It’s been a couple of years now since I repented of New Year’s resolutions. I knew it was time when somebody asked me about mine a few years ago and I said, “Oh, you know, the usual.”
(Totally irrelevant side note: Wouldn’t be funny to go into a gym today or tomorrow and find some dude who’s built like a tank and who looks like he’s lifting one and say to him as those muscles rip through his shirt – “Ya’ know, those New Year’s resolutions never really work.” Anyway…)
That’s why when somebody introduced me to Mike Ashcroft’s idea and book a few years ago it really hit a nerve. The idea is very simple: Build your year around one simple word – one theme that describes who or where you want to be at the end of the year. What amazes me is how easy it is to land on a theme based on what I call my descants of the soul – the themes that seem to be repeating themselves in my life recently.
In 2011, my one word was Finish! I didn’t finish a lot, but it was exciting to think about. Lean was the word in 2013. And my one word for 2014 was One. Both have been helpful in shaping my thinking and focus for the year.
This one is different. It’s more of a call to action, and frankly, a part of me doesn’t like it. I’ve reached a point in my life where a significant part of me is screaming out for quiet, simplicity, retreat, and life on the porch.
Not time for that yet. [click to continue…]
There’s no question that Anthony is a leader in the making. His dad raised him to think for himself and test everything, and fully expects Anthony to outdo him. And Anthony has accepted the invitation, so to speak. He’s a visionary, a solution seeker, and has a bias for action, not just talk.
That said, Anthony is young and inexperienced. At least that’s what he’s told whenever he offers up an idea to Gary the Gatekeeper, Anthony’s boss and longtime mentor. Anthony does have some experience, and is about to complete his degree in college. But Gary the Gatekeeper still discredits anything Anthony offers by way of vision for the future.
“When I want to take action,” Anthony says, “I have to go to him and wait a month or more before he even looks at it. And so I can’t get anything done!” He adds, “Whenever I offer constructive criticism, Gary acts as though he’s under attack.” Anthony concludes, “What can you do with a leader who won’t let you grow up?”
It’s a fair question. How do you respond to a “leader” who spends more time blocking you than leading you? I should start by saying that such a person is not a leader in the truest sense of the word. The root nature of mature leadership doesn’t seek just to generate blind, thoughtless followers, but to enflame and empower a new generation of leaders. And at some point that requires some letting go.
But what happens when the leader has his own growing up to do? How should Anthony, or any other emerging leader, respond to an insecure control freak who is in a position of power or authority? [click to continue…]
Maybe it’s because I had another birthday yesterday, or maybe it’s because that birthday was also Election Day. Maybe it’s because I work with a school whose mission reads, in part, to “cherish character.” But lately I’ve had character on the brain.
Character in leadership.
Dr. King envisioned a day when Americans would be judged “solely by the content of their character.” Our answer to that culturally is to try and not judge anybody at all. That is, until the tide of public opinion breaks the dam of political correctness. Or the electorate gets a belly full of whoever the incumbent is. Or the arrogant, narcissistic preacher or politician or boss-person overestimates their awesomeness one time too many.
In spite of our fascination with techniques, charisma, methods, or technology, people of influence still have to deal with the Character Connection.
You have to deal with it when you look in the mirror, when nobody else is looking.
You have to deal with it when you’re on the pedestal, when everybody’s cheering.
You have to do it in the outhouse, when everybody’s jeering, or they have forgotten you.
In spite of our efforts to prove otherwise (and we’ve had some pretty spectacular efforts), character earns the politician the right to legislate and pontificate. Character earns the right for the preacher to articulate truth. Character earns the business leader the right to profit in the marketplace of both money and ideas.
And a loss of character can undermine them all.
There are lots of ideas – good ideas – about what forms and sustains character when it comes to leadership. [click to continue…]
Ever have a conversation like this?
Whatever happened to ________? I really thought he was going places.
Not sure. Ever since [insert a distracting or demoralizing event] he never was quite the same.
I’ve witnessed countless scenarios like that one. I even lived out a few of them.
The idea of leadership is that you’re influencing people, formally or informally, to move together toward a certain goal. If it were easy, anybody could do it. But because you’re dealing with people, and because leadership often involves matters of the heart, it’s easy to find yourself sucked into leadership quicksand.
At best, it’s a distraction and you lose focus.
At worst, it can paralyze and ultimately destroy your influence.
Here are 10 sloughs to avoid (or get out of today) to allow your leadership to see another day: [click to continue…]
Welcome back to my front-row seat. In my work I have the privilege of reading a lot of stuff. Some of it is forgettable. Some of it is way-past-profound, either because of the quality of writing or because of the truth it conveys, and I keep a collection of the ones that bowl me over. You can see previous collections here and here. Both are quick reads, but profound in what they speak.
Now this collection of seven happens to have a leadership theme, but they also speak to your spiritual life, your courage, and you humility (or lack thereof).
Now… slow down… breathe deeply… and take these in. You’ll be glad you did. Click here – you’ll be glad you did…
Then there was that time Jethro stopped by.
Not Jethro Gibbs or Jethro Bodine. Jethro the daddy-in-law.
Moses and his father-in-law had a strange and wonderful relationship. Moses the young fugitive had whupped up on some bullies and given help to Jethro’s seven sheepherding daughters. Moses wound up with a job and one of Jethro’s daughters as a wife. Then while Moses was off delivering the Israelites from slavery at the hand of God, Jethro kept the wife and kids safe and sound back in Midian.
Jethro was, in effect, the father Moses never had.
Now, after the exodus and taking three million of his closest friends with him to the Promised land, Moses gets word that Jethro is on the way, with Moses’ household in tow. It was a sweet reunion, and you can read all about it in Exodus 18.
This was more than a family visit. Jethro had heard all the reports of what God had done. Jethro was a man of God himself. He wanted to see first-hand what a people so delivered and provided for by God looked like. What he got was a sort of Jekyll-and-Hyde experience. [click to continue…]
It’s almost a cliché – your leadership will never exceed your ability to communicate. The same could be said for any other kind of relationship as well – personal, professional, political, and any other kind that starts with “p.”
Here is a little checklist by which you can reflect on your own communication as a leader – or your leader’s communication with you. It’s meant more as a conversation starter or improvement guide than a “test,” so keep that in mind. [click to continue…]
Another semester has passed, and in the transition to summer school, I’ve been reminded again that some of the most powerful expressions of language often come from people who are just trying to get an A in a class.
I shared a collection of seven profound insights I gained from students here. Today I thought I’d take another swipe at it.
Read these slowly. Enjoy the insightful use of words and truths. This is good stuff… Click here – you’ll be glad you did…
Years ago, when corporate giants Shearson-Lehman and American Express merged, they ran a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal with the headline, “Vision.” Then they gave my favorite definition of all time:
Vision is having an acute sense of the possible. It is seeing what others cannot see. And when those with similar vision are drawn together, something extraordinary occurs.
Something in my soul still comes alive when I read those words, written about 30 years ago. Nothing in leadership is more vital to the energy creation of an organization or its leaders than vision – that “acute sense of the possible.”
Over the years, of course, as with anything vital, I have also seen plenty of posers – people who used the allure and “sexiness” of the idea of vision as tools of manipulation, ego promotion, or cotton candy management (all flavor and no substance).
Having just had a great consulting experience with a wonderful church congregation in South Carolina, where we did some serious vision creation and casting (still a work in progress there), I have some ideas flowing about vision in leadership. Take a look, and consider how these may apply to your leader or leadership and your organizations. [click to continue…]
Here’s a good conversation starter for you. If you could identify one thing in a prospective leader that would ensure success, what would it be?
Or if you are currently in a place of influence, what’s the one thing you should strive for, today and every day?
Let the suggestions roll in… discussions like these will yield stand-by favorites such as vision, compassion, examples, character, communication, inspiration, encouragement and the like. All good answers.
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to know there’s a Bible answer for that. In fact, there are several, if you dig deeply enough. But there’s one place where the Bible – particularly the Apostle Paul – addresses leaders. And there he could have used any word in the language of his day to challenge them. So what one word did he use? See for yourself: [click to continue…]