Leadership

(And You Can and Should, Too)

Travel with me to an ancient version of Death Row. A lonely old man sits in isolation – a rare occurrence for a life so well-traveled and surrounded with people. And he awaits his fate.

He’s a dead man walking.

Yet even though his body is scarred and his bones crooked from a hardened life, he doesn’t have the same despair or desperation that’s typical of someone living under a death sentence. In fact, he has – dare I say it? – a sense of satisfaction. Fulfillment. Maybe even a touch of pride.

How do I know? His own words.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

Those words from Paul have carried a new fascination for me recently.  Here was a man who know what his life was about, and lived it. He followed the course laid out for him, and he finished it.

Put in other language, Paul had a vision, and throughout his life he stubbornly, doggedly, faithfully pursued that vision.  Doing so was costly in the short run. He was routinely run out of town, beaten to a pulp, deserted by his friends, and bedeviled by danger. But to him it was a price worth paying, to get to the end of his life with two things: [click to continue…]

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Interesting question came across my radar last week. Ashton was in a room full of worship leaders for a nationwide series of summer camps. For 8 weeks they will be leading the same songs, doing the same things, week after week. Her question:

What advice would you give to us on how to remain renewed and refreshed every week? How do we not get into a cycle? Even when it is week 4 for us and we have sung the same songs every week… how do we fight that?

It’s a valid question, and the Fuge worship leaders aren’t the only ones who face it. The truth is, everybody in spiritual leadership has the task of “handling the holy things” week in and week out. Ashton’s “holy things” may be music and microphones. Yours may be a Bible or a lesson plan. Someone else’s may be the routine schedule of meetings you attend or lead. Regardless, Christians gathered in the name of Christ for any reason have an occasion to invite and expect His presence.

Until we don’t.

Until we drift into a routine or rut – what Ashton calls a “cycle.”

Now it’s time for this. Next – that. Then back to this. Then the other.  Before long, not only can we get bored with the whole thing, we telegraph that boredom to the very people we’re supposed to be leading.  As a result, the “gospel” no longer feels like “good news” and we lose our sense of wonder and gratitude.

(If that sound a lot like your Sunday morning experience, I’m sorry. But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to remain that way.)

My response to Ashton was one of those things that startled me with how fast it came. (That’s usually a sign that I didn’t originate the answer.)  The key to avoiding the rut:  Play, Stay, Away, and Pray. [click to continue…]

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Emtpy interior of the train for long and short distance

Everybody leads from the second chair. Everybody.

Kings and queens.

Presidents and popes.

CEOs and C-3POs.

Even Messiahs. [click to continue…]

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Look behind you.

Not literally; behind me right now is the back of a chair.

Metaphorically speaking, look behind you, and you’ll probably find somebody following you. They may be following your instructions, following your example, or even following your dreams. They may be following your words and images on social media, but that’s not the same thing.

Look beside you and guess what? You’ll find people following there, too. They may position themselves more as friends or colleagues, but they make sure to stay in your orbit. In NASCAR they call this “side drafting.” And people are probably side drafting you, whether you realize it or not.

Let me pause here to roll my eyes and tell you – again – that even if you don’t think of yourself as a leader, you are. Everybody influences somebody. Somebody looks to you as the person to obey, the example to follow, the partner to collaborate with, or the sense maker in their times of uncertainty or confusion.

That leads to the Big Question then… Where are you leading them?

All you need to do to find the answer to that question is look ahead. [click to continue…]

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Someone once asked General Norman Schwarzkopf the secret of his success. His reply was simple: “I never walk past a problem.”

That’s the difference between a leader and a politician. Between a leader and a poser. Between a leader and a follower. Between a leader and a talker.

Leaders – those who influence people to take massive action to accomplish a goal or mission – expect problems. But rather than moan about them or wring their hands over how complex they are – rather than kicking the can down the road with Band Aid fixes so a future generation can deal with the real issues – leaders approach problems with the expectation and commitment to solving them.

Anybody can point out problems.  Influencers – real leaders – produce solutions.  Better still, they challenge others on the team or in the organization to solve problems.  So how do you recognize a problem-solving leader or potential leader when you see one?  Here are five ways to tell – even if you’re looking in the mirror to find one. [click to continue…]

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personal

You never know who’s watching.

You never know who models his or her life after you.  Sure, there are the ten percent who make it clear, but like icebergs, the other ninety are quiet. Below the surface and virtually invisible, but no doubt there.

All the while watching… for a path to follow… a faith to imitate… or a life that’s contagious.

So walk your path authentically. Believe hopefully.  Live abundantly, all the while leaving clues for searching hearts to find.

Because somebody’s watching.  And they’re following you. [click to continue…]

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It was a funny exercise. The memory-making type of thing that happens randomly when you spend time hanging out with kids. Or in my case, grandkids.

Laura Kate and Shepherd (#1 and #3 of 9 if you’re keeping score) were in the back seat and we were headed home from a VBS family night. With everybody’s schedule crossways on this particular night, I got to be the “family.” We’d had the program, topped off by some awesome brain-freezing shaved ice. They had played in the bounce houses some, and now we had escaped the Alabama humidity and were back in the truck headed to their house.

We got to talking about different sounds that animals make, and I was asking them if they could imitate them. Then, on a whim, I asked, “Can you imitate Fischer?”

Fischer is their four-year-old little brother.

Laura Kate popped up: “Mama, Shepuhd and Sistuh huht my feewings.”

You just had to be there… It was dead-on and hysterically funny.

We went from that to others, like their parents, but the first one was the hit of the night.

Who doesn’t love a good impression – especially a funny one?  And it’s true, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – even to an 8-year-old.

It’s also a raw demonstration of leadership at a very fundamental level. [click to continue…]

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(Life in the Public Eye Edition)

I’ve been listening to a lot of professional communicators lately. I’ve also been seeing a lot of people in the public eye, for better or worse.  Politicians. Preachers. Entertainers. Protesters. Prophets of doom. Leaders, or leader wannabes.  Victims or those pretending to be victims.

I’ve had some thoughts about all that.  Wildly accurate thoughts, of course, because hey, they were mine.  But rather than blather on about my forgettable opinions, I thought I would share some real wisdom.

As I have mentioned in previous posts like this one, I get a front row seat to some amazing writing, all sent like these with the hopes of earning an A on a paper or discussion forum.

(I get plenty of bad writing too, but I’m saving that for another day.)

So I’ve been keeping a file of my favorite student quotations for quite some time now, and today I would like to share a powerful collection with you. All of these are about something to do with living in the public eye, either as a leader or as a public servant or communicator.  Sooner or later this could be you in your 15 minutes of you-know-what.

Read on (it’s a quick read) and brace for impact. You will be impressed and blessed by these insights. [click to continue…]

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Row American Flags Half Mast Washington DC USA

Here we go again.

Another day.

Another crisis.

Another call for leadership.

Another round of half-mast flags…

Another set of news-bite wags…

A fresh supply of new #hashtags…

And another call for leadership.

More outrage at this

More outrage at your outrage at that,

Another mad rush of the gun shop owners to the bank…

And another call for leadership.

What do we mourn when we bemoan the lack of leadership?

Do we really know what are we calling for? [click to continue…]

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This post is part of a series of posts celebrating Father’s Day titled, “That Time My Kids Hacked My Blog.” To read more, click here.

bikeDear Dad,

You may not remember the day that I learned to ride a bicycle, but I do. We were living in Fayette, Alabama and all of my friends had already figured out how to ride and graduated to ten speeds. After spending several weeks trying to figure out how, I had resigned to give up.

I am not sure how long it was, in my mind it seems like it was years but I am sure it was only a few weeks, that Mom brought up the topic at dinner. I remember telling her that I couldn’t do it. While I am sure mom said something encouraging it was your response that made a lasting impact. You said, “Yes you can…let’s go.” Then you stood up and the two of was walked downstairs into the basement took the training wheels off my bike and went to the driveway. The next hour I fell several times but each time I did you picked me up, told me I was okay, and encouraged me to try again. It wasn’t long before I figured out how to balance and pedal. Up to that point in my life I am not sure I had ever felt so accomplished and to this day I still love riding a bike.

That day you taught me how to ride, but what I didn’t know at the time was that you were also teaching me how to live life. Time and time again I have seen you act in a similar manner. [click to continue…]

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