Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Strategic leading”

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?

Focus for Impact

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”  Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also.  That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demon.  Mark 1:35–39   NIV  1984

Jesus had some early recruits in the two sets of brothers who were fishing partners in Capernaum.  They had been with him off and on for about a year now, and life was about to take a major shift for all of them.  Jesus had recruited them to leave the fishing business in order to become vocational ‘religious’ workers – leaders in training.  They had enlisted, leaving family and friends behind, for what would turn out to be a two-year training assignment and a new life-long vocation.

Having just ended an inspirational evening the night before, they discover Jesus alone outside of town spending time in prayer and communion with His Father.  They assume that He will want to continue the wonderful experience of healing and miracles that occurred the night before, so they remind Him that, “everyone is looking for you.”  They assume that He would want to return to Peter and Andrew’s home and heal those who were gathering there.

But, Jesus responded with a risk-taking statement, “Let’s go to the nearby villages…that is why I have come.”  It was a risk to disappoint the expectations of his new recruits.  What if they insisted on Him coming back to help?  There was pressure on Jesus to conform to the wishes of His team and the needs of the masses.  But, Jesus boldly and confidently said ‘no.’

It was His mission – task – purpose that brought clarity to the decision that now had to be made.  He was focused on that purpose – the ‘why’ of His ministry.  Thus, while it may seem difficult, it was not really.  Clarity of purpose – mission made the decision an obvious one.  He must go to the surrounding villages to tell them the Good News of the Kingdom and not be consumed with the needs in Capernaum only.

Clarity of purpose and maintaining that focus is essential for leadership success.  Many a leader has started out well, having a clear vision for what they want to accomplish, but then in the midst of the ‘daily whiteout’ they forget why they are so busy.  Consumed by the immediate needs, they succumb to reactive leadership instead of maintaining their strategic intent.

Don’t fall into this trap.  Stay focused!  Stay strategic!  Don’t substitute busyness for strategic intent!

Disputes and Disagreements

Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers:  “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”  This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.  So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.    (Acts 15:1–2)

We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.   (Acts 15:24)

Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.  They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.   (Acts 15:37–40)

Disputes, disagreements, and debates – all normal for Kingdom leaders.  Nothing new under the sun.

In the first incident we have Paul and Barnabas entering into a debate on the purity of the gospel – a doctrinal issue.  This dispute could not be settled locally, thus a meeting was set to determine the solution to the problem.  Yes, even in the early Church meetings were common.

Arguments were presented and discussed and a final decision reached.  This decision was placed into writing and hand-delivered to the offended parties with some explanation of background and future expectations articulated.  A process to determine a solution to the problem was well executed.

The second disagreement was over a personnel decision – John Mark – and involved Paul and Barnabas.  This was resolved locally with a decision to go their separate ways.  Who was right or were they both wrong?  Perhaps it depends on one’s perspective.

Barnabas saw the potential in John Mark (his nephew) and was willing to give him another opportunity, not holding his past failure against him.  Paul, perhaps looking at this decision from a task orientation, did not want to jeopardize the mission by having a team member who had not proven himself faithful previously.

Perhaps they were both right.  Barnabas’ investment in John Mark proves well worth the time as Paul admits later in 2 Timothy 4:11.  Paul’s second missionary tour also proved profitable as he took Silas with him and opened Europe to the gospel.

Not all disagreements can end well.  But God’s purposes are not frustrated by these challenges.  Do your best to live at peace with all men (Romans 12:18) and trust Him for the outcomes.

Packaging the Message

Leaders desire to influence and deeply impact those around them.  Kingdom leaders want to do so for the advance of the gospel and to bring glory to Christ.

In 1 Samuel 16:7 the Lord reminds Samuel as he is selecting from among Jesse’s sons a replacement for Saul, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.  (1 Samuel 16:7   NIV 1984).

There are two truths in this advice.  Primary is the truth that the Lord’s criteria for leadership selection is based upon what is internal – the heart of a person.  But there is also a second truth – people do look at the outward appearance.  Many a leader has neglected to consider the importance of the ‘exterior’ image that they project.  So much so, that the message that God has given them and their leadership influence is muted because the ‘packaging’ of the messenger is distracting.

This is not to suggest that Kingdom leaders must wear designer clothing or be modeling the latest trend or cultural fad.  But wisdom says that we don’t want our exterior to detract or confuse the message that God has given us to deliver.

That’s why Paul said, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”  (1 Corinthians 9:20-23  NIV 1984)

So how’s the ‘packaging’ of the message and the messenger?  You might consider asking your spouse or a trusted friend for any suggestions they may have on how you can improve or change.

The task is too important to neglect this!

 

Vision and Provision

When a leader plans for the future, they must anticipate the resources needed to accomplish any idea that is planned.  Now there are two approaches to this planning process.  One involves walking by faith the other walking by sight.

One can plan according to the resources one has – taking stock of the current inventory and then planning accordingly.  Planning based upon what we see we currently have ‘in stock’ can be wise, but it is also limiting.  We are not free to dream, take bigger faith initiatives, or think beyond what our current limited resources allow us to do.

For Kingdom leaders a better approach would be to ask the Lord, “What would you have me/us to accomplish?”  Having gotten clear direction on that goal, we then look to the Lord Himself to provide the necessary resources to accomplish the task He has assigned.

In John 6:1-13 we see Jesus asking the Twelve to feed 5000 people.  Note that this was simply a developmental question for Philip (v. 5-6) “…for he already had in mind what he was going to do.”  Andrew answers by looking to the resources that they currently have on hand – not much.  “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (v. 9)  NIV 1984

Then Jesus springs into action.  He has them sit down. Then, taking what they had, the boy’s lunch of bread and fish, He provides for the current need.  He blesses food and the Twelve distributed it to the seated masses.  Note that those who were seated got “as much as they wanted” (v. 11) and that they even had twelve baskets of leftovers.

God’s provision for whatever task He asks of us is not limited to whatever current provision we have.  Rather, we have access to unlimited resources to accomplish whatever He may ask us to do.  His provision will come in such a way that we are assured it is from Him, for then He will receive the glory.  And His provision will be abundant, lavish, to the point of even having excess.  Note too the stewardship of the excess.  Jesus said to the disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over.  Let nothing be wasted.”  (v. 12).

As you think about the future plans that He has for you what perspective do you have regarding the resources needed?  Are you planning based upon what you see or what you can trust Him for?

A Leader’s Job Description

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God…       Romans 1:1  ( NIV 1984)

In the opening passage of Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome he describes himself and his job (role, contribution).  This concise description can provide all Kingdom leaders with a template for our contribution as well.

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus…”  The word means “one owned by another” (bond slave, doulos) and describes a person in relationship to a master.  It is the same word used to describe Jesus in Philippians 2:7, “…taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

Being a servant is a leader’s identity, not their activity.  This identity does not change, regardless of whether or not our role, title, or responsibility changes.  All who are followers of Jesus find our identity as servants of Him who bought and paid for us with His own blood on the cross.  Sometimes we have the privilege of expressing that servant identity in leading others.  But at other times, we may express that same servant identity by following someone else as they lead us.

Paul continues his own description, “…called to be an apostle…”  The word means “one who is sent out; a messenger sent with a message to deliver”  Here Paul begins to put a sharper point on his own personal job as he works out the specifics of his servant leadership.  He was to be an apostle to the Gentiles (the nations; the non-Jews).  This explanation was given at his conversion on the road to Damascus and was further clarified in a meeting with leadership in Jerusalem some years later (see Galatians 2).

Paul’s function was to be a pioneering messenger to the Gentiles, planting the good seed of the gospel among peoples (Gentiles) who did not have a Jewish background.   He laid foundations that others would come afterwards and build upon (see 1 Corinthians 3).  He knew his role and his personal function in light of the bigger goal of advancing the Kingdom and discipling the nations for Christ.

So too for any Kingdom leader; we must be very clear on our personal function that we bring.  It is a function that we, and only we, can and must do.  It’s more than just ‘lead.’  But, rather, what part of the overall leadership function do you do?  That’s strategic leadership at it’s best.

Are you clear on your identity and your strategic leadership activity?  What is it that you and only you can and must do, today, as you lead?

 

 

 

Contribution and Old Age

The LORD said to Moses, “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the Tent of Meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work.                               Numbers 8:23-26

The new U.S. President is 70 years old.  His election opponent was 69.  The average age for the new cabinet candidates is 64.  Why the large number of older leaders?  Is it because their generation, the Baby Boomers, tends to vote more frequently and out-number the Millennials?  Is it that those who are older are clinging to power and reluctant to give it over to the next generation?

From the passage above in Numbers we see that those who served in the Tabernacle, the Levites, were conscripted to serve from age 25 to 50.  At the age of 50 they were released from their regular duty, but were to still be available for helping those in active service.  Many believe that this restriction was due to the heavy physical demands of the role – setting up, tearing down, and transporting the Tabernacle and all its accompanying accessories across the desert.  Regardless, it is interesting to note that the Lord Himself set age limits for this service.

We can also observe that Moses was 80 when God appeared to him and called him into service.  He served as the leader of Israel for 40 more years until his death at 120.  Tradition tells us that the Apostle Paul served into his sixties and that the Apostle John wrote the book of Revelation in his nineties.

Certainly these examples are descriptive rather than prescriptive for us.  But we must be cautious that as we focus on next generation leadership, we don’t automatically dismiss the contribution of those who are older.  While it is wise and strategic to intentionally focus on a transition to younger leaders, we must not develop a corresponding prejudice against those who are older.  Youth has its advantages, but so does age and experience.

Just because someone is younger does not mean that they are wise.  But neither does having gray hair (or no hair) mean that someone is better qualified to lead.  Discernment is needed to determine best fit and contribution, regardless of age.  Better health care and nutrition means that what is “old” is an escalating age range.

Wise leadership will not automatically default to the younger or those who are older by assuming one is better than another.  Good leaders are discerning on who is best qualified to lead and trust that the Lord will anoint them for their responsibility.

Delegate or Die!

A good leader learns to focus on what they and only they can and must do as the leader of the team.  Other responsibilities are delegated.  Leaders who do not learn to delegate well are busy, but are they busy doing the right things?  Sadly, the answer is often ‘no.’  Busyness is not the sign of a good leader and can lead to an early demise.

Jesus illustrates this art of delegation in the following two passages.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ ”  (Mark 11:1-3  1984 NIV)

So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”  (Mark 14:13-15  1984 NIV)

In both cases Jesus is delegating a task to two members of His leadership team.  Both tasks are important, very important, yet capable of being done by others.  Jesus gives detailed instructions and also helps them with some possible scenario planning should they have to adjust along the way.  In the second example we know that it was Peter and John who were sent on this errand – the leaders of leaders were asked to carry out this very mundane, operational task (see Luke 22:8).

Learning to delegate well will increase a leader’s capacity and create focus on what is truly strategic for that leader to focus on.  It may seem like it takes more time to delegate well instead of just doing it yourself.  Or sometimes we can confuse being a servant to mean that I do it all myself.  Note, Jesus did not say to the Twelve, “Wait here men while I go and get a donkey for me to ride upon.”  Or, “Wait here while I go and prepare the room for our dinner tonight.”

Are you busy?  More importantly, are you busy doing the right things?

The – What to Do If – Notebook

Leaders rarely plan for their sudden death, often leaving their personal and professional affairs in a mess.  Part of good, strategic leadership is thinking and planning ahead for the unexpected or untimely.  Good stewardship of your responsibilities, both personal and professional, means preparing for a transition should something happen to you unexpectedly.  Let’s examine the personal aspect first.

It is extremely helpful if you collect all the important, vital documents and information in one centralized place and that your spouse knows where this is located with easy access.  I placed my info in a “What to Do If” notebook.  Should something happen to me – plane crash, car accident, heart attack, etc.) my wife knows where to go to help her sort through the myriad of decisions that she will be facing.  Here’s some of the items in my notebook.

1.  Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney – make sure it’s up to date; you may want to include your wishes for the funeral or memorial service and the disposal of your remains; these are copies as the originals are kept in the safe deposit box

2.  Computer and Hard Drive/Cloud Backup access  –  passwords and PINs

3.  Financial Records – banking, credit cards, investments; account numbers, websites, phone numbers, passwords; safe deposit box access and inventory of box

3.  Life Insurance Policies  –  amounts on policies and contact information for filing a claim; you may even list suggestions on what to do with the payouts

4.  Other Assets  –  any other asset of value; properties, collections, antiques (consider designating the distribution of particular items, especially family heirlooms)

5.  Memberships, Warranties, Maintenance Agreements – location and type of memberships and warranties for household items or autos

6.  Monthly Bills  –  what bills are due monthly, quarterly, annually and how to pay them

7.  Personal Records  –  birth certificates, passports, marriage certificate  –  location of files

I collected all of the above information into one notebook – the What to Do If notebook.  Should my wife get word of my death, she knows where to go for guidance.  I collected the most important details in a two page executive summary at the beginning of the notebook and the rest is filled with copies of statements, records, etc. for her to reference, if needed.

We have talked over the contents of the notebook together to clarify any questions she may have.  I also asked my oldest son to review the notebook with both of us, so that he can lend objective support in executing the details after I’m gone.

Loving care and good stewardship means we plan for the unexpected and help prepare a way forward for those we leave behind.  Seek to make it as easy as possible for them.  Taking the initiative and planning ahead means you really do care!

Where’s your notebook?  Does your spouse know where it is?

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