Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Leadership development”

Being Surpassed by Your Protégé

In Acts 13:2 we read this fascinating account:  “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”” (NIV 1984)  We know from the previous chapters that Barnabas had gone to Tarsus, recruited Paul to come back with him to Antioch, and there, for a year or more, they discipled new believers.

Now, the Holy Spirit is setting them apart for a new initiative, to take the gospel to the Gentile peoples of the surrounding provinces of the Roman Empire.  It was natural that Barnabas would be the leader of the enterprise, given his maturity, history with Paul as his mentor, and his experience.

But something interesting happened on their first journey.  Having left Cyprus, they landed on the shore of modern-day Turkey.  Their John Mark leaves the missionary band and from here forward the order of leadership is reversed.  Now the team is referred to as Paul and Barnabas, not the previous order.  Paul has now surpassed his mentor in authority and influence.

Later Paul and Barnabas once again tried to team up for a second journey, but could not agree on whether to take John Mark with them.  Certainly, Barnabas, being a relative of John Mark, had the personal development of his nephew in mind when he selected him.  And he was successful in the end, for Paul later refers to John Mark as being “helpful to me for my ministry.”  (see 2 Timothy 4:11)  But, at this time, they disagreed and split – Paul taking Silas with him instead.

Paul’s separation and surpassing of Barnabas was now complete.  He had outgrown his mentor and now was well-established as a Kingdom leader in his own right.  He was leading his own team and initiative and God’s hand was clearly on him, using him to advance the gospel among peoples who had not heard.

Mentors are often surpassed by their protégés in influence and impact.  In fact, it should be an objective for all mentors and coaches that those we help far outstrip and surpass us.  Our attitude should be that of John the Baptist who was losing influence and people to Jesus.  When John’s disciples noted that “… everyone is going to him,” John replied with a humble recognition of Jesus’ future as well as his own, “He must become greater; I must become less.”  (John 3:30  NIV 1984)

For some who find their significance in being the leader, the development of a mentee can be seen as a threat and they find it hard to platform this ‘young Turk,’ knowing that the spotlight is now moving away from them to another.  Rather than being threatened, we should rejoice in this reality.

Who can you shine the spotlight on today, taking it off of yourself and placing it squarely on one who you know has a future more than you?  Can you do this with a good attitude and in true sincerity?

Lead from Your Strengths

Every job description will be shaped by the leader around their individual strengths.  No JD is so tight that one can’t bring their best into how it will be executed.  Thus, the same role will be done differently by two different individuals.

A key mantra for success is, “Operate in your strengths and staff to your weaknesses.”  Now this implies that:  1) you are self-aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, and 2) you are able to recruit others with complimentary gifting and strengths.  If, for example, you are in a start-up or pioneering situation, then one may not have the luxury of delegating to others for there may not be anyone to delegate to.

In 1 Timothy 4:14, Paul exhorts his son in the faith, Timothy: “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.”  (NIV  1984)  Paul encourages Timothy to use his gift (a potential strength) in the exercise of his leadership.  And later in 2 Timothy 1:6 he says, “… I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (NIV  1984)  That is, Timothy was to continually develop the gift (turn it into a strength) that was given him.  Our gifting and abilities need to be maximized and grown to strengths for the exercise of our leadership.

It has been said, “You are to concentrate on the depth of your message and God will take care of the breadth of your influence.”  Seek to grow in your gifting and turn potential into realized strength.  Deepen the messages that God has given you.  Put a sharp point on them and then wait on the Lord to give you the platform for their delivery.  His ways and timing for platforming leaders are often different from ours and thus, it will be a walk of faith as you trust him for that influence with others.

Do you know your spiritual gifts?  What are your natural abilities?  Are you developing or neglecting these?  Are you shaping your current job description around those abilities and gifts that the Lord has given you to steward?

Leading in a Matrix

Organizations can structure themselves into one of three shapes:  geographical, functional, or a combination of the two known as a matrix.  All of these structures have strengths and weaknesses.  Wise leaders know the times and which structure best fits the context in which they are seeking to accomplish mission.

Much is written about geographical and functional alignments in various contexts, but I recently came across an excellent work by Stanley McChrystal titled, Team of Teams, in which he describes how he led the mission against terror in Iraq by forming a matrix of many highly specialized military units.  It’s an engaging read and very practical, with an easy application for those in business and ministry.

In a matrix structure, geographical and functional lines of authority overlap and cross.  Where these intersections happen, over-communication is needed to insure common objectives and outcomes. McChrystal talks about creating a shared level of organizational consciousness, where everyone shares common information, with no silos, helping to create organizational transparency which enables easier alignment and accountability for missional objectives.

Having created this common organizational consciousness, the role of the primary leader is to focus on organizational tone and culture, allowing the individual parts to function in their strengths.  When that happens, we will get true synergy, where the total is greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Kingdom leaders today are leading in a world full of complexity that is changing at an ever-increasing pace.  The good news is that we have the Holy Spirit within us to guide us through this complexity.  He will show us which structure fits our missional needs at this time.  We rest in knowing that we are not trying to ‘get it right, once and for all.’  Rather, we are trying to get it right for now, knowing that our context will change at some time in the future and we will once again be forced to rethink how best to re-organize.

Organization structure can be consuming and distract us from mission, if we are not careful.  It is a means to an end, not an end.  We are not looking for a perfect structure, just one that optimally serves us to carry out our mission for the glory of Christ at this time in this context.

How long has it been since you rethought your mission, strategy, and which organizational structure best serves you for the coming decade?  Maybe it’s time for a prayerful and thoughtful review?

Faithfulness through the Generations

The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel… After that whole generations had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel.            Judges 2:7,10     (NIV  1984)

Israel walked in obedience to God and His law throughout the lifetime of Moses, Joshua, and the elders who led after Joshua.  For three generations they remembered the great deeds that the Lord had done and how He had delivered them from bondage in Egypt and preserved them for forty years in the desert.  They remembered how He had helped them cross the Jordan River and conquer the land promised to them when Moses sent Joshua, Caleb, and the other spies into the ‘land flowing with milk and honey.’

But, now a new generation grew who did not know the Lord or His deeds.  Something had been lost in transmission through the generations.  The author of Judges reminds us that this fourth generation did not know the Lord or His deeds done for Israel.  Something happened after the generation of elders – they failed to raise their children in the ways of the Lord and also failed to connect them to their spiritual history.

To see spiritual generations continue for the fourth, fifth, and more generations, we will need both a dynamic walk with God personally and some intentionality.  Our ‘children’ – those we lead and influence (whether spiritual or biological) will need to see our own pursuit of Christ and embrace it as their own faith when they grow to maturity.  While we cannot force or make others grow, our example can be so compelling that others will desire it for themselves.  It has been said, “Set yourself on fire and others will come and watch you burn!”

Secondly, generations who do not experience the great God doing great things will drift into spiritual doldrums and their faith will be more intellectual rather than personal.  They will have many opinions, but few convictions.  The previous generations will have to be intentionally helping the new ones to know their spiritual heritage and live a life that takes new steps of faith based on God’s promises to them and their spiritual forefathers.

Isaiah 50:1-2 says, “”Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord : Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth.  When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many.”

Are you planning and leading for a legacy of many spiritual generations?

Bend Your Neck

“I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people.      Deuteronomy 32:9   (NIV 1984)

Isn’t it interesting that the Lord uses a phrase – stiff-necked – to describe a people who are unwilling to obey Him or submit to His authority over them.  Why not something like ‘cold-hearted’ or ‘hard-headed’ or just ‘strong-willed?’

A ‘stiff-necked’ person is one who holds their head rigidly erect.  It’s a sign of inward pride and self-confidence gone to an extreme.  The stiff-necked person is one who is inwardly (sometimes outwardly also) rebellious to the rule and reign of God in them. They would rather trust themselves than take the risk of entrusting themselves to the Lord.

The person who bends their neck demonstrates a sign of submission and a willingness to trust the Lord’s leadership in their lives.  They acknowledge their limits and willingly invite the Lord into their leadership knowing that they are really not that important in the grand scheme of things.

Signs of a ‘stiff-necked’ person:

  1.  A shallow, hurried, perfunctory prayer life.
  2.  An unwillingness to delegate responsibility to others.
  3.  A leader who is focused more on control than outcomes.
  4.  An unteachable attitude to others, especially those who they are leading.
  5.  A selective teachability, picking and choosing from those who they see as worthy of their attention.
  6.  In decision-making – especially important decisions – made without taking counsel from the Lord or others.
  7.  Self-centered talk with a lack of active listening and few questions for others.
  8.  Taking credit for the success of others.

The stiff-necked leader may be one who has some ‘success’ – at least short-term.  They seem to get things done.  But, this is a short-lived result.  For the Lord says that He actively opposes the proud (see 1 Peter 5:5-6).  He will not share His glory with another.

So… how’s that stiffening feeling in your neck these days?

Leadership Quotes #3

I’m wanting to model a ‘sabbath’ and not just talk about one.  So, for the next several weeks I’ll be on a break from this blog.

Here are some more leadership quotes that inspire and motivate me.

All along, let us remember we are not asked to understand, but simply to obey…    Amy Carmichael

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.              Jim Elliot

Morale is the greatest single factor in successful warfare.      Dwight Eisenhower

Only a fool learns from his mistakes.  The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.        Otto von Bismarck

Missionaries are very human folks, just doing what they are asked. Simply a bunch of nobodies trying to exalt Somebody.       Jim Elliot

Zeal and the Frenetic Leader

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.                         Romans 12:11   (NIV  1984)

Frenetic = fast and energetic in a rather wild and uncontrolled way.  When I think of the leadership of Jesus and His leadership lifestyle, the word ‘frenetic’ never enters into my description.  Yet, there were so many demands upon Him – “everyone is looking for you,” and “so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat.”  But, Jesus never seemed to give into the hurry, rather, he took steps to deal with these demands.

He told His disciples to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” And, “When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.”  He continually made time to pray and spend with His Father amidst all the crushing demands pressing in on Him daily.

Today I see many leaders who seem to draw their significance for their busyness.  They fill their schedules with back to back appointments and then complain about not having enough time for rest or relaxation.  The reality is this, “You are only as busy as you want to be.”  No excuses!  No complaints!  Own your reality – it’s on you!

This reality is illustrated every time a ‘crisis’ interrupts our packed schedules.  Suddenly, adjustments can be made, appointments can be cancelled or rescheduled for later.  What makes this happen is that we now have a ‘good excuse’ for making these changes.  We are in control of the schedule; we just needed a good reason to make some major adjustments.

The goal is not pursuing a life of ease or comfort.  Leaders are busy people.  If you don’t want to be busy, then don’t lead!  But… are you so busy ‘doing for Jesus’ that you have neglected ‘being with Jesus’?  Are you pegging life’s RPM meter into the red?  It’s not sustainable for a long push.  Something with give way – health, relationships with spouse or family members, spiritual dryness, etc.  We are not made for it.

The Lord not only modeled a sustainable pace in His life and ministry, but he created a framework for us to thrive long-term.  It’s called the ‘sabbath.’  Periodic times of recharging and renewal are essential.  God’s design was that we get this sabbath time weekly.

For me, the measure of how I’m doing in this sustainable lifestyle is my prayer life.  Am I making the time to really spend adequate time for prayer or is my prayer life often hurried, rushed, and superficial?

Are you a frenetic leader or are you a leader who lives within your God-given boundaries?  How’s your prayer life these days?

Be Very Careful How You Live

The late Francis Schaeffer titled his now famous book on Western culture and a Christian apologetic, How Should We Then Live?  In light of who we are and who we represent as Kingdom leaders, how should we live?  How should we lead?  Paul has much to say in answer to this question in his book, Ephesians.

In Ephesians 4:1-2, Paul states, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  The exhortation to live a certain lifestyle is couched in the heavenly calling that we have received as followers of Christ.  He immediately follows this contextual reminder with an exhortation on ‘being,’ not doing.  Note the character qualities listed as keys to being able to live out this calling lifestyle – humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance rooted in love.  The ability to live and lead a life worthy of our calling flows out of Christlike character.

Paul continues the theme on how to live the Christian life in verses 17-19 of the same chapter – “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking…Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”  The wasted (futile) life is one that gives itself to sensuality and temporal pleasure.

In the following chapter, Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul encourages us to, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  The mature Christian life will be marked by love in all areas.  Like the love of God, it will the a sacrificial love that unconditionally accepts others.

He ends the qualities of this life we are to live with one final exhortation in Ephesians 5:8-10 – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”  He comes back full circle to the necessity of Christlike character in the Christlike life – goodness, righteousness, and truthfulness in all we say and do.

And now we come to the conclusion of the question we began with, “How to live a life pleasing to God?”  In Ephesians 5:15-17 we read, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.   Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”   (NIV  1984)

May we live and lead in such a wise way, understanding the Lord’s will and seeking to please Him alone, that we hear Him say at the end of our life, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Wisdom to Lead

The need for wisdom in leadership is a very easy case to make.  Anyone who has led at just about any level knows the complexities of issues that you feel unprepared to handle.  Before entering into the role, issues seemed so black and white and easily solved.  But, once you sit in the seat of leader, suddenly those easy issues turn gray and the complexities of their reality push you accept that there are few ‘easily solved’ issues.  Thus, Kingdom leaders find themselves praying for wisdom from the Lord.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.    1 Corinthians 1:25   (NIV  1984)

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.                   Ephesians 1:15     (NIV  1984)

Paul contrasts the wisdom of man with the wisdom of God.  Man’s wisdom is based upon experience and perhaps intuition and training.  But, in comparison to God’s wisdom, it is foolishness.  We are reminded to trust in the Lord, not our own understanding (see Proverbs 3:5-6).  Now, note that it does not say to ignore your own understanding.  But, just don’t lean upon it totally, for God’s ways are not man’s ways (see Isaiah 55:8-9).

God Himself, in the presence of His Spirit who indwells all believers, can give us His wisdom.  “…But we have the mind of Christ,” we are told in 1 Corinthians 2:16.  (NIV  1984)  It is this wisdom from above that is needed today to solve the complex challenges of our generation.

God’s wisdom is given to all who ask.  James reminds us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”   James 1:5  (NIV  1984)

So, are you in need of wisdom in the issues or decisions that you are facing today?  Why not stop right now and ask God for the wisdom He has promised you?

Listen carefully to His voice within you and to His wisdom He has placed around you in the form of team members or advisors.  He will guide and direct you to see a way forward.  It may not be the entire solution, but at least you will know the direction to head.  And as you move forward, He will continue to give light for the next step afterwards.

Depend upon Him and you will see that He is faithful to do as He has promised!

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?

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