!

Who’s Responsible for My Development?

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

The Ladder of St. Augustine,  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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