Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Leadership development”

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!

 

7 Woes for Leaders – #4

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 #4  –  “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it.”  v 44   (NIV 1984)

Jesus rebukes these religious leaders for they had become toxic to others.  They contaminated others with things detrimental to themselves or the work for which they were called.  They did this through their poor examples or through their direct influence.

As shepherds of God’s flock, Kingdom leaders bear responsibility for their influence upon those under their care.  We must own our influence!  This influence can be from our direct leadership decisions, teaching, or the leadership environment we create.  Or this influence can be more indirect through the example that we personally set as those we lead watch our personal choices, lifestyle, or the values we uphold through our behavior.

A leader worthy of being followed will be one whose leadership influence promotes freedom in the Spirit (Galatians 5) – not to do as one wants, but rather, freedom to sacrificially serve Christ.  Their teaching will be focused on Christ, upholding Him as the model worthy of imitating.  Those they lead will flourish in the environment they create for it affirms God-given individual design differences and encourages all to grow to maturity.

These Kingdom leaders are very aware of the influence they have through their personal example.  They seek to live a life of self-sacrifice for the sake of Christ first and for the sake of others to imitate.  While they may have freedom to indulge, they are sensitive to those who may have more sensitive consciences and choose not to for their sake.  They would not say, “Do what I say, not what I do.”  But rather, “Follow my example as I follow Christ.”  (see 2 Timothy 1:13)

Kingdom leaders are sobered by the reality that one day we will have to give an account to the Lord for our leadership (Hebrews 13:17).  This accountability is not just the missional component of our leadership, but also the influence that we had on those who followed our leadership.  Task and people are both important as we lead.

Are you aware of the influence you have on those around you?  Are you setting the pace as well as setting the example worthy of being imitated?

7 Woes for Leaders – #3

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 #3  –  “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.”  v. 43   (NIV  1984)

Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees were very interested in appearance.  They wanted the prominent seats in worship services at the synagogue.  They wanted to be noticed by others when they strolled through the public marketplaces.  They were more interested in seeking the approval of others, rather than doing what is right.

Ego and pride can be very insidious in their growth within us.  Prominence, success, platform, recognition can all plant seeds within our hearts that sprout into the strangle vine of pride.  Leaders, because of our positions and prominence can be susceptible to this noxious weed in our life.  How we respond when praised and recognized is key to keeping these weeds out of our garden.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Any man can handle adversity, but it is success that is the true test of a man.”

Instead of seeking the approval of others in order to win their recognition or praise, do what is right.  But what is this “right” that we are to do.  Numerous passages in the Bible describe leaders doing what is right in the eyes of God, not men.  For example, “For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite (1 Kgs 15:5).   NIV  1984

Doing what is right is doing what is pleasing to God.  It is living and leading in such a way as to seek His approval – His alone.  For in pleasing God, by doing what is right, we may run counter-cultural to the times or the wisdom of the world.

So where do you find your approval?  Your heart will tell you and God knows.

7 Woes for Leaders – #1

When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table.  But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised.  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.     Luke 11:37–41  (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.  I’ve included this first exhortation to the following list of six that are prefaced with a dire warning, “Woe to you…”

Here’s #1  –  Using leadership’s privileges to promote personal greed and wickedness  –  v. 39   (NIV  1984)

The Pharisees were questioning Him about washing before eating.  In particular, they were concerned about ceremonial cleansing of their dishes and utensils.  Jesus uses this question as a launching point for a stinging rebuke.  He excoriates them for cleaning the outside of their cups, while they ignore the evil inside their hearts.

These leaders were focused on the externals rather than the internals.  They looked good on the outside, but in their hearts they were evil.    They used their leadership to promote personal greed and wickedness.

Leaders often have access to resources that others don’t.  We can take advantage of these for our own personal use rather than using them for the accomplishing the mission.  Leaders have authority to make exceptions and often those exceptions are to our personal benefit.  Or, worse yet, we can think that the rules and regulations don’t apply to us.

The source of this is pride.  It is the sin of Lucifer that resulted in the great divide.  He subtly works to help us justify our self-centeredness.  “You sacrifice so much for this work,” he whispers.  “You deserve it.”  “It’s only a little thing,” he says.  “No one will know.”

Be very careful!  For the Lord’s hand comes off those who do such things.  Even more, He actively works against and opposes those whose hearts are prideful and self-centered.

That is why Scripture says:  “God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”  Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.   James 4:5-7  (NIV 1984)

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?

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?

My Weaknesses – Blessing or Curse?

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.   Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.   But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.     2 Corinthians 12:7-10  (ESV)

Paul, a man used greatly of God and also a man given many advantages and special privileges (like personally seeing heaven and the glory that awaits all who believe), also had a great struggle.  He confesses that these wonderful things that he experienced could become a root of pride within his life.  Therefore, the Lord ‘gifted’ him with a ‘thorn’ that he might not become conceited.

This difficulty-weakness-handicap was something physical that limited Paul and made him depend upon the Lord for ability to accomplish his mission.  While not clear what this was (perhaps poor eyesight or partial blindness – see Galatians 4:15 and 6:11), it was burdensome enough for Paul to ask the Lord to heal him and remove the handicap from him.  Three times he asked the Lord for help and three times he was told ‘no.’

Finally Paul came to understand that this thorn was not something to be removed, but rather something to be gloried in.  It demonstrated his weakness and therefore, his total dependence upon the Lord for help.  Therefore, he says, I learned that in my weakness God’s power is manifested more clearly.

What is it that comes to your mind as an impediment to your leadership?  What physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual weakness do you wish were changed or removed in order for you to better serve His purposes?

Perhaps, like Paul’s thorn, what you see as weakness is a gift from the Lord to help you demonstrate His power in and through you.

Are you wishing it were removed from you?  Are you just tolerating it – gritting your teeth and grinding on?  Or are you boasting in your weakness, knowing that He is glorified through it and His power now more evident in you?

Modeling Humility as a Kingdom Leader

Humility is a powerful tool for influence when it emanates from the life of a leader.  Jesus was the perfect model for a leader who consistently demonstrated humility in a variety of situations.

Here’s some examples of Jesus’ choosing to humble Himself…

  1. He became a man and took the form of a servant  –  Philippians 2:5-11
  2. He submitted Himself to baptism by John the Baptist  –  Matthew 3:13-16
  3. He paid the temple tax even though a Son of the King  –  Matthew 17:24-27
  4. He submitted to the Father’s will for the cross  –  Mark 14:32-36

Humility is attractive when it’s genuine.  We can sense it in others when it is not genuine.  We can also pick up very quickly when someone is proud or simply pretending to be humble.

As the Lord will not share His glory with another (Isaiah 42:8), leaders who do not lead with humility, but rather take credit themselves for their accomplishments, are in for a rude awakening.  The proud who don’t demonstrate humility are in for a tough lesson when the Lord finally runs out of patience and acts to humble them (see 1 Peter 5:5).

Nebuchadnezzar was one such leader who learned the lesson of humility through having God humble him.  After a long, painful process, he summarizes his journey with this pointed statement:   “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just.  And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”  (Daniel 4:28-37)

We have this choice – to humble ourselves or to wait and have the Lord humble us.  Could I suggest that the former is preferable, for when God acts to humble the proud, it will be a very thorough, life-altering lesson.

What will you choose?

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