Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Strategic leading”

Alignment – 2

A primary part of leading is aligning resources towards our agreed upon missional outcome. Because resources are limited and opportunity is seemingly unlimited, we must say ‘no’ to some things in order to align our limited resources to best opportunity to accomplish our mission. Below are some thoughts from Navigators staff, Paul Stanley on the important topic of alignment – part 2.

To illustrate alignment, let us look at it in several different contexts:

Alignment in a Team:  Alignment would mean that the members of the team are functioning as a whole. Each member would share a common vision and the individual capacities of the members would be aligned with the vision to create what the members truly desired. The members would be motivated to develop their talents so that their contribution would be greater and increase the desired results . The members would learn to work together, and the more they did alignment would increase. When alignment breaks down, the efforts of the members are partially dispersed rather that harmonized. An unaligned team is like the scattered, incoherent light of a light bulb rather than the “coherent” light of a laser.

Peter Senge (The Fifth Discipline) observed that “…in an aligned team, there is commonality of purpose, a shared vision, and understanding of how to complement one another’s efforts. Individuals do not sacrifice their personal interests to the larger team vision; rather, the shared vision becomes an extension of their personal visions. In fact, alignment is the necessary condition before empowering the individual will empower the team.”

When in alignment, all four automobile tires are pointed in the exact same direction and provide a stable, consistent tide to the passengers. The tires complement one another’s’ performance. But, when the tires are not in alignment energy and rubber are lost and the ride is unstable.

Alignment in an Organization: Alignment would be achieved when the people within the organization, the ministries, the structures and systems and organizational processes are in line with the organization’s Vision, Calling and Values. Alignment would be recognized by the degree to which the organization’s Mission, Vision, and Values match the way the people who are part of the organization are living, relating, and ministering.

Gaining alignment in an organization is a leadership function. It is an ongoing task. Alignment is not to be confused with conformity, rather it is encouraging diversity but focusing and aligning it at the same time. Empowering individuals in an unaligned organization creates chaos, dissipates energy, and makes leading difficult, while the opposite is true in one that is well aligned. When we empowering part of an aligned organization we empower the whole.

Alignment is not a new concept for many leaders, but naming it helps us recognize whether we have it or not. In an unpredictable and rapidly changing environment in which we lead and minister, alignment becomes vital for keeping stability and maximizing our individual and group capacity for fulfilling our mission in a lost and struggling world.

Are you aligned?

Alignment – 1

A primary part of leading is aligning resources towards our agreed upon missional outcome. Because resources are limited and opportunity is seemingly unlimited, we must say ‘no’ to some things in order to align our limited resources to best opportunity to accomplish our mission.

Below are some thoughts from Navigators staff, Paul Stanley on the important topic of alignment.

“Building a visionary company requires 1% vision and 99% alignment. When you have superb alignment, a visitor could drop in from outer space  and infer your vision from the operations and activities of the company without ever reading ii on paper or meeting a single senior executive. Creating alignment may be your most important work. “ [from “Building Your Company’s Vision,” by James Collins and Jerry Porras, Harvard Business Review (Sept-Oct 1996)]

Alignment is not a new word in English, but its usage is new in the world of leadership and organization. Normally, “alignment” is used in the military to “bring a formation of soldiers in line” or to line up exactly behind one another. It has a second common usage with those who work with automobile engines to bring the pistons up and down movement into “alignment” with the electrical spark, so they would work together. … be in harmony with one another.

Alignment means that all elements of a whole are lined up with the same point.

When a group, team or organization is in alignment, the result or benefit is that the efforts of the parts are in line with or moving in the same direction or focused on the same goal. The point around which all the parts align themselves must be clear, and in the case of people, must be compelling.

Unity enhances alignment but differs slightly in that alignment focuses on an external point of reference and is active and dynamic. One can have unity while at the same time not be aligned. Unity in diversity is a blessing, but focused diversity (alignment) is strategic.

Next week we’ll look at how to practically bring alignment into our leadership context.

Pay Attention to Morale!

One of my favorite leadership books is Eisenhower’s Crusade in Europe. This is his memoirs on leading the Allies in Europe during WW2 which are full of leadership lessons easily transferred into Kingdom leading. The following compilation on the importance of maintaining high morale is an important reminder today as many a struggling with mental health issues.

FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO HIGH MORALE from Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe

1.         Morale is the greatest single factor in successful warfare.

2.         The individual is the key to success.

3.         Communicate correct information to counteract negative propaganda.

4.         Maintaining the initiative not only keeps the enemy on the defensive, but builds morale.

5.         Success in reaching a goal or series of victories builds morale and esprit de corps.

6.         When the enemy is successfully attacking, calmness, firmness and optimism are essential to win through to victory.

7.         Keep the civilians informed of the progress of the war.

8.         Visit the troops frequently in the field.

9.         Talk to the troops about everything.  Ask them if they have discovered any new trick or gadget to use in fighting.

10.       Mutual confidence, a feeling of partnership, is the essence of esprit de corps.

11.       Take initiative to find out their problems.  Don’t wait for them to come to you.

12.       Men must feel that they are being treated equally and fairly.

13.       Men must know their own accomplishments are understood and appreciated.

14.       Leadership, discipline, technique, as well as numbers, equipment, mobility, supply and maintenance are prerequisite to the existence of morale.

15.       Morale will suffer unless all ranks thoroughly believe that their commanders are concerned first and always with the welfare of the troops who do the fighting.

16.       Provide recreation and furlough time.  Veterans like to return to their own unit.  Relieve units from front-line duty periodically.

17.       Higher commanders devote every minute of their time to tactics, logistics, and morale.

Remember Lot’s Wife!

Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. Luke 17:32-33 ESV

You may remember the story of Lot’s family who lived in Sodom until God’s judgment came in the presence to two angels sent to destroy the city. Lot welcomed them into his home and then was told that he and his family must flee the city before the angels could bring their destruction. “And as they brought them out, one said, ‘Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.'” Genesis 19:17 ESV

Finally, the family is ushered out of the city and then God brings fire and brimstone raining down on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Having been delivered from the immediate destruction of Sodom, Lot’s family leaves behind all but what they can personally carry. But Lot’s wife, for whatever reason, stops her flight and looks back to see what she has left and dies. “And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” Genesis 19:25-26 ESV

Jesus validates the story and uses her disobedience as an object lesson for the coming days of final judgment when He returns. Don’t look back, look forward when you see His glorious arrival. For what is coming is much more that what we have left behind.

It can be easy to dwell upon the past. Perhaps we made some leadership mistakes that we regret. Perhaps we wish we could undo some past decisions or actions that now have bad unintended consequences. Yes, we can learn from our failures and hopefully we do. But don’t stop and dwell on the past. Look at what’s in front of you! God has a future for you and those you are leading. He can take those past failures and turn them into a future with hope and even more fruitfulness.

Someone has said that it’s difficult to drive by looking in the rear view mirror! Stop focusing on your past! Trust God for a new beginning. Look forward, not backward!

Remember Lot’s wife!

Making Wise Personnel Decisions – 2

For Kingdom leaders, personnel decisions can be the most time-consuming and challenging of all the decisions you make.  The complexity of these decisions is due to the many considerations involved:  What’s best for the strategic mission? or What’s best for the person / their family?

Below are some guiding principles and ideas on how to make wise personnel placement decisions.

Staffing Change / Placement / Move decisions 

  1. Kingdom leaders lead in the midst of a tension.  At times we have competing values between a staff person’s needs and desires vs the mission’s (God-given task) needs and desires.  We do value both the individual staff person and an awareness of our stewardship of the mission God has asked us to carry out.  In staffing and placement decisions these tensions can be very real and seem unsolvable so that both are addressed.
  2. A guiding principle to help us in this dilemma would be – we want to have a bias towards the person and their needs (not necessarily their desires), knowing that the Lord will provide all the resources needed to accomplish anything He asks us to do.
  3. We must acknowledge that in some situations it may be more strategic to stay a longer time in one location, rather than move.  Role changes and physical moves are made in light of fulfilling our strategic mission.
  4. When making staffing decisions, there are some issues that we must be very considerate about – personal health needs, children’s development and education, extended family concerns (i.e. caring for aging parents), financial budgets (city budgets vs rural budgets), personal ‘fit’ for the new assignment, etc.
  5. But, while we do consider the above, we must not shrink back from asking for sacrifice or going against one’s personal desires.  Sacrifice is the lifestyle of a follower of Jesus and certainly a part of laboring for Him.  In Mark 10:29-30 the Lord speaks of reward for those who leave behind (sacrifice) family relationships, homes and vocations (fields) for His sake and the gospel.  We are all called to labor for Christ, not ‘vacation’ for Christ!
  6. If one is asked to make a strategic job change or physical move for the sake of contributing to the advancement of the gospel and helping fulfill our God-given mission, there may be reasons for not accepting the invitation.  These reasons must be more than, “I just don’t want to move or do this.”  Or, “I don’t sense that this is best.”  Just as the reason for suggesting the change should be more than, “You’ve been there a long time and need a new challenge.”
  7. If there are sound reasons for saying ‘no’ and we decide to withdraw an invitation, we must not hesitate to return and make a different ask at some time in the future.  We will want to discern if it truly was a wrong ‘fit’ issue or just a personal desire not to change or move.  World-changing mission will require sacrifice, change and mobility to advance the gospel among the lost.

And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”    Luke 18:29-30  ESV

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.    Romans 12:1  ESV

Making Wise Personnel Decisions -1

For Kingdom leaders, personnel decisions can be the most time-consuming and challenging of all the decisions you make.  The complexity of these decisions is due to the many considerations involved:  What’s best for the strategic mission?, What’s best for the person / their family?, What’s the best timing for this decision?, What are the short-term and long-term implications for both the person and the mission?, etc.  It may seem like you never have all the information you want or need when you have to make the final decision.

Below are some guiding principles and ideas on how to make wise personnel hiring decisions.

Keys for hiring the right people 

  1. Know, believe and be convinced that the Lord will provide all the resources you need to accomplish all that He is asking you to do – including any personnel needs that you may have.
  2. Have a clearly defined role – job description that you are seeking to fill.  Even for entry level positions it will help in recruiting if you have a well-thought through job description (in writing) that you can show to potential candidates with details of their responsibilities and opportunities / benefits.
  3. For Kingdom leaders, our recruiting must include the candidate’s personal calling and the  alignment of their calling to our ministry – mission.  Because of the nature of Kingdom work and the sacrifices asked (i.e. a pay scale often not commensurate with marketplace pay), we want to recruit and hire those who the Lord is calling to join us. This is not just a job that people are being asked to do.  Rather, it is a God-given mission and we are asking people to ‘leave their nets’ and join us in its fulfillment.  It will cost them much to engage with us, but Jesus promises to provide for those who serve Him.  Mark 10:29-30
  4. If they join us just to meet a need, because of the adventure of mission, to co-labor with their friends or some other reason than being called by God, they will soon find reasons to doubt their acceptance of the role.  The costs they will be asked to pay or future challenging and difficult experiences (failures) they may experience will quickly lead to second-guessing their decision to join with us.  This coupled with the enemy sowing seeds of doubt in their hearts and minds will lead them to quit.
  5. Having a clear sense of God’s calling will help us persevere in the difficult times, knowing that the Lord has led us here and He will never forsake us or abandon us.  Rather, He will strengthen us and see us through as we take refuge in Him.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.   Isaiah 41:10  ESV

Calling in an Expert

And Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place of which the LORD said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will do good to you, for the LORD has promised good to Israel.” But he said to him, “I will not go. I will depart to my own land and to my kindred.” And he said, “Please do not leave us, for you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will serve as eyes for us. And if you do go with us, whatever good the LORD will do to us, the same will we do to you.”     Numbers 10:29-32  ESV

Israel had been in the Sinai for two years since the Exodus and now the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle and they were to begin their pilgrimage.  The Lord had told them that this journey would last for 40 years – until the generation that did not believe and obey His promises had died.

It’s interesting that though the Lord was guiding Israel with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, Moses still sought the help and advice of a local expert who knew the environment.  The cloud would give them the general direction to move, but the large number of people had to choose a place to camp.  It was in this selection of a camping spot that Moses sought the help of a local expert – Hobab – for he knew ‘where we should camp in the wilderness.’

Kingdom leaders are certainly led by God through the Holy Spirit in their decisions, just as Moses and Israel were led by the Lord in their desert journey.  But a wise leader knows that there are situations when the counsel and help of an expert can be of great assistance.

Moses recruited Hobab to join with them in the journey.  He promised him reward for his service – the same reward that all would share together.  It seems that Hobab was a brother-in-law to Moses who he had come to know and trust during his forty years of working for Jethro (also known as Reuel – see Exodus 2:18).  Though Moses had forty years of desert experience, he recognized that Hobab knew much more about desert living than he and thus the request for help.

Wise Kingdom leaders know when to ask for outside expertise for supporting their leadership.  This takes humility and teachability to acknowledge we do not have all the answers.  Ask for help when you need it!

Pioneering vs Inheriting a Ministry

I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.  Joshua 24:13 ESV

Joshua is recounting what the Lord had done in delivering on His promises to give Israel the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob many years before.  Note that God’s land of blessing had been worked, planted and built by others.  Israel received from the Lord the hard work done by others before them.

Kingdom leaders sometimes have the privilege of pioneering a new work of the Lord.  But often they have the privilege of inheriting an on-going ministry from another.  Both are special privileges from the Lord as we serve Him.  One is no better than another for all is being done to please Him, grow His Kingdom and not our own.

Some leaders will have pioneering-apostolic gifts and calling to launch new works where none existed.  They are designed by God for such a work and must have the wisdom needed to know when to transition the work they founded on to another.  Paul knew his work was to plant the Gospel in new communities and then move on.  He states, “… and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”  Romans 15:20-21

Many Kingdom leaders will inherit an ongoing ministry, ideally one not in crisis, and take what others have done and improve, expand and grow it to a whole new level.  This too is a great privilege that requires special gifting and calling.  It is never maintaining what is already in existence.  Leaders are never satisfied with the status quo.  Rather, they build upon what is there and create a new work on the foundation already laid by others.  Jesus told the Twelve, “I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”  John 4:38 ESV

So whether you are pioneering a new work or building on an older one, both are callings with unique challenges.  May you receive these as from the Lord and work with all your strength for His glory.

 

PS  A Primer for Kingdom Leaders:  100 Reflections for Improving Your Leadership – A collection of 100 of my most popular blogs – compiled, edited and available for FREE download.  See Tom’s Books page above to download.

Vision Casting

Effectively casting vision never comes to an end. It is a discipline.     Derwin Gray

Casting vision is one of the primary responsibilities of a leader and Kingdom leaders especially must align this vision with God’s eternal purposes.  In the quote above we are reminded that vision casting is an on-going process, not an event.

Vision is a faith statement about an unknown future that we see by faith.  Vision statements usually have a time horizon of 5-10 years out in front of our current reality.  Beyond 10 years it’s difficult to have a clear vision due to the rapidity of change and the multitude of unexpected influences that can impact the vision outcomes.

Good vision statements have three common characteristics: they are clear, concise and compelling.

First, they must be clear.  That is, the vision must be clear enough to see the destination or outcome.  An unclear vision makes it difficult for others to decide if they want to join with us or support it financially.

Secondly, they must be concise.  Vision statements that are too long or too complicated are not memorable or easily repeated.  Conciseness takes effort to choose exactly the right words that convey enough to help others visualize where we are going, but not so wordy that it seems complicated or confusing.

Lastly, good vision statements are compelling.  They demand a response from us.  They capture our hearts, not our heads.  They raise our sights to the future and inspire us to act.  They draw us to join in and help make that future vision a reality.  They are easy to recruit other to because they are big enough to allow room for many to join with us.

Casting vision is a primary job of the team leader.  You are the primary mouthpiece for the vision.  If you share an unclear vision then those around you will be even more unclear as they are forced to ‘translate’ what you have said into their context.

Vision much be repeated again and again, for it comes into and out of focus for those we lead.  Changing realities and ‘glorious opportunities’ can divert attention from what was once very clear, but now seems less important or even boring.  Keeping the vision before those we lead is a discipline that we develop as we lead, always reminding those around us of ‘why’ and ‘what’ we are about.

Vision – don’t leave home without it!

Planning into a Turbulent Future 2

Storm clouds precede a coming change, but what exactly that storm will be when it arrives is unknown.  Scenario planning anticipates several possible future situations and helps us prepare for the coming changes. It is not a lack of faith, but it is wisdom to anticipate the coming storms.

Here’s some practical ideas on how to lead your team in scenario planning:

  1. Scenario planning requires that leaders think ahead in order to stay proactive and not reactive in their leadership.  While one can’t be too detailed in future scenario plans, one can anticipate possibilities and likely responses.  Then, as the future becomes clearer, we add more details and follow one of our most likely scenarios.
  2. A key word is “if”  – that is, if this happens, then this should be your response.  If….then… thinking and planning is scenario planning.
  3. When thinking about a future scenario, you must first determine the time horizon for your planning.  To use a weather metaphor – are you thinking about the blizzard, the winter season or the beginning of a ‘little ice age?’
  4. Start future scenario thinking by taking stock of your current reality.  Use a tool like a SWOT analysis (current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) to think on a macro scale for the whole.  Once you have a handle on the current reality, then begin to think and plan for possible future scenarios within your time horizon.
  5. It seems wise and prudent to think out scenarios dealing with three possible futures:  1) minor changes in the future (we go back to almost our previous normal, with a few minor adjustments – like normal start dates are pushed back a little); 2) some significant changes that impact our ability to serve as we have in the past (fall schedule is disrupted – virtual connections continue; access to our audience is difficult, funding gets difficult due to a poor economy and job losses); and 3) major changes (this is ‘little ice age’ thinking – what we thought was just for several months, now looks like it will continue for the foreseeable future).
  6. Do this scenario thinking with your leadership team because there will be differing perspectives from different people and especially if you are geographically dispersed.  Being more inclusive in this will help with ownership and build a ‘guiding coalition’ for leading change as you go forward (see Kotter’s book – Leading Change).
  7. Always remember that the future is known by the Lord and His Spirit can help you anticipate it and prepare wisely for it.  Listen to Him for guidance.  He’s vested in your ‘success’ because His name, glory and purposes are at stake.  Trust Him to lead you.

Be wise.  Be safe.  Be bold!  Trust Him who knows the future!

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