the new “no”

What do you think of this statement? “No response is the new ‘no’.” Here is what I mean: When you ask someone for something or request someone to get involved in a particular thing and you hear nothing back from them…you can assume that the answer is “no.” Apparently it is no longer necessary to actually say “no”. Saying nothing at all will suffice.

Our church staff experiences this frequently. My daughter, Jessica is a missionary and has to search for churches in which to raise support. From what she tells me, it is very common to receive no response at all from Pastors. Voicemails and emails remain unanswered most of the time.

I know I have been guilty of this. I get a message from a salesman or a band or an itinerate preacher who wants to be invited to come to our church. It is always uncomfortable to make that return call. I’d rather not, but I try. Putting myself on the other end of that call, I would rather hear a “no” than to be left hanging.

I just wanted to post this as an encouragement to leaders. People deserve to be treated with respect. It doesn’t feel good to be on the receiving end of a “no” response, but it sure beats being left hanging.  We realize it is difficult to do. But go ahead and respond – with a “no” (assuming your answer is not “yes”).  You will feel better and the person you are responding to will feel better.  And then they can move on to the next person they need to ask.

don’t forget the most important stuff

A few weeks ago, we were headed to a conference for the purpose of giving exposure to our missions work. When we arrived at the airport, we realized we had left all of our presentation materials back at home. I had to go back home to get them, and I ended up flying standby. Otherwise, we would have been without the most important stuff – the very reason for our trip.
Warren Bennis, leadership guru says, “I’ve never seen anyone derailed from top leadership because of a lack of business literacy or conceptual skills: it’s always because of lapses of judgment and questions about character. Always.
It seems to me that there is a sufficient amount of emphasis on skills development and strategy engagement among leaders. Bennis is right – know-how is not the problem when someone fails.  The problem almost always is, leaders lose their bearings.  They have a moral lapse. They fail and fall.
I see four key reasons why leaders are prone to omit issues of character and integrity:
·      Forgetting what brought success. Honesty and integrity are not very glamorous foundations, but must be maintained in order to prevent moral failure.
·      Corruption from outside sources. Unscrupulous characters will be attracted to success. Know who they are and avoid them!
·      Arrogance of success. Pride is the greatest enemy of leaders. Stay humble; stay on track.
·      Too busy to pay attention to details. Never become so preoccupied with leading that you forget to focus on small, important, moment-by-moment decisions.
Leaders (and followers) don’t forget the most important thing – your character.

learning to lead

An unbelievably large amount of material has been produced in the last few years on the topic of becoming a better leader. Some people are tired of the subject and others think they are excluded from the conversation because they don’t perceive themselves to be in a leadership position. Neither of these approaches are good because both of them will prevent us from accomplishing what really needs to get done in life. We cannot afford to get tired of studying leadership principles because they are ever-evolving. And yes, you are a leader! That simply means that someone is looking up to you, following you, watching you as an example.

So how do we learn leadership?

Most of us learn by reading. Good leaders are good readers. I think that if you are not perpetually working your way through some type of leadership material, you probably aren’t very serious about improving as a leader. Don’t know where to start? Try your public library. Walmart, amazon.com, and a thousand websites and blogs will provide a lifetime worth of decent material. Just start reading.

Leadership conferences are all the rage these days. I receive invitations to dozens of leadership conferences every month. Many of these meetings are great and offer world-class training. Others aren’t, in my opinion, worth the price of admission.  And I think the trap for some has become, being conference-active and leadership-weak. Eventually we have to stop running around the country listening to Chan and Hybels and Maxwell and we have to get to work. If you’ve been privileged to attend conferences, stay home for a while and use what you’ve learned.

Most people learn by experience. In every one of my leadership appointments, I wasn’t adequately prepared for the challenges that were ahead of me – I had to learn on the fly. There is nothing like trial and error to teach us what to do and what not to do.  This can be a painful experience for both the leader and the followers but it is a necessary element in individual and corporate growth. Don’t be afraid to jump into the deep end of the pool – just be sure you are in a culture that provides life preservers (systems and safety nets for a growing leader).

I learn most by watching a leader in action. Yesterday I was able to be in a lengthy meeting with a leader that I admire. We were wrestling with some tough issues, decisions that had to be made that required strength and courage and wisdom. A few times throughout the day, I watched his facial expressions and his body language.  I listened to the way he addressed his fellow leaders around the table. And I took note. We all observed how he worked his way through a difficult agenda. I think I left the meeting as a better leader.

I learn the most by watching a leader lead. I learn when I follow. Come to think of it, that is how the greatest leader of all time did His best leadership training. Jesus asked His disciples to follow Him. As they spent 3 plus years shadowing Jesus, the disciples learned how to lead, how to respond to critics, how to care for the hurting, how to make decisions. They learned how to live and how to die.

No matter what you are reading, regardless of the latest conference you’ve attended, no matter in what capacity you find yourself leading, my question is: from whom are you learning leadership? Who are you following, observing close enough to learn from? Watch them. If they are a good leader, get closer and emulate them. Lean in. If they are a bad leader, learn what not to do and keep on looking for a good leader to follow.

That’s how we learn to lead.

critics are a dime a dozen

Today’s post is a bit of a rant. Allow me to vent, just a little.

Again today, I saw some shining examples of people who get a kick out of shooting holes in the efforts of others who are doing God’s work. There seems to be a steady supply of “experts” whose sole purpose is to expose what others are doing wrong. I will use this as my format to request that unless you are doing something better than what someone else is doing, please leave them alone.

No, I didn’t get criticized today. But some good friends and organizations that I support did. Our efforts to reach the lost and minister to the hurting will ALWAYS be met with criticism. It happened to Jesus, I suppose we should be honored when it happens to us. But we don’t feel honored – we feel frustrated! My experience is, those who are always telling me a better way of fulfilling the mission of Jesus, do nothing to fulfill the mission themselves.

Here are some over-generalized statements on how I feel: Armchair quarterbacks are all talk and no action. People who tell guitar players they are too loud, can’t play one song. Those who tell preachers their theological mistakes don’t have the guts to preach even one message. Those who criticize the efforts of missionaries to spread the love of Jesus are too lazy to lift a finger for the Gospel’s sake. I know several who qualify for the above generalizations!

Elbert Hubbard said, “To escape criticism: do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” Kind of like our critics, huh?

I love how Jesus responded to the Pharisees when they criticized Him for healing the sick on the Sabbath.  He simply ignored them and got on with the healing. Awesome!

Anyone interested in personal and spiritual growth understands and embraces the value of constructive criticism. We all need that. But none of us need the aggravation that comes from perpetually negative critique.

Friends, don’t let some naysayer discourage you. Do what God tells you. And forget the knuckleheads who are doing nothing.

Ok, thanks for letting me get that off my chest. Oh, and if you disagree with me on this, keep it to yourself. We are too busy doing God’s work to care what you think! 🙂