Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Leadership”

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?

Fixing Your Thoughts and Gaze

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.      Hebrews 3:1  (NIV)

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.      Hebrews 12:2   (NIV)

Someone has said, “A fog in the pulpit is a mist in the pew.”  Another common saying is, “If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.”  Clarity of purpose and destination are essential for good leadership.

The daily flurry of activity and leadership demands can take what at one time was crystal clear and make it seem distant or out of focus.  I call this the “leadership whiteout.”  If you have ever driven in a blinding snow storm where the blowing snow does not allow you to see the road in front you will know what I mean.

A leader’s job is to bring clarity.  But if the leader is not certain of their destination or purpose themselves, then it will certainly only be less clear for those seeking to follow their lead.

The author of Hebrews exhorts his readers to fixate on Jesus and Him alone in the midst of the daily hum.  We are to fix our thoughts on Him and not become distracted by those many voices clamoring for our attention.  In our leadership we seek to hear His voice and obey His voice, wanting to please only Him.

We are to fix our eyes on Him – He is the true north on our personal compass.  He keeps us oriented to eternal purposes rather than be consumed by the temporal tyranny of the urgent.

And so, where are your thoughts today?  Where are your eyes focused today?  Take a moment right now to reorient and refocus.

 

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?

How to Develop Yourself at a Meeting

I was recently asked for some thoughts on how to really benefit from participating in a gathering of leaders.  Below are some practical suggestions on maximizing your growth and development from such a meeting.

  1. It’s easy just to let the meeting just happen and you take it as it comes – more reactive than pro-active.  While this may be of some benefit, it will not maximize your experience.  A little planning and forethought can be a great benefit.
  2. Don’t be afraid to take initiative with anyone while there or try to book an appointment beforehand.  You will usually find them very responsive if at all possible.  You will need to have a clear reason for wanting to spend time with them.  Express what you hope to get out of the time together.
  3. It can be easy to feel like a grasshopper in the land of giants, but that is not reality.  While a gathering of leaders will have those attending with different leadership roles, but there is no value or importance implied by those various roles.
  4. So, think ahead and do some pro-active planning.  Who would you want to spend time with?  Who would you want to learn from?  Are their strategic linkages that you want to work develop or initiate?
  5. Though you have a plan, expect that the Lord will guide you into some ‘divine appointments’ that He arranges for you.  Be anticipating that and listening to the Spirit as He directs you in your conversations.  Be slow to speak and quick to listen.
  6. Go as a learner.  Go asking questions.  It might be helpful to have several questions related to leadership that you ask repeatedly to several participants and then compare their answers.  The questions can be specific (i.e. What one lesson have you learned that has helped you most to be a strategic leader?) or more general (i.e. What advice would you give someone like me who is just beginning to lead geographically dispersed staff teams?)
  7. Don’t make any long-term commitments while there.  You may be invited to visit, send staff teams, partner, commit resources , etc. to many wonderful opportunities.  Thank them for the invitation, but tell them you will want to pray and think about this and discuss it with your leadership before making any long-term decisions.  When you return, and decompress, you will be able to make much better and wiser decisions.
  8. Debrief with someone afterwards on what you learned.

Gatherings of leaders can be very stimulating and helpful for your growth and development.  But a little forethought can truly make them life-altering.  Plan ahead!

Helping Others Understand

When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” …  Do you still not understand?  Don’t you remember … But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.    Matthew 16:5-12   NIV 1984

The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”  …  Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.    Matthew 17:10-13  NIV 1984

Jesus had multiple times where the Twelve were slow to grasp the meaning of His teaching or their experiences with Him.  He demonstrates amazing patience as they struggle to really understand the meaning of all that was happening.  Sometimes we can see what appears to be a chiding of them or a mild exhortation (“How will you understand any parable?”), but he does wait for them to come to a fuller grasp of the subject.  He does not ‘spoon feed’ them; they have to exercise their own thought process.

In the first example in Matthew 16 the statement from Jesus was about avoiding the yeast of the Pharisees.  Having just come from two miracles of feeding thousands, the context seemed to dictate the subject of literal bread.  This was compounded by the fact that they did have any bread to eat, having forgotten it before they got on board.  So they concluded, perhaps He meant, “When we get off, don’t go purchasing any yeast from certain types of religious bread dealers?”

Note that when Jesus queried them about both miracles they accurately repeated the facts of their experience.  They knew how many were fed and how much was left over.  Though they knew the facts they did not understand the meaning.  After some further reflection, they understood the true meaning was to avoid the false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

The second instance begins with a question from the disciples about a prophecy regarding the coming of ‘Elijah’ before the coming of the Messiah.  They were growing in their understanding the Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, but then who was this ‘Elijah’ that was to come before Him?  With a little explanation, they came to understand that it was John the Baptist.  Note that Jesus did not tell them this plainly who it was, they had to deduce it from his explanation.

Sometimes those we lead require a little more help from us to ensure that they truly grasp what they are hearing or experiencing.  Don’t assume that just because they know the details that they truly understand the meaning.

Are you discerning or assuming that those around you understand?

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

                                                                    Luke 24:45  NIV 1984

Striving for Generations of Laborers

… the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people.  To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.                        Colossians 1:26-29

Paul worked with everything he had to help others come to know Christ and grow to maturity in Him.  This type of spiritual laboring was incredibly consuming and exhausting.

A mark of physical maturity is the ability to reproduce.  And so it is for spiritual maturity.  As we grow up in Christ we mature to the point of being able to reproduce more followers of Him.  It is a natural result of growth both physically and spiritually.

But many followers of Christ never reproduce their faith.  They are stunted or never reach spiritual maturity.  Having obtained the ‘fire insurance policy,’ they rest in the assurance of its personal protection without sharing their faith with others.

Paul exhorted Timothy to pass along what he had obtained to others to the second and third spiritual generation.  “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”  (2 Timothy 2:1-2)

Spiritual generations of those who are mature in Christ to the point of spiritual reproduction – that is the legacy of our spiritual lives.  Just as we leave a physical legacy, so too we must aim for a spiritual legacy.  We seek to leave behind men and women who walk with God and who reproduce their faith into the next and following generations.

What’s the legacy that you are leaving?

Your Reactions are Showing

Sometimes that click you hear under your foot really is a landmine!

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.                     Colossians 4:5-6  NIV 1984

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…    1 Peter 3:15   NIV 1984

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.    Ephesians 5:15-16   NIV 1984

How many times have you done or said something that you think immediately afterwards – Oh, no!  Ooops!   Wish I could rewind that tape!  Thinking before you speak or act is a mark of maturity and self-control.  It is a sign of Kingdom wisdom.

The authority that leaders carry by position or reputation can leave behind wreckage in the lives of many if we are not careful in how we act or speak.  While we have the right to have thoughts and opinions about all things, it is not wise to share or act upon them without first realizing the potential impact on those around us.  You will be imitated and quoted!

I’m not talking about political correctness here.  There are times when Kingdom leaders must stand for what is right and go against the cultural tide.  What I’m referring to are the unfiltered, knee-jerk responses that unintentionally wound others simply because we don’t stop to think before we act or speak.  Someone put it this way, “Your reactions are showing!”

Paul’s exhortations to us in the passages above are to, “be wise,” “be prepared,” and “be very careful” with respect to our speech and actions, especially as we relate to an unbelieving world.  We would do well to heed these reminders.

How are your recent interactions with others – family, team members, or outsiders?

Are your reactions showing?

 

 

 

It Is Well With My Soul

Horatio Spafford had known peaceful and happy days as a successful attorney in Chicago.  He was the father of four daughters, an active member of the Presbyterian Church, and a loyal friend and supporter of D. L. Moody and other evangelical leaders of his day.  Then, a series of calamities began, starting with the great Chicago fire of 1871 which wiped out the family’s extensive real estate investments.  When Mr. Moody and his music associate, Ira Sankey, left for Great Britain for an evangelistic campaign, Spafford decided to lift the spirits of his family by taking them on a vacation to Europe.  He also planned to assist in the Moody-Sankey meetings there.

In November, 1873, Spafford was detained by urgent business, but he sent his wife and four daughters as scheduled on the S.S. Ville du Harve, planning to join them soon.  Halfway across the Atlantic, the ship was struck by an English vessel and sank in 12 minutes.  All four of the Spafford daughters—Tanetta, Maggie, Annie and Bessie—were among the 226 who drowned.  Mrs. Spafford was among the few who were miraculously saved.

Horatio Spafford stood hour after hour on the deck of the ship carrying him to rejoin his sorrowing wife in Cardiff, Wales.  When the ship passed the approximate place where his precious daughters had drowned, Spafford received sustaining comfort from God that enabled him to write, “When sorrows like sea billows roll … It is well with my soul.”  What a picture of our hope! [1]

Author:            Horatio G. Spafford
Composer:      Philip P. Bliss
Tune:                Ville Du Havre (Bliss)

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like the sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
‘It is well with my soul.’

Tho’ Satan should buffet, tho’ trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious tho’t!—
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
‘Even so,’ it is well with my soul.

Chorus              It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Yes…. it is well with my soul!  How is your soul state today?

[1] Osbeck, K. W. (1996). Amazing grace: 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions (p. 202). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

Wisdom or a Wisecrack?

How can you discern if you just heard or experienced something that was wise or was it just a wisecrack that had little value?  The cacophony of voices around us today make this discernment essential for Kingdom leaders.  But was it something that was clever or truly founded in God’s wisdom?  Many things sound right, but upon reflection or execution we discover that they were poorly conceived.  How do we sort truth from error?

In James 3:17 we find a list of characteristics of God’s wisdom.  These qualities can be used by us to help determine whether something is truly from the Lord or just an interesting idea.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 

These seven characteristics of God’s wisdom can serve as a filter or a measuring rod with which we can evaluate whether some decision or solution is truly from the Lord.  If it runs counter to these qualities, then we can assume that it is of the world and therefore needs to be either modified or rejected outright.

I’d suggest keeping this list close as all times.  Memorize it so that the Lord can bring it to mind when you are in the heat of decision-making or problem solving.  He will guide you through it.  “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).

Wisdom or wisecrack?  You frequently need discernment from the Lord to know the difference.  Lead from the wisdom that comes down from heaven!

 

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