Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Team leader”

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!

How’s Your Leadership Posture?

Posture  –  a particular way of dealing with or considering something; an approach or attitude

As you lead into a particular context you will want to be self-aware of your leadership posture in the context – how you will act in this situation.

There are two general types of leadership postures that you can adopt – directive or supportive.  Both are appropriate with neither being better or more valuable.  The context you are leading in will determine which of the two general postures is most appropriate for the situation.

The directive posture is often the one seen as the ‘typical’ leadership style.  It is where the leader is giving direction, making decisions, and assigning responsibilities.  They are out in front, setting the pace, and visibly rallying the people towards the goal.

The directive posture is needed when one is leading an inexperienced team who are unclear on what to do or how to do it.  This leadership posture is also necessary in a crisis environment.  You don’t want the ER doctor leading a brainstorm session with his staff when the patient is bleeding out from gunshot wounds!

The supportive posture is fitting when leading in a context where the team is more experienced.  They know what to do and how to do it; now they need to know specifically from you what their contribution will be to the whole team effort.  After delegating responsibilities, you then come alongside and help them solve problems, motivate and encourage them, all the time letting them bear the weight of their responsibility.

If a leader assumes a directive posture with a highly experienced team he or she will stifle initiative, for they soon realize that there is little room for independent action.  Instead of feeling empowered, they will feel controlled and micro-managed.  If leading a team of volunteers, they will choose to ‘vote with their feet’ and leave your leadership.  Leaders want to be empowered, not controlled.

The key is knowing which posture to adopt when.  We all have a natural, default posture.  But, if we only do what comes naturally or easy for us, we will miss bringing our best to those we lead.  Pray for discernment and self-awareness on which posture you need to assume and how to deliver it well.

How’s your posture?

The Leader and Authority

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you…    Matthew 20:25-26   (NIV  1984)

Were you to ask many people today under the age of 30 how they view authority, the overwhelming response is negative.  And with good reason.  Throughout their lives those authorities in whom they put their trust have disappointed, hurt, or taken advantage of them.  No wonder some younger leader stated, “I’m trying to learn how to lead without authority.”

Leaders must exercise authority to lead.  Leadership authority is morally neutral – it’s not good, bad, or purple.  It’s how you exercise your authority that makes it beneficial or tyrannical.

A leader has two types of authority – positional and personal.  Positional authority comes with the title or role one has.  It is vested with the responsibility of leading.  It can be used to bless others – making exceptions to rules or policies, providing resources not available to those they lead, creating tone and environment, and solving problems others can’t solve.  Negatively it can be used to dominate (lord it over), micro-manage, control, and stifle initiative of those we lead.

The second type of authority is personal authority.  It is not linked to one’s position and allows great influence in the lives of others, whether we have line responsibility for them or not.  You’ve seen this in action in groups when someone with this type of authority speaks, all turn and pay close attention.  Personal authority is given voluntarily to others based upon their perceived character (particularly wisdom and integrity) and competency in particular areas.

Personal authority allows you to speak truth to others, guide, counsel, mentor, and coach them as they trust your influence.  Negatively it can be used to manipulate others, promote yourself, or seek your purposes instead of what’s best for others.  Personal authority is the greatest authority one can have for it lasts beyond any position one may have.

Positional authority comes instantly when one assumes the title of leader.  Personal authority is built over time as one interacts with others and demonstrates Christlike character and competency.  It’s like making deposits into the personal authority bank account.  Unfortunately, one can also make major withdrawals from this account by demonstrating foolishness, poor choices, or sinful behavior.

Authority – you must have it to lead well in the Kingdom.  Don’t shy away for exercising your authority.  Just be sure that you’re using it for advancing the King’s purposes and not your own!

Creating a Platform for Influence

One of your primary functions as a leader is to develop those leaders around you, helping them grow in their capacity to contribute to the mission.  The ability to influence and help them grow is built upon the foundation of trust in the relationship that you have with them.  But, what do you do when you do not have that kind of history with them–when there is no real relationship established?

In a recent conversation with Paul Stanley, former International VP of The Navigators, we discussed how to address this challenge.  Below are some of our practical ideas on how to build this kind of relationship, especially one that is geographically distant from you, so that you can help them grow and develop.

  1.  The first step is to begin to create trust
    • Remember, the depth of your relationship will determine the impact of your influence
    • You as their leader and mentor, want to be viewed as a ‘value-added’ asset to their life and leadership
    • Mutual vulnerability will create a growing bond of trust, with you, their supervisor, initiating the self-disclosure and openness
    • Mutual confidentiality must be assured, for any ‘leakage’ will quickly destroy any trust that has been built
  1. Seek to create a sense where they know that you are in it with them – we are in it together to help them succeed
    • Join their team in spirit, becoming their fan and champion
  1. Help them see a bigger vision for their life and future contribution beyond their current role
    • Help them believe that their future destiny is more than what they can currently ‘see’
  1. Early on in the relationship, they must feel practically helped in their current responsibility
    • Identify 2 or 3 leverage points for them to focus on in the next 1-2 years that will truly help them make progress and bring change to their mission
  1. Help them clarify their responsibilities before God and the organization that they are to steward
    • Help them shape the stewardship of these responsibilities, seeking to prioritize them into what is most strategic at this time
    • Help them identify 3-4 key responsibilities to focus on for the next 1-2 years
    • Pray for them and with them over these 3-4 key responsibilities
    • Talk with them regularly about progress in these 3-4 items
  1. Help them grow in confidence as a leader
    • Affirm, encourage, advocate for, and champion them
    • Help them identify certain leadership principles that they are already doing that models good leadership
      • Ken Blanchard reminds us to, “Find somebody doing something right and tell them about it.”
  1. Help them grow in self-awareness as a leader
    • What are their personal strengths and weaknesses as a leader
    • Help them learn how to lead from their strengths and staff to their weaknesses
  1. As you supervise and mentor them, adopt the attitude of asking, not telling!
    • Lead with questions, not answers!
  1. Open the bible together and pray together on a regular basis

Intentionality – A Little Goes a Long Way

One of your primary responsibilities as a Kingdom leader is to leave behind more leaders.  You are tasked with developing those leaders around you, helping them grow in their capacity to contribute to the mission of discipling the nations.

But what if you don’t have the ‘gift mix’ for developing others?  Often this development gets ignored or we silently hope that with the gaining of more experience that those leaders around us are being developed.  While experience does help, it may or may not be good and certainly does not maximize one’s development opportunities.  What to do?

When it comes to developing others, a little bit of intentionality goes a long way.   A little bit of forethought or planning on how to develop those you are leading in their leadership can bring great gains.  And here’s the secret – you don’t have to be the ‘developer.’  All you have to do is lead them in their development.

Many leaders accept the responsibility for developing the leaders around them, but are paralyzed into inaction because they assume they must be the ones to do the development.  The answer is not in delegating the development of your leaders to another.  Rather, simply lead them in development as you do mission together.  It does not take much effort on your part and those you lead will love you for it.

As you put together your team meeting agendas, set apart some time for leader development.  Depending upon the meeting, the length of time can be short or long.  By setting time for this in the agenda, you will focus the team on the importance of their own development as leaders.  If not, then ‘business items’ will take all available meeting time and still not be completed.

Here’s some simple ideas on how to lead your team in development as leaders:

  1. Select a passage from the Gospels to read about Jesus developing the 12 Apostles.  Read it together and discuss leadership principles you observe and how they might apply to your context.
  2. Print out a short article on leadership or a topic of current interest to discuss together and then relate it to your mission.
  3. Read a book together and discuss it at your team meetings.
  4. Visit another organization as a team.  Meet with their leaders and discuss what you learned that may be applicable when you next meet as a team.
  5. Watch a film that has leadership related themes you believe are applicable for your context and discuss lessons you observed and how to apply them.

In all of these situations you do not have to be the ‘answer person’ for your team’s development.  You just have to take the time to plan ahead and lead them in their development experience.  You can learn and develop right along with them.

Do you have leader development as a part of your team meeting agenda?

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?

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