Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Leadership development”

A Servant of the Lord

And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said.  Deuteronomy 34:5

After these things, Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten.   Joshua 24:29

The descriptive phrase “servant of the Lord” is used of very few people in the Scriptures.  Moses was the first to have this said about him and it became synonymous with him when describing his leadership.  It is used 16 times to refer to this leader who served God in his leadership for forty years.

His successor, Joshua has the same phrase said of him and his leadership.  It is used of Joshua twice – both times in describing him after he died (Joshua 24 and Judges 2).  David also has this phrase describing him twice – found in Psalm 18 and 86.  The final people described as servants of the Lord were the prophets of God killed by the evil Jezebel in 2 Kings 9.

A slightly different phrase with similar meaning – “the Lord’s servant” – is used three times in the bible.  Once again it describes Moses in 2 Chronicles 1.  Mary describes herself as the Lord’s servant when submitting to God’s plan for her life in Luke 1.  And Paul reminds Timothy that the Lord’s servants are not to be quarrelsome in attitude or action in 2 Timothy 2.

While all of us who claim Jesus as our Savior are now servants of the King and slaves of righteous, this particular description seems to designate a special role or contribution. A servant of the Lord or one who is the Lord’s servant is one who serves in a special capacity or function.  Whether they be OT prophets, leaders of the nation of Israel, or in the NT, the mother of Jesus or one who serves in leading the people of God. There is no value difference with this description, but there does seem to be a unique description of function and/or relationship difference.

One who is the Lord’s servant is one who submits to the Lord’s will for their life and seeks to please the One who is their Master.  There is an intimacy in their relationship with the Living God.  They walk closely with Him and are chosen for special contributions.

To be known as a servant of the Lord is a wonderful compliment and a great reputation to have.  To finish your race, as did Moses and Joshua, and have this description used of you in remembrance, is a great honor.

So what would be the description others use to describe you and your leadership?  Would the phrase “a servant of the Lord” or “the Lord’s servant” be on a short list?

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)

Your Convictions are Showing

Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me.  I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land.  And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear.  I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.  So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.’

“Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert.  So here I am today, eighty-five years old!  I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.  Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day.  You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance.         Joshua 14:6-13   NIV  1984

As Caleb recalls the report of the 12 spies that Moses had sent to view the land 45 years previously, he says that he acted based upon his convictions.  Convictions are much more closely held than opinions.  Convictions are something that we are willing to die for.  It has been said, as we get older, we have fewer and fewer convictions, and more and more opinions.

Here’s my observations on Caleb and his convictions:

  1. He stood against peer pressure  –  Bringing a minority report was not easy for him, but his convictions that God was with them and would help them emboldened him (and Joshua) to stand against the prevailing ‘wisdom’ of the group.
  2. He acted wholeheartedly  –   Caleb was ‘all in’ regarding his conviction that God was with him and would do as He had promised.  No holding back.
  3. He acted upon his convictions  –   Not only did Caleb bring a minority report, but, some 45 years later, he boldly goes to Joshua and requests the land promised to him by Moses.
  4. He acted consistently over a long time  –  Caleb’s convictions stood the test of time.  This was not a passing fad or trend that he had aligned himself to.
  5. He trusted God, not people  –  He still had to work for his inheritance that had been promised.  He had to defeat his enemies in the promised land.  But his confidence was in the Lord and His promises, not people, to obtain it.

What convictions do you have that are demonstrated in your actions?

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!


Giving Feedback in Annual Reviews

We’ve said that leadership and supervision are two wings to the airplane of accomplishing God’s mission.  We lead the people and supervise (manage) their work.  Part of good supervision is giving feedback to those we supervise.  Giving feedback in such a way that it is received and acted upon is an art to be developed.

Below are some notes from an interview with former Navigator International President, Lorne Sanny, on giving feedback, especially in a formal feedback session like an annual progress review.  He framed the topic under the umbrella of leading out of love.

  • Love means we give people feedback on how they are doing
    • Use ‘progress reviews’, not performance reviews
      • Performance reviews – not best term because it means the work is already finished
      • Progress reviews a better term for it implies work is in progress and we can still affect the outcome
      • Progress reviews are based on agreed upon goals, outcomes, or “focus items”
        • Some personalities don’t like the term ‘goals’ – can use the term “focus items” instead
      • Have those we supervise evaluate themselves by asking questions
        • Many are harder on themselves than we would be, so we can affirm them and bring true perspective to them
        • “The imagination is often worse than the realization.”
      • A good question to ask, “Is there anything I can do to help you accomplish your goals?”
        • “What do you think you will need to accomplish this?”
      • End the review by asking, “Is there anything else you want to say to me?”
      • On difficult issues, help them think by asking reflection and open-ended questions
      • Don’t use progress reviews to correct problems!  Do that on day-to-day basis.
    • Romans 14:17-18  – a good outline for progress reviews
      • For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
        • Righteousness –  What is right?                  What
        • Peace –  Do I have peace (settledness in my spirit) about it?                                                           When
        • Joy –  Should be a positive experience         How

Certainly feedback takes many forms beyond just annual progress reviews.  Becoming a skilled giver (and receiver) of feedback will help you supervise well and ultimately accomplish your God-given mission.

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.

A New Beginning

As we begin a new calendar year, it’s good to pause and reflect upon what was and what will be.  It is through reflection that we can gain perspective and see more clearly the overarching, God-orchestrated, macro movements of our lives.

Leaders are often too busy to stop and reflect.  We always have more things to do and people to see.  We take one item off of the do-list and add three more!  Who has time to stop and think?

Today… is the time to stop and reflect upon who you are becoming and what you are doing!  Here are some questions to get you started in this reflection time.

Are you pleased with your own personal spiritual walk?  More importantly, is Jesus pleased with your pursuit of Him?  How’s the pace of life?  Do you have a margin in your life?  Are you living and leading from an overflow?  How’s the family doing?  Are you paying the price to experience the marriage you committed to on your wedding day?  Are you investing deeply in your children and grandchildren, knowing that the years for significant influence are rapidly passing you by?

What fears are you trying to ignore related to your leadership?  Are you leading with faith and courage?  Is the vision of where you are leading to focused or foggy?  Do you have a team that is unified and empowered around a shared vision?  Are you accomplishing the mission that you intended to accomplish?

These and many more questions are helpful for taking stock of where you are today and where you need to be/go tomorrow.  Use this season for reflection and refocus as you start a new year full of new hope and new beginnings.


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 – #6

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 #6  –  “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them.  So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs.”  v 47-48   (NIV 1984)

These leaders were charged with giving superficial or temporary solutions to long-standing problems, rather than dealing with root issues or causes that would yield lasting, positive change.

There is a reason why long-standing problems are not dealt with in a lasting way.  They are messy, complicated, the change may require systemic changes, solutions may point out failures of previous leaders, they may be financially or emotionally costly, or disruptive to the status quo.  These religious leaders built nice looking monuments to the prophets killed by their predecessors, instead of addressing the root of why those prophets were ignored and killed by their forefathers.

We often make decisions on the ‘mini-max’ principle.  When making decisions, we seek to minimize the cost and maximize the benefit.  It’s easy just to give a temporary solution that makes us feel like we are solving something, rather than address the core of it.  We kick the can down the road and realize that the next leader will have to deal with it.  Someone will have to have the moral courage to take it on at its root and bring a lasting change for the good.

Doing what is right, instead of doing what is easy is the way of the leader who is pleasing to God.  Half-way solutions are not solutions!  They are simply patches on a leaky hull.  They stop the water flow for the time being, but later, they loosen and the water again begins to flood our ship.

What long-standing, messy problems are on your do list?  What can you do to address at least one of them?  Screw up your courage and lead!

7 Woes for Leaders – #5

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 #5  –  “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”   v 46   (NIV 1984)

These leaders had been consumed with adding to the daily burdens of those they lead, while all the time not seeking to help in any way.  Life is hard enough, but when leaders add to the weight of our already full ‘wagons,’ especially without volunteering to help, those pulling can begin to feel cynical and feel like giving up.

Paul was concerned about burdening those whom he led.  In 1 Thessalonians 2:9 we read, “Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.” (NIV 1984)  Paul was concerned about becoming a financial burden to those he loved and ministered to, therefore, he chose to work night and day (probably making and selling tents) so as to not add to their already heavy load.  He modeled sacrificial leadership.

Kingdom leaders can inadvertently become burdensome to those we lead by asking those under our care to ‘just do this one little thing more.’  But one little thing here and then another there, and suddenly these ‘little things’ become big over time, often without realizing it.  Just another little policy, another little meeting, another expectation all add up.  Every one of the little things have good reasons and good intentions, but without stopping to assess the overall impact, the burden becomes too much.  People grow tired and stop or ignore the next ‘little thing’ that gets added to their overflowing wagons.

Wise, sensitive leaders will periodically assess the ‘load’ they are asking those they lead to pull.  They will gather feedback on how leadership can lighten the burden.  They will volunteer to help pull the weight.  The result is increased morale and esprit de corps.

Be a blessing, not a burden to those you lead!


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