Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Leadership”

Merry Christmas!!!

Perhaps like me, you’ve wondered where all of the Christmas traditions came from.  Here’s some background to help with giving some new (old?) meaning to these seasonal traditions.

December 25 – The Day of Jesus’ Birth

In ancient times birthdays were celebrated only by kings and royalty.  It was not customary to record the specific date of an individual’s birth.  Being unsure of the exact date of Jesus’ birth, many dates began to be observed as Christianity spread from country to country.

Bishop Hippolytus calculated the birth of Jesus to be December 25 in 235 AD.  Emperor Constantine ordered the celebration of Christmas in 320 AD.  Since 400 AD Christendom has accepted this date as the traditional date of Jesus’ birth.

Christmas was first celebrated in America in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia.  In 1836 Alabama became the first state to establish Christmas as a legal holiday.  Colorado recognized Christmas as a state holiday in 1861.

St. Nicholas or Santa Claus

Nicholas was born and raised in Turkey in 280 AD.  When Nicholas reached age 19 he entered the priesthood.  He became known as the ‘patron saint of children’ because of his habit of leaving unidentified gifts at the homes of needy families.  This mysterious donor is called “Father Christmas” in England.

Introduced as “Sinterklass”  to America by the Dutch as the patron saint of their colonies or as the English and French said, “Saneta Claas.”  In 1809 Washington Irving portrayed a jolly fellow who rode in a sleigh pulled by reindeer; a far cry from the original St. Nicholas.  The giving spirit of St. Nicholas should inspire us all.

Candy Canes

A popular account says that a candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy to celebrate the birth of Jesus, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane.  He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus.

He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy.  He chose white to symbolize the purity and Virgin Birth of Jesus.  He made it in the “J” shape for the name of Jesus.  The shape is also that of a shepherd’s staff, to remind us that the Bible calls Jesus the Good Shepherd.  The red stripe is to remind us of the blood Christ shed for us when he died on a cross.

Christmas Carols

Until the Middle Ages there was no congregational singing in Christian churches.  Trained choirs sang chants and monotonous songs.  After the Christmas services, the church members would often gather in the streets to sing songs about the birth of Jesus, called ‘carola.’  Martin Luther introduced congregational singing to the churches.

“Silent Night” is the most popular Christmas carol.  Written on Christmas eve in Obendorf, Austria in 1818 by a priest as he walked in the snow house-to-house inviting his members to the service that evening.  Returning to his church, the priest asked the organist to write the melody to the lyrics he had composed on his walk.  Sung for the first time at the service that evening, it was sung to guitar as the church organ was broken!

Christmas Trees

This tradition was borrowed from the non-Christian people of northern Europe and given a new meaning.  These people would bring evergreens into their homes during the winter months to remind them of the hope of the coming spring.

Christians adapted this custom and added that the evergreen symbolizes the everlasting life offered through belief in Jesus as our Savior.  Trees were set up on Christmas and decorated with lights (candles) to symbolize that Jesus was born on a beautiful, starry night in Bethlehem.  Tradition says that Martin Luther was the first to add lights to the decorated tree.

Creche or Manger Scene

Until the 13th century, those that celebrated Christmas generally overlooked the lowly conditions of Jesus’ birth.  In 1219, St. Francis of Assisi visited Bethlehem where he was struck by the simplicity of Christ’s birthplace.  He was dismayed by the contrast of Jesus’ humble beginnings and the lavish church celebrations of his birth.

St. Francis created a rustic stable scene for midnight mass on Christmas Eve 1223.  He used live animals and people portrayed Mary and Joseph, shepherds and the angels.

Stockings

Long before Christmas trees were a part of the common Christmas traditions, stockings were hung in anticipation of the arrival of St. Nicholas.  English immigrants brought this custom with them to America.

The original Christmas stockings that were hung were those worn for everyday apparel.  They were hung with the hopes of being filled with treats from the visit of St. Nick.

What traditions are a part of your Christmas celebrations?  What values are you communicating as you celebrate?  Perhaps you can lead your family or your friends in remembering the true reason for the season as you reflect upon some of these established traditions.     MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Leading iGen People – 2

Jean Twenge has studied generational differences for many years and has some sobering thoughts in her Ted Talk regarding iGen, those born between 1995 and 2012, the Smartphone Generation.

She reminds us that iGen is the first generation to grow up always having a smartphone.  They tend to stay at home, spending hours of screen time with video games.  They are more likely to feel unhappy.  They are on the forefront of the worst mental health crisis in decades, with rates of teen depression and suicide skyrocketing since 2011.

They are less likely than all teens from other generations to go out without their parents, to date, have sex, drive or drink.  They are obsessed with safety and fearful of their economic futures.  They are in no hurry to grow up, with many not having driving licenses by the 12th grade.  By 2016, one in four men in their early twenties was not working.  Instead, the majority of their day was spent playing video games.

Wow… not a pretty picture it would seem.  As one who is identified as a Baby Boomer, we were the ones who rebelled against our parental norms, promoting the Hippie lifestyles of free love and protesting all things our parents had built.  No doubt our parents wondered what we would become.  Yes, we grew up eventually, just as iGen will.  Yes, it will take time, maybe longer than previous generations, but they will grow and mature.  But, they will be different that those before them.

Kingdom leaders must lead in the power of the Holy Spirit if they are to be able to lead into these generational complexities.  It’s definitely not one-size fits all when it comes to leadership style and execution.  The Spirit within those who lead in the Kingdom will give us discernment, awareness, and guide us to the truth of how best to fulfill our responsibilities.  We need not become expert social anthropologists to be very effective leaders for advancing the Kingdom.

Let’s not give way to fear of the future or live in despair of the challenging complexity we face today.  Rather, let’s depend upon the power of the Spirit who resides within us to enable us to lead this generation well, for His glory.  He made each and every one of them and wants them to be well-led.  Count on it – God cares for His people!

Let’s lead like Jesus who came out of the wilderness “in the power of the Spirit” as He began His public ministry (see Luke 4:14).  May we be Spirit-led and Spirit filled as we lead in these challenging times.

Leading iGen People – 1

Every generation tends to be reactive to the generation immediately before it.  Or, in another way of looking at it, every generation tends to be more like their grandparents than their parents.  Now obviously, these are broad generalities and every person individuates.  But, broad categories can be helpful in conceptualizing our leadership thinking and methodologies.

Thus, in general, GenX has more in common with Builders than their parents who were Boomers.  Millennials (GenY) has more in common with Boomers than GenX.  And today, GenZ, (iGen), is more like GenX than the Millennials.  Wise leaders are aware of these generational differences and adapt their leadership styles accordingly.

Ken Blanchard’s seminal concept called Situational Leadership reminds us to adapt our leadership style to the situation of those we are leading.  It requires an understanding of the needs and experience of those we are leading, with a balance between being both directive and supportive in our leadership approach.

Wise leaders today will also have to take into account not only the situation they lead into, but also the generational differences of those they are leading.  For Baby Boomer leaders to lead a mixed team of Millennials and GenZ, requires a basic understanding of their uniqueness.  Adding in differences in gender or culture and you can quickly see how complexity multiplies.

For Kingdom leaders there is good news.  We have the Holy Spirit within us to give us the wisdom needed to lead into this complexity with confidence.  Yes, pay attention to these generational traits.  Be aware of your team’s experience levels as well as cultural or gender differences.  But, in the end, listen carefully to the Spirit within you.  He knows and He will guide you.

He promises, “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)

Are you aware of your default leadership style?  Are you aware of the needs of your team and their individual differences, or are you expecting them to adapt to you?  Are you listening to the voice of His Spirit within you as He guides you in your leadership?

God Uses All for His Good Purposes

So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia.      Ezra 6:14  (NIV  1984)

The Lord used ungodly, pagan kings to further His purposes with His people.  Note the kings mentioned by Ezra in this verse.

Cyrus was spoken to by the Lord in a dream and told that he would rule over all the kingdoms of the world.  When he came to power having conquered the Babylonians, he decreed that the Jewish exiles could return from Babylon to their home in Judah.  Zerubbabel and Ezra lead groups of exiles back to the Promised Land and began to rebuild the temple.  This was a fulfillment of the prophecy through Jeremiah that the captivity was to last 70 years.

Artaxerxes granted Nehemiah permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, beginning with the city walls.  He appointed Nehemiah governor of the province and he gave permission for materials needed for the rebuilding project.

Local opposition arose to the rebuilding project, but he Lord used Darius to put a final end to the opposition, decreeing that the Jewish people should be allowed to continue their rebuilding without any further resistance (see Ezra 6).  Darius said, “Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God.  Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site.” (Ezra 6:7)

All three of these kings were not worshipers or followers of the living God.  Yet, the Lord used each to further His good plan for His people.

There are times when we may find ourselves serving under the leadership of those who are not the best of leaders – not necessarily ones we would choose, if given the opportunity.  Yet, there is no authority over us who can frustrate God’s plan or destiny for us.  He is the final authority and He will not allow any human authority to block, delay, or hinder His plan for your life.  Do not fear – if needed, He can work through, around, or even remove them.

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”  Nahum 1:7  (NIV 1984)

Rest in Him!  Trust in Him!  He is good and all that He is doing is good.  Even when it doesn’t feel good!

Defending Your Reputation

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.                 Isaiah 53:7   (NIV 1984)

When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer.  Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?”  But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge–to the great amazement of the governor.        Matthew 27:12-14

The chief priests accused him of many things.  So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer?  See how many things they are accusing you of.”  But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.    Mark 15:3-5

We have recently seen how accusations – whether verifiable or not, accurate or not – have become accepted as true.  The seeming emotional state of the accuser was proof of the accusations, rather than their veracity or falsehood.  The resulting damage done to both the accused and the process of law are hard to measure.

Jesus too was accused at His trials. Before the Sanhedrin it says, “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they
could put him to death.  But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.”  Matthew 26:59-60  (NIV  1984)

Before the governor He acknowledged that He was the King of the Jews as accused (Matthew 27:11).  But, the other accusations against Him made by the Jewish leaders of inciting rebellion or insurrection against Caesar, He declined to answer – to the amazement of His accusers.

Jesus entrusted His fate to His heavenly Father.  Knowing that His destiny was to die for His people, He chose not to defend Himself or correct the accusations.  Rather, He asked His Father to forgive them for they did not know what they were doing.

How important is your public reputation?  Can God be trusted to defend you and your reputation should the need arise?  In what circumstances should we offer a rebuttal or a defense?  Wisdom is needed for sure!

 

Trusting God with your Legacy

Remember me with favor, O my God.          Nehemiah 6:31   (NIV 1984)

Four times Nehemiah asks that the Lord “remember” him for his faithful and sacrificial leadership (Nehemiah 5:19; 13:14, 22, 31).  Nehemiah entrusted the lasting impact and any possible reward for his labors to the Lord who sees all and rewards those who are faithful (see Hebrews 11:6; Matthew 25 – Parable of the Talents; Luke 19 – Parable of the 10 Gold Coins).  Unfortunately, for many leaders, we seek to ensure that we get the credit, reward, accolades, and affirmation of success we think are due us, rather than leaving those outcomes to the Lord.

Here’s several spiritual checks that help keep us on the right path:

  1.  We all want to be well-thought-of.  That’s natural.  But, do we tend to grab the ‘spotlight’ and make sure that it is shining directly upon us?  Can we share the spotlight with others, acknowledging their contribution in our success?
  2. Leaders often sacrifice much – many times without the knowledge of others.  Is it enough that Jesus sees my sacrifices and the hard work I put in?  Or, do I need to let others know of my labors on their behalf, seeking words or deeds of appreciation back from them?
  3. Can I trust Jesus that He not only sees my labor and sacrifice, but that He will also reward me in His way and in His time for my labor?
  4. How important is it that I get the credit for any successes or contributions?
  5. Do I see my leadership as a right or a privilege?  Do I have a sense of stewardship of my leadership responsibility – a responsibility that one day I will have to give an account to God for?

Jesus says in Luke 17:7-10 – “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep.  Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’?  Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’?  Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?  So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ”

For who makes you different from anyone else?  What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?     1 Corinthians 4:7   (NIV  1984)

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?

Names are Important

As we look throughout the Bible we see many occasions where God determines the name for a person.  On some occasions these names are selected before birth and speak about God’s purposes for this child.  At other times the Lord changes the name of a person when they are adults.  This adult name change marks a turning point in their life as they carry out God’s purposes.

The outstanding example of a child’s name given by God to parents before birth is Jesus.  In Matthew 1:21 we read about the Lord speaking to Joseph in a dream concerning Mary’s pregnancy, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (NIV 1984)  Other examples of names given before birth are John the Baptist (Luke 1:13), Ishmael (Genesis 16:11), Isaac (Genesis 17:19) and Hosea’s three children (Hosea 1:4, 6, 9).

At other times the Lord changed the names of people to signify a new season and purpose of their life.  This can be shortly after birth or as adults.  The classic example is Abram being renamed Abraham and Sarai renamed Sarah.  “No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.” (Genesis 17:5-6  NIV 1984)  “God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” (Genesis 17:15-16  NIV 1984)

Other examples of name changes are:  Jacob becomes Israel (Genesis 32:27-28), Solomon becomes Jedidiah (2 Samuel 12:24-25), Simon becomes Peter (Matthew 16:17-18) and James and John are named Sons of Thunder due to their apparent volatile temperaments (Mark 3:17; Luke 9:53-55).

And in Revelation 2:17 we read that to those who overcome the world, the Lord will give a white stone with a new name written on it.

Our names go before us and create an identity.  They can create a sense of destiny for our children as we explain why they were given the name we chose for them.  Even nicknames can be important, creating an image or impression, whether positive or negative.

As leaders, we can ‘name’ someone with a nickname that sets them up for positive influence or we can ‘name’ them with a moniker that hinders or creates difficulty for them.  It’s our choice and how we steward our influence on others is very important.

What ‘name’ is on your public name tag?  What names are you using to describe those you lead? Are you setting them up for success?

 

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