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Saturday
Jun242017

Two leadership nuggets from World Series champion, manager Joe Maddon

My wife, Susan, faithfully watches Charlie Rose’s late night talk show. She knows which leadership idea(s) would be of interest, recording them for me to watch and learn from.

Recently we sat and watched an interview with Joe Maddon

who, as manager of the  Chicago Cubs of the MLB, in 2016 led the Cubs to their first World Series title in 108 years.

The natural question is asked: what was the secret--how did he and president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein, do it?

Joe shared a number of thoughts with Charlie Rose, but two stood out to me as I sat and watched, paper and pen in hand, believing I was going to hear something noteworthy.  I was not disappointed.

1.  Try not to suck

How many teams have you been a part of that just plain suck? How many restaurants or places of business have you quit going to because they suck? There is such a lack of excellence everywhere you go. It seems like folks just don’t care about doing a good job anymore; many are apathetic, waiting for the weekend so they don’t have to work for a day or two. Granted, some of this apathy can be laid at the feet of the leader or manager who has failed to create a work environment which keeps morale high and workers motivated so their work and their attitude doesn’t suck. But, at the same time, each of us needs to take responsibility for our work, to see that it honors the Lord himself, who does all things well (Mark 7:37.) Not just passing, not just okay, not just mediocre, but well!

A lot of what I do is with leaders and teams in local churches and, honestly, many churches suck when it comes to their spirit of excellent work and excellent attitudes. “Try not to suck” resonated with me from my own experience and from my experience with churches and church leaders. I don’t want to suck as a leader! 

2.  Do simple better

I have been thinking a great deal lately about simplifying my life so that I am not as overwhelmed and overcommitted as I have been recently. I want to stay focused on a few simple and basic things and learn how to do them better as time goes on.

When it comes to doing well at anything (sports, music, leadership, etc.), there are generally not dozens of things to hone in on, but there definitely are a few. There are always a small handful of simple basic principles to keep mind, whether we are talking about improving the golf game or improving family relationships. I am more motivated than ever before to pick a few simple things and do them better. This has to with focus and intentionality.

When Billy Graham preached Dawson Trotman’s funeral (founder of The Navigators, an organization I worked with for 37 years), Billy said: “Of Dawson Trotman it could be said, not these forty things I dabble at but this one thing I do.” He was referring to Philippians 3:13 and, perhaps, Psalm 27:4. There are books out now about the “One Thing” you need to focus on.  Remember City Slickers with Billy Crystal and Jack Palance where Billy’s character is encouraged to find out what the one thing, the most important thing is.

Dawson Trotman had a singleness of purpose with the The Navigators organization which is expressed in their purpose statement: “To know Christ and to make Him known.”

As I look ahead to the coming months, I am starting to say no to more things so I say yes to a few simple, basic things which I want to be better at doing. By his grace, I can do a few simple things better, but probably not dozens of things better.

Joe, thanks for inspiring me to “Try not to suck” at what I do and to “Do simple better!” Thanks Susan for “introducing” me to Charlie Rose.

 

 

Wednesday
Jun212017

Three reasons why pastors & leaders fail to equip others!

It is safe to say that many leaders don’t take the time to equip others and do too much by themselves often leading to exhaustion, burnout and moral failure. Why don’t they equip and invest in others? Here is Eric Geiger with three reasons why they don’t.

Originally posted by Eric Geiger

Three reasons (some) pastors don’t equip

The role of pastor is divinely designed to prepare others for ministry, not to perform all the duties in ministry. Pastors are not called to “do ministry” but to “equip believers” to minister to one another (Ephesians 4:11-13). Yet some pastors prefer to hoard ministry to themselves rather than equip others.

Some pastors are like the occasional church sound-guy that doesn’t want anyone else fiddling with the soundboard. If you have encountered this sound-guy, you likely first concluded that he probably knows best. After all, he is able to find that buzz, has saved the day multiple times, and uses words you don’t understand. You reason that you are an idiot and “that you should not concern yourself with things too marvelous for you” (Psalm 131:1). But as time passes, you wonder if the system has been intentionally designed so no one else can possibly run it. The sound-guy has built the sound-system around himself, for himself. In the same way, some pastors build ministry around themselves, for themselves, for at least three reasons.

Job Security

Just as the sound-guy designed a system where he is necessary, some pastors are hesitant to develop others for ministry because they fear they will become unnecessary to the church. They reason, “If others can do the tasks people think I am paid to do, then what will happen to me?” While the desire of a pastor to provide for his family is understandable and commendable, a kingdom-minded pastor loves the idea of “working himself out of a job.” He understands he is an interim pastor, given temporary responsibility for a group of people, and he wants to fulfill his calling—to prepare people for ministry, not hoard ministry for himself. Ironically, the leader who works himself out of a job will always have one, as there will always be a need for godly leaders who are committed to developing others.

Insecurity

Just as the sound-guy builds a system that necessitates him, some pastors need to be needed. They love to hear statements like “I can’t image anyone but you praying for me at the hospital” or “We do not know where our church would be without you.” Ministry can stroke the ego of an insecure leader who purposefully neglects preparing people for ministry because he needs the affirmations. It takes a secure leader to prepare others for ministry, a leader who realizes he/she is already approved by the Lord, already accepted by Him. And because His approval and acceptance is perfectly and permanently fixed on the leader, the leader is liberated to prepare and equip others.

Idolatry

Releasing ministry to others is impossible for the leader who holds tightly to ministry as his or her reason for being. Ministry can be an attractive idol because it is rarely called out as sinful. It is an idol that others applaud you for. If ministry success is our god, we are likely to take the shortest path to greater and greater “victories,” but preparing and developing people is never on the shortest path. If ministry idolatry plagues us, we are hesitant to relinquish the ministry that fuels and drives us. Instead, we want to be the one, the man, the hero. We are only excited to equip others if our hearts are filled with awe and wonder that we belong to Him.

 

Monday
Jun192017

Being a Strong Leader without Being an Abusive Leader

Strong leadership doesn’t have to become abusive and arrogant; but, sadly, that’s what sometimes occurs. Let’s all strive for, and grow in, strong and humble leadership.

As a student of Christian leadership, it deeply troubles me that we tend to move from strong leadership to abusive leadership. We then make the mistake of assuming strong leadership is always dangerous and  gravitate toward weak, apathetic and indecisive leadership as a reaction toward abusive leadership.

Strong and decisive is not the problem; arrogant and abusive is. What we need to do is move from strong and abusive to strong and humble, which is what the Bible clear demonstrates in leadership from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus was, without a doubt, the strongest and most humble leader who ever lived!

So how does biblically and appropriate strong leadership morph into unbiblical and inappropriately abusive leadership?

 As noted, the Bible clearly teaches that leadership can and should be strong and decisive, not fearful or hesitant; and certainly not abusive. But we know of many strong leaders who, nonetheless, become abusive in some way or another. Peter warns us of this:

“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly as God would have you, not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” I Peter 5:2,3 (ESV)

I have worked with churches that once had abusive leaders and seem to have never completely gotten over it.  In  overreacting to this, they are understandably very careful (too careful) in their leadership to not be overbearing or domineering in any way. But this has also affected their ability to be confidently strong in making the difficult decisions they need to make and which inhibits them from growing and making the difference they could make.

I have also seen the opposite, where a church has a strong leadership vacuum (due to passive or hesitant leadership in the past) and tries to fill it with a strong leader who over time, unfortunately, becomes abusive and is asked to leave, or stays and splits the church.

We can vacillate between abusive and apathetic. The Bible clearly advocates for strong and decisive leadership that is not afraid to lead and make the tough calls.

The great need today in the body of Christ is to raise up strong visionary leaders who are anchored in Christ, secure in their calling, solid in their convictions, and bold in their decisions for needed changes; all without being abusive, bullying, arrogant or domineering.

It has been both my experience and observation that sometimes when leaders see success early in their tenure, it goes to their heads, leading to pride and a domineering leadership style that doesn't honor Jesus and his gospel. This is why Paul warns us in 1 Timothy 3:6 that a leader should not be a recent convert so he doesn’t become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil?

Mark 10:42,43 in The Message is very instructive on this issue:

 "You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, he said, and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It's not going to be that way with you."  

In today's leadership world, sad to say, it's not only godless rulers (leaders) who throw their weight around, but Christian leaders as well. And not only does power go to their heads, but acclaim, accolades, popularity, book sales and hits on their blog site also go to their heads.

Jesus has a good word for all of us: It should not be that way with you. Rather tenderness, sensitivity, humility, kindness, etc. Exactly what Galatians 5 and I Timothy 3 spell out for us.

Jim Collins, in his excellent book, "Good to Great" refers to these humble leaders as level five leaders. We need many more of them.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God…” I Peter 5:5-6

 Pray for strong, decisive, visionary and humble leaders to lead his church! And do be ever so careful and prayerful for yourself. Have others hold you accountable for your leadership style and attitudes (I Timothy 4:16.)

Your comments and observations are valued and welcomed!

 

Wednesday
Jun142017

The Ultimate Character Test Any Great Leader Passes

It was John Wooden who said, “Pay more attention to your character then to your reputation, for your character is what you really are whereas your reputation is merely what other people think you are.”

In this day of Christian leadership we pay more attention to a lot of things instead of paying attention to our character which the Lord highly values. Here Carey Nieuwhof shares his thoughts on “The Ultimate Character Test Any Great Leader Passes.”

Originally posted by Carey Nieuwhof

The Ultimate Character Test Any Great Leader Passes

The longer I lead and the more I see, the more I’m convinced that character ultimately determines a leader’s true success.

Moral failure takes out more leaders than it should. But real success is deeper than just avoiding the ditch.

So where does the deepest level of leadership success come from? Ultimately it doesn’t come from a leader’s skill set; it comes from a leader’s character.

Your character determines your true capacity.

Why is that?

Character—far more than skill set—determines how deeply and passionately people follow you. A leader with character is a leader worth following.

A leader who lacks integrity may have followers, but he’ll never gain their full trust or their hearts.

After all, we all know highly skilled leaders who are never truly embraced; they’re merely tolerated.

Character, more than anything else, draws the hearts of people to your leadership.

The greatest leaders are highly skilled people whom other people love to be around. They’re people others admire, not just because they’re smart, but because they’re the kind of person other people want to become.

So how do you know whether your character passes the test?

In my view, the greatest leaders I know pass all five of these character tests many others fail.

1. Handling Success

Often people will ask you how you handled your last failure. And that’s not an entirely bad question.

But how you handle your success is a far greater test.

Failure is, by nature, humiliating. It crushes pride.

Success does the opposite. It naturally inflates a leader’s pride. It’s intoxicating.

It takes both great self-awareness and great self-control to handle success. To not let the reports of your own brilliance or accomplishments go to your head.

The very best leaders remain humble, grounded and even self-deprecating. They don’t claim every perk of office and regularly help people who can’t help them back.

They avoid the gravitational pull of self-focus and, instead, stay focused on the mission before them and before everyone.

The ultimate test of a leader’s character is not failure, it’s success.

2. Being Misunderstood

At some point, every leader will be misunderstood.

People will say things about you behind your back (or to your face) that aren’t true. People will judge your motives and get it wrong.

Sometimes you’ll only be allowed to say certain things in public, not because you’re being secretive, but because revealing all the information would make others look bad or would be breaking confidence. So instead, you look bad.

That’s just the territory of leadership.

Leadership is a bit like parenting. You have to do the right thing even if it’s not the popular thing. I’ve been there many times as a leader (and as a parent).

Great leaders have forged enough character to overcome the incessant desire to be liked. They are prepared to be misunderstood for a season, knowing that usually the truth comes out in the end.

And even if the truth doesn’t emerge in a particular instance, great leaders know that the overall track record of their leadership and character will speak for itself over time.

3. How It’s Going At Home

Success is intoxicating. And leadership is rewarding.

People generally do what you ask them to do. Results can be measured. And progress is steady. Sometimes its even exponential.

If only it was that easy to home.

Many leaders who are successes at work end up being failures at home, and that’s not success.

Your spouse isn’t impressed with your stats. Your kids don’t care about your awards.

They just need you.

They simply want you.

Too many leaders impose the high standards they carry at work on their family at home.

Your family doesn’t work for you.

They love you (or at least they used to). And they want you to love them.

4. Who You Are When No One’s Looking

What is character?

It’s who you are when the spotlight’s not on you.

The best leaders are the same on stage or in the boardroom as they are in a private meeting.

They’re the same when they’re with one person as they are when they’re with a thousand.

And the truly great ones are the same when absolutely no one is around.

As John Wooden famously said, the true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.

5. Helping People Who Can’t Help You Back

If you’re not careful, the more successful you become, the more likely you will be to spend time only with those who can help you get to the next stage of whatever you’re trying to do.

You almost naturally become a social climber.

The greatest leaders will resist this pull. It’s not that they won’t spend time with other people who are as successful or more successful than they are. It’s that they will still spend time with people who aren’t.

The greatest leaders regularly find time to help people who can’t help them back.

And not just as a charity project…but because it’s just who they are.

They’re not so impressed by themselves that they can’t spend time with people who might not be impressed with them.

They’re not so caught up in what’s next that they can’t spend meaningful time with someone who isn’t on the same journey.

Sure…they’re still strategic with their time, but they have a deep sense of grounding that reminds them that life is indeed about others, not just about them.

What Would You Add?

The great leaders I know pass all five of these character tests.

What are you seeing? Is there another character test you’d add to this list?

 

Sunday
Jun112017

Taking possession of our possessions!

Are you taking possession of your possessions?

David Bertch and I have been friends for over 50 years. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas and we have a phone call once a month to sharpen one another as disciples and leaders. (Proverb 27:17)

In one of our recent calls, he quoted Francis Schaeffer as saying that the greatest sin of Christians in the west is not taking possession of their possessions. I have not stopped thinking and praying about this since he shared it with me.

Is this statement true? If it’s true, what should I do about it? In what way am I not taking possession of my possessions? What is my role in helping others, especially leaders, to take possession of their possessions?

I am inclined to think  that what Schaeffer meant was that we Christians in the west do not consistently appropriate all that we have in Jesus and do not make the best use of what we have because we have Him, and He has us!

On May 21st this year I read the following: “Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.” Joshua 1:6 (ESV).

As I have been meditating on this verse, the idea of taking possession of possessions (and helping others do the same) popped into my head and I saw a correlation. God has land he wants to give me/us--not literal land, but things which I’ve inherited and have a right to because of who I am in Christ and who he is in me.

I am motivated to be used of the Lord to help leaders lay claim to all that is theirs in Jesus-all of it; all of their gifting, capacity and vision, all of the promises of God!

I wrote down Joshua 1:6 and made it my memory verse for June. I don’t want to miss out on anything the Lord Jesus has for me. I don’t want to be crawling around under the table looking for crumbs when on the top of the table is a banquet feast laid out for me, and for you as well.

My friend David also reminded me that there are over fifty differeent things I’ve inherited as a reult of  Jesus drewing me to himself. I’ve heard about this list before, but haven’t thought much about it for quite some time.

Lord Jesus, allow me, by your grace, to take full possession of everything which I possess because of your death, resurrection and the indwelling Holy Spirit. As I seek to influence leaders, use me to stretch them to take possession of all that you have for them--both in life and in ministry--as we are all led by you, empowered by you and seek to honor you!  In Jesus’ name, Amen!