Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Team leader”

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.

Counter-intuitive Decisions

Leaders sometimes must make decisions that seem illogical or counter-intuitive to those on the receiving end of the decision. Given the leader’s experience, wisdom, or perhaps additional information, when the decision is communicated it can cause others to question whether this is a good idea or not.

Note the following examples of Jesus’ seeming counter-intuitive decisions, how they were communicated, and how they were received.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.  (Luke 5:4-6)

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone.  (John 11:38-41)

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.  (John 21:4-6)

It was Jesus’ knowledge and power that gave Him the ability to make these kinds of decisions and direct others to follow.  No doubt it was difficult for those around Him to trust His decisions initially.  But over time, trust in Him and His abilities grew to a confidence that He could even raise the dead back to life if desired.

There are times when a leader must make a decision that seems illogical or counter-intuitive to those who follow.  Trust in the leader’s ability and experience will help overcome any hesitancy in following.

Knowing God

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

Ephesians 1:17  (NIV 1984)

In his letter to the Ephesian believers, Paul mentions two things that he is praying for them.  He prays that the Lord will give them, “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.”  These two attributes are truly important for all believers, but they are also essential for Kingdom leaders who would hope to faithfully serve Him.

The ‘Spirit of wisdom’ is foundational for all good leadership.  The world recognizes the need for leaders to have wisdom, but their answer for wisdom is by gaining experience.  This can be personal experience gained over time or by studying the experiences of others.  While this can be of some benefit, it does not necessarily translate into the paradigm of Kingdom leadership.

That is why Paul prays for the “Spirit of wisdom” to be given to us.  Godly, Kingdom wisdom comes from above and is given to us by the Holy Spirit who indwells all followers of Jesus.  This wisdom from above may be counter-cultural and counter-intuitive from the world’s perspective.  But it will be perfectly aligned with God’s purposes for us and those we lead as we seek to follow Him.  This Kingdom wisdom teaches us the ways of God as opposed to the ways of men (see Exodus 33:12-13ff) and enables us to lead in such a way that is pleasing to Him.

The ‘Spirit of,,,revelation’ is also key for Kingdom leaders.  It means the bringing to light something previously hidden or unknown.  A Kingdom leader’s need to find root issues, causes, and see both the future intended and unintended consequences of their decisions is essential.  These things often cannot just be thought out.  We need insight from the Spirit within us to reveal that which is hidden, either through ignorance, lack of information, or just not being able to foresee far enough into the future.

The result of gaining both wisdom and revelation from God is  “… that you may know him better.”  It is this “knowing Him” that will bring blessing to our leadership and ensure that our outcomes are aligned with His overall purposes.

Are you asking for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to come upon you and those you lead?

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?

 

 

 

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?

Character Counts

Some time ago I found myself in a conversation with a man who was the chief head hunter for a Fortune 100 company.  He and his team hire 2000 new graduates each year.  I thought this was a great opportunity to gain some insights into university students from a new perspective, so I began to ask him some questions.

“What are you finding when you recruit these graduates?” I asked.

“Tom, we can hire those with top GPAs, work experience and internships, and resumes’ that are outstanding.  We offer them top salaries and benefits and place them in stimulating, cutting edge job situations.”

“Well, sounds interesting.  How’s that working for you?” I inquired.

“It’s a disaster!” he replied.  “All they want to know is when is the next holiday or how much vacation they get.  They don’t put in a day’s work for a day’s pay.  They have conflicts with their co-workers and supervisors.  They steal from the company.  They take the great salaries we give them and spend it on addictive behaviors, then we end up paying for counselors for them.

“That sounds pretty depressing.  What are you doing about this?” I said.

“Well, I will tell you what I tell my recruiting team.  We can’t put it in writing for we would be charged with hiring bias or discrimination.  But here’s what I tell the team.  When interviewing on campus, look for students who are leaders in The Navigators and other campus ministries.”

“Really?  Why?”  I said.

“We hire these people because they have character.  As we’ve looked at our successful hires, those who do well had this common background.  We can train new hires to do any job that we want them to do in this company.  But we can’t train them in character.  They either have it or they don’t.  Leaders in these campus ministries have what we want, so we look to hire qualified people who were leaders in these campus ministries.  They have character!”

This chief head hunter was not a believer!  But he and his team had figured out that character counts, especially when hiring leaders.  And they had identified a pool of potential leadership hires who had the essential character qualities that they were looking for.

Are you intentionally pursuing your Christlike character development?

Leave Your Nets

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Jesus recruited the busy and the successful. Note that both sets of brothers were actively engaged in their jobs when Jesus encountered them. They were fishing partners (Luke 5:10) along with the father of James and John. And it seems that they were good fishermen as they had formed a limited partnership and had hired employees.

Just because they had an established career and no doubt expectations from father Zebedee that his boys would take over for him one day, Jesus did not hesitate to ask them to leave that vocation and join Him in a new one. If we are not careful, we can fall into thinking that the busy and successful, or those with clear professional career paths, should not be recruited to staff roles, either full-time or associate. We must not hesitate to recruit those whom God is calling out of a fear of taking them from a lucrative job.

Navigator staff is not for everyone. Certainly we need many, many more conventional income laborers to see our Calling fulfilled and the movement advance into all the nations. But for some, becoming a full-time, vocational Navigator is the right thing. Our job is to simply ask them to prayerfully consider whether God would have them to leave their nets and come with us. Some will be called by God to do so. It’s a high calling and a great privilege to become a Navigator staff person.

So who is it that God has placed in front of you that you should be asking to prayerfully consider leaving their nets and coming to co-labor with us?

The Power of Affirmation

A friend once reminded me that as a leader I may speak at a volume of 2, but I’m heard at a volume of 9!  This can be very damaging to others if my criticism is too harsh.  But, it can be life-giving if I use my influence for affirmation.

In the book, “The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make” by Hans Finzel (Victor Books), we find a section on affirmation.  It has served me well as a good reminder on this important function in my leadership.  Here is his summary points on affirmation for leaders:

Everyone thrives on affirmation and praise
Affirmation encourages and motivates people much more than financial incentives. It does more to keep people fulfilled than fortune or fame could do. He comments that Christian organizations are sometimes the worst, because there is the attitude that: “They are working for the Lord,” or “They should not look to the organization for affirmation, but to the Lord.”

Leadership has as much to do with “caring” as with getting things done
In the gospels, Jesus spent more time touching people and talking to them than in any other action. Jesus was not primarily task-oriented, even though He knew He had only three years to train twelve men to carry on the movement that would change the world. Touching wounds amid the unbearable pressure to perform tasks – that was the model of our Lord Jesus.

We wildly underestimate the power of the tiniest personal touch of kindness
It doesn’t always have to be a “big” event to affirm people. He gives an example from Tom Peters who shares about a former boss who took 15 min. (max) at the end of each day to jot a half-dozen paragraph-long notes to people who’d given him time during the day or who’d made an insightful comment during a meeting, etc.. He was dumbfounded by the number of recipients who subsequently thanked him for thanking them.

Learn to read the varying levels of affirmation your people need
Obviously, different people require different doses and different kinds of affirmation. The key seems to be that it needs to be genuine not “setting me up to get something from me later,” and not canned. (i.e. everyone gets the same affirmation letter without any personal touch).

When was the last time you intentionally affirmed someone?  Is affirmation a regular part of your leadership communication?  Have you created a ‘culture of critique’ or a ‘culture of affirmation’ around your leadership?

 

Leadership Jazz – 4

How does a leader ensure good, creative work and how does a leader effectively lead creative people?  Max DePree in his work, “Leadership Jazz” reminds us of the following related principles.

1. How does a leader approach the process for creative work?
A leader protects unusual persons from the bureaucracy and legalism so ensconced in our organizations.

“A leader works with creative people without fear.

“While respecting them, a leader is wary of incremental changes.  Don’t let small changes—perfectly good in their own right—replace true creativity and real innovation.

“A leader arranges for projects to proceed along a narrowing path.

“In the end, true innovation will never be a democratic event–it’s just too risky for group-think.  Majorities seldom vote to change.  A small group of accountable leaders together with the creative people involved must make the decision and take the risk.

“Peter Drucker once said:  ‘When you have a real innovation, don’t compromise.’

“A leader paves the way for change.

2. What do creative people need to be fruitful in the worlds of organizations?  First they need access to (even intimacy with) senior leadership.

“Creative work needs the ethos of jazz.

“It matters a great deal how leaders give work to gifted followers.

“Creative people, like the rest of us, need constraints.

“A leader needs to give creative people license to be contrary.

“Leaders welcome the committed skeptic, who wants to be held accountable and demands a share of the risk.

“Leaders give odds to creative people that their work will get to market.

“Creative people need a fundamental level of trust from leaders.

“The work of creative people is only part of a whole; it cannot be taken in isolation.

“Finally, creative people need to work with others of equal competence.

3. What should a leader be careful about when dealing with creative people?  First, a leader will be careful about the utilitarian self-concept so much in favor with administrators.

“Second, just as moving up in the hierarchy does not confer competence, so organizational power does not guarantee wisdom.

“Be wary of setting out to win prizes.

“Good work is the goal; recognition is a consequence.

“A last caution: Don’t fail to give credit.  People who through their unusual gifts bring change and innovation and renewal to organizations need to be identified.”

Are you leading well those creative people around you?  Are you encouraging or stifling their creativity?  Have you defined their contribution and identified their boundaries?

Post Navigation