Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Leadership development”

Aim for Perfection!

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.          Matthew 5:48     (NIV  1984)

Finally, brothers, good-by.  Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace.     2 Corinthians 13:11     (NIV  1984)

Perfection seems like such an impossible goal.  How could Jesus or Paul set this before us as something to be pursued, much less attained?  Are you kidding me?  Come on – get real!

If we understand this goal of perfection as sinless perfection, then it truly is an unattainable pursuit.  Though we are hopefully making progress daily in our battle against sin, we are under no illusion that we will attain sinlessness until we exit this body and live in heaven.

So, what is the aim here?

Paul helps bring some deeper understanding when he speaks of the goal of his ministry in Colossians 1:28.  “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.”  (NIV  1984)  The word ‘perfect’ here actually means mature.  Paul’s goal was to seek to bring all those he ministered to into a state of maturity in Christ.

Thus, when Jesus says we are to ‘be perfect,’ He is saying that we are to be mature in our relationship with our Father – especially in how we love others (see the context of Matthew 5).  When Paul exhorts the Corinthians to ‘aim for perfection,’ he is encouraging their pursuit of maturity in Christ, not some sinless perfection.

Peter encourages us all, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.   1 Peter 2:2-3   (NIV  1984)  We are to grow up in our salvation to maturity in Christ.  This pursuit is grounded in developing intimacy with Jesus, especially as we spend time with Him in His Word.

Perfect maturity in Christ is attainable.  It will be found over a life-long pursuit of Him – being filled with His Spirit and knowing Him and His ways as we know the Bible and apply it to our life and leadership. Maturity is not necessarily a factor of age, but rather a result of spending time with the Lord.

So….. how’s your aim?

Leaders Bring Clarity!

We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.    2 Corinthians 11:6     (NIV  1984)

One of a leader’s primary contributions in the mission is to bring clarity to those they are leading.  The old saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there” is true for many.  Leaders who fail to bring clarity settle for busyness and the assumption that lots of activity must mean that we are accomplishing something.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

As a leader, you have a platform to influence others through what you say and do.  You will be quoted and you are being watched by others as they seek to follow your lead.  Making sure that your quotes are worth repeating and that your example aligns with your mission and values is essential for clarifying direction.  Intentionality and forethought are key.

The enemy is seeking to sow confusion and doubt about the mission direction and outcomes.  He started with Eve, causing her to question God’s clear mandate about not eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Today’s pace of life and rapidly changing context also add to a lack of clarity on what we are doing and why.  It’s clear for a moment and then that clarity fades very quickly as we engage in life’s activities.

As the leader, it is your responsibility to insure that there is no doubt as to what the mission is and what the directions / outcomes are for all.  You will need to over-communicate this many times and in many ways, knowing that what is clear for the moment will become unclear as time passes.

The art of this ‘over-communication’ is the ability to say the same thing in many different ways so that it is heard and not dismissed.  If you simply repeat the same thing, your audience will tune you out.  Keeping the main thing the main thing and keeping it in clear focus for those you lead is a challenge!

Leaders bring clarity to the main thing!  Keep the focus tight and clear!  Don’t let mission creep sweep in and divert what was once a sharp, clear focus on your mission, values, and strategic directions.  And just because you said it once, does not mean that you are understood or remembered.

How’s your clarity?  Are you continuing to bring clarity on the main thing to those you lead?

You’re Really Not That Important!

You’re really not that important!  Really!

For many leaders, especially those that have experienced some measure of success, the temptation to promote themselves and their accomplishments is a temptation that is easy to embrace.  When young and inexperienced, it was easy to acknowledge our inabilities or weaknesses.  But with more experience and more accolades can come a subtle (sometimes not so subtle) shift.

We can begin to believe our ‘press clippings’ and pride takes root.  Initially it’s not so obvious as we seek to cover up the shifting ground within our hearts.  But, what is taking root finally bursts forth in our behavior.  We talk more and more about ourselves and take more and more credit for our accomplishments without giving at least tacit credit to others who truly did a lot of the work.  It becomes more and more about ‘me’ and less and less about the Lord.

Here’s some reminders on what the Lord has to say about self-promotion and its root – pride.

But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”  For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.                                  2 Corinthians 10:17-18

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
someone else, and not your own lips.     Proverbs 27:2

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.     1 Corinthians 3:5-7

It is not good to eat too much honey,
nor is it honorable to seek one’s own honor.     Proverbs 25:27

The greatest among you will be your servant.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.     Matthew 23:11-12

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.     1 Peter 5:5-6   (NIV  1984)

So, how’s your heart when people praise you?  Think back on some recent conversations – how much did you talk about yourself and your accomplishments?

It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power.  Any man can stand adversity–only a great man can stand prosperity.”

Watch Over Yourselves

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.    Acts 20:28   (NIV  1984)

Paul had called together the elders from the church at Ephesus for a final word of instruction and exhortation.  In the passage above, he challenges them to “keep watch over yourselves” first and then to watch over the flock of God entrusted to them.  The order is important!

Jesus, when washing the feet of His disciples the night before His crucifixion, instructs them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.”  John 13:14  (NIV  1984)  Note that the disciples were told to “wash one another’s feet,” but who were the ‘one-anothers’?  The context says that it was the 11 present with Him.

We easily translate these two passages into the context of our leadership, understanding that as Kingdom leaders we watch over those whom we lead and use our position as leader to serve those under our care.  But, while true, we miss the first context in doing so.

As a leadership team or community of leaders, we are to watch over the other leaders and team members first, then look after the needs of others.  We are to serve the other leaders on our team and then those others who we have responsibility for.  Yes, I am my brother’s keeper!

Too easily we assume that our leadership team members can get by without our help.  “They are the mature ones and the seemingly stable ones,” we think.  But, the enemy of our souls is not so foolish.  He knows that by crippling the shepherd, he can then ravage the flock.

Maybe it’s time to check in with each other on your team?  How’s it going?  No, how’s it really going?  How’s your soul?  How’s your family?  How’s your heart for the work entrusted to you? Are you thriving or just surviving in this work?  What can I do to better lead you well?

Watch over yourselves first and then watch over the flock entrusted to your care!

Fight or Flight?

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.   Matthew 10:16   NIV  1984

The Good Shepherd of the sheep here makes an amazing proclamation:  He is sending His sheep into a pack of wolves!  What is He thinking?  Doesn’t He care?  Doesn’t He know that these sheep are defenseless and are going to attacked by these ravenous wolves?

Yes, the Lord knows very well what He is doing and why He is doing it.  Therefore, as we engage in His grand mission of making disciples of all the nations, we must go with the shrewdness of snakes and the innocence of doves.  He can send His sheep among the pack of snarling wolves because of two things:  He has all authority in heaven and on earth to do so and He has promised to be with His sheep and never leave them.  (see Matthew 28:18-20)

Shrewdness alone would force us to rely upon our own cleverness and intellectual keenness.  Innocence alone would be simple weakness and a passive surrender.  But, combined, they present a posture and an attitude of wisdom and dependence upon the Shepherd who sends His sheep into areas where packs of wolves roam.

Note, that immediately after this statement, the Lord exhorts His sheep to, “Be on your guard again men…” (Matthew 10:17).  This sending of the sheep in not foolish ignorance, but rather a watchful, careful knowledge of the dangers faced and how best to respond to them.

When threatened, we have two natural responses – fight or flight.  There may be times when facing ‘wolves’ that we stand and fight.  We engage in the battle trusting not in our own strength, but the Lord.  The battle is the Lord’s!  (2 Chronicles 20:15)  Our fight is not against flesh and blood, but rather against the forces of evil behind those who oppose us. (Ephesian 6:12)  We engage knowing that the Lord is with us, helping us respond to the threat and trusting Him regardless of the outcome of the battle.

But, there are other times when the way of wisdom is flight instead of fight.  In Ecclesiastes 9:4 we read, “Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!”  Martyrdom may come, and should the Lord ask of us that supreme sacrifice, we can trust Him for the courage and faith to face that trial.  But, we need not go looking for martyrdom!  If it comes, so be it.  But, sometimes the best course of action is a strategic retreat!

What to do when facing a threat?  Should we stand and fight or flee to fight another day?  Trust in the Lord’s leading through His Spirit who lives within His sheep.  You will know which way to go.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”  Isaiah 30:21   NIV  1984

How’s Your Leadership Posture?

Posture  –  a particular way of dealing with or considering something; an approach or attitude

As you lead into a particular context you will want to be self-aware of your leadership posture in the context – how you will act in this situation.

There are two general types of leadership postures that you can adopt – directive or supportive.  Both are appropriate with neither being better or more valuable.  The context you are leading in will determine which of the two general postures is most appropriate for the situation.

The directive posture is often the one seen as the ‘typical’ leadership style.  It is where the leader is giving direction, making decisions, and assigning responsibilities.  They are out in front, setting the pace, and visibly rallying the people towards the goal.

The directive posture is needed when one is leading an inexperienced team who are unclear on what to do or how to do it.  This leadership posture is also necessary in a crisis environment.  You don’t want the ER doctor leading a brainstorm session with his staff when the patient is bleeding out from gunshot wounds!

The supportive posture is fitting when leading in a context where the team is more experienced.  They know what to do and how to do it; now they need to know specifically from you what their contribution will be to the whole team effort.  After delegating responsibilities, you then come alongside and help them solve problems, motivate and encourage them, all the time letting them bear the weight of their responsibility.

If a leader assumes a directive posture with a highly experienced team he or she will stifle initiative, for they soon realize that there is little room for independent action.  Instead of feeling empowered, they will feel controlled and micro-managed.  If leading a team of volunteers, they will choose to ‘vote with their feet’ and leave your leadership.  Leaders want to be empowered, not controlled.

The key is knowing which posture to adopt when.  We all have a natural, default posture.  But, if we only do what comes naturally or easy for us, we will miss bringing our best to those we lead.  Pray for discernment and self-awareness on which posture you need to assume and how to deliver it well.

How’s your posture?

The Leader and Authority

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you…    Matthew 20:25-26   (NIV  1984)

Were you to ask many people today under the age of 30 how they view authority, the overwhelming response is negative.  And with good reason.  Throughout their lives those authorities in whom they put their trust have disappointed, hurt, or taken advantage of them.  No wonder some younger leader stated, “I’m trying to learn how to lead without authority.”

Leaders must exercise authority to lead.  Leadership authority is morally neutral – it’s not good, bad, or purple.  It’s how you exercise your authority that makes it beneficial or tyrannical.

A leader has two types of authority – positional and personal.  Positional authority comes with the title or role one has.  It is vested with the responsibility of leading.  It can be used to bless others – making exceptions to rules or policies, providing resources not available to those they lead, creating tone and environment, and solving problems others can’t solve.  Negatively it can be used to dominate (lord it over), micro-manage, control, and stifle initiative of those we lead.

The second type of authority is personal authority.  It is not linked to one’s position and allows great influence in the lives of others, whether we have line responsibility for them or not.  You’ve seen this in action in groups when someone with this type of authority speaks, all turn and pay close attention.  Personal authority is given voluntarily to others based upon their perceived character (particularly wisdom and integrity) and competency in particular areas.

Personal authority allows you to speak truth to others, guide, counsel, mentor, and coach them as they trust your influence.  Negatively it can be used to manipulate others, promote yourself, or seek your purposes instead of what’s best for others.  Personal authority is the greatest authority one can have for it lasts beyond any position one may have.

Positional authority comes instantly when one assumes the title of leader.  Personal authority is built over time as one interacts with others and demonstrates Christlike character and competency.  It’s like making deposits into the personal authority bank account.  Unfortunately, one can also make major withdrawals from this account by demonstrating foolishness, poor choices, or sinful behavior.

Authority – you must have it to lead well in the Kingdom.  Don’t shy away for exercising your authority.  Just be sure that you’re using it for advancing the King’s purposes and not your own!

Missional Mindset and Leadership #1

Our God is a missional God who works.  Jesus reminds us that the Father is always at work and that He too is working (see John 5:17).  Because we are created in His image, we too are to have a missional mindset that sets a context for our life and leadership.

Below are some of the passages where Jesus states the purpose for which He came.  Notice that some statements are clarifying misconceptions on what others thought His purpose was.

Matthew 5:17   “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Matthew 10:34  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Matthew 10:35  For I have come to turn “ ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—

Matthew 9:13  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’  For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 1:38  Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

Mark 2:17  On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Luke 12:49  “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!

Luke 5:32  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

John 5:43  I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him.

John 6:38  For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.

John 8:42  Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God.  I have not come on my own; God sent me.

John 9:39  Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

John 10:10  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 12:46  I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

John 15:22  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.

Jesus was very clear about his mission or task given to Him by His Father.  It influenced all His actions and drove His daily choices.

Do you have a similar mindset?  Is you mission or purpose clear?

Creating a Platform for Influence

One of your primary functions as a leader is to develop those leaders around you, helping them grow in their capacity to contribute to the mission.  The ability to influence and help them grow is built upon the foundation of trust in the relationship that you have with them.  But, what do you do when you do not have that kind of history with them–when there is no real relationship established?

In a recent conversation with Paul Stanley, former International VP of The Navigators, we discussed how to address this challenge.  Below are some of our practical ideas on how to build this kind of relationship, especially one that is geographically distant from you, so that you can help them grow and develop.

  1.  The first step is to begin to create trust
    • Remember, the depth of your relationship will determine the impact of your influence
    • You as their leader and mentor, want to be viewed as a ‘value-added’ asset to their life and leadership
    • Mutual vulnerability will create a growing bond of trust, with you, their supervisor, initiating the self-disclosure and openness
    • Mutual confidentiality must be assured, for any ‘leakage’ will quickly destroy any trust that has been built
  1. Seek to create a sense where they know that you are in it with them – we are in it together to help them succeed
    • Join their team in spirit, becoming their fan and champion
  1. Help them see a bigger vision for their life and future contribution beyond their current role
    • Help them believe that their future destiny is more than what they can currently ‘see’
  1. Early on in the relationship, they must feel practically helped in their current responsibility
    • Identify 2 or 3 leverage points for them to focus on in the next 1-2 years that will truly help them make progress and bring change to their mission
  1. Help them clarify their responsibilities before God and the organization that they are to steward
    • Help them shape the stewardship of these responsibilities, seeking to prioritize them into what is most strategic at this time
    • Help them identify 3-4 key responsibilities to focus on for the next 1-2 years
    • Pray for them and with them over these 3-4 key responsibilities
    • Talk with them regularly about progress in these 3-4 items
  1. Help them grow in confidence as a leader
    • Affirm, encourage, advocate for, and champion them
    • Help them identify certain leadership principles that they are already doing that models good leadership
      • Ken Blanchard reminds us to, “Find somebody doing something right and tell them about it.”
  1. Help them grow in self-awareness as a leader
    • What are their personal strengths and weaknesses as a leader
    • Help them learn how to lead from their strengths and staff to their weaknesses
  1. As you supervise and mentor them, adopt the attitude of asking, not telling!
    • Lead with questions, not answers!
  1. Open the bible together and pray together on a regular basis

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?

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