Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Leadership development”

The Battle for Your Minds

Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.                                 Ralph Waldo Emerson

… clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.      Romans 13:14  (NIV)

The battle is raging for the control of your thought life.  For if the enemy can gain a beachhead within your thoughts, that front will eventually expand to control more and more territory, finally expressing itself in our actions.

Often, we tend to minimize what goes on within our thoughts, saying to ourselves, “Well, at least I didn’t do it!  Yes, I may have thought it, but I didn’t act on it.”  This rationalization can lead to self-delusion, for the Lord Jesus reminds us that even to lust after a woman is the same as committing the sexually immoral act of adultery (see Matthew 5:27-30).

So, what to do when the battle rages within for control of our thoughts?  Here’s some practical suggestions:

  1. Determine to fix your thoughts upon Christ
    • Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.     Hebrews 3:1   (NIV)
  2. Arm yourself for battle by storing away God’s word within you
    • How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
      By living according to your word.I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.    Psalm 119:9,11
  3. Ask God for help as the battle rages – it is not a matter of our will power, but rather His power
    • call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.        Psalm 50:15 

The enemy is waging war against you seeking to gain a foothold within your thoughts that he might exploit further into your leadership actions.

Resist the devil and he will flee from you.   James 4:7

How’s your thought life today?

Kingdom Wisdom’s 7 Pillars – #7

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.

By power we mean the ability to act, to produce an effect. Power involves having authority over others and possessing qualities that allow individuals to achieve their aims. Within godly leaders, this power is often seen as an inner strength—personal courage to trust God to accomplish what that leader has determined as their divine purpose. Wise leaders seek to use both positional and relational authority to serve and bless others.

Positional authority comes with the organizational title or job and is defined by one’s job description. Personal authority is authority voluntarily given by another to you based upon your character or perceived competency and is not limited by any role or responsibility. Wise leaders do not use either type of authority to promote themselves or further selfish ambition. They know that to have institutional power is not necessarily to have Kingdom power, and to have Kingdom power is not necessarily to have institutional power.

All power and authority find their source in the relational dynamic of leader and follower. Note what the devil offers Jesus in the second desert temptation: “The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to” (Luke 4:5-7). Jesus would have to first acknowledge the devil’s leadership, then be given worldly power. Jesus did not refute the devil’s ability to give it. The devil has authority, but it is limited under the ultimate authority of Christ who has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).

Contrasted with worldly power founded on a leader-follower relationship is the power that comes from the Lord—an anointing of His Spirit that is given to accomplish His purposes in and through us. Through the blood of Christ and because of His atonement, believers now have power over sin, demons, and our ultimate enemy, death. God’s servant leaders are given authority to lead and influence others and are called to steward that influence well. Spiritual leaders will all give an account to Him of how they use this authority and influence (see Hebrews 13:17).

Are you stewarding well both your positional authority and power as well as your personal authority and power?  We will have to give an account for it one day!

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

Kingdom Wisdom’s 7 Pillars – #6

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.

Understanding is the ability to see the relationships between a series of facts. As such, it is closely related to knowledge. Once we have gathered knowledge, this information must be correlated in our minds so we can understand how things work or how they influence each other. The world uses the scientific method, for example, to show the relationship of various elements. Once an experiment is shown to be repeatable, we arrive at a certain level of understanding. For example, when we apply heat to water, we know that the water boils when it reaches 212ºF (100ºC) at sea level. By combining the facts we know about water and heat, we understand that by turning on a stove and applying heat to the bottom of a pan of water, it will boil at a very specific temperature, given enough heat and time. This type of understanding is useful in life, but it is still short of the goal of wisdom.

Understanding allows us to discern trends or patterns in behavior, seeing whether something is a onetime aberration or the beginning of something new. Understanding patterns of behavior helps us to not only see actions but also discern motivations. Additionally, it helps one see a person’s strengths for contribution and then position them where they can contribute from these strengths. It allows a leader to select and recruit valuable team members who are complementary in their strengths to yield a well-balanced team.

Understanding that leads to godly wisdom includes what we can observe about God’s character manifesting itself in the way He interacts with people in the Bible. For example, we will realize that God makes promises, and that because of His very nature, He does not lie or change. Therefore, we understand that His promises found in Scripture can be trusted. Psalm 119:140 says, “Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them.” Our love for God’s promises (and the Promiser) will grow as we prove the promises true by seeing them fulfilled in life.

God gives understanding that can lead us to make wise decisions as Kingdom leaders.  Ask Him to give you ‘eyes to see” what is happening around you.

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

Kingdom Wisdom’s 7 Pillars – #5

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.

By sound judgment we mean “efficient wisdom,”1 wisdom that leads to practical application and success in problem-solving. “Sound judgment is based on the righteous character of God’s rule. The upright have sound wisdom hidden in them (Prov 2:7).”2 Sound judgment is closely linked to discernment—the ability to see strategically, discover root issues, and determine cause-and-effect relationships. Note that Solomon prayed for a “discerning heart.” This relates to a wise leader’s ability to identify leverage points that will bring about change in the best way possible and to recognize a way forward into the unknown future. It speaks of resourcefulness and competence.

The sound judgment of a leader is often seen in retrospect rather than in the moment. As Jesus reminds us, “Wisdom is justified by all her children” (Luke 7:35). The results of a decided course of action demonstrate whether that decision was a sound judgment. The path is sometimes counterintuitive and countercultural. It takes great courage for a leader to stand for God’s ways rather than compromising and aligning with the world’s ways.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” The world’s ways are often logical, common, politically correct, seemingly easier to follow, and may even yield short-term wins. But the world’s ways result in long-term loss. In contrast, God’s ways are often illogical (counterintuitive from a human perspective) and uncommon. Because so few people choose to follow them, God’s ways are countercultural and seemingly difficult to follow. And just because something is uncommon or difficult does not necessarily mean that it must be God’s plan. Here again, sound judgment can discern the wise way, not just any way forward.

Leaders with sound judgment differentiate between the ways of the world and the ways of God. They choose to follow the ways of God rather than conform to the normal patterns of the world.

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

Kingdom Wisdom’s 7 Pillars – #4

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.

Leaders are often looked to for advice. It is a wonderful privilege to truly help another by pointing them to the Lord and His Word as we give godly counsel. There is also a trap to avoid.

Our inflated egos often drive us to offer our own thoughts and commentary instead of His thoughts. Rather than referring others to God’s Word for the best counsel, we share our own experiences and insights without referencing the Bible. Our experiences can be used to illustrate wisdom from His Word; in fact, this real-life application builds authenticity when counseling another. But it should never substitute for God’s thoughts as recorded in Scripture.

Giving wise counsel is an art to develop. It involves listening well, asking questions for insight and discernment, trusting God for solutions to difficult problems, and walking by faith after reaching decisions. Those who mentor others must be excellent counselors — not in the clinical sense of counseling the hurting or broken but in the sense of guiding another person’s growth and development. Those who possess wisdom are often (though not always) recognized by others and thus sought after for advice.

Leaders are frequently asked to solve problems that are too difficult for another person to solve. They are frequently asked for help because they have authority to make the exception or decide between two pathways of equal validity. Counsel that will truly resolve an issue or at least move forward toward its resolution must be rooted in wisdom from above.

Not every issue is necessarily a biblical one. For example, should we open a new ministry initiative in this city or that? What makes one a better, wiser choice than another? Our strategy would have a lot to say about which city we choose. The Bible helps inform and shape our strategy and the process by which we arrive at a strategic decision, not necessarily the decision itself. But, when choosing members of a ministry-leadership team, we’d want to have some clear criteria, especially in moral behavior, because of the influence and tone they would set in the ministry. Here, the Bible clearly has a lot to say about qualifications for leadership.

Are the Scriptures informing and shaping your leadership counsel?

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

Kingdom Wisdom’s 7 Pillars – #3

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.

Discretion describes perceptiveness and cautiousness in speech and action—careful consideration of the circumstances and possible consequences of one’s actions and influence.

Discretion includes the ability to anticipate a response during an interaction and choosing words carefully as a result. It does not mean that we avoid conflict but rather that we are aware of possible responses to our words and deeds and are seeking to help, not to harm. Discretion involves emotional intelligence—the ability to monitor how our interaction is impacting all involved on an emotional level.

Jesus reminds us, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6). Not everyone will be receptive to Kingdom truth. We must discern a person’s level of receptivity and share accordingly. We must also ensure that they are wrestling with God’s truth and not stumbling over our method of delivering this truth.

Discretion can be demonstrated by speaking, but it can also be demonstrated by remaining silent. When we do speak, we use discernment, carefully pursuing our desired impact on those around us by our choice of words.

Leaders are often asked for advice and counsel (we’ll address wise counsel in the next chapter). When giving advice, it can be so tempting to tell all we know and have experienced over our entire journey with the Lord. And we can feel so compelled to tell everything now rather than let the process of growth and maturity run its course over time. A wise and discreet person will first ask themselves: What does this person need to hear now? What you don’t say can have more impact that what you do share!

Discretion is foundational to leading with wisdom. It focuses awareness both internally and externally, keeping us conscious of our influence on those around us.

Are you using discretion in your leadership words and actions?

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

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

Changing Old Forms and Traditions

On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.  After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.  And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed.  They are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.   Act 21:18-21 ESV

Recently, while doing a study through the book of Acts on the ministry forms, I was struck by the above passage.  Paul had just completed his third missionary tour and was now back in Jerusalem.  He was updating the leadership about his ministry among the Gentiles.  The leaders affirmed Paul’s work among the Gentiles and also testified to God’s amazing work among the Jews, having seen thousands put their trust in Christ as their Messiah.

But then the elders make an interesting request.  They asked Paul to join in a vow along with four others as proof that he still lives in observance to the law of Moses (see Acts 21:22-24).  And Paul submits himself to this request, joins the four in their purification rights and presents himself in the temple accordingly.

Some observations:

  1. This incident occurs at least 20 years after Paul’s conversion.  Note that the testimony of the elders is that the Jewish converts are ‘very zealous for the law.’  That is, the Jewish background believers were still following OT Jewish customs and forms.  They had become even more zealous of their Jewish traditions and the OT ceremonial law.
  2. Secondly, the elders concern was that Paul’s appearance among these zealous Jewish believers would be cause for a possible conflict.  Note that it was not the unbelieving Jews who were their concern, but rather the Jewish believers.
  3. It was accepted that Gentile converts were not to follow OT Jewish forms and traditions in their new-found faith, other than the few requests established by the leaders mentioned in Acts 15:22ff after Paul’s first missionary tour.
  4. The elders also assumed that Paul was teaching the Jewish background converts who lived among the Gentiles to leave their Jewish customs and traditions and embrace new forms of worship and lifestyle (Acts 10:21).  He did not refute this claim.

It seems that the emergent Church took many years to leave behind their Jewish forms, traditions, and customs and fully establish ‘new wine in new wineskins’ (see Matthew 9:17).  As more and more Gentile believers emerged, new forms also emerged with them.  Gradually, Jewish forms and customs were left behind.  But it was a long process with many challenges.

Bringing significant change to long-held forms or traditions can be arduous and require much perseverance.  Don’t be discouraged by the length of the change process.  “Mile by mile, it’s a trial; but inch by inch, it’s a cinch!”

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