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Leadership

You’re the Inspiration

by Andy Wood on January 11, 2014

in Half-baked Ideas

Footsteps 3

(Sort-of-random thoughts from the Gulf Coast after a memorable Christmas, my first real vacation in four years, and the delicious taste of clarity, vision, and blackened grouper…)

You know it’s time for something different when going through airport security seems preferable to the schedule you’ve been keeping.

Our recent travels have been a nice reminder that all of life doesn’t have to be lived in the bunker – even if you love the people or causes you fight for when you’re in it.

I’ve been reminded lately that life was meant to be lived connected with other lives.  The kind of connections may vary, of course, from lives that profoundly touch us once to love or friendship that lasts forever. Regardless, the bottom line is that “solo” equals “so low” or “slow go” if you stay in that gear too long.

Show me the lives you have crossed paths with in the last 24 hours, and I will show you the lives you have influenced somehow, to some degree – whether you necessarily want to be an influence or not. [click to continue…]

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Leadership TestIn his profile of University of Alabama quarterback A. J. McCarron, John Wertheim describes a scene that took place when the record-setting quarterback first arrived and joined the team as an 18-year-old freshman.

At his first intrasquad scrimmage McCarron was grouped with walk-ons, facing the defensive starters.  He was sacked early and often, and wasn’t happy about it. He didn’t even remove his cleats before marching into Coach Nick Saban’s office afterward.

“I need to talk to you,” he snapped.

“O.K.,” said Saban.

“You want me to show you what I can do, how I can play? Well, I can’t do s— when you put me with walk-ons who can’t even block. I don’t understand why you don’t put me with the [starters].”

“Why? Because today we were testing your leadership,” Saban said, barely looking up. “And you failed. Miserably.”

Life is filled with little tests (and big ones), and they aren’t always what they seem. Tests of faith. Tests of skill or knowledge. Tests of character.  Tests of performance. And yes, tests of leadership.

Most of these tests reveal themselves in the rearview mirror, not in the windshield. It’s only after the fact that we can truly see them for what they are.  What we can do, however, is use hindsight to identify when others faced tests of leadership and learn from their successes or “miserable failures.”  Here are five ways to recognize when your leadership was being tested: [click to continue…]

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med590079

I will sing a new song to You, O God;
Upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You,
Who gives salvation to kings,
Who rescues David His servant from the evil sword.

This comes from a victory song.

David celebrates victories he’s won to this point.

What now? [click to continue…]

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Half Full Half EmptyWhat do you do when you’re the leader and somebody on your team drops the ball? Or worse, in their zeal for your cause, they do more harm than good?  Every leader would relish having people with the strength of a bull on their team.  We just don’t want the bulls charging into china shops.

Leadership is forged during awkward times. During periods of public strain, pain, or frustration, our attention turns to those we presume to be in leadership. On a national scale, for example, people in the United States turn to the president to help make sense of their fearful or angry moments (and we’ve had our share of those lately).

They assume that leaders have something to say.  They watch instead for what the leader actually does.  They’re not looking for place holders. They’re looking for leaders who have a sense for how to please them as they lead them.  And as leaders throughout time have discovered, there is no such thing as private or secret leadership.  Heck, even the Secret Service isn’t that secret.

In between the stories of his giant killing and his adultery dodging, an obscure little verse in the Bible describes how people responded to its beloved King David.  It’s every leader’s dream come true: [click to continue…]

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Vision NeedIt was painful and ugly, Lisa told us.  She had left town to attend a school, presumably to train people to be worship leaders.  What she discovered instead was an unhealthy, “I’m always right” form of egotistical authority-wielding.  If anybody in the so-called “school” suggested an idea that didn’t line up perfectly with the ego-polishing done “on the stage,” there was hell to pay.  And the favorite punch(ing) line: “You need to buy into the vision.”

“We’ve been spending some time rethinking our organization’s vision,” John said.

“Why is that?”

“Because we need a better way of communicating to the public and to our people the essence of why we’re here.”

May I offer a polite suggestion? (If not, I’ll be happy to offer a rude one.)

Before you start planning or pontificating on what you, somebody else, or the organization “needs,” don’t you think it would be a good idea to have a clear definition of “need?”

And before you merge onto the leadership freeway, teeming with thousands of commuters headed, they say, in the direction of their “vision,” don’t you think you need to have a grasp on what a vision actually is? [click to continue…]

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EA3623-002I have a pretty high tolerance for clutter.

Until I don’t.

Can you relate?

If you can, you’re probably what the Myers-Briggs people call Perceiving.  If you can’t, and the very idea of leaving stuff out in case you need it a month from now is deeply disturbing, you’re Judging (not judgmental – that’s a different animal).

The problem with being a clutterbug “P” like me is that the items on my schedule or the stuff on my desk start to accumulate until productivity-wise, it feels as though I’m in quicksand.  And then I just want it all gone.

Not organized.  Not streamlined. Not prioritized. O.U.T.

What’s true in life is true also in leadership. If you could imagine the whole sphere of your leadership activity – relationships, meetings, communication, conflict resolution, vision, more meetings, planning, etc. – as items on a desktop, what would your “desk” look like? And if you could compare your “desk” with the “desks” of others in your team or organization, how full is theirs?  And not to stretch the metaphor too much, let me add that wishing for a bigger “desk” is probably not going to solve the problem.

In leadership as in life, things have a way of accumulating. But you don’t have to surrender to clutter creep.  Here are seven ways to redirect your leadership T.R.A.F.F.I.C. and in the process free up more time to focus on those areas where you are indispensable: [click to continue…]

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CoachQuick question:  What do Tiger Woods, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and Rafael Nadal all have in common?

Quick answer: Other than being in the top tier of their games, they all have a coach. Back in the day, it was often said, “Even Michael Jordan has a coach.”

How about you?  Do you need a coach? Do you have one?

The short answers are yes, and yes.  Everybody needs coaches and you have them, whether you realize it or not. You may not be utilizing your coaches to their maximum potential, but you’re most likely following somebody’s guidance. And in just a minute I’ll show you how to recognize who you turn to for coaching, at least on an informal level.

But first, a word from the Lone Ranger… [click to continue…]

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Proud Leader

All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O Lord,
When they hear the words of Your mouth.
Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
For great is the glory of the Lord.
Though the Lord is on high,
Yet He regards the lowly;
But the proud He knows from afar (Psalm 138:4-6, NKJ).

  • If you’re feeling far from God, pride may be the issue.

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Flying moneyEver try one of those teachable moments with your kids that gets turned back on you? As in, Who’s teaching whom?

Twenty or so years ago, we were living in West Alabama and I took Cassie, about age 9, to the local shopping center (translation: Walmart).  It was just before Easter.  We didn’t find whatever it was we were looking for, so we left past the customer service counter.

“Daddy,” she whispered.  “Look… those people are poor!

I looked.

“Those people” were a middle-aged married couple, standing at the customer service desk. They were very humbly dressed, to be sure. And they had all the individual parts to make their own Easter baskets – apparently not able to afford the prepackaged wonders that were for sale in the back.

Ah, Fatherhood! The opportunities we have to engage with our children at teachable moments to give them perspective, wisdom, and character.  This was certainly one of them, and a donned my SuperDad cape. [click to continue…]

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Footsteps in SnowThis is a true story.  The names are changed.

Will was an insecure, painfully shy 11-year-old boy who came from a very poor family.  But his sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Goodwin, saw something special in him – not just in the student he was at the time, but as the adult he could become. And through that year, she began to give Will a gift that no one to that point had ever dared offer – the gift of confidence.

She told him he was the smartest student she ever had. She said it to him personally and to the class.

She told him how much potential he had.

She took him to her home.

She even took him to the junior high school he would attend the next year to introduce Will to his teachers and tell them what a great student he was.

She told him that the only other student who showed his potential became the vice president of a well-known university.

True to Mrs. Goodwin’s prediction, Will became the first person in his family to go to college. Buoyed by her care and concern he went on to a successful academic career… as a… (you guessed it) vice president of a major university.

Mrs. Goodwin was more than a teacher. She was a leader. She saw in an awkward kid a destiny that nobody else saw. Put in leadership terms, she had a vision. Then she set about investing the time and service necessary to put Will on a path toward that vision.

And the tool she used:  Influence. [click to continue…]

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