5 Quick (and Easy) Things You Can Do to Improve Your Leadership Skills

design1. Strategic Reading. No one who leads has a lot of extra time to read everything. And so much of what is available is redundant or shallow. Find your theme, do your research and read. Read less but read deep. Don’t try to retain everything or read too much, but read, and do so strategically.

2. Network with Similar Souls. You need to know you’re not alone. Isolation is dangerous. You need to be encouraged and you need to encourage another leader. Find a friend with whom you can commiserate. Make one another better.

3. Network with Someone who is Different. Don’t sleep with the enemy but find someone who opposes you, stands for the “other side” of things. Don’t argue; dialogue. Don’t seek to change them, seek to gain info, understand more deeply, and learn.

4. Commit to Grow (until you die). When you stop improving, you start failing. Keep learning new things; stay challenged. This requires humility and passion.

5. Serve someone. Don’t look for someone who can pay you back. Don’t serve to be seen. Find someone who doesn’t deserve it. Serve them. Keep quiet about it. Service is the core of leadership.

Ok, I misled you. I said in the title that these things are quick and easy. They are neither. In actuality, these things are hard, sometimes very hard. However, the more you practice them, the quicker and easier they will become. And the impact they will have on your leadership skills makes them well worth the effort. Put them into practice, you and those you lead will be glad you did.

A Call for Humility

IMG_2194There is irony in anyone writing an article on the topic of humility. How does one become arrogant and presumptuous enough to address the need for humility in others? Indulge me for a moment.

Andrew Murray said, “Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.” It seems that not enough of heaven is living in our world today. We know that until the Kingdom of Christ is established, we will struggle with the human dilemma of pride. But the pain of division, strife and war, much of it caused by our arrogance, is staggering. It seems that some adjustments must be made.

We think that our way is superior. We believe that we are better than others. We dare to assume we know more about others than they know about themselves. We have the nerve to determine the best course of life for those around us. We presume that our opinion is God’s opinion. “The proud wish God would agree with them. They are not interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s.” (Ezra Taft Benson) The whole time, we ignore our lack of humility.

Humility may be defined as “a modest view of one’s importance.” We are not to demean or disrespect ourselves. But the Bible instructs us to not think too highly of ourselves. (Romans 12:3) It is a struggle for many. We think our opinions are always right – it is human nature.

But the damage that is done in relationships by a lack of humility is immeasurable.

Not only does a lack of humility destroy relationships, it destroys us. “Time and time again does the pride of man influence his very own fall. While denying it, one gradually starts to believe that he is the authority, or that he possesses great moral dominion over others, yet it is spiritually unwarranted. By that point he loses steam; in result, he falsely begins trying to prove that unwarranted dominion by seizing the role of a condemner.” (Criss Jami, Salomé: In Every Inch In Every Mile)

I feel compelled to ask you, please consider a more humble approach to life. If you spend time pointing out the faults of others. If you assume that you know more than others know. If you think that you are superior to others. If you disrespect others. If you refuse to consider that you could be wrong. If your opinion is God’s opinion. There is a problem.

The problem with humility is, if it is missing, one may not detect it. We can spot it in others, but we can’t detect it in ourselves.

A moment of quiet reflection: Take a few minutes to sit still and listen to the Lord. Allow Him, if necessary, to point out areas where you may be suffering from a lack of humility. I promise you, I am doing this right now and I have much work to be done in this area.

And hence, as I write about humility, I must be humble enough to consider that I could be all wrong!

Not Everyone Wants You to Succeed

30705103_10156353004229214_3194911651212840577_nMost people in the church are good. The vast majority of the people whom I have served as a pastor or in ministry in general had pure motives and could be trusted. But there are a few, just a minority, that seek to destroy, or at least are happy when destruction comes.

A church member once told me that she has purposefully not spoken to me in 2 months. She wanted to see how long it would take me to approach her. She was testing me – and I failed. Apparently she couldn’t take it any longer and let me know that I messed up. I apologized for my oversight. I hadn’t neglected her on purpose. There were about 500 other people in the church with whom I was trying to interact. Clearly, she wanted me to fail – she set me up – and it worked.

As a college student, I worked part time as a church janitor. For the record, this was the best ministry training I ever received. One of the Deacons secretly placed a toothpick in the corner of the restroom floor as a way of checking to see if I was doing my job. Thankfully, I had been doing my job and the Deacon let me know. But I often wondered what other traps he had set for me.

Once again, most folks are good folks and want others to succeed. But there are a few snakes in the grass. They are the saboteurs; the underminers. They set traps and lurk in the corner, waiting for the next victim.

What is the motivation for this type of behavior?

Some want others to fail because it makes them feel better about their own failure.

Some want us to fail so they can swoop in like a vulture to steal away what we have worked for.

Some are wicked and seek to destroy anything good.

Clearly, these people are dysfunctional. And they can ruin the lives of others.

What are we supposed to do about this?

Guard yourself! Be aware that not everyone is on your side, even if they repeatedly say they are.

Be slow to trust people. Don’t place your reputation in the hands of unproven individuals.

Work hard so as to remove any opportunity for these people to try to make you look bad.

But more than any of these things…

Keep your heart soft and your spirit tender.

My motivation for writing this article is to try to help prevent colleagues from becoming bitter about the pain they endure. Too many leaders who have been in the game for a while get injured. They drop their guard and get blindsided. The result is, they become overly sensitive, defensive and suspicious. Over time, the heart becomes calloused. This is an attempt at self-preservation but the result is self-destruction.

When we begin to expect the worst out of people, this is what we will experience. Let’s understand the concept of self-fulfilling prophets. They are the people who state that a project or person will fail – and they do everything in their power to assure that they are correct. If we are not careful, we can adopt this as a leadership style. If we expect people to stab us in the back, we can create the opportunity for that to happen. Don’t allow your pain to provide ammo for those who are trying to hurt you more.

Don’t allow yourself to expect the worst. Don’t get bitter. Forgive those who hurt you, even if they don’t want or deserve it.

If you can survive the attempts to make you fail, your success rate will increase. But more importantly, you will maintain a pure heart, which is vitally important for success. In fact, these days, having a pure heart may be THE definition of success.

Add to all this, the knowledge that God wants you to succeed! So much so that He provides a surefire way to insure it:

Study this Book (the Scriptures) of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” Joshua 1:8 (NLT)

Encouragement for the Dis-Couraged Leader

designI purposefully hyphenated the word discouraged.

The prefix “dis” is defined this way: “a Latin prefix meaning “apart,” “asunder,” “away,” “utterly,” or having a privative, negative, or reversing force.” (dictionary.com)

So, a person who is discouraged is the opposite of courageous. Perhaps not cowardly, but certainly far from brave.

Unfortunately, this describes many leaders I know. Confidence eludes them. Optimism is a million miles away. Is this because they are poor leaders? I don’t think so. I think the source of discouragement is much deeper than a performance consideration. But rather than dig into the cause of discouragement for leaders, I want to spend a moment exploring reasons to be encouraged.

Think about this:

You see only with your eyes. The true measure of your work is probably unseen physically but it is revealed spiritually. In other words, you don’t know the good you are accomplishing. Don’t get too down over a lack of measurable progress. I think you are having a greater impact that you realize.

You are not called to be successful in the eyes of the world; you are called to be faithful to your God. Our culture measures success by the amount of money and fame we possess. Like the weather, these things can change in a moment. God defines success by faithfulness. You’ll never be a celebrity, but you will be rewarded for obeying the Lord – whether or not you are famous.

You are not alone. Leading is the loneliest job in the world and sometimes the solitude can result in discouragement. Jesus has promised to be with you to the very end. And you have colleagues who care about you. Maybe they are too busy to let you know, but you are important to them. And by the way, don’t be too busy to check in on your leader-friends.

Your discouragement can actually become a tool to help others. Most of the people you lead are currently dealing with a similar issue. They are looking for a way through the puzzle. Who better to lead them than one who has recently escaped from the maze of discouragement? If you stay stuck in the trap of being downcast, they will stay stuck with you. Lead yourself and others out of the cloud of discouragement.

Your hard work and dedication will eventually pay off. One of the sources of discouragement is fatigue. We simply get tired of pushing the rock up the hill with no end in sight. Anybody can be happy when everything is going well. But true leaders have to forge ahead against the wind and in the face of lots of opposition. This can wear you down. But please be aware that the investments you are making now will have big results. It is a spiritual law that cannot be broken – you reap what you sow. If you will be faithful, even in the little things, God will multiply it.

One day, when the journey is finished, I believe that you will receive the ultimate affirmation. The Scriptures tell us that, if we remain faithful, we will stand before the Lord and will hear His words: “Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in the small things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter in to the joy of the Lord!” How awesome is that? While you may not see the finish line, it’s close. Don’t give up!

Rather than offer a lot of spiritual-sounding clichés, here is something practical: It’s the leaders in the world who make things happen. It’s not easy (it if was, everyone would do it!). If you are compelled to be a leader, you must lead. The only other option is quitting and then you become part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Steel yourself; prepare your heart. Strengthen your backbone. Develop greater courage. And if you need help with this, reach out to another leader. They get what you’re going through.

Finally, glean from the truth of this passage: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again–my Savior and my God!” (Psalms 43:5)

Dis-Couraged Leader, encourage yourself! Lead on!

Can Kickers, or the Hezekiah Syndrome: Selling out Future Generations

27459680_10156150146009214_7268989353369031812_nIt’s commonly referred to as “kicking the can down the road.” This is when a leader refuses to deal with an issue that will have negative ramifications – later. The idea is, as long as I am gone when everything hits the fan, I’m good with that.

One of the most notorious cases of “can kicking” happened a few thousand years ago. The Bible tells the story of King Hezekiah who foolishly showed off all of the national treasures to visitors from a distant land. Isaiah (who was a prophet) addressed the trouble that would come as a result of Hezekiah’s mistake:

Then Isaiah spoke to Hezekiah, “Listen to what God has to say about this: The day is coming when everything you own and everything your ancestors have passed down to you, right down to the last cup and saucer, will be cleaned out of here—plundered and packed off to Babylon. God’s word! Worse yet, your sons, the progeny of sons you’ve begotten, will end up as eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”19 Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “If God says it, it must be good.” But he was thinking to himself, “It won’t happen during my lifetime—I’ll enjoy peace and security as long as I live.” (II Kings 20:16-19 MSG)

This is a little shocking. How, in good conscience can a king show such disregard for his family and descendants?

Take another look: Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “If God says it, it must be good.” But he was thinking to himself, “It won’t happen during my lifetime—I’ll enjoy peace and security as long as I live.” In other words, I really don’t care about what happens to people in the future – I’m OK.

Prototypical “kicking the can down the road!”

In a nutshell, here is the root of the Hezekiah syndrome:

Selfishness: when leaders care more about their wellbeing than that of those they lead, the phenomenon occurs.

Shortsightedness: when leaders can’t anticipate the long-term results of their decisions, those in the future may suffer.

When leaders don’t care about those who will come behind them, careless and even cruel decisions can be made.

When leaders are too weak to make decisions that are good for their progeny, the Hezekiah syndrome will reveal itself.

And this last “root” is worth focusing upon.

It is possible that leaders in 2018 may make decisions (or refuse to make decisions) that will hurt their children, grandchildren and many generations to come. If I am hurting the future by ignoring an issue today, shame on me.

If you are a leader and you observe a problem that may hurt others down the road, and if you have the capacity to address that problem, it would be a dereliction of duty to let it go. True, the results may not come about on your watch but it is immoral to be able to prevent future pain and not do so.

Leaders, our children need us to be strong. Our grandkids are counting on us having a backbone. If we see a problem that is fixable, fix it!

Now, apply the principles of the Hezekiah syndrome to your family, your business, your church, your community, your country… Your descendants will thank you!

It’s Time for Christians to Lead

designThis is the time for Christians to lead.

Our culture is suffering the effects of deficient leadership. The bar of expected decorum and etiquette has been lowered to the ground. Integrity and common decency are passé. There is deep division racially, politically and economically. Ideological rhetoric is drowning out reason. Few are naïve enough to trust authority, and skepticism about religion is at an all time high. Many are too jaded to even hope for hope. The world needs help, now.

This is the time for Christians to lead. We say we have the solution; His name is Jesus.

Step up.

The Pain of Weak Leadership

designWe have studied the leadership principles that state, “the leader sets the pace of the team.” Another way of saying this is, the quality of the team is determined by the person who in charge. While there are a few exceptions to this rule, I believe the principle is true.

I firmly believe that the pain of our current culture is an indication of weak leadership. While no elected official has the power to stop a mass murderer or to prevent natural disasters, leaders have the responsibility to affect positive influence to the point that the culture shifts in a positive direction. The current trend of our culture indicates, in my opinion, weak leadership.

The world is screaming for stronger leaders, integrous leaders, leaders with character. And more leaders!

What happens if we don’t respond?

Proverbs 29:2 “When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan.” NLT

This is a season of groaning. Our flags remain at half-mast much of the time. Rather than moving the people toward God, many leaders divide the people, bicker over political ideologies and posture themselves in an effort to look good. When things go wrong, people need someone to follow. Huston Smith said, “The most powerful moral influence is example.” People are desperate for someone to lead them out of this state of horror. Godly example is what we need. Where are the leaders that God has called?

We can’t blame the current leaders – they have simply stepped up to lead when other more qualified people have refused to do so. (See Judges 9:8-15) If we must blame someone, perhaps we should blame the strong people who are called to lead but refuse to do so.

And leaders – when we complain about our families, communities churches, or country – we must realize that we are incriminating ourselves. If the organization that I lead fails, I must assume the responsibility to fix it.

I’m calling out my friends. If God has compelled you to lead – please do so at the highest level possible. You’re not the leader of the free world but you lead your family. You can’t impact global change but you can lead your church to renewal. You can’t solve the world’s pain but you can lead yourself in being a stronger and better person. This is not a time for leaders to take a back seat. We can’t retreat. We can’t burn out and leave the task to others. The world can’t take much more of this.

“Someone must do something!” That someone is you.

“Bigger Faster Leadership” by Samuel Chand

624771576_1280x720I just completed reading Sam Chand’s book, “Bigger Faster Leadership (Lessons from the Builders of the Panama Canal)” Chand does a masterful job of using the canal project as a metaphor for today’s leaders. All of the planning, hard work, set backs…for the goal of a much more effective form of transportation – a great analogy.

This is neither a critique nor a book review. I am simply providing some of the best quotes and ideas, and occasionally offering my response. Be aware, I give little attention to the actual canal project. Rather, I focus on the leadership principles derived from the project. I trust that my providing this material will not keep you from buying the book! I recommend you buy I and read it.

chapter 1 “How Do You Define the Need?”

Chand visited the Panama Canal and learned of its history, development and significance. From his visit, he developed a series of thoughts relating to leadership systems. “The size and speed of an organization are controlled by its systems and structures.” The only way organizations can grow bigger and move faster is by accelerating the excellence of their systems and structures.” For our purposes, we should examine our systems and structures for ways to become more effective in leadership, so that the organizations we lead may become healthier and stronger.

Some quotes:
Ch. 1, “How Do You Define the Need?”

“Compelling needs have always inspired bold action.” (2)

“A leader’s vision is the result of being gripped by a palpable need.” (4)

“After the vision becomes clear, the next question is: ‘who do I need to help me meet this need and make the vision a reality?” (mentor, coach, or model) (5)

“Systems aren’t just building, programs, products and budgets. They are the processes that create and use buildings, programs, products and budgets to facilitate change.” (6)

Five distinct phases of the lifecycle of any organization:
The entrepreneurial (discovery) phase is the exciting beginning, when every dream seems possible.
The emerging (growth) phase is when the vision begins to take definite shape, leaders are empowered, and the organization sees real progress.
The established (maintenance) phase is a time when leaders take a deep breath, enjoy their success, and watch their systems function well. But this phase is also dangerous because it can easily lead to complacency.
The erosion (survival) phase is evident when the organization shows signs of decline, and the earlier vision seems unreachable.
The enterprising (reinvention) phase is the result of a deeper grasp of the need, a renewed vision, fresh enthusiasm, and new strategies to meet the need. Giving an existing organization as fresh charge of vision and energy is difficult, but it’s essential for future flourishing. (8)

“The task of leadership isn’t just to give people goals but to help them utilize effective systems and structures to reach those goals.” (10)

“Many businesses and churches have fallen in love with ‘the way we do things around here,’ so they seldom if ever evaluate systems and structures according to the pressing need and the compelling vision. Culture changes and the delivery systems become antiquated in a hurry. We need to stay alert and nimble, always keeping the vision fresh and open to creative new ways of fulfilling it.” (10)

“When we feel stuck, we won’t just put our heads down and try harder, hoping for a different outcome.”(13)

“The systems that brought you to this point may not be the ones to take you to where you believe God wants you to go.” (13)

“Systems must continually adapt to the needs and opportunities of the moment, Static systems gradually lose relevance, but dynamic systems anticipate evolving needs.” (14)

“Casting vision is more than ‘what’; it must also include a clear and powerful ‘why’ or people involved will lack passion and the plans will be stiff and rote.” (15)

“Long seasons of stagnation can be mind-numbing. Instead of trying harder with the same systems and structures, I recommend conducting a thorough analysis; clarify the need and the vision so you’re captured once again by the what and why, and then spend plenty of time figuring out how you can reconstruct your systems and structures so they can support more size and speed.” (16)

Chapter 2, “How Do You Handle Colossal Failure?” There are some fantastic leadership principles that I think you will like.

We need to recognize the insidious nature of comparison that often lurks undetected in our minds and hearts. (24)

Success needs to be viewed in the context of our realities, not by comparing ourselves to the biggest and fastest-growing organizations in our field. (24)

It’s wise for leaders to compare their current growth to their original vision, not the success of other leaders. (24)

The question is: What progress have you made in fulfilling that (original) vision? (25)

The clear majority of the failures I see in my consulting role with pastors and business leaders are from misplaced expectations and faulty systems and structures. (26)

When the numbers turn down, unexpected setbacks happen, or conflict ravages an organization, some leaders immediately try to put the best face on it. They say, “everything is fine,” but plenty of people know it’s not the truth, so the leader begins to lose an organization’s most valuable commodity: the people’s trust. (27)

For many leaders, past success blinds them to potential future problems. (29)

Pastors, boards, and leadership teams in churches traditionally focus on the ABCs: attendance, buildings and cash. These are certainly important, but we often fail to measure factors that reveal the heart and health of our churches, such as the number of first-time guests, the proportion of guests to regular attenders, the conversion rate of guests who become regular attenders, the conversion rate of those who join small groups, and most important, the number of volunteers actively engaged in ministry. These factors reveal the “stickiness” of the church. Too often pastors become frustrated because they don’t see overall growth, but they don’t peel back the layers to measure and evaluate the crucial connections people need to make. (30)

When I consult, I talk with people at all levels to feel the pulse of life. Quite often the top leaders are full of vision and passion, but those who are down the organizational chart often don’t get up in the morning dreaming about how their role can change the world that day. They have tunnel vision, focused on their narrow role and their stated responsibilities. (31)

One of the most important tasks of a leader is to notice long-simmering conflict between team members and wade in to resolve it. Sadly, some leaders don’t have the courage to make this move. (31)

It’s irresponsible of us as believers, and especially as leaders, however, to ignore perpetual troublemaking and assume “it’ll work out somehow.” We have a responsibility to the team and the organization to take more decisive action. (32)

All leaders wear two hats. Pastors wear the hats of shepherd and a CEO; business leaders wear hats of a coach and a boss. In both arenas, I’ve seen countless leaders who found excuses to wear only one hat. They may have avoided wading into the other person’s life because they don’t like conflict, or a past conversation blew up and ended badly. Whatever the cause, avoiding reality always creates much bigger problems – for the leader, for the team, and for the person who is incompetent or divisive. (32)

Good leaders need to delegate clearly and efficiently. This means they clearly define the team member’s responsibility and make sure all the resources are available to get the job done. (34)

A vision without a plan is just a hope, and a plan without a deadline is only a wish. (34)

We need to be our team’s biggest cheerleader – not faking it, but genuinely appreciating them and their contribution to the cause. (35)

The lessons you learn from your disappointments and failures before forty determine how God will use you for the rest of your life. (37)

Chapter 3 of “Bigger Faster Leadership” asks the question, “Where do you find fresh passion and purpose?”

Sam discusses the initial failures in the project to rebuild the Panama Canal. He shares some great details on dealing with disappointments.

Below are some quotes from the chapter along with a few of my takeaways.

“When disappointments stalls a leaders plans, he or she often should craft a new vision and take bold action to move the organization forward. The courage to take an honest look at setbacks is essential. Leaders may be tempted to engage in gloom and despair, but they must find a way to see disappointments as turning points, not dead ends.” (p. 41)

Isn’t that the truth! I think one’s ability to recover from failure marks the difference between average leaders and great leaders.

“When we experience significant setbacks, we may wonder if the dream is dead. We need to dig deep to find that blend of optimism and tenacity, We ask ourselves, “Is the need still there? Is the vision still alive? Can we find a way to fulfill it?” Halfhearted statements won’t do. The people around us need to see in our eyes and hear in our voices affirmation that we still believe – we believe the need must be met, we believe we are the people who can lead the effort, and we believe in the people around us.” (p. 42)

When we fail as leaders, I think it is necessary to place the unmet need of the organization above our feelings of insecurity and frustration. Our unchecked emotions can dismiss us prematurely from our incomplete assignment.

“In my consultations with leaders around the world, I’ve noticed four kinds of people in their organizations: Wanderers never see the vision, but they don’t care. Followers see the vision, but they don’t pursue it on their own. Achievers are gripped by the vision, and are intrinsically motivated to take action; and leaders are compelled by the vision to gather others to pursue it with them.” (p. 43)

This awareness helps us to develop realistic expectations for the people we lead. It’s not reasonable to expect everyone to embrace and pursue the vision. Yet some will. We need to know who those people are.

“We learn that agreement doesn’t necessarily equate to loyalty, and disagreement doesn’t necessarily mean the person is disloyal. In an atmosphere of trust, disagreements aren’t interpreted negatively; they’re just part of the process of fine-tuning the direction of the organization.” (p. 44)

Insecure leaders must have unanimous agreement. This is not realistic. We need supportive disagreement in order to improve. I think that a grace-oriented culture encourages us to trust others enough to disagree when necessary.

”Recasting a new vision is usually more challenging than casting the original one.” (p. 45)

I concur. The courage to try again once we’ve experienced failure will be met with even greater resistance. People will come out of the woodwork to remind you of past failures.

“All change involves loss. So acknowledging the losses before they happen gives the leader credibility in the eyes of his or her team.” (p. 45)

#Truth. People tend to be skeptical of “Pollyanna” leaders.

“When we get a refreshed vision for our organizations, we multiply disruptions, at least at the beginning. If we anticipate them, we’ll have the opportunity to prepare our people to handle them.” (p. 45)

My experience is, people do not respond well to surprises; it weakens our believability as a leader. Wise leaders let their people know that disruptions are a part of the transformation process.

“Perceptive leaders predict the need to make changes before the decline occurs.” “The leader’s task at this point is to explain that momentum will erode if they don’t use it to catapult to the next level of growth.” (p. 46)

Chand utilizes the Sigmoid Curve to explain the need for timely change. He concludes that point A, while things are still going well, is the point at which we need to engage in change. Too many leaders wait until point B (which is too late). Momentum is the key.


“Many pastors, and some business leaders, value peace above all else. Chaos makes them uncomfortable, and creating chaos is unthinkable!” (p. 47)

“That’s the double-edged knife of a leader: help people to live in peace, but stir up enough chaos to make change happen.” (p. 48)

This is a tough truth. Christian leaders are usually compelled to seek peace. There is no getting around the idea that change means chaos.

“When I teach teams to use conflict constructively, I explain the conflict can be a PLUS. They need to PAUSE to focus on the situations and person without being distracted. Then they should LISTEN carefully, paraphrasing the other person’s points. Ask questions and take time to UNDERSTAND the other person’s position and then validate the person’s feelings. Then SOLVE the problems together as a team, or if only one is responsible for the decision, at least the other person feels understood even if he or she disagrees.” (p. 48)

I really like this reminder, It is simple and perhaps too idealistic but it provides a chance for everyone to settle down and process the problem logically, rather than being pushed by emotions.

“Another limiting factor is that many leaders are so busy they don’t have enough margin to step away, talk to a mentor, pray, and dream of bigger things.”

So true. Too many of us are like firemen running around putting out fires with no time to plan or grow.

Chand encourages us to identify people who encourage us to think more deeply and who challenge us to grow. We need to intentionally spend more time with those friends.

“If you don’t build time to dream into your schedule, you’ll always be operating on last year’s hopes and vision. Dreams don’t just happen. We need to carve out time and space so we can imagine what God might want to do, and as we spend more time in His presence, we can listen.” (p. 53)

This may be my most valuable takeaway from this chapter. I can’t be so busy and stressed as a leader that I am too busy to hear the subtle voice of God.

Chapter 4 “How Do You Craft The Right Plan?”

“As leaders, we should realize our filters exist. Even our strongest commitment to objectivity has at least tinges of subjectivity.”

I believe the quicker we are to recognize our biases, the quicker we can improve.

“We never receive input and analysis in an objective bubble; we always have predispositions that shape our receptivity and our ability to process information.”

“The leader often has a good idea of the what, but he usually doesn’t have a good grasp of when, where, who, how, and how much. The planning phase must be pushed down to the level where many skilled, passionate, creative people give their best efforts to craft a comprehensive plan.”

This is actually very liberating to a confident leader! He/she doesn’t have to have all of the answers.

“The leader articulates the need and the big idea of meeting the need, but he enlists others to create plans to identify the size and the speed, and then to create the systems and structures to achieve those goals.”

“Leaders may ask too quickly: “Is this big idea realistic?” This question needs to be asked at the tactical level. If it’s asked too soon, it short-circuits the essential process of dreaming big dreams. By their nature, big dreams don’t seem realistic at all! But on the other side, if a vision isn’t keeping a leader up at night, it’s not big enough.”

“To begin the planning process, carefully choose a team of wise, optimistic, experienced, creative people. The members should have diverse perspectives – not so radical that their demands will burn the house down, but different enough to produce sparks that will ignite the best discussions.”

“A lot of leaders feel the pressure to be “the decider” much too early in the process, but their primary job isn’t to be the decider at all.” (p. 59-60)

“Haste stops the dreaming process, limits creative thinking, and sends the wrong message to the team that the real goal is having a final plan neatly copied and put in a binder.” (p. 61)

“In this process, the leader’s goal isn’t to build consensus around his own ideas. Instead, he’s mining the wisdom of his team to produce a much better plan and a much higher level of passion to accomplish it.”

Once again, self-esteem and confidence on the part of the leader is indispensable. Insecurity is one of the greatest enemies of a leader.

“I’ve seen a team’s lethargy – and sometimes real damage to the organizational culture – that occurs when leaders don’t involve their teams in a creative process. For instance, a pastor may read an article about the latest great idea: small groups, multisite churches, leadership pipelines, a new kind of sound system, or whatever it may be. He or she announce the new initiative and then tell someone on the team, “Visit this church (or read this book or watch this video) and make this happen at our church.” When this happens, there is no vision exchange, no creative involvement of the entire team, and very little buy-in, even from the person who is assigned to pull it off. The team member is just following orders.” (p. 63)

And these types of leaders come up with “innovative” ideas often – and they usually fail. This leaves the team unwilling to get excited about projects.

“Too often leaders in business, churches, and nonprofit organizations walk into meeting and announce, “This is what I’ve decided we’re going to build,” or from a spiritual angle, “This is what I believe God wants us to build.” When a leader jumps too soon from the dream to the plan, the people on the team don’t have the opportunity to dream, and they don’t feel affirmed in their unique contributions as builders.”

Extreme caution should be used before a ministry leader declares, “the Lord told me…”

“It’s helpful to distinguish between planning and preparation. Planning is concrete; it answers the what, who, when, where, how, and how much. Preparation is usually intangible and answers the why questions.” (p. 64)

“Most of the leaders I know excel in planning, but they are often deficient in preparation – for themselves, their teams, and their organizations.”

“When their people feel valued, they gladly share innovative ideas, wisdom and experience.”

Trust creates this kind of confidence.

“Creativity always produces a fair share of irrelevant and unproductive ideas, but it also has the potential to generate the best ideas.” (p. 65)

Chapter 5 “What’s In Your Suitcase?” highlights:

This chapter focuses on the need for leaders to be able to anticipate the future and prepare the organizations they lead to be effective into the future.

Below are some quotes from the chapter followed by a few of my reactions.

“One of the most important traits of outstanding leaders – at all levels of organizations – is the ability to anticipate the opportunities and challenges of the future.“ (p. 75)

My current role provides a real challenge when it comes to anticipating the future. Being responsible for leaders in multiple locations and cultures makes predicting the future difficult. Chand’s encouragement to work on this skill is motivating me to get to work.

“Leaders desperately need to get in front of the wave – for the sake of their own sanity so they aren’t overwhelmed, as well as for the future of their organizations. Those who are paying attention ask, “Where is all this going so fast?” “How does this affect our organization?” “How do we need to recreate our systems and structures to prepare for what’s coming?” and “What do we need to do to get in front of all of this?” (p. 77)

I think some of us are so overwhelmed trying to figure out what to do today that we have no time to look forward. Many times, my head is down because the terrain is dangerous. When this is the case, the future remains unknown to me.

“(Robert P.) Jones and other commentators assert that the church is losing a generation of young people. Why is this happening? In a rapidly changing and closely connected culture, the church is viewed as out of step with issues important to Millennials, such as immigration, racial justice, economic opportunity, health care, and the rights of those the church has traditionally considered misfits and outcasts – the kinds of causes the church championed for two thousand years.” (p. 78)

This is an especially painful realization for us. It seems that some church leaders have spent so much time standing for their values that we have lost sight of God’s values. We are praying the price with a generation that is losing interest in our ministries.

“All great leaders see farther than others, and they see challenges and opportunities sooner than others. I want to be that kind of leader.” (p. 77)

Me, too, Sam!

“When I hear leaders and their teams resist new ideas because “we’ve never done it this way before,” I know they’re stuck in the past- they moles, not giraffes. If I hear them complain about all the limitations of people, space, money, and time, I know they’re paralyzed in the present – they’re turtles, not giraffes.” (p. 79)

While I can do without the animal analogies, this is great insight. It’s too easy to get trapped in the past or in the present. We’ve got to move forward if we’re going to reach this generation. He uses the analogy of a giraffe that can see farther than any animal in the jungle.

Chand dedicates a few pages to the idea of “futuring”, the ability of a leader to scan the future horizon and lead forward. He co-authored a book back in 2002 with the title “Futuring.”

“The question we ask each person on the futuring team is, “If we were to pacj our suitcase today to be ready for tomorrow, what do we need to throw out and what do we need to include?” Futuring leaders instinctively ask this question, and nurturing leaders can learn to ask it.” (p. 81)

Chand distinguished between futuring leaders and nurturing leaders. I think most pastors are nurturers but we must also be able to see into the future and make tough decisions today.

This is great!

“Leaders who are too wedded to the past spend a lot of time warning people about the threats in the culture and the dangers of change in the organization, they are defensive and reactionary. Those who are focused on the present are comfortable with the status quo and are thrilled with incremental growth. But those who are committed to the future analyze what will be and dream about what their organizations might be like. They don’t start with a plan; they start with a ruthless analysis of the challenges in the future, which generates and sees anticipated problems as golden opportunities.” (p. 84)

This is great perception. I can see myself and others in these descriptions. I suggest we all take a look and not be too quick to be defensive.

“…be honest about the possibility that the culture we’ve created, with great care over many years – is focused on the past or the present more than on the future.”

“If we aren’t hemorrhaging for the vision to become a reality, they’re (followers) not going to bleed.”

“No matter how large we grow, and no matter how intricate our communication systems may become, our message to the people in our communities must be clear enough to grip their hearts.” (p. 84)

I love the focus on clarity and intentionality.

“Too many leaders pick people to fill slots to meet immediate needs. This is shortsighted. Instead, we need to conduct a rigorous process to find people who will meet the needs in the future.” (p. 85)

I have been guilty of appointing a leader because they were available. The ideas presented challenge me to do better for the good of the organization that I serve.

“Many of us have lived in the Christian subculture so long that we don’t know how to speak the language of the people who seldom walk through our doors.” (p. 86)

The best way I know to combat this problem is to intentionally immerse oneself into the culture. If we are regularly exposed to and aware of the language nuances in our community, we will soon discover our need to grow and change in order to remain relevant.

“If we’re not prepared, we can be knocked off the road or stopped in our tracks. No matter how well we anticipate the future, we’ll always encounter the unknown. Count on it, it’s guaranteed. Fragile leaders won’t make it, and lonely leaders won’t make it very far. We need to build our spiritual, emotional and relational muscles to be strong when we face the inevitable adversity.”

The faster things change, the more adept leaders must be at adapting. If we get stiff or stubborn, we’ll sink. If we’re too weak to change, we won’t survive. Let’s be strong and confident enough to know when, where and how to change in order to be effective as leaders.

Chapter 6 “You Didn’t Expect This, Did You?”

 In this chapter, Chand uses the disease carrying mosquitoes of the Panama Canal as a metaphor for the problems (sometimes hard to detect) that leaders face.

“Leaders have mosquitoes problems, too. We face seemingly insignificant ‘bites’ of setbacks and opposition that can turn healthy environments into sick ones. In every organizations,, ‘mosquitoes’ are more than annoying; they create fear and distrust, distract people from their tasks, and can wreck the whole endeavor.” (p. 92)

“What are the mosquitoes in your organization? Simply understood, mosquitoes are bad attitudes, and carriers are those who are infected by these attitudes and spread them.” “The individual bites may not appear dangerous at all. In fact, they are almost imperceptible. If we look closely enough, though, we can see the damage. Each bite can infect our employees, staff and volunteers with a contagious, negative attitude that surfaces in countless ways.” (p. 93)

“The leader’s challenge is to notice the mosquitoes – and the carriers – before they can infect others.” (p. 96)

“People of integrity are always willing to ask, “Is it me? Did I contribute to the problem in some way?” (p. 97)

Chand discusses how mosquitoes destroy trust in an organization. “Teams can go through almost anything if they trust each other.” (P. 101)

Chapter 7 “How Do You Handle Opposition?”

 In this chapter, Chand explains the prevalence of opposition in leadership and distinguishes between resistance and ridicule.

“Sooner or later, every grand, bold vision encounters significant opposition. We may assume that opposition is always destructive, but it can be a powerful force that crystalizes our imagination, focuses our plans, and drives us to succeed.”

“I find it helpful to distinguish between resistance and ridicule. Resistance is disagreement, and it often comes in the form of opposition to an idea or a plan, but ridicule has a strong emotional component.” (p. 108)

“Suffering may make is hard and bitter, but it can make us humble, tender and wise.” (p. 109)

“Leaders face opposition from three distinct sources: procedures – how things get done; prerequisites – why things are done; and personnel – who gets things done. If we respond well, our experience of resistance can have benefits in all three areas.” (p. 110)

“We can be confident without being cocky, patient without being passive, determined without being dogmatic, and assertive without being aggressive.” (p 112)

“The people that ridicule us are watching us closely to if we’ll get angry and defiant (the fight response) or cower in fear (the flight response). They seldom expect us to respond with strength, wisdom, grace, and creativity.” (p. 114)

“When we’re under the strain of resistance and ridicule, we often choose exactly the wrong solution.”

“Friends show us that opposition, and even genuine failure, isn’t the end of the world.” (P. 118)

Chapter 8 “How Can You Make Your Systems Hum?”

This chapter revolves around the idea of placing the right people in the right positions in our organizations. Chand utilizes the metaphor of a ladder. The higher we climb, the more important it is to have the right people holding the ladder.

In my opinion, Chand could have done a better job of communicating these concepts without making the leader look like the one being served. It’s a little distasteful to think of others living to hold my ladder. Perhaps it would have been better to describe the holding one another’s ladder. Regardless, it is a good point.

“If leaders have unqualified people holding their ladders, they won’t be able to climb very high. The ones who help us climb six feet up a stepladder may not be the ones who can hold it securely so we can climb twenty feet up and extension ladder. And the ones who help us climb twenty feet may not be the ones who have the strength, skill, and commitment to help us scale a forty-five-foot ladder.” (123)

“No matter how beautifully we construct our systems to achieve more size and speed, we’ll feel as though we’re running in mud if we don’t have the right people in our structures.” (p. 125)

We don’t discard those faithful, committed men and women (who cannot continue to hold our ladder as we climb). Instead, we make sure we find a place for them that fits their talents and capacity. At some point, all of us reach the limit of our capacity, so limits aren’t a character flaw in any way. Some people may not be on our team any longer, but they can serve incredibly well at the level we just left, where other leaders in our organization are climbing higher – just not as high as our ladder. It is, I believe, a dictum of leadership to understand a simple but crucial principle about reaching your desired future: those who got you here may not be the ones to take you there.” (p. 125)

“Churches, businesses, and non profits organizations aren’t the armed forces, but it may serve us well to at least look at the strengths of different cultures to see what we might learn from them. One of the principles we might learn form the military culture is that turning a blind eye to incompetence or a bad attitude inevitably leads to a disaster down the road.” (p. 126)

“It’s never a mystery who need to be let go and replaced in any organization.”

“It doesn’t take long for trust to erode when leaders are too timid to take necessary action. When leaders don’t make tough decisions about people who are a drag on their teams, they lose leadership equity with the rest of the team. Every decision raises or lowers the leader’s equity, and the refusal to address the elephant in the room knocks a big hole in the bucket. At that point, equity doesn’t seep out; it flows out.” (p. 127

“One of your primary roles is to equip and empower those you lead, How well are you performing this role?” (p. 128)

“Do the people on your team have mentors? Are these mentors inspiring them and challenging them to grow? When wads the last time you asked people on your team to describe the impact of their mentors? Mentors aren’t optional because people without mentors are destined to become stagnant in their growth.” (p. 129)

“Why do people on your team come to work every day? What is it that causes the light to come on in their eyes? What brings out the very best in them? Exceptional leaders and members of leadership teams don’t do what they do for money, acclaim or power. They work hard and cheerfully, facing heartaches and overcoming disasters, because they believe two inconvertible truths: the organization gives meaning to their lives, and the people they work with re honorable people who value the same meaning.” (p. 133)

Chapter 9 “How Can You Utilize People with Different Talents?”

In chapter 9, Chand speaks in great detail about he importance and advantage of engaging a wide variety of diverse leaders in an organization. This is a real challenging topic for me in my current role. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

“Mediocre leaders gather people around them who are mirrors, reflecting only what the leader thinks, says and does. But gifted leaders know the value- and the messiness- of complexity and diversity in their plans and their ladder holders.” (p. 137)

”Differences can be a team’s greatest strength.” (p. 140)

“Too often, leaders subconsciously are looking for people to join their boards and hire for their teams who are just like them. They don’t mean to be narrow; they just are. If we have the courage to admit our propensity to select people who consistently validate our worldview and values, we can then choose to broaden our reach and include people who maybe very different form us.”

I admit it – this is an area of weakness for me. I think due to some feeling of insecurity, it just feels better when everyone agrees with me and affirms my position. But I have gotten stuck many times in this going nowhere cycle of agreement.

“To achieve more size and speed, leaders need to broaden their canals. To broaden them, they need to think more expansively. To think this way, they need diverse, creative teams who stretch their minds and hearts. Change requires courage.” (p. 142)

“Leaders, go beyond what is comfortable and familiar to you. Recognize the hidden talents and perceptions of people who aren’t like you. Draw them out, affirm them, enlist them their contributions. As you listen to different voices around your table, you will expand your reach, sharpen your product, and raise the quality of your services.” (p. 143)

Gone are the days of the know-it-all leaders. If we are not collaborating with those different from ourselves, we are dead in the water.

“This is the work of alignment, so that the team members complement each other’s efforts instead of competing.” (p 145)

“Proper placement prevent problems; Poor people performance prevents prosperity.” (p. 147)

Chapter 10, “How Can You Produce Creative Tension?”

In this chapter, Chand challenges leaders to embrace the positive aspects of tension in their organizations. Most leaders tend to disapprove of tension but there is great value to be gained by understanding healthy tension and the good is produces.

“When entrepreneurs stride toward growth in business and pastors pursue the expansion of God’s kingdom, tension is a predictable result.” (p. 152)

“Most people in our culture think of peace as the absence of tension; Jesus’ peace is confidence in God’s presence, care, and calling in the midst of tension. That’s the kind of peace we want. That’s the kind we desperately need.”

“all gifted leaders have a very different perspective; their bold vision inevitably creates tension, so they expect tension, and they use tension to bring out the best in everyone around them.”

“Tension points are the places where opposite forces are at work, where flexibility is essential, and in animate objects, where growth happens. Every physical thin in the universe has tension points, and organizations can only grow and thrive if we recognize them and use them appropriately. Trying to avoid them weakens the system and ultimately leads to a collapse – sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly.” (p. 153)

“There is no such things as a meaningful, tension-free relationship unless one of the people is dead.”

“One of the traits of a dynamic, healthy organization culture us that people are unafraid to share their ideas. But this kind of culture doesn’t happen naturally. It must be modeled, cultivated, and nurtured by a leader who welcomes disagreement and doesn’t insist on having the right to answer or the last word.” (p. 154)

“The question for leaders isn’t how to avoid tension, and it isn’t even how to resolve tension. Resolutions may seem like the highest goal but it is not. The question is: How can you create and manage tension to bring out the best in your team?” (p. 155)

“We need to redefine ‘tense”. When I use it to describe a meeting, I mean that we had a robust exchange of ideas, people weren’t afraid to voice their opinions, the culture promoted freedom of expression, disagreement was invited, decisions were made or not made as people heard and understood, and no one felt intimidated or overwhelmed, as it all took place.”

“It will take time to train a team to relish tension, but it’s worth the effort.” (p. 156)

“If we insist on having our way, and if we insist that we’re right, we won’t be able to disagree without hurting the people around us. We’ll perceive every challenge as a threat instead of an invitation to explore another point of view. With stability, security, and wisdom, we can love those who disagree with us, we can listen carefully to them with an open heart and without defensiveness, and in most cases we can support the person responsible for making the decision even is we would have made a different one.” (p. 157)

“We need to teach our teams that the decision-making apparatus needs to be respected. Some decisions may be by a vote, others by consensus and still others by the person in charge. Whatever the case, the entire team owns the decision. This means we welcome disagreement and the free exchange of ideas within the team, but when the responsible person makes a decision, everyone supports it to those outside of the team. They don’t nod at the end of the meeting and then walk out and tell a friend how dumb the idea was.” (p. 158)

Chapter 11 “Does It Ever End?”

“Some emerging leaders believe that if they can ever achieve their grand plan for growth, they can then hit the autopilot button and coast to ever-higher levels of size and speed. Wiser leaders know it doesn’t work that way. When they hit their highest goals, they certainly celebrate, and they may take a few days to relax, but they’re soon back at the job because their work never ends.”

This principle is worth the price of the book. For true leaders, the only finish line is when we leave this earth. Don’t get disappointed by thinking the work will one day stop.

“Many leaders strive for stability and consistency, but I would argue that these aren’t the right goals. Too often they lead to stagnation and eventual erosion.”

We’re born with the desire for comfort. Leaders have to fight this tendency. It’s in the hard work and challenges that we grow, produce and make the world a better place (p.165)

“The supreme yearning for stability is a sign of a stagnant organization, and perhaps toxicity. It never leads to growth. It doesn’t stimulate new ideas, it doesn’t challenge the status quo, it doesn’t inspire anyone, and it doesn’t force people to find ways to work together to fulfill a goal no one can accomplish alone. Leaders who become stagnant are defensive and react against every challenge. They hire people primarily for personal loyalty rather than finding people who will add spice to the mix.” (p. 166)

We see this too often. A leader who has lost sight of the vision is sometimes so defensive, there is no way to discuss it without starting a fight.

“Like Roosevelt, all great leaders are dreamers, and like him, great leaders find people who share their dreams and become deeply committed to making them happen. When they encounter people with passion but limited skills, they find a place somewhere for them to serve faithfully and well. When they find people with skills but no passion, they try to inspire commitment and zeal for the cause – and if the people don’t respond, the leaders replace them. But people with great ideas never threaten gifted leaders.” (p. 167)

I studied this principle known as situational leadership. The leader adjusts his/her approach based upon the skill and passion of the other individual.

“Gratitude is never out of season. It reminds all of us who we depend on, who is the source of our growth and joy, and who we trust for the future.” (p. 168)

“We don’t build trust by insisting on unanimity and instant compliance, but by valuing the input of every person on the team and providing time – within limits – for people to push back and give input. This is the kind of environment that stimulates the next wave of ideas that lead to creativity, energy, and growth.” (p. 169)

“My experience consulting with leaders in businesses, nonprofit organizations, and churches, I can confidently say that the single factor that has led to growth is consistent and effective leadership development.”

I wrote my Master’s thesis on leadership development in the local church. I sure could’ve used Chand’s work back then!

“The church needs to have a vibrant presence in the community – not just a building in the community. The church is most powerful when its people are woven into the fabric of the community: loving, serving, and caring in schools, businesses, government, sports activities, and touching those in need.”

Love this quote!

“The church’s leaders often use the number of people in the congregation as the primary benchmark of success, along with the size of the buildings and the cash in the bank account. But the true mark of success is the size and strength of the core of leaders who shoulder the burden and spread the joy of God throughout the ministry of the church.” (p. 170)

We sometimes measure the wrong thing – I believe – because they are easier to measure. It takes strong focus but we must get better at counting the things that matter.

“In a survey of leadership teams in hundreds of churches around the country, the Vanderbloemen Search Group and the Unstuck Group identified three practices that had the biggest impact on developing a strong core of leaders:

  • An intentional strategy of leadership development
  • A significant financial investment in staff development
  • A specific person who is responsible for developing leaders.

(p. 171)

“Leadership development doesn’t just happen. Organizations need a comprehensive plan to expand the number of people in the core and sharpen their skills and effectiveness. This plan can’t be an add-on; it must become central to the strategy.” (p. 172)

Again, something I discussed in my Master’s thesis.

“A common misconception is that leadership training occurs in classes. In fact, knowledge can be imparted in classes, but training happens in the field as people are exposed to real-life situations and coached by someone who sees potential, accelerates growth, and helps people overcome confusion, difficulties, and failure.” (p. 173)

“Great leaders come from a hothouse of growth, where the gospel message, motivations, and methods are modeled and imparted by loving, talented man and women. Leadership development is the way healthy organizations maintain the growth they’ve realized, and it’s how they continue to grow.” (p. 175)

Chapter 12 “What’s the Next Big Dream?”

“Why do some leaders wait so long to launch a new wave of growth? There may be many reasons. Some simply don’t realize their organizations are eroding in front of their eyes, others are afraid of the pushback they’ll undoubtedly feel if they launch a new initiative, and a few are simply exhausted and lack the energy to lead the charge. Whatever the reason, these leaders and their organizations miss the opportunity to increase their size and speed because they fail to revitalize their systems and structures. (p. 179)

We sometimes confuse waiting on God with too scared to try something new.

“Are true leaders ever satisfied? Is a certain level of size and speed enough? Are there no more mountains to climb and no new lands to discover? Is incremental growth acceptable, or is it time to launch something that will propel the organization to a higher level?” (p. 180)

There is a certain level of inner dissatisfaction in the life of every great leader. Left unchecked, it can get us into trouble; ignored, it can lead us to frustration.

“Look more deeply to discover the real needs in people’s lives. They don’t need a new building, program, or product, but the building, program, or product may be an effective way to meet their need.” (p. 183)

Church leaders – pay attention to that one.

“Go to conferences and listen to the great things other leaders are doing, talk to your friends who are doing wonderful things in their organizations, and read articles and books about bold initiatives, but don’t jump to conclusions. Stop to reflect on the needs those organizations are meeting. If the same needs exist in your world, consider meeting them, but come up with your own plan to fit your community and circumstances.”

“Think, talk to wise people, and stay focused on the pressing needs in your community. If you’re not meeting a real need, your plans will generate little initial enthusiasm and even less momentum to sustain the effort. A vision that captures hearts propels the organization forward. With it, you lead motivated people; without it, you drive people and demand compliance. When the vision isn’t based on a need, leaders must continually sell people – especially their staff teams – to keep them pumped up, but sooner or later, trust erodes and the team becomes resistant.”

Vision based on need. Simple, yet brilliant.

“When a leadership team is galvanized by the prospect of meeting needs in the lives of people in the community, team members daydream about new ideas almost as much as the leader does. They dive into their work with infectious enthusiasm, sharing their hearts with everyone they meet and creatively overcoming challenges. They do research because they want their efforts to be successful, and they gladly enlist others to join them in the work.”

(p. 184)

This is a key truth in this chapter. When people know they are making a difference, they get motivated and inspired. Ideas flow, creativity grows and everybody improves.

“Find a good coach or mentor. We’re better when we have a partner, someone who will tell us the truth no matter what that truth may be. We need someone who knows well enough to point out our strengths so we work from them, and who is honest about the yellow and red flags they see in our lives. We need more than a friend; we need a thoroughly objective, insightful person who has been where we want to go and knows how to help us get there.”

I love this. Mentoring is not a new idea but Chand communicates it is a compelling way.

“Be a continual learner. Great leaders are sponges who soak up information. Read challenging books, listen to brilliant speakers on podcasts, and talk to leaders in other fields to see how their expertise might cross-pollinate you and your organization.” (p. 186)

Leaders must be lifelong learners!

“Our work as leaders is infused with the same nobility, vision, and difficulty. In our organizations, our task is to bridge the divide between what is and what might be, to bring meaning to those who have lost hope, to bring value to people who want a better life, and to make human connections richer and more meaningful. Our work as leaders is no less than this, and our challenge is much like the one faced by those who looked at the jungles of Panama and wondered, “Can we really do this? They answered, “Yes we can.” That’s our answer too.” (p. 189-190)

Taking people from where they are to where they need to be – that’s the goal of a leader.


Dealing with a Chronic Kvetcher (Complainer)

designDefinition of kvetch (intransitive verb): to complain habitually, gripe.

We all know one or more kvetchers. He is the guy in the neighborhood who is always grouching about something; the gal you work with who whines about everything; the bellyachers, gripers, crabs and grumblers in our lives.

What a pain!

In my life and work, the issue needs to be addressed this way: what are we to do with the church grouch? (However, I think these principals can apply universally) Every church in which I have worked and I believe most churches in the country have at least one, and in some cases, several people who feel it their duty to complain. “The music is too loud.” “The room is too cold.” “The parking lot is full.” “The children are too noisy.” “The pastor preaches too long.” While some of these complaints may be legitimate, there are a few people who can only see the negative and are happy to communicate their disapproval to anyone who will listen. It can become a serious problem with significant ramifications if left unaddressed. Leaders do not have the luxury of overlooking the negative potential of allowing a crab to do his or her thing in the church.

Before we deal with solutions, let’s discuss a few of the intricacies of an attitude of complaining.

  1. Chronic complaining reveals the weakness of character. Francis Jeffrey said, “The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects.” While this is harsh, I think it is spot on. We seldom meet very successful and productive people who are grouches. Too much griping may rat you out as a weak thinker. Ouch!
  2. Chronic complaining annoys others. Think about it: we all know someone who, as they approach the crowd, elicits a collective but silent, “oh no, not him/her!’ There aren’t many social or organizational settings where it is fun or productive to listen to someone bellyache. The negativity is just too much sometimes, right?
  3. Chronic complaining discourages others. Nothing sucks the momentum out of a room like a guy who fusses about stuff. While leaders must be strong enough to value constructive criticism, we are discussing those who enjoy bringing others down to their level of doldrums. Be advised, uncontested complainers will destroy your healthy organizational climate.
  4. Chronic complaining makes matters worse. Like worry, complaining has no positive, results-oriented qualities. And habitual grumbling clouds the vision of people who are working hard to make things work. I personally have been distracted from important, potentially life-changing opportunities by individuals who successfully throw a wrench into the organizational machine through their moaning.
  5. Chronic complaining costs us relationships. If you are committed to complaining, those who have a choice will walk away from you. Family may be stuck, work associates may not have a choice, but no one wants to spend time around a crab. “Complaining is dangerous business. It can damage or even destroy your relationship with God, your relationships with other people, and even your relationship with yourself.” (Joyce Meyer)

This is why I said earlier that leaders (or family members or colleagues) can’t allow the complainer to dictate the future for others.

Now the question becomes – How should we respond? What, if anything, are we to do about chronic complainers?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Remember that people are hurting. When someone spends a significant amount of time complaining, this is an indication of a deeper problem in their life. Perhaps they are ill or in pain. Maybe they are lonely or depressed. Those who have been deeply hurt by others may feel the need to deal with offense; and that can impact their relationships with others. When this is the case, we must be patient and must seek to help.
  • Complaining is a good way to get attention. Think about it. There are folks who have no one to listen to them. The old adage about the squeaky wheel getting the grease has valid application here. If maladjusted people can garner attention only by grouching, they probably will grouch. While I want to say it gently, some people create their our miseries. Monica Johnson expressed it this way, “Many of our choices have led to the predicaments we are presently complaining about.” If this is the case, perhaps we shouldn’t reward the bad behavior of crabbing by listening, but instead, pay attention and give credence to them at other times. It may not work but it surely can’t hurt.
  • A effective way to control others is by making them so uncomfortable and awkward that they don’t know how to respond. Chronic complainers know this. Complainers are sometimes manipulators – sometimes we’ll give in to them just to shut them up – and they know that. So, the answer? Stop giving in; stand your ground and stop enabling the complaining.
  • Recognize that complaining is a spiritual problem. Complaining can reveal a lack of gratitude, insecurity about one’s condition or a desire to control the lives of others. Chronic grouches sometimes suffer from feelings of insecurity – so they live with the need for attention. The best way to get attention sometimes is by whining about something – anything. While we can’t solve the insecurities of others, we can affirm them to the point that they don’t get the response they desire from complaining.

In any case, there is something spiritually that is missing in the life of a complainer. If we recognize this and deal with it as such, solutions may be discovered.

In a brief 3 point conclusion, allow me to offer this:

  1. Pray for complainers. They need God’s love and grace. Rather than complaining about them (!), ask God to help them. And ask God for more grace to deal with them.
  2.  Offer solutions. If you have the time to invest, address the issues of a complainer one by one. Sit down with them, have them document their grievances and respectfully answer them. I have shocked and disarmed a few grouches by my willingness to logically discuss their concerns. Develop solid answers and present them to them. Point by point, show them that you are sympathetic but that you insist on a solutions–oriented approach to the problems. The truth is, many chronic grouches do not want solutions – they want to complain. This approach will reveal the truth.
  3. If none of this works, walk away. Now, I am not talking about abandoning a spouse or neglecting a friend in need. I am talking about distancing yourself from the yuck that is involved with complaining. If you are not in a personal relationship with this person, leave. If they are a family member or if you are forced by circumstances to endure them, distance yourself by not allowing them into your head. Walk away by making yourself impervious to their negativity.

One final challenge: join me in assuming that we are one of the crabby people – just possibly. I don’t want to be that guy that people dread being around. Zig Ziglar says, “Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining – it bores everybody else, does you no good, and doesn’t solve any problems.” If you are the town grouch – work on it! You and I can do better!

Philippians 2:14 says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” Have a positive outlook. God is good. He loves you. Live your life in a way that reveals your gratitude for all that He has done for you.

6 Things I Look for in Millennial Leaders

designAs a Boomer leader, one of my greatest joys is to engage with emerging leaders. The energy and excitement that younger men and women bring to the table is a vital part of my personal leadership strategy; they keep me fresh and continually learning. Young leaders provide necessary elements to our processes that cannot be found elsewhere. From a practical point of view, if I hope to impact the future, I must connect now with those who will actually be leading in the future. On a personal note, when I was a young leader, older leaders poured so much into me that I would be remiss to not pay back what was provided for me.

When I connect with a young leader, I look for at least 6 things. Among them are:

Energy, cultural relevance, creativity. cooperation, commitment and stability.

Energy: it’s no secret that organizations need the vitality that millennial leaders bring to the table. There is no substitute for the intensity that youth provides. Our organizations need the pop that Millennials bring.

Cultural relevance: It’s nearly impossible for seasoned leaders to stay current with the nuances of our rapidly changing world. One way to do this is to remain in close contact with empowered young leaders. Nothing is more embarrassing than using a word that used to mean one thing but now means something completely different! When I am with younger leaders, I love to just observe them as they communicate. This helps keep me in the loop and remain relevant to the culture we are serving.

Creativity: Successful organizations utilize the services of people who think in new and fresh ways. What works in communications today more than likely won’t tomorrow. Today’s emerging leaders bring innovative and visionary ways of seeing the world. I need that in my life and in my leadership.

Cooperation: I am looking for young leaders to cooperate with the processes in which I am involved. While it’s not reasonable to demand unquestioned alliance, those whose demeanor is one of collaboration and contribution make incredibly valuable team members that we can’t function without.

Commitment: One of the biggest struggles in leadership is to identify people who will stick around. No one likes the idea of investing significant resources of time and energy into a relationship that can be quickly abandoned. I am looking for Millennial leaders who know how to stick with a worthwhile relationship.

Stability. A common criticism of younger leaders is that they are unstable and flighty. I think this is an unfair critique. There are many young leaders who can be counted upon. They are steady, dependable and trustworthy. I look for that when I am engaged with emerging leaders so that their impact can remain long-term.

Young leaders make me better and I hope I make them better. Of course, there are many more attributes that we should value when considering young leaders. Most of all, I hope that we can make more progress toward multigenerational leadership structures that will change the world!

(This article is also published in https://www.forgelead.org/single-post/2017/09/05/6-Things-I-Look-For-in-Millennial-Leaders.)

It’s Not A Compliment

designA while back, an individual told me how much he enjoyed my preaching. As I was feeling affirmed, he proceeded to indicate that he liked my preaching more than he liked the preaching of his “regular” preacher. In a split second, his compliment turned into an awkward, manipulative attempt to make a negative statement about his pastor. I was no longer feeling affirmed.

When people behave this way, it is safe to assume a passive/aggressive intention in their communication. Initially, the affirmation sounded good. But the negative intimation that followed negated anything positive that was shared.

When someone tries to make you feel good by speaking negatively of others, you should not feel good – you should feel used. The motives behind these types of “compliments” vary. Some have an ax to grind. Others are trying to control a situation. A few may want to impress or manipulate you. And still others just like to gossip. Regardless of the motive – this type of communication is a bad thing.

If you find yourself in this situation – if someone “compliments” you by tearing down someone else – don’t fall for it. What is it that causes us to feel good about being compared to others, and coming out on top? Insecurity. If you are vulnerable to an inferiority complex or if you need to improve on your self-esteem, speaking in a disparaging way about others or listening to others do so is a terrible way proceed.

Keep this in mind:

If someone speaks negatively about someone else to you, they will speak negatively about you to someone else.

We can do better. If someone does a good job, let them know. But don’t muddy the waters by dragging someone else through the mud. If you have an issue with a person, deal with it appropriately.

Let’s not misuse the beautiful gift of a compliment by using it as a weapon.

11 Reasons Why Introverts Sometimes Make the Best Leaders

designHow necessary are charisma, extroversion and a dynamic personality in the life of a leader?

Some folks prefer to be alone – and some want to be left alone. Occasionally, these folks are expected to lead others. While this arrangement may seem awkward, I have seen it work very well and have observed a few introverts enjoy remarkable success as leaders.

On a side note, some who identify themselves as an introvert are not. One indicator that one is an introvert is they do not want the focus to be on them. The limelight is painful for them. Those who continually indicate that they are introverted are probably seeking attention from others. Insecure, maybe, but not introverted.

So, why do some introverts make great leaders?

  • Some introverts don’t want the credit. When things work well, they are happy for the team to get credit. This is compared to the “attention hogs” who grab the credit when they can (and are mysteriously absent when a project goes south and someone needs to own up to the responsibility).
  • They would rather work behind the scenes. They don’t mind doing the thankless tasks and they recognize that true leadership isn’t always glamorous.
  • They can work in isolation without the need for a lot of interaction. The long hours of leading can be very lonely. Introverts can live without the constant chatter of the crowds.
  • Some introverts need less affirmation, unlike extroverts who sometimes look for appreciation and recognition from outside sources.
  • They would prefer not to be the topic of conversation. They do not want to be perceived as conceited or egotistical, so they’d rather allow other people to talk about themselves.
  • Introverts can be more observant and perceptive. Because they aren’t focused on themselves, they are sometimes more aware of the needs of others.
  • “Introverts listen before they speak. They watch from the sidelines and take some mental notes before they insert themselves into any social situation. This preparation allows them to enter a conversation confidently, without stumbling over their words or doubting the accuracy of what they say.” (Dan Wallen)
  • They are generally self-sufficient and independent. While this trait can work against a leader, when properly channeled, it can result in great personal strength.
  • They may receive joy and fulfillment from serving others – anonymously.
  • They focus on internal feelings rather than on external sources of stimulation. They may appear to be steadier than their gregarious counterparts.
  • “They focus on details. Introverts do not rush when making decisions because they prefer to study and understand the situation thoroughly. They can be rather objective and see the different angles and viewpoints in every situation. They can also control their emotions and not let their feelings affect their rationality.” Dan Fries,

A little advice:

Introverts, let your strengths work for you, rather than against you. Understand that you must engage with others if you are to influence them. Don’t allow your more reserved nature to be mistaken for intimidation or ego. And please, be yourself – but lead! The throngs of outgoing followers in the world need you!

Investing in Others: Buy Low and Never Sell

designPlease don’t take financial investing advice from me. My pattern has been, “buy high and sell low.” Actually, to my shame, I don’t even put that much thought into investing money. I tend to ignore it, hoping that magically, my money will increase. Not a productive plan.

When it comes to relationships, especially ministry relationships with younger ministers, I seem to have more of a knack. One of my greatest joys in ministry is to invest myself into the ministry of a younger man. This isn’t something I have to remind myself to do – I tend to gravitate naturally to it. For that, I am grateful.

I feel as though we should find people younger than ourselves – unproven, raw and green – and “buy into them.” And we shouldn’t “sell” on that relationship unless it is absolutely necessary. Perhaps it is because my elders invested so heavily in me. Some never gave up on me, although they had every reason to do so. Maybe I innately grasp the truth that, if I invest wisely, my influence may live on after I’m gone. It is certain that we have heard too many young people say, “no one else believed in me or gave me a chance.”

The Apostle Paul is the standard bearer when it comes to investing in others. Rather than viewing his famous relationship with his spiritual son, Timothy, let’s consider his lesser-known, but equally as efficacious relationship with the Thessalonians. Paul writes to them from his heart: “…Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8 NIV)

Here is a very busy man with a lot of responsibility that is willingly and joyfully investing his life into the lives of others. They didn’t have it all together. He had little or nothing of earthly value to gain from his investments. Yet he saw something in them that motivated him to give of himself to them.

We all need to love someone enough that we give our time and attention to them.

Paul expresses his compassion for his friends:

“…we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children.”1 Thessalonians 2:7b (NLT)

We see tenderness and empathy and patience. In this passage, unlike others, we do not see Paul demanding progress nor censuring them for their failures. Rather, he presents his relationship as a mother – feeding and caring for his friends.

Too many of our relationships are performance and productivity based. I am guilty of running short of patience when a leader is slow to develop or, even worse, unproductive long-term. Perchance this is the case because I have been the one who is unproductive.

The “buying low” part of this equation has to do with recognizing potential. Anyone can spot an Apple stock, once it has developed. In other words, there are plenty of people to jump on the celebrity bandwagon. Once a person becomes successful, everyone wants to be his or her friend. It takes true perceptivity and discernment to be able to identify a diamond in the rough.

But, what do I have to gain from my investments?

While this is a reasonable question and we should not be ashamed to ask it, the point is not about returns – it is about investment. Many of us who impart into others expect and even demand productivity. However, an honest evaluation of our relationships may prove that we have actually become a burden to those in whom we are investing. We consider ourselves as serving but we actually are being served.

Paul says,Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.” 1 Thessalonians 2:9 (NIV) He makes it clear that he is the one sacrificing. This is not a pity-party – he is simply pointing out that he has been a giver and not a taker.

   Leaders: If we only take from a relationship, we cannot consider ourselves the investor; we have become the beneficiary.

Relational investments are expensive. When endowing and entrusting others, especially less experienced people, we owe them. We owe them the extremely valuable assets of honestly, integrity and character.

You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers.1 Thessalonians 2:10 (NLT) In the times in my life when I was hesitant to invest in others, perhaps it was because of a lack of these elements in my life. I simply didn’t have enough to share!

     Relational investments are expensive for a reason. The resources we are investing and the return we are expecting are not monetary – they are eternal.  

Buy low and never sell. This is all about promise and potential. It’s about patience and productivity.

So, find a less-experienced person than yourself. Same gender. Less-than-perfect. Build a relationship. Serve them. Pour into them. Care for them. Be patient with them. Invest in them, and watch how you both grow.


Avoidance Coping by Leaders (or when leaders refuse to deal with problems)

design11There are some pretty heavy psychological observances that can be employed when studying leadership. At the risk of overanalyzing, we are considering what causes some leaders to refuse to deal with failure. I define failure in this instance as the lack of taking a group or organization where God wants it to go. While I certainly am not the ultimate judge of the leadership effectiveness of anyone, I do have the responsibility of helping some leaders be as efficacious as possible.

Diversion may be defined as something that takes attention away from what is happening. When leaders are diverted from their primary task, the organization under their care suffers. We have all witnessed this. It’s interesting to observe leaders who are serving organizations that are failing, but the leaders don’t focus on the solutions. A tendency of some leaders is to concentrate on something else and, thereby, deflect the attention that may reveal that they are neglecting their duty. The focus that is required in order to solve the issue is lost.

We leaders may be like the bird dog described by Aldo Leopold:

“I had a bird dog names Gus. When Gus couldn’t find pheasants, he worked up an enthusiasm for Sora rails and meadowlarks. This whipped-up zeal for unsatisfactory substitutes masked his failure to find the real thing. It assuaged his inner frustration.” (A Sand County Almanac, p. 200)

Another example may be (hypothetically, of course!) a pastor of a shrinking church that chooses to spend his or her time debating politics or bemoaning the decline of the culture or criticizing the church members. In the few precious hours of leadership influence they have available, they point out the faults of others. I do not think that these leaders are necessarily malicious. I believe that diversion is a tactic that some leaders employ because they simply don’t know what else to do. They are frustrated by their failed efforts to fix their organization and they are compelled to do something. So, blaming others, attacking others who are having success, minding the business of others and conflicting with team members becomes their default response.

To refer again to a psychological term, rumination “refers to the tendency to repetitively think about the causes, situational factors, and consequences of one’s negative emotional experience (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1991)” (psychologytoday.com). When people engage in rumination (overthinking) they are typically trying to think their way out of uncomfortable emotions. This is in the place of focusing on solutions to the problems. It can be easier for a leader to come up with reasons rather than answers. There have been times in my experience when I have spent more time blaming my predecessor, analyzing the dysfunctions of the organization and justifying my lethargy rather than working toward resolutions for the problems at hand.

Avoidance coping is a maladaptive coping mechanism characterized by the effort to avoid dealing with a stressor. (mentalhelp.net) A distraction or a non-essential issue can steal the attention of a leader, especially when she is under stress. It can be relieving to think about another topic rather than to continue to wrestle with one’s own problems.

Then there is the more diabolical diversion tactics. If a leader under duress can create a diversion that will focus the attention of followers on someone or something else, the pressure can be alleviated. We’ve seen this personified in blaming/projecting (pointing at others as the problem), distracting (changing the subject or avoiding confrontation) and procrastinating (putting off the inevitable).

Some unscrupulous leaders are masters at clouding the issue or offering a “red herring” – misleading or distracting from a relevant or important issue. Slight of hand or misdirection is useful in magic tricks and sports but it has no place in the leadership of an organization.

A railroad engineer is at the helm of the train, which is speeding out-of-control down the track. As it heads toward the train station where, short of preventive maneuvers, lives will be lost, the engineer discusses the poor condition of the tracks, the outdated equipment of the engine, the bad attitudes of the passengers and the lack of wisdom of those who chose to build the train station in that location. What he needs to do is hit the brakes; but instead, he focuses on things that are out of his control. The result is devastation.

Leaders, we are the engineers. The train is our organization. Let’s take ownership. People are desperate for leaders who can identify the solutions to problems and to lead the organization through the crises.

A Culture of Conflict

img_0290Not unlike the culture of the iconic Wild West, America is currently enthralled with fighting. From political elections to reality TV to road rage, we love our conflict. It is not uncommon to witness a verbal altercation on the subway or in the boardroom. Metaphorical “shootouts at the OK Corral” happen every day in the classrooms, courtrooms and bedrooms of the U.S.

This is a culture of violence. It is a culture of disrespect. It is a culture of conflict.

Even something as simple as sports teams rivalries are steeped in conflict. Good-natured trash-talk goes, in my opinion, way too far to the point of dividing friends and family.

Let’s not confuse debate, confrontation and conflict.

We need to be able to discuss matters of difference and do so in a civil manner. When we are wrong, those who care about us must possess the responsibility to lovingly confront us. Conflict, however, is a collision, a war, a clash. The Latin conflictus means “a striking together, to contend, to fight; combat.” According to Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, a conflict is a turning point during which an individual struggles to attain some psychological quality. (https://www.verywell.com/what-is-conflict-2794976) One researcher defines conflict as “a disagreement through which the parties involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests or concerns.” (ohrd.wisc.edu) I would add that conflict often includes a response to those perceptions; and many times the response is ugly.

It is one thing to fight for one’s family or freedom. But many in today’s culture thrive on conflict. Some people just love a good argument. I literally had a women tell me last week that she was a Hatfield of Hatfield and McCoy fame; and she proceeded to explain that this was the reason for her position of quarreling in her church.

We have become so accustomed to conflict, it feels normal. But it should not be normative for Bible believing Christians. Church fights have been known to be bloody, vicious and eternally destructive.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Lucado says: when those who are called to fish don’t fish, they fight.


I am of the opinion that the foundational issue behind our propensity to conflict with one another is spiritual. There is a deep-seeded discomfort or irritation that, when fueled, becomes a source of contention. Many times, those who fight with others are also fighting with themselves as well as with God. The enemy of our souls wants to make us miserable. An effective way to accomplish this goal is to cause us to turn on one another.

It is a matter focus. When we don’t focus on what we are called by God to do (the mission), we focus on one another. When we focus on one another, we fight. I love the writings of Max Lucado when he said:

   When those who are called to fish don’t fish, they fight.

   When energy intended to be used outside is used inside, the result is explosive.

   Instead of casting nets, we cast stones.

   Instead of extending helping hands, we point accusing fingers.

   Instead of being fishers of the lost, we become critics of the saved.

   Rather than helping the hurting, we hurt the helpers. 


We can concentrate on minutia or we can concentrate on mission, but we can’t do both.

When we are not fulfilling what God called us to do.

We are frustrated. We know there is more to life.

We have a divine purpose and we are not fulfilling it.

They are focused, on the wrong things. Other people.

And when this happens, we are failing.

So, the question really isn’t, “why do we have so much conflict?” but “how can we get back on mission?”

We must get good at conflict resolution. However, we must get even better at conflict prevention. Let’s embrace the responsibility we have to do what God told us to do so we won’t fight with each other. More importantly, let’s do what God wants so we can honor Him.

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?

Healthy Pastor Healthy Church

13557721_10154376814459214_6871678460088746686_nIn order for churches and ministries to be healthy and productive, their leaders (pastors) must be healthy. When we think of health, we usually think only in terms of physical health; but a more holistic approach is needed. Too many of us limit our definition of health, and possibly limit our effectiveness in the ministry.

Let’s focus on our wellbeing in regard to a spiritual, relational, emotional, mental and physical point of view. Balance is needed in order for us to remain productive for the long term. The demands placed upon an individual by modern ministry are significant. We’ve all seen friends who did not survive the rigors of church leadership. It takes a strong person to remain active in ministry for many years. While we all agree that we must be spiritually healthy, let’s not ignore things like our physical condition. In today’s world of authenticity and transparency, we can appear hypocritical if we preach a Gospel that doesn’t include every aspect of our lives. If we are perceived as inauthentic or disingenuous, our ministries will suffer. If we are not growing intellectually, if our relationships are unhealthy, if we are unstable emotionally, our message will be hindered. Let’s fast and pray but let’s also gain education and work out.

Here is an idea to consider: these things are all connected. When we are healthy spiritually, our emotions, our health, our relationships and our mental capacities are impacted. We can’t truly say that we are healthy spiritually if we are ignoring vital aspects of our being. We can’t segregate the elements of our health. If the pastor is out of balance, the church will be out of balance. That’s what we call leadership.

Pastors, let’s take care of ourselves so that we can lead healthy and productive ministries but let’s also take care of ourselves so we can enjoy the benefits that God provides for healthy people.

Does Servant Leadership Create Entitlement?

Does Servant Leadership Create Entitlement carterNo one can argue with the insistence that leaders be servants. Jesus modeled it and Greenleaf made a million writing about it. But there may be an issue.

Is there a connection between the rampant entitlement mentality that we see in our culture and leaders who humble themselves to serve others? I think maybe so.

Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. It is unthinkable that the Creator of all things stops to wash the crusty smelly feet of 1st Century fishermen. Unless you fast-forward a few days and observe Jesus hanging by nails on a cross. He did all of this for the purpose of serving the people He loved. They needed a Savior and He volunteered. Notice, He did not volunteer to do something they didn’t need. It would have been pointless for Jesus to offer to stay on earth to keep walking on the water or turning water into wine. They didn’t need that. But they sure needed a Savior.

We may have some indicators of the issue we are facing.

  • I believe that some servant leaders are serving in ways that are not really needed. Leaders who show themselves to be willing to do anything for the people they love are an inspiration. People are impressed when leaders sacrifice their own good for the good of those they lead. But if this sacrifice makes no difference, what’s the point? Example: The pastor of a church may refuse to be paid a salary in the interest of the financial constraints of the church. I have seen this happen. It may be a good thing. But it may result in people who renege on their financial responsibilities. By serving in a way that is not needed, the servant leader may be doing more damage than good.
  • I believe that some servant leaders are serving themselves. It’s tough to admit but some of us like the attention we get when we “serve.” People are beholden to a leader who is in the trenches, on the frontline. Independent people who can carry the load alone are heroes to many. But there are two problems here: the focus is on the leader and the people are taught to become dependent – they aren’t needed in the process. Healthy organizations involve multiple people. A servant-leadership approach that has ulterior motives is damaging to everyone involved. True servant leaders serve with pure motives.
  • I believe that some servant leaders are doing more harm than good. Mono-personality leadership is unscriptural. Lone leaders who do all of the work choke out the operation of Spiritual Gifts. Leaders who spend all of their time waiting on people while never moving them forward do God’s people a disservice. It is possible that a wrong perspective of servant leadership can severely damage an organization.
  • Some “servant leadership” is a veil for a leader’s weaknesses. Because of my introversion, I sometimes find it easier to mop the floors after an event than to speak face to face with people. Real servant leadership is sometimes just to be with people.

The goal of servant leadership must be to create more servant leaders. The goal is not for people to feel sorry for us or for people to talk about how noble we are. Leaders serve like Jesus because people need it.

Now, back to the original question: Is entitlement connected to servant leadership? Possibly. Many people feel they deserve something for nothing. The world owes them. We’ve got to combat this ideology. The best way to do so is to serve like Jesus served. Wash their feet; but teach them to wash the feet of one another. Otherwise, they think your job is to keep their feet from stinking. While someone needs to do that, it’s not on the leader.

Before We Throw Out That Tradition

IMG_2929I’ve never been a real traditional guy as tradition is considered in the church. In fact, I’ve spent the good portion of the last several years trying to enact change. It seemed as though many of the things that defined the church were actually a hindrance to what we were supposed to be accomplishing. Well, I must be getting older. I’m coming to the place where I am a little slower to eliminate older ideas. My young friends may call me a sell-out.

I came across a few Bible passages that have me thinking.


Paul said to the church at Thessalonica, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (II Thessalonians 2:15) and “withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.“ (II Thessalonians 3:6b). The Greek word for “tradition” means instructions in Christianity. It’s the same word Paul uses in I Corinthians 11:2 “I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you.” Some more modern versions replace the word “tradition” with teaching”; still many say “traditions.” For this article, I’m going to use the idea loosely to mean: “the way we’ve been taught to do church.”

Here is the point of this post: There are traditions in the church that should stick around. Simply because something is traditional doesn’t mean we should get rid of it!

Let’s be clear; if it is harmful, get rid of it. If it is damaging, stop it now. If it impedes the fulfillment of the mission, it is your responsibility to purge it.


If a tradition is not harmful, it may be helpful to just hang on to it.

Here is the problem. Some things that, a few years ago, I thought were harmful turned out to be helpful. But they’re gone now. An example: in the 90’s, we minimized discipleship ministry (Sunday School, etc.) and focused more on worship. We’re living through the results of that now when Biblical illiteracy is at an all-time high. Another example may be eliminating evening and midweek services. While times have changed, we now find ourselves struggling to get people to attend services once or twice a month. There was a time in my ministry that I thought eliminating these things would help us. Turns out, we should have held onto the traditions and revitalized them.

But some of us are absolutely certain that we know what is best for the church, both now and in the future. Please allow me to challenge your thinking for a minute.

Dare we be so presumptuous as to assume that we presently have all the knowledge that we will ever need?

We have gotten rid of some things that, at the time, didn’t seem valuable. We now realize that they were. Surely we will keep growing in knowledge and wisdom. It is remotely possible that one day, we will realize that way back in 2016, we didn’t know as much as we thought we did.

We find ourselves in a culture where people are longing for the tried and true. Predictability and stability aren’t as old fashioned as they used to be. Liturgy, ritual and tradition are making a comeback.

A message for emerging leaders: please don’t discard the things your elders worked so hard to achieve. You may not see value in them now, but one day you might. Then, if they are worthless, drop them. And one day, when you are an elder, maybe you will reap what you’ve sown and the kids will not kick your ideas to the curb.

Before we throw out that church tradition, slow down. Give it some time. Consult with an elder. If, after thorough examination and prayer it needs to be eliminated, you can do it then. But once it’s gone, it’s sure difficult to get it back.

Why We Must Invest in Young Leaders

design[2].pngThere is a lot of talk these days about why it is so difficult for most people to connect with Millennials. They are complex, some of them have no interest in interacting with us and a few of them think they are entitled.

Of course they don’t have it all together. If they did, we would need them to teach us, because we certainly don’t have it all together.

Here are some reasons why we MUST invest in the next generation of leaders:

  • We won’t live forever; someone needs to be prepared to take over once we are no longer able to lead.
  • Some of us need to step aside before we are ready. One of the problems with growing older is our awareness of our effectiveness or ineffectiveness may be compromised. Let’s prepare younger people to lead before we reach the place of ineffectiveness.
  • Someone invested in us. We have a responsibility to pass on the valuable insight and wisdom that was generously given to us. To do otherwise is selfish. One of my favorite Bible passages is II Timothy 2:2 “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” I see four or five generations involved in the teaching process. Let’s follow that pattern and pass on what we know.
  • We love them. Because we care about young leaders, we will invest in them.
  • Because the church and other organizations need young leaders in place now and in the future. The current lack of leadership in our world is evidence that we need strong leaders to emerge.
  • We have things to learn from young leaders. They have a handle on some concepts that we must learn in order to be effective.
  • Because we are better together. Mono-generational existence is boring, unhealthy and unproductive.

I’m excited about the young leaders I know. They are authentic, bright and well-informed. If we do our part to help them get ready, the future will be in good hands. If you know anything that can make the world a better place and can prepare people for what is ahead, do your best to share it with those younger leaders who will then share it with others.