Shepherds: the Sheep are Watching

design-26While it should be intuitive, I think it needs to be said: people follow their leaders. Leaders influence and impact. Those who lead others must understand their responsibility. Those we lead watch our behaviors. They listen to us talk. Whether intentional or not, followers pick up traits and characteristics from their leaders.

But some of the influence wielded by leaders morphs into, perhaps, unanticipated results. It may be assumed that a happy leader produces happy followers, but it’s not that simple.

At the risk of over simplification and generalizations, I think…

Angry shepherds lead wounded sheep.
Critical shepherds lead insecure sheep.
Disconnected shepherds lead wandering sheep.
Shallow shepherds lead vulnerable sheep.
Arrogant shepherds lead cynical sheep.
Manipulating shepherds lead confused sheep.
Selfish shepherds lead hungry sheep.
Doting shepherds lead entitled sheep.
Cowardly shepherds lead endangered sheep.                                                                                                                                            Rebel leaders lead rebellious sheep.

And

Compassionate shepherds lead recovering sheep.
Gracious shepherds lead transparent sheep.
Patient shepherds lead confident sheep.
Courageous shepherds lead secure sheep.
Consistent shepherds lead stable sheep.
Kind shepherds lead trusting sheep.
Nurturing shepherds lead healthy sheep.
Engaging shepherds lead connected sheep.
Serving shepherds lead committed sheep.                                                                                                                   Empowering shepherds lead growing sheep.

Of course, these are not written in stone, but you get the concept.

Leaders carry the heavy load of being influencers. If you are a leader, lead well. The wellbeing of the people you lead is dependent upon you.

Shepherds: the Sheep are Watching.

It’s not the “What” but the “How” (when your approach to leadership damages your leadership)

IMG_0279Most great leaders expend a lot of energy studying the nuances of leadership. We focus on improving our skills, growing in our capacities and becoming more effective as influencers. We are taught to zero in on mission and vision and goal setting. Our coaches stress topics such as authenticity, character and integrity. All of these are great and necessary parts of being a leader.

But there is something more that we may want to consider: How a topic is addressed may be as important as the topic itself.

How you approach and are perceived by the people you lead can make or break your leadership effectiveness. The best leadership strategy in the world can be shipwrecked by a lack of effective communication.

We know what we are thinking. We are sometimes task-driven and we expect everyone to be on the same page. In moments of pressure, we may cut some corners in regard to treating people with dignity and respect. And when this happens, it matters little what your intentions were. How you engage people overshadows what you hope to accomplish with them. Whether or not you intend it to be this way, people will perceive that the task is more important that the team.

How can this happen?

Am I inadvertently sending an unintended message?

Am I accidentally sabotaging organizational progress?

In what ways may a leader push the “how” rather than the “what”?

  • Disengaging from conversations before they are finished. A lack of patience is obvious to people and it sends a message – one that speak very loudly.
  • Allowing the emotions of the moment to drive the conversation. A raised voice, swear words, threats…these have no place in a mutually respectful leadership setting.
  • A cold shoulder. The silent treatment is for Jr. High. Professionals don’t behave in such immature ways.
  • Misleading followers. Your word is your most valuable asset. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Verbal game-playing destroys trust.
  • Practice what you preach. When you make a commitment to a team member or colleague, please fulfill it.
  • Building people up just to let them down. A common strategy for leaders who have to censure someone is to “sandwich” praise/rebuke/praise. While this may work with children, most adults simply want to know the truth. If you choose this method, expect people to think you are disingenuous.
  • Communicate only when you need something. I attempted to connect with a colleague for some time. He ignored me until he started consulting and needing clients. I then heard from him quite often. Message sent and received.
  • Using the wrong pronouns. Lewis B. Ergen said, “The ratio of We’s to I’s is the best indicator of the development of a team. “ If it’s always I, the how crushes the what.
  • Sitting behind a desk rather than sitting at a table. It may not seem like a big deal but people may interpret the barrier of furniture as protection or insulation. Even if they don’t, sitting at a table or in side chairs communicates togetherness and equality. Don’t derail your leadership by unintentionally communicating aloofness or, even worse, arrogance. I don’t want a desk to hide behind; I want a table to share.

These and many others are examples of how leaders can limit their effectiveness by getting the “how” wrong. When this happens, the “what” is never realized.

Let’s work as much on the “how” as we do the “what.” Our relationships will improve, our constituents will trust us more, and we will be more effective leaders.

Agree? What would you add to the list?

You’re More Influential Than You Think

design[4].pngMost of us sell ourselves short. We think we’re not making much of a difference. We assume that other people aren’t all that impacted by what we do. Let’s discuss it.

I believe you influence more people than you think and I believe you influence them in a deeper way than you might know.

Think about it:

  • Those whom you don’t know but know you; maybe the two of you never speak. It could be a neighbor or a friend of a friend. It could be the barista or a flight attendant. Just because you don’t know them doesn’t mean that they are unaware of you. They have an opinion about you.
  • Those you know: maybe those with whom you work or play sports or go to church. You impact them. You may think it is no big deal but if you interact with them, you are making some kind of difference in their life.
  • How about those who know you the best? Your spouse, parents, kids, best friends… I’m sure you are aware that you influence them but maybe you don’t know to what level. I can assure you – your impact on their lives is massive.

The purpose of this post is to help us take full advantage of the relationship opportunities we’ve been given.

You see…

Influence can be positive or negative.

Every word you speak, your body language, even the clothes you wear are noticed. If you return the shopping cart to the corral or don’t pick up after your dog, people notice. I realize we can’t live in the bondage of trying to always leave everyone with a positive impression. But how you treat people matters – a lot. They either feel better or worse after interacting with you.

You are an influential person. I encourage you to use that influence for good; make a positive difference. The world and the people in your life really need it.

Leadership Discretion Advised

Leadership Discretion AdvisedA few years ago, I posted a light-hearted social media comment about my favorite sports team that was headed to the World Series (go Cardinals!) I jokingly inferred that I might pray about getting tickets to one of the games. I thought very little of it (first mistake) and assumed it was humorous (second mistake.) Shortly thereafter I receive a private message from a colleague who is a few years my elder. He wisely advised me to consider the people I lead as regarding my recent post. His comments went something like this: “Recall that there are men under your leadership who are having a difficult time taking adequate care of their families because of financial limitations. Some are working two or three jobs to pay the bills. Also consider that these families sacrifice some of their income to send contributions to our denomination to support our leaders, like you. Considering the extreme cost of attending a World Series game, some of your team members may be offended that you are willing to spend so much money on a ball game when they can’t buy their kids new shoes. I would encourage you to use great discretion. You have influence, you don’t want to waste it.”

Wow! This man was a true friend that cared enough to share valuable wisdom with me. I received it and thanked him. That has been a couple of years ago but I still recall the conversation, often. I realize that some will come to my defense, will think that this guy should mind his own business and that I have the right to spend my money the way that I want. But, as a leader, I disagree. I must be conscientious. I must be aware of others. I must be willing to sacrifice some of my liberties if I am to be an effective leader. I must use discretion. If you feel as though what you do is no one’s business, you need to take a look at Biblical leadership and Christianity in general. We are responsible for and accountable to one another.

Just last night, I was making some observations on Facebook about a very popular football game. I was trying to make some life and leadership analogies by pointing out the failures of a particular player. You guessed it; some people were upset and offended. I now had three choices: defend myself and blast those who were offended, ignore those who were offended, or apologize. I chose the latter and removed my post. Like it or not, my role as a leader is more important than nonsense talk on social media.

As leaders, everything we do is examined under a microscope, as well it should be. The Scriptures tell us in James 3:1 that leaders (teachers) are held to a higher standard. Of course there can be excesses with this idea and some only want to place impossible expectations on those in authority. But the principle remains true: anyone who wants to lead must be willing to use a different filter for decision-making. Don’t misunderstand – there are issues of morality that we must defend regardless of who agrees. However, the nonessential issues that sometimes separate people are just not worth it.

Leaders are entitled to opinions about everything but it is immature and arrogant to share every opinion one has. As the leadership level increases, so the level of filter needs to increase. Think about this: you only get so much input into the lives of others before they lose interest or they tune you out. What kind of information is worthy of your influence?

I can be right. I can be informed. I can even out-argue some people. However, there is a bigger concern. As a leader, how am I influencing my constituents?

My advice to you? Use great discretion. By the way, you are entitled to disagree with my idea, just use discretion when expressing your ideas. I’ll keep working on it from my end.

Turns Out there is Hope After All

hope

It is July 4th week and there is a lot of talk about trouble in America. Many people are lamenting the spiritual condition of our country and some are even saying there is no hope for America.

After this week, I beg to differ.

We just finished a week of summer camp for teenagers. As I reflect on the experiences of the week, I have a renewed sense of hope and positivity. Here is why:

I met some young, dynamic spiritual leaders who are willing to sacrifice an easier life in order to serve as a positive influence in the lives of others. Leaders like E.J. Mirelez and Perseus and Lorena Gross (Confess and Be Free) and Israel and Erin Noboa care enough about today’s teenagers and tomorrow’s leaders that they give of themselves in unbelievable ways. They exude hope.

I watched adult local leaders, pastors, youth pastors and youth leaders serve the kids of their churches and communities. They did without sleep, they gave personal finances, they put up with nonsense – all because they believe in their kids. They are reason for hope.

I watched some pretty troubled kids be transformed. Many of the teenagers at camp come from very difficult backgrounds. Many of these kids do not have positive role models at home. Some are neglected and abused.  Some of them have little exposure to hope. But once they saw it in action, they embraced it! They are hope!

There is hope for the world! The future can be bright. We cannot give up on the possibility of our country and world turning to Christ. This week showed me that when true hope is offered, it is received.

Maybe instead of spending our time lamenting about how bad things are, we should get busy sharing hope. It works!