Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Team leader”

Leadership Team Dynamics

And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”   Mark 8:32-33  ESV

Wow!  The key team member openly rebukes the team leader – albeit Peter ‘took him aside’ out of deference to His leadership no doubt.  Jesus in turn rebukes Peter with the others looking on – quite the public chastisement.   Yet, neither interaction destroyed the personal relationship or the team dynamics.

Shortly thereafter, we see this interaction: “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”   Mark 10:13-14  ESV  Jesus was indignant with the Twelve for their over-zealous crowd control – stopping the little children from coming to Him. He corrected their behavior in no uncertain terms.

Last we see this interaction among the Twelve: “And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” …  And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.  Mark 10:36-37, 41  ESV

James and John were making a power play to move ahead of the other ten on the team.  The ten heard of it and rightly became upset with the two brothers.  Jesus calms the situation by reminding them all that Kingdom positions were not His to grant.  He then uses it as a teaching opportunity for what leadership values are important for Kingdom leaders.

These three incidents give insight into the team dynamics of Jesus and the Twelve.  These incidents occur during the final year of His ministry with them.  They had been through a lot together, yet still there were stretching times as they related.  But, through it all the team did not break up or dissolve, nor did Jesus ‘fire’ the team. They just worked through it together.

They were free to have open disagreements among themselves and with Him as the team lead.  He was secure enough to embrace these conflicts, correct where necessary, be stern and direct when called for, and then use it to further their development as Kingdom leaders.  He did not shy away from conflict, rather, He moved towards it as an opportunity to further their growth.

How’s your team dynamics?  Do your team members have freedom to openly disagree or are they talking outside of the team meetings, afraid to say what they really think?  You, the team leader, set the tone and create the environment.

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.’

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

7 Manifestations of Godly Wisdom – 5

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.       James 3:17   NIV 1984

The complexity of leadership in today’s ever-changing contexts calls for wisdom from above.  Kingdom leaders desperately need wisdom as they face the many challenges of our fast-paced world.

But, what does godly wisdom look like?  James describes seven characteristics that paint a picture for Kingdom leaders on how to gauge your leadership (and others) against the standards of wisdom from heaven.

The fifth manifestation of God’s wisdom is that it’s full of mercy and good fruit.

Leaders with this wisdom have compassion for the hurting and seek to help others in their difficulties.  As they move through life and leadership they are sensitive to those around them who are hurting and, when appropriate, move to bring healing.  They model the life Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  (see Luke 10:25-37)

This type of wisdom loves others unconditionally as God loves us.  Wise leaders are able to separate the person from their performance.  They love others just as they are and they seek to enable and empower them to reach their potential for greatest contribution in the Kingdom.

Godly wisdom does what is right, not what is culturally expected or expedient.  They do not seek to offend, being very aware of possible cultural offenses, trying to minimize them so that the only stumbling block is Jesus and not the messenger.  Wise Kingdom leaders courageously speak the truth in love and entrust themselves and their leadership to God for the outcomes.

Wise Kingdom leaders live a life that is blameless and do not give others opportunity for slandering the King or His Kingdom.  They seek to live a life that is above reproach.  (see Titus 1:6-7)

Wise leaders are full of mercy and bear godly fruit.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…   John 15:16   ESV

Optimistic or Delusional?

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?    Romans 8:31   ESV

Perhaps you’ve heard it said, “One with God is a majority.”  Thinking realistically, this is very true.  But, living this truth can be a very different reality.

Part of strategic leadership is thinking and planning ahead with a good understanding of risk assessment.  The inexperienced idealist would simply ignore perceived risk, plan and execute those plans hoping that it all works out well.

Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.”  Prudence, a component of godly wisdom, assesses risk, and if judged to be too great, seeks protection from it.  The simple person sees the risk also, but ignores it and pays the price.

The question is how to evaluate risk?  All of life is a risk, for none of us knows for certain about tomorrow, next week or next year.  We don’t even know with absolute certainty our next breath!  As Kingdom leaders, what do we do to wisely assess risk and then act accordingly?

First, we acknowledge our limitations in knowing with any degree of certainty what the future holds.  We acknowledge how dependent we are on the Lord to guide us, give us insight and discernment as we plan, and wisely choose courses of action that are pleasing to Him. This self-awareness should move us to prayer and listening to His Spirit as He guides us.

Second, we seek what information we can to learn of the risks that we face.  Some will be clearly visible and some not so.  Risk is assessed in light of the potential impact on our mission.  Scenario planning can be helpful in thinking what courses of action might be available if things go poorly.  Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Third, make your decision by faith in trusting the Lord that He is with you and will never leave you.  He and His resources will be with you.  And should things not go as well as hoped for, you know that He has control of it all and will use it for good – for you and for His purposes in and through you.  Romans 8:28

Lastly, should things really go poorly, we must be flexible enough to change our plans.

Leading is risky business!  How’s your risk assessment?

Wisdom to Lead

The need for wisdom in leadership is a very easy case to make.  Anyone who has led at just about any level knows the complexities of issues that you feel unprepared to handle.  Before entering into the role, issues seemed so black and white and easily solved.  But, once you sit in the seat of leader, suddenly those easy issues turn gray and the complexities of their reality push you accept that there are few ‘easily solved’ issues.  Thus, Kingdom leaders find themselves praying for wisdom from the Lord.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.    1 Corinthians 1:25   (NIV  1984)

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 1:15     (NIV  1984)

Paul contrasts the wisdom of man with the wisdom of God.  Man’s wisdom is based upon experience and perhaps intuition and training.  But, in comparison to God’s wisdom, it is foolishness.  We are reminded to trust in the Lord, not our own understanding (see Proverbs 3:5-6).  Now, note that it does not say to ignore your own understanding.  But, just don’t lean upon it totally, for God’s ways are not man’s ways (see Isaiah 55:8-9).

God Himself, in the presence of His Spirit who indwells all believers, can give us His wisdom.  “…But we have the mind of Christ,” we are told in 1 Corinthians 2:16.  (NIV  1984)  It is this wisdom from above that is needed today to solve the complex challenges of our generation.

God’s wisdom is given to all who ask.  James reminds us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”   James 1:5  (NIV  1984)

So, are you in need of wisdom in the issues or decisions that you are facing today?  Why not stop right now and ask God for the wisdom He has promised you?

Listen carefully to His voice within you and to His wisdom He has placed around you in the form of team members or advisors.  He will guide and direct you to see a way forward.  It may not be the entire solution, but at least you will know the direction to head.  And as you move forward, He will continue to give light for the next step afterwards.

Depend upon Him and you will see that He is faithful to do as He has promised!

Paul’s Partners in the Work of the Kingdom

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.                               1 Corinthians 3:9     (NIV  1984)

As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ.                                  2 Corinthians 8:23     (NIV  1984)

In Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthian church, he addresses the issue of factions forming around certain leaders – particularly Apollos and himself.  He defuses the argument with the statement that all are nothing more than God’s servants (doulos) and fellow workers (synergos) with God.  And he continues that it was truly God who brought about the spiritual growth in their lives.

Paul’s perspective on the work was what Jesus taught in Matthew 11 – “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:29-30  (NIV  1984)

Paul was very clear that he was yoked together with Jesus as he sought to bring the gospel to the Gentiles.  And yet, while he was laboring as an “expert builder,” he was under no illusion as to who was truly bringing about the results.  It was Christ!

Paul uses that same word picture of a “fellow worker” (co-laborer) in his second letter to the Corinthian church.  But this time the term is used to refer to Titus, who had recently met Paul to report the response to his first letter.

It appears that Paul had entrusted the delivery of the first letter to Titus with that plan that they would meet in Troas to debrief on the response (see 2 Corinthians 2:12ff).  But, for some reason Titus was delayed, and therefore Paul moved on to northern Greece and it was there that they met and Paul sent his second letter, again carried by Titus.

In describing his relationship to Titus, he says that Titus is a “partner and fellow worker.”  Titus had previously joined Paul from Antioch to meet with the Twelve in the Jerusalem to discuss the essence of the gospel message that Paul was teaching among the Gentiles (see Galatians 2).  Titus (probably a Gentile believer), joined with Paul and Barnabas on the trip to Jerusalem as “exhibit A” of what a Gentile believer looked like.  And Titus was later sent on special assignment to Crete by Paul to help establish the work after Paul had left behind a foundation for the spread of the gospel (see the book of Titus).

Paul acknowledges two partners in his work – Christ, first and foremost, and Titus, illustrative of his teammates like Apollos, Silas, Timothy, and  Luke.  Both are key to accomplishing the work.  Christ the center of our work as Kingdom leaders and then the team whom God gives us to accomplish our calling.

Who are your ‘fellow workers’ or ‘co-laborers.’  Have you told the Lord recently how grateful you are for the privilege of being yoked to Him?  And have you expressed to your co-laboring team (including your spouse) how appreciative you are for their hard work and sacrifices that they are making?

Leaders Bring Clarity!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re Really Not That Important!

You’re really not that important!  Really!

For many leaders, especially those that have experienced some measure of success, the temptation to promote themselves and their accomplishments is a temptation that is easy to embrace.  When young and inexperienced, it was easy to acknowledge our inabilities or weaknesses.  But with more experience and more accolades can come a subtle (sometimes not so subtle) shift.

We can begin to believe our ‘press clippings’ and pride takes root.  Initially it’s not so obvious as we seek to cover up the shifting ground within our hearts.  But, what is taking root finally bursts forth in our behavior.  We talk more and more about ourselves and take more and more credit for our accomplishments without giving at least tacit credit to others who truly did a lot of the work.  It becomes more and more about ‘me’ and less and less about the Lord.

Here’s some reminders on what the Lord has to say about self-promotion and its root – pride.

But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”  For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.                                  2 Corinthians 10:17-18

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
someone else, and not your own lips.     Proverbs 27:2

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.     1 Corinthians 3:5-7

It is not good to eat too much honey,
nor is it honorable to seek one’s own honor.     Proverbs 25:27

The greatest among you will be your servant.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.     Matthew 23:11-12

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.     1 Peter 5:5-6   (NIV  1984)

So, how’s your heart when people praise you?  Think back on some recent conversations – how much did you talk about yourself and your accomplishments?

It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power.  Any man can stand adversity–only a great man can stand prosperity.”

Watch Over Yourselves

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.    Acts 20:28   (NIV  1984)

Paul had called together the elders from the church at Ephesus for a final word of instruction and exhortation.  In the passage above, he challenges them to “keep watch over yourselves” first and then to watch over the flock of God entrusted to them.  The order is important!

Jesus, when washing the feet of His disciples the night before His crucifixion, instructs them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.”  John 13:14  (NIV  1984)  Note that the disciples were told to “wash one another’s feet,” but who were the ‘one-anothers’?  The context says that it was the 11 present with Him.

We easily translate these two passages into the context of our leadership, understanding that as Kingdom leaders we watch over those whom we lead and use our position as leader to serve those under our care.  But, while true, we miss the first context in doing so.

As a leadership team or community of leaders, we are to watch over the other leaders and team members first, then look after the needs of others.  We are to serve the other leaders on our team and then those others who we have responsibility for.  Yes, I am my brother’s keeper!

Too easily we assume that our leadership team members can get by without our help.  “They are the mature ones and the seemingly stable ones,” we think.  But, the enemy of our souls is not so foolish.  He knows that by crippling the shepherd, he can then ravage the flock.

Maybe it’s time to check in with each other on your team?  How’s it going?  No, how’s it really going?  How’s your soul?  How’s your family?  How’s your heart for the work entrusted to you? Are you thriving or just surviving in this work?  What can I do to better lead you well?

Watch over yourselves first and then watch over the flock entrusted to your care!

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