Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Wisdom”

Leading iGen People – 1

Every generation tends to be reactive to the generation immediately before it.  Or, in another way of looking at it, every generation tends to be more like their grandparents than their parents.  Now obviously, these are broad generalities and every person individuates.  But, broad categories can be helpful in conceptualizing our leadership thinking and methodologies.

Thus, in general, GenX has more in common with Builders than their parents who were Boomers.  Millennials (GenY) has more in common with Boomers than GenX.  And today, GenZ, (iGen), is more like GenX than the Millennials.  Wise leaders are aware of these generational differences and adapt their leadership styles accordingly.

Ken Blanchard’s seminal concept called Situational Leadership reminds us to adapt our leadership style to the situation of those we are leading.  It requires an understanding of the needs and experience of those we are leading, with a balance between being both directive and supportive in our leadership approach.

Wise leaders today will also have to take into account not only the situation they lead into, but also the generational differences of those they are leading.  For Baby Boomer leaders to lead a mixed team of Millennials and GenZ, requires a basic understanding of their uniqueness.  Adding in differences in gender or culture and you can quickly see how complexity multiplies.

For Kingdom leaders there is good news.  We have the Holy Spirit within us to give us the wisdom needed to lead into this complexity with confidence.  Yes, pay attention to these generational traits.  Be aware of your team’s experience levels as well as cultural or gender differences.  But, in the end, listen carefully to the Spirit within you.  He knows and He will guide you.

He promises, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.””   Isaiah 30:21  (NIV 1984)

Are you aware of your default leadership style?  Are you aware of the needs of your team and their individual differences, or are you expecting them to adapt to you?  Are you listening to the voice of His Spirit within you as He guides you in your leadership?

Be Very Careful How You Live

The late Francis Schaeffer titled his now famous book on Western culture and a Christian apologetic, How Should We Then Live?  In light of who we are and who we represent as Kingdom leaders, how should we live?  How should we lead?  Paul has much to say in answer to this question in his book, Ephesians.

In Ephesians 4:1-2, Paul states, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  The exhortation to live a certain lifestyle is couched in the heavenly calling that we have received as followers of Christ.  He immediately follows this contextual reminder with an exhortation on ‘being,’ not doing.  Note the character qualities listed as keys to being able to live out this calling lifestyle – humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance rooted in love.  The ability to live and lead a life worthy of our calling flows out of Christlike character.

Paul continues the theme on how to live the Christian life in verses 17-19 of the same chapter – “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking…Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”  The wasted (futile) life is one that gives itself to sensuality and temporal pleasure.

In the following chapter, Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul encourages us to, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  The mature Christian life will be marked by love in all areas.  Like the love of God, it will the a sacrificial love that unconditionally accepts others.

He ends the qualities of this life we are to live with one final exhortation in Ephesians 5:8-10 – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”  He comes back full circle to the necessity of Christlike character in the Christlike life – goodness, righteousness, and truthfulness in all we say and do.

And now we come to the conclusion of the question we began with, “How to live a life pleasing to God?”  In Ephesians 5:15-17 we read, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.   Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”   (NIV  1984)

May we live and lead in such a wise way, understanding the Lord’s will and seeking to please Him alone, that we hear Him say at the end of our life, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

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!

Aim for Perfection!

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.          Matthew 5:48     (NIV  1984)

Finally, brothers, good-by.  Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace.     2 Corinthians 13:11     (NIV  1984)

Perfection seems like such an impossible goal.  How could Jesus or Paul set this before us as something to be pursued, much less attained?  Are you kidding me?  Come on – get real!

If we understand this goal of perfection as sinless perfection, then it truly is an unattainable pursuit.  Though we are hopefully making progress daily in our battle against sin, we are under no illusion that we will attain sinlessness until we exit this body and live in heaven.

So, what is the aim here?

Paul helps bring some deeper understanding when he speaks of the goal of his ministry in Colossians 1:28.  “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.”  (NIV  1984)  The word ‘perfect’ here actually means mature.  Paul’s goal was to seek to bring all those he ministered to into a state of maturity in Christ.

Thus, when Jesus says we are to ‘be perfect,’ He is saying that we are to be mature in our relationship with our Father – especially in how we love others (see the context of Matthew 5).  When Paul exhorts the Corinthians to ‘aim for perfection,’ he is encouraging their pursuit of maturity in Christ, not some sinless perfection.

Peter encourages us all, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.   1 Peter 2:2-3   (NIV  1984)  We are to grow up in our salvation to maturity in Christ.  This pursuit is grounded in developing intimacy with Jesus, especially as we spend time with Him in His Word.

Perfect maturity in Christ is attainable.  It will be found over a life-long pursuit of Him – being filled with His Spirit and knowing Him and His ways as we know the Bible and apply it to our life and leadership. Maturity is not necessarily a factor of age, but rather a result of spending time with the Lord.

So….. how’s your aim?

Fight or Flight?

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.   Matthew 10:16   NIV  1984

The Good Shepherd of the sheep here makes an amazing proclamation:  He is sending His sheep into a pack of wolves!  What is He thinking?  Doesn’t He care?  Doesn’t He know that these sheep are defenseless and are going to attacked by these ravenous wolves?

Yes, the Lord knows very well what He is doing and why He is doing it.  Therefore, as we engage in His grand mission of making disciples of all the nations, we must go with the shrewdness of snakes and the innocence of doves.  He can send His sheep among the pack of snarling wolves because of two things:  He has all authority in heaven and on earth to do so and He has promised to be with His sheep and never leave them.  (see Matthew 28:18-20)

Shrewdness alone would force us to rely upon our own cleverness and intellectual keenness.  Innocence alone would be simple weakness and a passive surrender.  But, combined, they present a posture and an attitude of wisdom and dependence upon the Shepherd who sends His sheep into areas where packs of wolves roam.

Note, that immediately after this statement, the Lord exhorts His sheep to, “Be on your guard again men…” (Matthew 10:17).  This sending of the sheep in not foolish ignorance, but rather a watchful, careful knowledge of the dangers faced and how best to respond to them.

When threatened, we have two natural responses – fight or flight.  There may be times when facing ‘wolves’ that we stand and fight.  We engage in the battle trusting not in our own strength, but the Lord.  The battle is the Lord’s!  (2 Chronicles 20:15)  Our fight is not against flesh and blood, but rather against the forces of evil behind those who oppose us. (Ephesian 6:12)  We engage knowing that the Lord is with us, helping us respond to the threat and trusting Him regardless of the outcome of the battle.

But, there are other times when the way of wisdom is flight instead of fight.  In Ecclesiastes 9:4 we read, “Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!”  Martyrdom may come, and should the Lord ask of us that supreme sacrifice, we can trust Him for the courage and faith to face that trial.  But, we need not go looking for martyrdom!  If it comes, so be it.  But, sometimes the best course of action is a strategic retreat!

What to do when facing a threat?  Should we stand and fight or flee to fight another day?  Trust in the Lord’s leading through His Spirit who lives within His sheep.  You will know which way to go.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”  Isaiah 30:21   NIV  1984

7 Woes for Leaders – #6

Jesus launches into a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders around Him at the dinner table of a local Pharisee (see Luke 11:37-52).  This passage begins a list of seven failures that these leaders experienced.  The following continues the list of six failures that are prefaced with a dire warning, “Woe to you…”

Here’s #6  –  “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them.  So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs.”  v 47-48   (NIV 1984)

These leaders were charged with giving superficial or temporary solutions to long-standing problems, rather than dealing with root issues or causes that would yield lasting, positive change.

There is a reason why long-standing problems are not dealt with in a lasting way.  They are messy, complicated, the change may require systemic changes, solutions may point out failures of previous leaders, they may be financially or emotionally costly, or disruptive to the status quo.  These religious leaders built nice looking monuments to the prophets killed by their predecessors, instead of addressing the root of why those prophets were ignored and killed by their forefathers.

We often make decisions on the ‘mini-max’ principle.  When making decisions, we seek to minimize the cost and maximize the benefit.  It’s easy just to give a temporary solution that makes us feel like we are solving something, rather than address the core of it.  We kick the can down the road and realize that the next leader will have to deal with it.  Someone will have to have the moral courage to take it on at its root and bring a lasting change for the good.

Doing what is right, instead of doing what is easy is the way of the leader who is pleasing to God.  Half-way solutions are not solutions!  They are simply patches on a leaky hull.  They stop the water flow for the time being, but later, they loosen and the water again begins to flood our ship.

What long-standing, messy problems are on your do list?  What can you do to address at least one of them?  Screw up your courage and lead!

Read and Reread Your Bible

Leaders are readers!

J.O. Sanders

The quote from J.O. Sanders is certainly true.  Leaders must be living and leading from an overflow.  But, what to read?  There is an overabundance of books – especially leadership books!

For Kingdom leaders the primary reading material must begin with the Word of God – the bible.  It is our instruction manual for life and leadership.  It is a love letter from our Heavenly Father.  It is our comfort and anchor of hope when we face tough times.  We must saturate our life with the Scriptures in order to lead well as a Kingdom leader.

Some years ago I met a missionary who so impressed me with his grasp of the Scriptures that I had to know what led to his mastery.  Over lunch, he mentioned that as a younger missionary 25 years before he had begun the habit of reading the entire bible through once a month!  Two and one-half hours a day of reading led him to accomplish that impressive monthly task.  Well, that was a pretty discouraging lunch!

“No way,” I thought.  “Can’t do that.”  But I did ask him how he knew how much to read each day.  He replied, “I counted the number of pages in my bible and divided by 30.”  “Hmmm.  I can’t do the entire bible, but I bet I could do the New Testament,” I thought.  So I counted the pages and divided and thirty and read the entire NT in one month.  I took me about 30 minutes a day of reading.  I continued to do that for the next 8 years and was extremely blessed by this habit.  Today, several times a year I’ll read the entire NT in a month. Last year for my devotions, I read the NT through each month for the year.

Everyone of you reading this blog is capable of the same.  You can read the entire NT in a month by allocating 30 minutes each day for reading.  You’ll find that through repetition, you will soon be able to quote passages, though never having memorized them, just because you have read them over and over.

So, what’s stopping you from this developmental habit?  Only you.  How about launching out and see if you can do it?  Your depth will overflow into all areas of your life and leadership.

The 24 Hours of Life

The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.                                                       Moses – Psalm 90:10,12

Some time ago I was meditating on these verses and thinking about the length of life.  It is but a mist that appears for a short time and then vanishes (see James 4:14).  To help me gain some perspective I created the chart below and review it regularly.  It helps remind me of my mortality and of the brevity of life.  It is a comparison of a seventy-year life span to a 24 hour day.

At 66 years of age (I was born in 1951) you can see that the vast majority of my life is now in the rear-view mirror.  This does not mean that life is over, for no one knows their span of years.  But whether it be seventy years, eighty years or more, we are to ‘number our days’ and make the most of them for His glory.

Reflect on these things and make the most of every opportunity.  For this life will soon be past and only what is done for Christ will last.

YEAR  AGE   TIME             YEAR   AGE   TIME

1952       1       00.20               1987      36      12.20
1953       2       00.41               1988      37      12.41
1954       3       01.02               1989      38      13.02
1955       4       01.23                1990      39      13.23
1956       5       01.43                1991      40      13.43
1957       6       02.03               1992      41      14.03
1958       7       02.24               1993      42      14.24
1959       8       02.45               1994      43      14.45
1960       9       03.05              1995      44      15.05
1961      10      03.25               1996      45      15.25

1962      11      03.46               1997      46      15.46
1963      12      04.06              1998      47      16.06
1964      13      04.27               1999      48      16.27
1965      14      04.48              2000      49      16.48
1966      15      05.09               2001      50      17.09
1967      16      05.29               2002      51      17.29
1968      17      05.50               2003      52      17.50
1969      18      06.10               2004      53      18.10
1970      19      06.31               2005      54      18.31
1971      20      06.51               2006      55      18.51

1972      21      07.12               2007      56      19.12
1973      22      07.32              2008      57      19.32
1974      23      07.53              2009      58      19.53
1975      24      08.14              2010      59      20.14
1976      25      08.35              2011      60      20.35
1977      26      08.55               2012      61      20.55
1978      27      09.15                2013      62      21.15
1979      28      09.36               2014      63      21.36
1980      29      09.57               2015      64      21.57
1981      30      10.17                2016      65      22.17

1982      31      10.38               2017      66      22.38
1983      32      10.58               2018      67      22.58
1984      33      11.19                2019      68      23.19
1985      34      11.39               2020      69      23.39
1986      35      12.00               2021      70      24.00

Curse God and Die!

Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.  His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity?  Curse God and die!”  He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman.  Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”  In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.      Job 2:8-10

Job and his wife had suffered the tragic death of their children, the destruction of their home and wealth, and now Job was afflicted with oozing sores over his entire body.  Oh, the heartache!

It seems like it all was too much for his wife.  Her anger laden invective to him was simply, “Curse God and die!”  How sad!  How depressing!  How real!

As he sat on a pile of broken pottery shards, Job scraped at his sores and reflected upon his lot in life.  Certainly it was not a journey that he would have chosen.  Certainly he would have desired that it never had happened in the first place.

But tragedy had befallen him and his house.  And now he must reason.  The inner man cries out for an answer to, “Why?”  But Job was not a typical man.  His simple statement of faith and trust was this, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

It’s easy to thank God when life goes well.  We express grateful hearts for his mercy and goodness to us.  But, what about when things are not so good?  Can we thank Him when life does not feel good or seems anything but good?  Job did.  And we can follow his example as well.

Last year we suffered with our young granddaughter as she was diagnosed with kidney cancer and then endured 8 months of chemotherapy.  There were some dark days on that part of our journey.  But God in His mercy restored her.  This April we suffered the sudden death of our first-born, Michael at the age of 40.  There continues to be a sense of great loss and missing him.

But today we say by faith – we trust Him who is the Blessed Controller.  Nothing that touches us is outside of His good and perfect will for us.  By faith we say we trust Him and all that He has done.  We do not trust our own feelings, logic, or demand that He explain Himself.  For His ways are not our ways, neither are His thoughts our thoughts.  (see Isaiah 55:8-9).

The Lord is our strength, our shield, and our defender.  He comforts the grieving and gives hope to the discouraged.  We trust Him!

Have the lines fallen to you in pleasant places?  Rejoice!

Have the lines fallen in difficult places?  Trust!

Your Reactions are Showing

Sometimes that click you hear under your foot really is a landmine!

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.                     Colossians 4:5-6  NIV 1984

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…    1 Peter 3:15   NIV 1984

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.    Ephesians 5:15-16   NIV 1984

How many times have you done or said something that you think immediately afterwards – Oh, no!  Ooops!   Wish I could rewind that tape!  Thinking before you speak or act is a mark of maturity and self-control.  It is a sign of Kingdom wisdom.

The authority that leaders carry by position or reputation can leave behind wreckage in the lives of many if we are not careful in how we act or speak.  While we have the right to have thoughts and opinions about all things, it is not wise to share or act upon them without first realizing the potential impact on those around us.  You will be imitated and quoted!

I’m not talking about political correctness here.  There are times when Kingdom leaders must stand for what is right and go against the cultural tide.  What I’m referring to are the unfiltered, knee-jerk responses that unintentionally wound others simply because we don’t stop to think before we act or speak.  Someone put it this way, “Your reactions are showing!”

Paul’s exhortations to us in the passages above are to, “be wise,” “be prepared,” and “be very careful” with respect to our speech and actions, especially as we relate to an unbelieving world.  We would do well to heed these reminders.

How are your recent interactions with others – family, team members, or outsiders?

Are your reactions showing?

 

 

 

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