Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Strategic leading”

God’s Help in Generations

The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you.       Deuteronomy 7:22    (NIV  1984)

These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience) … They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the LORD ‘s commands, which he had given their forefathers through Moses.        Judges 3:1-2, 4   (NIV  1984)

The Lord’s promise to deliver the land to Israel was a sure thing.  When God makes a promise, He backs it up with His unchanging character and His ability (omnipotence) to do whatever He says.  But, what His promise does not include is the process for handing the land over to Israel.  The ‘how’ of the fulfillment will be different than thought or imagined.

The Lord’s promises and purposes have a long time-horizon.  He was preparing Israel for a long-term occupancy.  Certainly, He could have wiped out all the occupants with the wave of His hand or the breath of His mouth.  But, knowing what was best for His people long-term, He chose to deliver it ‘little by little.’

The Lord’s ways and thoughts are not our ways or thoughts (see Isaiah 55:8-9).  Therefore, as Kingdom leaders, we must be filled and led by His Holy Spirit who indwells us to know how to execute our leadership in alignment with His purposes.  Learning to turn our hearts and minds to the Lord’s voice within us will enable us to do what He desires.

While this may seem a very subjective process, there is a very objective component.  The Holy Spirit will never lead us in ways or thoughts contrary to His Word.  Thus, our own familiarity and depth in the Scriptures enables the Spirit within to guide and direct us.

So, is it your ways and thoughts or His that you are executing?  Are you sure?

Strategic Supervision

Leader vs Manager – A False Dichotomy *

Below are some general thoughts regarding the important function of leadership – managing the work of others.

  • Managing the work of others = supervision of their work
  • Leading people in mission and supervision of their work are essential –  “two wings on same plane” – we may have strengths in one or the other; good leaders must be able to manage some level of detail/operations; good managers must be able to lead people to accomplish agreed upon outcomes
  • Managing the work of others (not managing the people) includes:
    • Organizational competency, legal aspects, safe and healthy workers, awareness of implications of being an employee – i.e. policies are for individual and organizational protection
    • Emphasize that workers are a part of something larger than themselves, “going rogue” is not wise or helpful when resources are available to inform, help, and protect workers

Strategic Supervision is for Ensuring Execution

Below are some very practical aspects of how to supervise others:

  • Be proactive, not just reactive in your supervision!
    • Thinking ahead – scenario planning / What will we do if….?
    • Hope for the best and plan for the worst!
  • Be both Macro- and Micro-focused
    • Big picture, systems thinking, but also attentive to an appropriate level of detail
  • Provide oversight of the person and the task
    • Attention to the ‘leadership wake’ of people and task
    • Success is thriving people and mission accomplished
  • Ensure the execution and the completion of a task –  stewardship and ownership of the task
    • What are we doing; Why are we doing it?
    • Bring accountability for completion of a task
      • No 3-foot holes, when we intend to dig 10-foot holes!
    • Create a healthy, safe working environment where people can flourish
  • Give feedback (correction, improvement/affirmation) related to responsibilities and desired outcomes – i.e. annual progress reviews, personal improvement plans, personal goals, annual plans and budgets
  • Ensure alignment of people, resources, and task (doing the right things) to our mission statement
    • Aligning up, down, and laterally within the organization
    • Help create collaboration (working partnerships) with other people or functions in the organization
  • Empower people to accomplish their responsibilities and make their contribution (giving authority, providing the needed resources) – having clearly defined, agreed upon outcomes
  • Enable people to accomplish their responsibilities and make their contribution (removing obstacles, solving problems that people are not able to do themselves)
    • Not micro-managing, meddling or doing someone’s job for them
  • Provide excellent stewardship of God’s resources
    • Optimization of process, budgeting, positioning people to succeed, time management
    • Accountability for how and when decisions are made and how resources are used
  • Create healthy team dynamics
    • Ensure that team members are working well together as a team
    • Helping team members contribute in their strengths and protect each other’s weaknesses
  • Bring clarity when needed regarding purpose, process, or outcomes
    • Secure commitment to a common (shared) goal and purpose
  • Create a succession mentality – raise up your replacement from within your team, if possible

You must be doing both – leading people and managing their work!

*   These thoughts were compiled with the helpful input of Ken Hendren

Leaders Bring Clarity!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timing is Everything!

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…    Ecclesiastes 3:1  (NIV  1984)

Any gardener knows that you plant your vegetable seeds in the spring and early summer, not mid-winter!  There is a right time and a wrong time for certain activities.  And so it is in your leadership.  Timing is everything!

When Jesus went to the wedding in Cana, the wedding party ran out of wine.  Mary turned to her Son and told Him to please do something about this socially awkward embarrassment (perhaps this was an extended family member’s wedding, thus Mary’s insistence that Jesus help).  Jesus replied, “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” John 2:4  (NIV  1984)  Note Jesus’s sense of timing (regardless of the timing, He did help solve the problem).

We observe some three years later at the end of His public ministry, Jesus is praying the night before His crucifixion.  He says, “Father, the time has come.  Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.”  John 17:1  (NIV  1984)  Now, the time was right for the completion of what He came to earth to do.  Timing is everything!

The Ecclesiastes passage above says that there is a time to laugh and a time to cry, a time to plant and a time to uproot.  There is a time and a season for everything under heaven.  As Kingdom leaders, it’s our job to know what time and season we are in and lead accordingly.

Leading change processes are a part of good leadership.  No leader wants to maintain the status quo.  But, those we lead can only take so much change and a certain rate of change.  Push too hard and they will dig in their heels and refuse to move further.  Move too slowly and they will not embrace the change process, for they see no need to truly change.  It’s a matter of timing – going too fast or too slow can bring trouble.  Timing the rate of change is an art form, not a science.

Strategic leadership sees into the future time horizon by faith and seeks to implement new initiatives to move from current reality to the desired future state.  But the sequence on the steps to move from here to there and the timing of the “travel” is key to accomplishing the mission.  Great plans can come to naught due to a lack of careful attention to the timing of implementation.

What time is it?  Do you know?

 

Developing Kingdom Leaders for What?

In Genesis 12:1-3 we read of God’s promise to Abram that the blessing upon Abram and his descendants would be a blessing to all the world.  1500 years later, Isaiah writes a prophecy about the coming Messiah and states that the mission of the Messiah would be to take the message of salvation not just to the tribes of Jacob, but to all the nations (peoples) of the world.

500 years after Isaiah, Jesus summarizes His entire public ministry with a commission to make disciples of all the nations (see Matthew 28:18-20).  And at His final public appearance, the Ascension from the Mount of Olives, the Lord instructs them to begin at Jerusalem and reach to ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

This mission of discipling the nations is why we need Kingdom leaders.  These missional leaders will seek to advance the gospel and the Kingdom into the various peoples of the world.  These leaders will be called of God to engage in this great cosmic task.  They will hear His voice and raise their hand.

The grand vision of making disciples of all the peoples of the world will need leaders of disciplemaking ministries and disciplemaking movements; leaders who see globally and act locally.  They will not be discouraged or shrink back from the immensity of the task.  Rather, they will rise to the challenge, trusting God by faith to use them is some way to further His purposes.

What better way to spend your life?  Some will be called to engage in this vocationally as full-time workers.  Others will have differing vocations, but their missional commitment will not waver as they engage in the grand enterprise of seeing the nations come to know Him.

These Kingdom leaders must be prayed for, worked for, recruited, trained, developed, and deployed strategically into the peoples of the world.  They will be few in number, given that the ‘laborers are few’ (see Matthew 9:35-38).  But, God does accomplish this mission with just a few (see Revelation 9:7).

We are not disheartened by the few who may raise their hand and volunteer for this daunting mission.  With God, one is a majority!  And with Him we have all the resources needed to accomplish everything He desires of us.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?    Romans 8:31  (NIV  1984)

Missional Mindset #3

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

In the past two blogs, we have looked at how Jesus communicated His mission-task to those around Him.  For three and one-half years He executed His mission and then, having completed it, returned to His Father.  Below are some of the passages that show the completion of that world-changing mission.

John 13:1  It was just before the Passover Festival.  Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

John 17:4  I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.

John 17:6  “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world.  They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.

John 17:8  For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them.  They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.

John 17:14  I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.

John 19:30  When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”  With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

It’s not enough to know your God-assigned mission or task.  And it’s not even enough to begin to work at it.  We must complete or finish the mission that we begin.  Paul’s exhortation to Archippus is a great reminder –  Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”   (Colossians 4:17  NIV  1984)

Missional Mindset and Leadership #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Groundhog’s Day Syndrome

Insanity:  doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.                        Albert Einstein

German settlers in Pennsylvania brought with them a superstition that on 2 February (halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox) they were able to predict the length of winter yet to come.  A bright day meant cold, wintry weather for another six weeks.  A cloudy day meant a less severe few weeks ahead and the winter was ending.  This superstition was attached to a tradition of a groundhog emerging from his hole and seeing or not seeing his shadow.  Actor Bill Murray solidified the day with his portrayal of a TV weatherman doomed to repeat the same day over and over again in the movie Groundhog Day (1993).

Since the popular movie release many have used the metaphor, “It’s like Groundhog’s Day over and over again” or some variation thereof.  Meaning, here we go again, same process with the same results.

Here’s the connection to leadership.  Many established works can get stuck in repetitive cycles, processes, traditions, etc. that have been around for a long time.  No one ever stops to think about why we do such things, we just do them because we always have done them.  They yield predictable outcomes, but we don’t stop to assess whether we could change or discontinue some things.  We just keep on doing what we have always done.

Good leaders will have a discerning eye on items in their environment that we assume are good, but are rarely evaluated.  Critically evaluating the ‘givens’ are a good way to find new creativity, improvement, and energy for  future change.  Just doing what we have always done will give us the same outcomes.  It’s crazy to think that we will see anything other that what we have seen in the past, no matter how hard or efficient we work.

In their book titled, Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers, Kriegel and Brandt suggest that it is not the expert or the pioneer who usually brings lasting change or innovation.  Rather, it is a new leader, often from outside the context, who acts like a beginner.  Beginners ask lots of questions and have few assumptions other than they don’t yet understand the context.  They are not afraid to question anything.

What things in your leadership world are so entrenched that you haven’t taken a hard look at them in a long time?  What assumptions are you making that need to be re-evaluated because it’s been a long time since they were created and times have changed?  Have the courage to take the hard look!

7 Woes for Leaders – #6

Jesus launches into a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders around Him at the dinner table of a local Pharisee (see Luke 11:37-52).  This passage begins a list of seven failures that these leaders experienced.  The following continues the list of six failures that are prefaced with a dire warning, “Woe to you…”

Here’s #6  –  “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them.  So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs.”  v 47-48   (NIV 1984)

These leaders were charged with giving superficial or temporary solutions to long-standing problems, rather than dealing with root issues or causes that would yield lasting, positive change.

There is a reason why long-standing problems are not dealt with in a lasting way.  They are messy, complicated, the change may require systemic changes, solutions may point out failures of previous leaders, they may be financially or emotionally costly, or disruptive to the status quo.  These religious leaders built nice looking monuments to the prophets killed by their predecessors, instead of addressing the root of why those prophets were ignored and killed by their forefathers.

We often make decisions on the ‘mini-max’ principle.  When making decisions, we seek to minimize the cost and maximize the benefit.  It’s easy just to give a temporary solution that makes us feel like we are solving something, rather than address the core of it.  We kick the can down the road and realize that the next leader will have to deal with it.  Someone will have to have the moral courage to take it on at its root and bring a lasting change for the good.

Doing what is right, instead of doing what is easy is the way of the leader who is pleasing to God.  Half-way solutions are not solutions!  They are simply patches on a leaky hull.  They stop the water flow for the time being, but later, they loosen and the water again begins to flood our ship.

What long-standing, messy problems are on your do list?  What can you do to address at least one of them?  Screw up your courage and lead!

7 Woes for Leaders – #2

Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.  You foolish people!  Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?  But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.    Luke 11:39–42  (NIV 1984)

Jesus launches into a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders around Him at the dinner table of a local Pharisee.  This passage begins a list of seven failures that these leaders experienced.  The following begins the list of six failures that are prefaced with a dire warning, “Woe to you…”

Here’s #2  –  Majoring on the minors, while neglecting what’s really important  – v. 42  (NIV  1984)

Jesus points out that the Pharisees were fastidious in their tithing practices.  Even giving a tenth of the herbs from their garden to the Lord.  But their myopia in focusing on the minor issues of tithing down to counting the herbal seeds of their garden caused them to miss the bigger issues.

He pointed out two big misses in particular – the neglect of justice and the love of God.   These issues are reflective of the very heart and character of God.  They had majored on the minors while neglecting the more important matters.

Note that Jesus says that they should not have neglected the former.  That is, don’t stop your attention to giving of your income to God. But, at the same time, don’t neglect the macro Kingdom issues that align with His overall purposes and character.

For Kingdom leaders, we can get so consumed with the operations – the doing of the Kingdom work that we neglect the King.  We can focus on the tactical and miss the strategic.  We be consumed with the immediate and neglect the long-term.

Both the work of the Kingdom and the King, the tactical and the strategic, and the urgent, immediate as well as the long-term are needed.  It is a both-and, not an either-or.

Are you majoring on the majors or the minors?

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