Archive for Leadership
Here’s a great blog post from Michael Hyatt on 5 Characteristics of Weak Leaders. It’s worth 5 minutes of your time.
I like Patrick Lencioni, and have read the majority of the books he’s published. Two of them have been extremely helpful: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars. His latest work is titled, The Advantage—How to Develop Organizational Health. The short of it is that the most important metric for measuring ongoing organizational success is its health. While organizational health is not as snazzy as sales figures and other more discernable data, health is extremely important for an organization if it is going to remain viable and withstand the rapid shifts in our culture and economy. And, as the title suggests, healthy organizations maintain a strong advantage over those that are not healthy.
Lencioni offers four practical suggestions on how to develop organizational health that is beneficial to for profits and not for profits like churches.
The first discipline is to build a cohesive leadership team. Healthy teams are characterized as those where trust is forged through vulnerability and conflict is tolerated around important issues. Team members hold one another accountable for commitments as well as behaviors. Above all, each team member must place the organization above their own private interests.
The second discipline of the healthy organization is to create clarity so that everyone in unified around purposes, values, strategies, and goals. Clarity allows the leadership team to hold in common the significant matters of the organization and to align themselves accordingly. Communication is free because each member of the team is on the same page.
Once clarity is created the team works to over-communicate clarity. Clarity is not achieved until information is thoroughly passed along from the leadership team to the rest of the organization. Each member of the team must leave leadership team meetings with the intent to accurately articulate the six aspects of clarity to each employee.
Finally, clarity is reinforced by communicating the values, goals, purposes, and strategies of the organization to new employees. Those who don’t fit the mold are either coached up or moved out. Compensation and rewards are built around the values and goals of the organization.
I mentioned at the front of this post that I like Lencioni. His common sense approach and simple style make his coaching accessible to those of us who have yet to earn that M.B.A. Church leaders can benefit from The Advantage. His emphasis on communication within the framework of an organization is worth the price of the book.
Those of you who know me are aware that I am an avid reader. I try to read broadly across many subjects including those that inform my work in pastoral ministry. At any given time I’ll have two to four books going in addition to the materials I read for sermon preparation. As my wife would say to her kindergarten class, “Books are our friends,” and in my experience, the authors of those books become counselors who challenge my thinking and provide wisdom for decisions that I face.
The most influential book I read last year (2011) is a book by Edwin Friedman titled Failure of Nerve. This book came to me at a particular time when I was facing some significant decisions. His work, published posthumously, continues to speak to me in 2012. Among the leadership lessons I learned from Friedman, I cite the following as most helpful:
1. Those who wish to disrupt leadership will always frame the problem in terms of liberty and order, while those in leadership will always see the problem as one of order and chaos.
2. Sabotage comes with the territory of leadership.
3. A society cannot evolve, no matter how much freedom is guaranteed, when the citizenry is more focused on one another than on their own beliefs and values.
4. Consensus will always be sought by those who value “we” over what is “right.”
5. Just because the page is torn off the calendar does not mean that unit of time has ceased to exist.
6. It’s always easier to be the least functional person in a high functioning society than to be a high functioning person in a dysfunctional society.
7. Well differentiated leadership (charting one’s own way by means of one’s own internal guidance system rather than perpetually eyeing the “scope” to see where others are at) is the solution to chronically anxious relationship systems.
These seven take-aways are a brief sampling of the content of the book. If you find any number of them compelling, the text as a whole will fill in any gaps or provide further detail. If you’re a leader of an organization, group, club, or team of any size or shape, I’d recommend Friedman’s book. His wisdom and insights will give you the perspective your need to make.
Those of you who are closely associated with me and the ministry at First Baptist Church here in Des Moines know that we’re deep in the weeds of staffing. I stumbled upon this interesting article from The Atlantic about hiring friends and thought you might find it helpful. You can check out Jordan Weissmann’s article by CLICKING HERE.
Throughout the years I’ve participated in hiring people I knew as well as hiring total strangers. Each one has pros and cons. To say the least I was a bit surprised at his research claims, but nonetheless his logic makes sense. What do you think? What have your experiences been?
Check out this article from Reuters that discusses the increased number of bank foreclosures on churches in America. You can find the article here from Reuters.com. In the past, banks have exhibited a great deal of leniency with struggling churches, in part I believe, because they didn’t want the negative public relations reaction from communities and because church buildings, frankly, are hard to re-sell. What does this say to you about the economy? How does this article inform church leaders today about how they approach debt?
Art Rainer has posted a handy infographic on the Millennials, the generation between 18-29 years old. Notice that this generation is the most irreligious generation in America today. Check it out by clicking here.
If I’m going to pick a “don’t miss this” lesson from Joshua 5, it’s going to be that before we can lead we must be led. Christian leaders are followers first. So why is this so important? Am I just trying to pay lip service to God? Chapter 6 gives us the reason.
After his introduction to the commander of the Lord’s army, the commander gave Joshua the battle plan for Jericho. The people were to march around the walls once a day in silence for six days. On the seventh day they were to march around the walls seven times and then shout when the priests blew their trumpets. Then, the walls would fall down.
I don’t know how Joshua felt when he heard those instructions, but if it would have been me, I think my response would have been, “Seriously? You’ve got to be kidding!”
You see, the land would be conquered by faith, not by fighting. God never asked Joshua to assume responsibility for conquering the land for He had already given Joshua and the people the land. All they had to do was follow, even when following didn’t make sense or meet their standards of logic and reason.
Are you a leader? Is God calling you to lead? Before you dive into that opportunity of service, remember the most important lesson about leadership you’ll ever learn: leaders are followers first.
When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told. (Joshua 5:13-15, NLT)
Put yourself in Joshua’s shoes for a moment. What would you do if you came face to face with the commander of the Lord’s army? We can learn several things from Joshua’s experience. His first response was to fall prostrate before the figure in worship. The second thing he did was surrender to him, confessing his submission. Notice that Joshua did not bother to reference his own command and the resources he had at his disposal. When you come face to face with ultimate power, who you are and what you have is of little importance.
When he submitted himself to the divine authority, he was then ready for God’s self disclosure. God disclosed himself as holy. I think one of the mistakes we make in our theology is to try to define God by our own units of measure. In other words, we try to see ways in which God is like us. Here’s an important reminder we each need to hear: God is not like you and me. God is God and we are not, for He is holy.
Finally, we see Joshua’s obedience. Upon God’s self disclosure of himself as the holy one and the request for Joshua to remove his sandals, the text tells the reader that Joshua simply did what he was told. He obeyed.
The point of this important passage is that Joshua had to learn to follow before he could learn to lead. Great leaders are followers first. We see that principal on the battle field as well as the field of play. We also see it affirmed in the New Testament. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul encouraged those believers to “imitate” him in the same fashion he “imitated” Christ. We also see this principle occur during the ministry of Jesus in his conversation with the centurion. In Luke 7:8, the centurion told Jesus that “he too was a man UNDER authority.” At first glance you might suspect that the centurion misspoke, or perhaps your Bible has a typo. But the centurion did not make a mistake. He realized the truth that any authority we possess to lead is rooted in one’s ability to follow first.
I think a lot of people, even in Christian circles, misunderstand leadership at this point. The Bible is filled with men and women who expressed leadership and made invaluable contributions to the work of the Kingdom of God. But they did so as followers first. When leaders forget to follow first, trouble is not far.
Tomorrow I’ll conclude this week’s series from Joshua 5 by briefly describing the importance of following first.
My guess is that you had a hero when you were growing up. Maybe it was an athlete or a musician. Or an actor or some other entertainer. Perhaps it was a teacher or a coach. Your hero could have been a parent or an older sibling. I think those influences served us well, helping to shape us into the persons we are today.
Without question, Joshua was the recognized human leader of the Israelites. He was the person out in front, providing direction to the multitude. Even the book that contains his story bears his name as the title. So one could make the case that as the leader he was also the hero of the narrative. But is that really the case?
Up to this point in the story, we have read how the Israelites miraculously crossed the Jordan River. As they prepared for their first objective, the entire male population underwent the ceremony of circumcision. The nation then observed Passover for the first time since leaving the Egyptian border. One interesting side bar that should be noted is that the manna that had faithfully fallen from the skies for forty years unceremoniously stopped as the people began to eat freely of the produce in Canaan.
The next event is very interesting.
“When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, ‘Are you friend or foe?’ ‘Neither one,’ he replied. ‘I am the commander of the LORD’s army.’ At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. ‘I am at your command,’ Joshua said. ‘What do you want your servant to do?’ The commander of the LORD’s army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did as he was told” (Joshua 5:13-15, NLT).
The text pictures Joshua near objective one, Jericho, possibly surveying the fortified walls of the city and the surrounding terrain. His concentration was broken when he came face to face with a man with a drawn sword. Who was this person? Many Old Testament scholars suggest that this was a theophany, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. It would be hard to determine with any degree of certainty that that was the case here, although the text that follows supports the idea, given Joshua’s reverential response to him.
Joshua’s first concern with the person was where he stood in relationship to himself. “Are you friend or foe?” The response he received from the character is strong. He replied, “Neither.” In essence he said, “I’ve not come to take sides, I’ve come to take over.”
Now to my point. Yes, to a degree Joshua was the hero of the book. But the real hero of the story was God. The same is true today. God calls special people to specific places to accomplish His sovereign purposes. But no human character ever upstages God. Unfortunately, leaders can sometime assume the posture of the hero, insisting that God “join their team” and support their heroic behaviors. But Kingdom economics don’t work that way. God is the hero, and human leaders are always the supporting cast.
Tomorrow I’ll post a few more thoughts regarding the conversation between Joshua and the armed commander of the Lord’s army.
One of the blogs I follow on a daily basis is Scot McKnight’s page at patheos.com titled Jesus Creed. Today McKnight has offered an excellent post on Deborah and the value she brings to the ongoing conversation regarding women in leadership and women in ministry. You can find the post here.