Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Strategic leading”

Be on Your Guard! Be Alert! Watch!

Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. …  What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’   Mark 13:33, 37  NIV

The context of these exhortations from Jesus is in regard to the end times.  The disciples had asked Him when He will return and what will be the signs of His coming.  After answering in much detail, He summarizes with these three exhortations – Be on guard… Be alert… Watch!

While the context dictates an interpretation regarding the second coming of Christ, there are additional principles that apply, especially for Kingdom leaders.

As we seek to advance the Kingdom – the rule and reign of Jesus Christ, we must be on our guard against evil and those who would seek to hinder our mission.  Our adversary will not yield easily and we should not be surprised by opposition to the gospel or God’s purposes.  Rather, we need perseverance and steadfastness as we move ahead in our mission.

We must be alert to the changing times and cultural shifts around us.  What has worked for some time may not work now.  It’s not just a matter of working harder or looking for more committed workers.  Perhaps our methods are less and less effective because our audience has changed.  We must be alert to these changes.  Ask the Lord for wisdom and discernment into how best to further His work at this time.  What new approaches or methods need to be tried to determine if they are a better fit for your audience?

Watchfulness is a focus on Him and the certainty of His coming – an anticipation that He will do as He has promised.  Kingdom leaders are to keep a watchful eye on the ‘horizon’ as we plow through the details of the day.  Don’t get so buried in the daily work that you take your eye off of the bigger picture.  It is the Lord’s work, not ours and He will accomplish it in His way and in His time.  He is with us and will never leave us.  And He will fulfill His promises!

Be on your guard – today!  Be alert – today!  Watch – today!

Communicating with Word Pictures

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”    Matthew 7:24-25  ESV

Communicating well can be difficult for Kingdom leaders.  “What we have here is a failure to communicate” is heard all too frequently.  As a team leader you are often casting vision and futuristic concepts that for you may seem crystal clear, but for your hearers they are a thick fog.  How can you cut through the fog and help those around you see it as clearly as you do?

One key to good communication, especially when dealing with abstract or complex topics is to learn to speak in word pictures.  Taking the complex and ‘putting a handle’ on it so that it is easy to grasp is a learned skill.  Like all skills, you can get good at it and when you do, you will find yourself being quoted because your communication is memorable.

Note how Jesus ended His most famous sermon – the Sermon on the Mount.  In the reference above He closed with a word picture of a person building a house on two different types of foundations.  The key word is “like” which introduces the simile that follows.  Those who hear His words and obey them are ‘like’ a wise man who built on a rock.  ‘Like’ transitions from concept to word picture that makes the abstract more concrete in the minds of His audience.

As you talk about your mission and vision, learn to use word pictures, similes that will help your audience better understand and remember key points and concepts.  Here’s an example that I use to explain the difference between mission and vision for Kingdom leaders.

Mission Statement –  This answers the question, “Why do we exist?”  This is first and foremost in strategic leading.  It’s like a picture frame on the wall of the Kingdom that separates and defines who we are from what others are.  It is our task and our identity.

Vision Statement  –  This is where we want to go in the future – our destination.  It is the picture of the future of our desired future state that we see by faith.  It’s the picture that is placed into the picture frame of our mission.  It is this future vision that we will begin to work towards and bring into reality by His grace and power.

Train yourself to communicate in simple, easy to understand word pictures.  Your influence will grow and your communications will ‘stick.’

Jesus and Priorities

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  Matthew 10:5-6  ESV

Does not God love the whole world?  Of course He does!  Does not the mission of the Messiah, Jesus, include taking the Good News to both Jew and Gentile (non-Jew)?  Of course it does!  (see Isaiah 49:6)  Then, why would Jesus restrict His apostles from going to the Gentiles and Samaritans (half-Jewish and half-Gentile)?  It was a matter of priorities and strategy.

Jesus would eventually (2+ years later) after sending out the Twelve in pairs for a ministry training exercise, send them and all of His disciples on a mission to make disciples of all the peoples of the world (see Matthew 28:18-20).  But at this time, His priority was training the Twelve and preparing them for the ultimate mission.

They needed an audience that would be somewhat familiar – Galileans.  And yet, it would still be by faith, as He restricted their provisions on what they were to take with them.  It would be by faith in that not every village they entered would welcome them.  It would be by faith because He was not with them.

So, the priority for the moment was a faith training, practical ministry exercise.  His priority for the moment was preparing the Twelve, knowing that within a relatively short time He would expand their mission to include all the peoples of the world.

Short-term goals can seem contradictory to long-term mission if we don’t understand strategy.  Jesus knew the strategy included training these future leaders of the world-wide mission and thus He focused their ministry efforts within Galilee for the short term.

Mission requires leaders execute a strategy to accomplish their overall task.  This strategy will need to be sequenced and prioritized within a timeline.  Jesus demonstrated this and in His prayer before the crucifixion says, “I have completed the work you gave me to do.” (see John 17:1ff).

If Kingdom leaders have a clear mission and vision, you will need a strategy to accomplish both.  Remember that your strategy must be sequenced and prioritized – you can’t do everything all at once.

“Mile by mile, it’s a trial.  Inch by inch, it’s a cinch!”

It’s What You Leave Behind that Matters

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!    Hebrews 5:12  (NIV)

As we all run our individual races laid out before us, we are running hard towards our unique finish lines.  But, while our race course may be unique, we have a common goal.  That goal, to finish our race well and run towards maturity in Christ is common for all who seek to follow Christ.

We begin our race by placing our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord.  But that is just the ‘starting gun’ for the life-long pursuit of growing towards maturity in Him.  As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, over time we are expected to reach a maturity in Him that allows us to teach others.  The author rebukes the readers for their lack of progress, telling them that by now they should be teachers.  Instead, they are still acting like infants in need of spiritual milk rather than feeding on more substantial spiritual meat.

Mature Kingdom leaders are expected to be ‘teachers’ of those who they lead – pointing others toward that same goal and maturity they are running after.  It’s assumed that mature Kingdom leaders will take it upon themselves to invest in others, especially younger, next generation people.

It’s this vision of spiritual generations that must influence all Kingdom leaders.  Yes, we do have a mission to accomplish as we lead.  But, a key component of our leadership is to be intentionally investing in next generation future leaders who will themselves invest in others.

Successful Kingdom leaders do not just accomplish their calling and fulfill their God-given mission in advancing the Gospel and the Kingdom.  They also know that it is their legacy after they lay aside their leadership for others that will be the ultimate judge as to their success or failure as a leader.  Will there be others who follow our lead, who were invested in, prepared, developed and trained to assume their own individual responsibilities as Kingdom leaders?

It’s about what we leave behind, not just what we accomplish now.

It’s about legacy, not just activity!

 

Forms and Functions

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”     Mark 2:22  ESV

As Kingdom leaders seek to advance the gospel, they take new initiatives and seek the Lord’s guidance as they pioneer.  For many, one of their greatest challenges is their own success.  What?  How can that be?

When we are trying something new and different, we are sensing a real need for the Lord to help us – to intervene on our behalf as we try new ways and means.  And, when the Lord does answer and intervene on our behalf, we rejoice and continue seeking to ‘push’ the advance further and further forward, enjoying the Lord’s favor.  But, after a period of some ‘success’ a new, more insidious challenge appears.

Our ‘success’ can cause us to focus on efficiencies and methodology.  We double down on economies of scale, leverage points, and look to maximize opportunities.  Now, in and of themselves these things are not wrong, but we can drift from our initial dependency upon the Lord and our focus now moves to our own abilities instead of seeking the Lord’s blessing and help.

When our tried and true ‘methods’ no longer seem to yield the same results, instead of seeking the Lord’s guidance for new ideas – new ‘wineskins’ – we simply put our heads down and try harder.  We think, “Well, it worked in the past, certainly it will work now; we just have to try harder.”

What we don’t understand is that we have entered into a new reality that will require a new way of serving.  It’s a new day that needs new forms for this new context.  The ‘new wine’ must find new forms for connecting with our new context.  Given the rapidity of change today, if we are not continually evaluating our ‘forms’ we are doomed to be marginalized and irrelevant very quickly.

Functions (truths anchored in the Scriptures) remain true, but the forms they take are constantly in need of updating, improving, or at times, being discontinued or replaced by more contextually relevant ‘wineskins.’  It’s not a matter of working harder or more efficiently.  It’s just that our audience is constantly changing and needing to be reached with new ways and means.

Wise Kingdom leaders will understand this process and lead out in discerning forms from functions, continually updating the former and staying focused on the latter.

Clarify the Mission

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?”  And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”    Acts 9:4-6   ESV

Paul was on his way to Damascus to take any Jewish believers back to Jerusalem as prisoners when the Lord Jesus appeared to him on the road outside of the city.  Note the short response from Jesus to his inquiry as to who was speaking, immediately followed by a command to get up, go into the city and wait to be told what to do.

Within the next three days, having been blinded by the vision on the road, Paul is praying and waiting.  Ananias, a local resident of Damascus and a disciple, receives a vision himself to go and pray over Paul so that he may again be able to see.  After some questioning, the Lord assures Ananias of Paul’s mission – “…he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” (Acts 9:15  ESV)  When recounting his conversion years later, Paul recalls, “And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’”  (Acts 22:10  ESV)

Several years after his conversion, while visiting Jerusalem, Paul had another vision in the temple regarding his mission.  The Lord said to him, “‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quicklyGo, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.‘”

These are but a few examples of the mission-task assigned to Paul to take the gospel to the Gentiles (non-Jews).  The Lord stated and restated the nature of his mission multiple times and in multiple ways.  There was little doubt or ambiguity of what Paul was being asked to do.

The Lord’s assigning of the task to Paul is an excellent example of how to communicate mission.  Good leaders clarify the task for those they are leading.  They state the mission clearly, succinctly and in multiply ways so that there is no doubt about what all are trying to accomplish.

Is your mission clear to you as you fill your days and weeks with much activity?  Is the mission clear for those you are leading?  If not, it is your responsibility to make it clear.

“A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew!”     source unknown

New Beginnings

As we begin a new calendar year, it’s good to pause and reflect upon what was and what will be.  It is through reflection that we can gain perspective and see more clearly the overarching, God-orchestrated, macro movements of our lives.

Leaders are often too busy to stop and reflect.  We always have more things to do and people to see.  We take one item off of the do-list and add three more!  Who has time to stop and think?

Today…..now is the time to stop and reflect upon who you are becoming and what you are doing!  Here are some questions to get you started in this reflection time.

Are you pleased with your own personal spiritual walk?  More importantly, is Jesus pleased with your pursuit of Him?  How’s the pace of life?  Do you have a margin in your life?  Are you living and leading from an overflow?  How’s the family doing?  Are you paying the price to experience the marriage you committed to on your wedding day?  Are you investing deeply in your children and grandchildren, knowing that the years for significant influence are rapidly passing you by?

What fears are you trying to ignore related to your leadership?  Are you leading with faith and courage?  Is the vision of where you are leading to focused or foggy?  Do you have a team that is unified and empowered around a shared vision?  Are you accomplishing the mission that you intended to accomplish?

These and many more questions are helpful for taking stock of where you are today and where you need to be/go tomorrow.  Use this season for reflection and refocus as you start a new year full of new hope and new beginnings.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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.

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

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