Five tests of a leader!

There are all kinds of potholes and minefields out there that leaders are susceptible to.  Here are five shared by Steve Graves.

Originally posted by Steve Graves

Some storms brew on the horizon. We can see them coming and we have time to maneuver. Other storms just drop out of the sky suddenly like a raging tornado, wreaking havoc on anything in its path. The storms of the heart are no different.

But make no mistake about it. So much of leadership rises and falls on our ability to pass these repeated tests of the soul. I wish they were just once in a lifetime, but they are daily and they last until our frail ending of life.

You might recall me making the case that all great leaders “manage meand manage others” in simultaneous concert. The great leaders direct energy toward their own development and growth, not just driving outcomes in others.

Here are a few common, but dangerous, storms that can wreak havoc in the heart of a leader. Every time we pass the test, our moral authority goes up. Every time we fail, our composite leader score is weakened.

1.  Greed –The temptation to have and hold more and more stuff that I don’t really need.

Louisa May Alcott captured the dangers of greed well, writing, “It does seem that the more one gets the more one wants.”

If we have money, we want more of it. If we have authority at work, we want more of it. If we’ve been to 10 countries, we want to visit 20.

To weather this storm, we must open our hands and move to a posture of giving. We must remember that we are only stewards of our possessions, and we must release what we own and want and have. Instead of clutching more tightly to the stuff that is or could be ours, we must choose to do the opposite. In one word … we need to Give.  

Where can you give this week? What can you give away?

2.  Lust –The temptation to wander with emotional and physical activity outside of my covenant with God and/or my spouse.

The young man Joseph, in the book of Genesis, was 30 and unmarried. He had a remarkable riches-to-rags-to-riches story and a lot of authority as chief of staff for a major figure in ancient Egypt. The only thing he didn’t have was a woman, and then his boss’s wife came calling. Joseph didn’t hesitate for an instant. He ran.

When fighting the squall of lust we must imitate Joseph’s decisiveness and hit the road. We will NEVER be successful coddling lust in our lap. Proverbs says it will burn us every time (Proverbs 6:27). Instead of thinking we can defeat lust or manage our level of involvement, we must choose to do the opposite. Avoid lingering in conversations or browsing the Internet. Invite trusted friends to ask tough questions in this area. In one word … we need to Flee.

Where do you need to flee today?

3.  Revenge –The temptation to settle the score or balance the injustice done to me.

Are you very good at forgiving and moving on? I am usually pretty good unless it has to do with something that has happened to me or those I care for. Get the irony?

You’ve no doubt heard of Malala Yousafzai, the young woman who was shot in the head by the Taliban for her efforts to promote the rights of young girls to attend school. Following her miraculous recovery, she became a global icon for women’s rights and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. While she seems to inspire everywhere she goes, I was particularly struck by a quote from her regarding forgiveness. Speaking about the very people that tried to kill her, she said, “I do not want revenge on the Taliban, I want education for sons and daughters of the Taliban.” Not only did she not seek retribution, she hoped for good.

Revenge is the tornado that starts spinning in us when an injustice has been done to us and we can’t move on. We must learn to not retaliate, to not strike back. We must allow God the right of way to settle wrongs done to us. Instead of lashing out or scheming to get even, we must choose to do the opposite. In one word … we need to Forgive.

Who do you need to forgive this week?    

4.  Independence –The temptation to fly solo. The feeling that no one can really identify with my world and that I am all by myself to sort out and navigate life.

In the early years of the Christian church, hundreds of devout believers flocked to the desert. In an attempt to lead a holy life, far from the temptations of the Roman world, they consciously separated themselves from that world. While this often led to sincere devotion and even spiritual insight, it also necessarily excluded community. Speaking to the latter concern, one of the early fathers of the Church, Basil of Caesarea, wrote, “When we live our lives in isolation, what we have is unavailable and what we lack is unprocurable.”

Put simply, we need community. We need it for our own good, and for the good of others.

We must fight unhealthy independence. There is a healthy independence and an unhealthy independence. Unhealthy independence thinks no one can possibly equal our pain, that I alone am the answer to all my dilemmas and if it is going to be … it’s up to me (always). In other words, I am alone with no equal, peer, or community.

To fight this hurricane we must risk leaning in toward others with transparency and vulnerability. Instead of pulling away, we must find a handful of individuals with whom we can be authentic and with whom we can reveal our hearts and minds. In one word … we need to Engage.  

Are you suffering from unhealthy independence?

5.  Pride –The temptation to think that I am the sole source of success, significance, and security. It is the mindset that the world revolves around me.

Jerry Bridges, in his book Respectable Sins, says that it is “our pride of an independent spirit that makes us unteachable and unsubmissive.” Ouch. He hit storms #4 and #5 in less than one sentence.

To battle this storm, we must acknowledge that we are not the sole cause of our success, and we must learn to lift others up as a key part of our success. In short, we must give credit where credit is due. Instead of sliding into self-focus and arranging all of life around ourselves, we must choose the opposite. In one word … we need to Share.

Where do you need to share credit?

I call these five items “storms” or “tests.”  Tim Keller calls them “Counterfeit Gods” and in his book of the same name, he adds the subtitle: “When the Empty Promises of Love, Money and Power Let You Down.” (You can read a review here:

And these counterfeit gods will let you down. I’ve seen it in my own life and in the lives of friends, acquaintances, clients, and business associates. Over and over again, someone thinks he can handle the storm, but instead he gets pummeled.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The five tests mentioned above all require the same winning strategy. Notice that success with any of these storms requires an atypical, anti-gravitational response.

When a whitewater rafter is caught in a suck hole on the backside of a rock, he must act counterintuitively. To survive he must remove his life vest and allow the rushing foaming water to thrust him to the river bottom. He must go against his natural inclinations. Only then can he get a firm footing to shoot through the death loop all the way to the surface. Any other move will render the swimmer dead.

Likewise, when you face a storm of the heart, you must do the opposite of what will almost certainly feel natural. When tempted with greed, we must give. When tempted with pride, we must share. And so on. Until our frail ending of life.




Are you enjoying or enduring?

"…they were filled with joy when they saw their Lord."

 -John 20:20, NLT

Jesus, thank you for the joy I experience most of the time. I have great joy in seeing you at work around me, in my family and among those I am privileged to work with. Your joy is my strength (Neh 8:10).

I have joy in knowing:

--->Nothing is impossible for You

--->You are a loving Sovereign

--->You are at work all around me

--->You are bearing fruit through me

Many years ago, when I was just getting started in ministry, one of my Navigator leaders, Skip Gray preached to a bunch of us from 1 Timothy 6:17,

 “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” 

Skip camped on the last part of the verse and pointedly asked us, “Are you enjoying or enduring what God has given/provided”?

  • Are you enjoying your family or enduring your family?
  • Are you enjoying your responsibilities or enduring your responsibilities?
  • Are you enjoying the people the Lord has given you to shepherd and equip or enduring them?
  • Are you enjoying your relationship with your immediate supervisor or enduring it?

Frankly I don’t see a lot of joy among some of the leaders I know.  I see hard work, I see long hours, I see difficult decisions, but what I don’t see is a deeply felt joy based on a quiet trust in Jesus as the blessed controller of all things in my life. I sincerely hope that this is not the new normal…no joy!


Ten personal resolutions guaranteed to improve your ministry leadership

Many of you have heard of or read Jonathan Edwards list of resolves. Here is another list of “Resolutions” for leaders from Ron Edmondson that he guarantees will improve your ministry leadership.

Originally posted by Ron Edmondson

10 Personal Resolutions Guaranteed to Improve Your Ministry Leadership

The best leadership, in my opinion, comes out of the resolve a leader has made in his or her heart.

The resolve of a leader is a pre-determined approach to way a leader will lead. These are personal convictions, values, personally held beliefs, which shape decisions a leader makes and the way responds to others.

Your personal resolve – about anything – always determines the way you respond and your actions towards it.

Most often these resolutions are made even prior to being in a leadership position.

The resolve of a leader is powerful. In fact, if leader wants to improve his or her leadership, he or she must often improve first their personal resolve.

So, do you want to improve your leadership?

Here are 10 personal resolutions guaranteed to improve your ministry leadership:

1.  I resolve to never compromise my character in my search for progress.

2.  I resolve to consistently be walking by faith – willing to risk for the sake of God’s call on my life.

3.  I resolve to pray earnestly before I make major decisions and solicit others to join me in discerning God’s direction for our team and my leadership.

4.  I resolve to extend grace freely, empower others, and realize mistakes made and learned from are a part of healthy discipleship.

5.  I resolve to protect my family time – never compromising it in the name of ministry.

6.  I resolve to make my personal health a priority and discipline myself to stay as healthy as possible.

7.  I resolve to allow trials and turmoil to draw me closer to Christ and shape my character for good.

8.  I resolve to love the seemingly unloveable – even those with whom I do not agree – responding to darkness around me with the love and light of Christ.

9.  I resolve to pray for my enemies, extend grace liberally, offer forgiveness readily and never hold a grudge.

10.  I resolve to surround myself with wise and moral influencers, allowing at least a few people access to know and speak into the deepest and most private parts of my life.



Ten situations where you don't really need a leader

Sometimes you don't need a leader but a manager. Ron Edmondson shares with us ten different situations where you really don’t need a leader.

Originally posted by Ron Edmondson

I talk a lot about leadership. A mentor of mine says everything rises and falls on leadership. (I know he’s repeating someone else, but to me – he says it.) I have an advanced degree in leadership. I believe it’s an important subject – for organizations and the church.

But, here’s the truth: You don’t always need a leader.

Sometimes organizations, churches, corporate worlds – should simply send the leaders home. They don’t want and don’t need them. 

I once interviewed for a position I really wanted. I was so excited about the opportunity and really – even to this day – believe I could have done some incredible things with this company. (This position was in the business world – not the ministry world.)

I would have basically ran a company for owners who were retiring. It was between me and another person. The other person was an operation manager. I was in a senior leadership position, where we had experienced explosive growth and change in recent years.

The bottom line in the decision process was whether the owners wanted someone to maintain the business as they were leaving it – or someone who would take the business to something new – hopefully (at least I felt we could), somewhere beyond where it had ever been. They opted to leave things as they were. I understood and admitted I wasn’t a good fit for them. 

No hard feelings – maybe some initial disappointment, but I understood. They didn’t need a leader.  


Here are 10 times you don’t need a leader:


1.  You don’t need a leader if there is no risk involved.


2.  You don’t need a leader to maintain status quo.


3.  You don’t need a leader if it doesn’t involve change.


4.  You don’t need a leader if you already have all the answers.


5.  You don’t need a leader if every outcome is predetermined.


6.  You don’t need a leader to manage current systems.


7.  You don’t need a leader to keep things the way they’ve always been done.


8.  You don’t need a leader if the structure, or tradition, or popular opinion, has already dictated the decision.


9.  You don’t need a leader to give everyone what they want.


10.  You don’t need a leader if “safe” is what you’re looking to achieve.


We need leaders – lots of them, in my opinion, but there’s no sense recruiting a leader unless you need one. The best time to determine this is on the front end, before the person is recruited to do the job. 

I give this advice frequently now to churches seeking a new pastor. I’ve given it to business owners who are seeking to fill an internal position. I’ve shared it with non-profits who are looking for board members or key volunteers. Sometimes knowing what you are seeking helps eliminate frustration – from both parties – in the future. 



Who are you becoming? Part 2

On Monday of this week I posted the first of a two-part series on, “Who Are You Becoming?

I postulated that there are two key questions to be asked: 

    1.  Who are you?

    2.  Who are you becoming?

If you haven’t read the first post on “Who Are You Becoming,” may I suggest that you read it before reading this.

I started out by saying that who you are becoming will result from

  • The way you chose your books
  • The way you choose your friends
  • The way your steward your finances
  • The way you invest your time

On Monday I dealt with your books. Today let’s cover:

  • Your friends
  • Your finances
  • Your time

---> Your Friends:

I’m inclined to believe that most people have fewer friends than they think they do. We have a lot of people we know, we have a lot of “Hi, how are you” people we bump into and a lot of relationships through work, neighborhood, church and other clubs or organizations to which we may belong. If you have 2-5 really good, close, dependable honest friends, you are doing well.  I have discovered that men (I can’t speak for women) have very few friends. As a guy, if you have one or two friends you’re doing well.

I think we all need friends who accept us, believe in us, will be honest with us and will stick with us come what may. The kinds of “friends” you surround yourself with will be a large part of who you become.

I also believe that I should decide who my friends are and not let those who want to be my friend decide for me. You and I don’t have the time to invest in lots of friendships, so it’s essential to pick friends carefully. I want friends who inspire me, challenge me, encourage me and love me for who I am--not what they want or expect me to be. Your real friends who travel with you for years will have a great deal of influence on who you become. Bad friends will cause your downfall and good friends will help your soar. Choose wisely!

 ---> Your Finances:

I am still amazed at the number of young people I have been associated with who have (before the age of 35) managed to get themselves $30,000-$50,000 in debt due to school loans, credit card purchases and, generally, poor stewardship of the money the Lord allows them to have.  Someone said, “Money talks and what it most often says is ‘goodbye’.” One easy principle is to spend less than you earn and do it for a long time. I can’t figure out why the U.S. government can’t get this straight. I learned early in my Christian experience to:

  • Give 10%
  • Save 10%
  • Spend 80%

Over time we can decrease spending and increase giving and saving. The bottom line is people spend too much and give and save too little. Many people I know give little, save nothing and spend 110%. How do they spend 110%? By using a credit card. I won’t go into solutions here on how to get out and stay out of debt. There are numerous books and websites dealing with this. The most well-known finance guy out there is Dave Ramsey.

At the top of the list of things that lead to a troubled marriage (and, in some cases, divorce) is not agreeing on the stewardship of the family finances or spending yourselves into a deep financial hole that leads to endless arguments, dissension and discord in the family.

How you steward our finances will significantly determine who you become.

---> Your Time:

Last, but certainly not least, is how you invest your time. I often hear people say, “I would love to do this or that, but I just don’t have the time.” With all due respect, that is a bald-faced lie. Time is never the issue. Priorities are the issue. You have the same amount of time from the day you were born until the day you die. You have 168 hours a week, every week. You have the same amount of time as every person who has ever lived.

Some accomplish a great deal and make significant contributions with their time, while others fritter away their time and opportunities and wish for more time, which they will never get.

On my website, under the “Articles” tab, you will find something I wrote titled,“The Time of Your Life.” Please read this if you feel there's never enough time and you are constantly behind in getting things done which you think are important.

+ So, who are you becoming? 

  • Are you a reader of good books?
  • Are you choosing good friends?
  • Are you a good steward of your finances?
  • Are you investing your time wisely?

In what area do you need to grow?