Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Servant Leadership

September 11, 2018

There was a man. CEO of a smaller company. Perhaps 100-150 employees. High technology. Seemingly successful–according to the press releases and conversations.

He gave away statues of Jesus washing Peter’s feet to business acquaintances. These were large, perhaps 14 inches long by 8 inches high.

He held a conference for partners and customers. Had the author of a book on servant leadership give one of the keynotes.

He always had a smile.

But things weren’t really going so well. One day his investors told him he had to sell. So he sold his company to a competitor.

He came into the office on Sunday and cleaned out everything. There was no trace of him left. He literally took the money and ran.

Except for a printed memo posted for the employees notifying them that they had a new owner and that the future was uncertain.

We can model servant leadership by giving away models.

Or, we could do what Jesus actually did and taught–be a servant.

Ask how we can help.

Encourage those who work for us.

Be honest and transparent, therefore worth of trust.

Face up to the challenges alongside our staff as well as celebrating the good times.

Create a professional environment.

How do you want to be remembered?

Be a model, don’t just give them away.

Appoint Leaders Who Are Humble And Not Avaricious

September 7, 2018

Reading in The Didache, “Therefore appoint for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are humble and not avaricious and true and approved, for they too carry out for you the ministry of the prophets and teachers.”

This text is almost as old as the letters of Paul. It recognizes that the new group can choose its own leaders. And it recognizes the importance of choosing people with the right character.

Sometimes we forget this maxim and choose leaders who charm us forgetting the humble and not avaricious parts.

Sometimes people change when they become leaders. Part of character we never saw, and perhaps that they themselves never realized, creep out of the psyche and begin to exhibit themselves.

Give someone a little power and look what happens to them is a comment heard far too often in organizations–marketplace and church.

It’s easy to point to the failings of leaders. Of those who violate the trust given them. Of those whose characters are not as strong as we believed when we chose them.

However, how often do each of us stray from that “humble and not avaricious” part? We stop holding up leaders to the standard; but we also stop holding ourselves up to the standard of character. Sometimes we’re all in this together.

We must hold our leaders–bishops and deacons and whatever else–accountable for character. We must look into that mental mirror in meditation and hold ourselves accountable. Evaluating at the end of each day where we were the sort of person we aimed to be and where our aim was off the mark.

What or Whom Do You Know

August 10, 2018

“Do you know the Bible?” asks the billboard I passed in southern Ohio yesterday.

I thought, not a bad question, but probably the wrong one.

In Lean methodology, there is a practice called “5 Whys”. If you ask why about a situation five times, by the fourth or fifth time your thinking is getting deeper and you’ll get to the right question.

If you wish to help someone change their life, perhaps a better message would be, “Do you know God?”

The Bible is a great guide to living a better life. But we need to go deeper to the root cause (as they say in Lean Thinking).

If we are beginners, then we need a guide, a friend. Not to be hit over the head with requirements, memorization. It’s about someone helping us to know what to do when we get up and get moving in the morning. What to do when we go out and meet people. How to sit quietly in the day and let God speak in the stillness.

I’m all for learning and study, but more important is spiritual relationship.

[Update: Got home from a couple of vacation days and caught up on three days of news. I saw that the executive pastor and entire board of elders at Willow Creek resigned. Hybels, meanwhile, according to The New York Times, is still living in denial. A leader can build up. But when a leader is not self-aware of sins and weaknesses, that leader can bring down many. Take a lesson, leaders. Cure yourself before you cure others.]

A Leader With Soul

April 3, 2018

“If you have to ask, you don’t have it.” — Popular response to people asking what is soul during the rise of “soul music” in the late 60s.

OK, where is this going, you may be asking. The last book I read is, “Awakening A Leader‘s Soul: Learnings through Immortal Poems,” by Gaurav Bhalla, published by Motivational Press. This is less a management how-to than a plea for enhanced leadership

“In today‘s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world (VUCA), leadership success is a function of something deeper, something more enduring than technical knowhow and leadership skills. It’s a function of the leader’s humanity—who they are, what they stand for, what they are willing to fight for, and what they are willing to accept and endure. Because what’s in the leader’s head may be smart and potent, but what’s within the leader that guides what’s in the leader’s head is even more potent, because it is wiser. Accordingly, the most important asset of leaders is not the smartness of their minds, it’s the wisdom of their souls.”

This book is for leaders who want to take the next step up the ladder of effectiveness and fulfillment. A new humanity—consider not only yourself, but also employees, customers, community, suppliers, planet. Reminds of reading AP Martin some 30 years ago—Proactive Management. He introduced me to the idea of “stakeholders.” When constructing vision and goals and making decisions, consider all the stakeholders affected. Bahlla continues the thread of thought.

Try out these ideas. Leadership success is a function of the leader’s humanity—what’s within the leader that guides what’s in the leader’s head. The most important asset of leaders is not the smartness of minds, it’s the wisdom of their souls. Egotistical leaders suck the oxygen from the organization.

Outline

1. Who the leader is

ego

self reliance

Authenticity

2. How the leader thinks

vision

substance

doubt

3. How the leader acts

Risk

perseverance

perspective

4. Beyond the leader’s world

wider circles

employees & customers

communities

planet earth

5. Faring Forward

TS Eliot-Dry Salvages from Four Quartets

Sampling from poems

Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself—shifts from How I am the center of the universe to How I am centered in the universe.

TS Eliot—We are the hollow men; we are the stuffed men…

Albert Camus—But above all, in order to be, never try to seem.

Alexander Pope, A Little Learning (I think this is especially important to ponder today, especially in church circles)

A little learning is a dangerous thing

Drink deep or taste not the Pierian Spring;

There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain

And drinking largely sobers us again.

Fired at first sight with what the Muse imparts,

In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts;

While from the bounded level of our mind

Short views we take nor see the length behind,

But, more advanced, behold with strange surprise

new distant scenes of endless science rise.

Rumi, Transcending blame, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

Confucius, Asking, “The person who asks a question is ignorant for a few moments, The person who doesn’t remains ignorant for life.”

Herman Hesse, “Siddhartha listened…completely absorbed, quite empty, taking in everything…he had often heard all this before, all the numerous voices in the river, but today they sounded different.”

From the Bhagavad Gita, “Work for the sake of work not for the sake of rewards or material gains.”

Leonardo daVinci—every now and then go away and have some relaxation.

John Donne, “No man is an island, entire of itself.”

Leading When Things Are Going Well

March 20, 2018

He was the leader of his organization.

In this case, the plant manager of a manufacturing company. He was responsible for overseeing 650 people producing the company’s products.

He was bored. Wandering around aimlessly. Unsure what to do. There were no emergencies. No one was calling about parts shortages or quality problems or production behind schedule.

What do you do when things seem to be going well? His assistant, the plant engineer, told him, “Just relax. When there are no problems, just enjoy it.”

This could have been any organization.

What if you are the leader? You’ve organized the project or process and things are proceeding according to plan. What do you do?

Ah, but we are talking human endeavors. When we begin involving many people–could be 6, could be 600–circumstances become complex. We could bet that somewhere, sometime, the process will begin to drift from stable to unstable. Something to do with the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

At this stage of a project or process, there are things we had best be doing or we’ll soon find ourselves under water.

Observe.

In Lean thinking, we call it Gemba. A 1980s guru called it “Managing by Wandering Around.” Go out to the scene. Check the data.

Read.

Study what other people are doing. Read about current technology trends. Are there ideas from somewhere that would make the product, process, or people better? Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it can save us from a disintegrating situation.

Think.

Gather some people together from an area of the plant or process. Encourage thinking about how to improve. Hint: things can always be improved.

Realize.

A leader’s job isn’t just “putting out fires.” Leaders must be looking ahead and behind. Observing people and process.

Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better

February 21, 2018

Annie and Kim met at the coffee house, as was their pre-work custom. As they sipped their lattes, Kim begins, “Can you believe the boss? How in the world did she ever get promoted to that position? I could do 100 times better than her.”

Annie commiserates, “Yes that’s true. She is clueless. And that executive council. Who put all those men in there? Why was I not included? I’m better than any of those. I’m sure it’s just because I’m a woman, after all, lots of people have their projects fail.”

Rob orders his Americano with two extra shots of espresso and joins them. “Did you see who got that Sales VP job? They didn’t even interview me. What in the world is going on here?”

Dissension. Jealousy. It’ll rip apart any organization–business, non-profit, church.

The apostle Paul knew this.

After going through theology in his letter to the Romans followed by a discussion about how everyone is the same before God–race, gender, nationality–Paul addresses how we should live individually and in community.

Immediately after talking about renewing our minds, he says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” He proceeds to list the different roles within the Christian community and the gifts that relate to each.

As for me, I have an analytical mind. I respond intellectually by analyzing the situation and the people. Care must be taken about the line between analysis and dissension. Mostly that line starts when I say something aloud.

How about you? When is it idle, or even destructive, gossip and when is it analysis that leads to improvement?

That is where the discernment that comes with transforming our minds enters the conversation.

Finding Accountability in Our Work

August 16, 2017

Henry Cloud, psychologist and author, gave one of the best talks on leadership and accountability I’ve ever heard last week at Willow Creek Community Church.

He begins with a story.

Seems a man with a plan–to start a new company, that is–talked with a friend about his wish to start a company. The friend wrote a name on a card and told him to call this business consultant.

The consultant listened to him and asked him about advisors. I need a marketing person, a tech person, a sales person, said the budding entrepreneur. The consultant told him that really he should find five people he respected. He should ask them to meet with him weekly for breakfast. These people should hold him accountable for the actions it would take to start a business.

The guy thought, I need sales and marketing, not a support group. So he shunned the advice. 

He had funding. He had a business plan. He failed in a year.

Who holds you accountable. Who is your small group of advisors who ask how you’re doing on all the little activities it takes to succeed.

Interestingly, Andy Stanley talked last week about Solomon’s son Rheoboam who shunned the wise advice of the elders and took the advice of his young buddies–and lost his kingdom.

I’ve known many people who could have had small groups of accountability partners, a support group, yet they didn’t accept the advice. Usually it was through pride–they wanted to prove they could succeed on their own.

Tip: we don’t succeed on our own. I know.

Another tip: Listen to Henry Cloud any chance you get.

What Leadership Means

April 7, 2017

Fridays are often leadership day here at Faith Venture. This week I ran across an essay by Sally Blount, Dean of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

She was approached by people with differing views on education and leadership. After researching and thinking, she concluded:

When used properly, at least in educational contexts, the word leadership now refers to high character, and the people who are leaders are those who think and act intentionally on behalf of the organizations and communities in which they live and work. They commit to using their lives to engage beyond the self, to engage in the call to human progress, by building up and strengthening the quality of human work and human organizations, rather than tearing them down.

That is a good description of what ought to be. And certainly leaders can be everywhere at any rank or position. It’s like I once quipped to a manager who thought he should be respected solely for his position–you’re respected for who you are not what position you hold.

But Blount looks at the “leadership” in Washington, on Wall Street, and other highly visible places and is disturbed by what she sees.

So, while the word leadership may be overused today, we are still not seeing nearly enough of what it stands for. In my mind, excellence in character shouldn’t be optional for those fortunate enough to be selected or elected to lead from the top. And if we believe in the power of human progress, somebody has to model true leadership—that is, leadership in rank and in character—for the next generation.

She is right to look at our national leadership (broadly speaking) and cringe. But we permit it.

I think leadership examples for the next generations begins with each of us. Lead where you are. In her terms, exhibit character where you are. We don’t need only one model in Washington or in business; we need a hundred million models in every walk of life. Beginning here. Beginning with us.

Fundamentals of Leadership

February 17, 2017

It’s Leadership Friday here at the Faith Venture ranch.

For some reason, some people would say it’s God talking of course but it just could have been the coffee, while meditating this morning I began reflecting on several businesses or projects I’ve gotten myself involved in.

Great potential for doing good. Most of the time pulled it off well. A couple of swings missed the ball, but that’s life.

Failure to plan on your part does not constitute a crisis on mine.

I thought of this old phrase. Failure to plan.

Was there a budget?

Good question. Sometimes you go off spending money, bringing in many resources only to discover in the end that there was never going to be sufficient income to pay for it all.

Several times in my life I have been left with expenditures made with no money to cover it. Oops.

Budgeting is a discipline. It must be done early in the process of the project or business. It must be a living document that changes with changing conditions. I knew one business I was in was in trouble when the president told us his plan for the year to make a profit was to shorten accounts receivable (make customers pay faster) and lengthen accounts payable (make our suppliers finance our operations). He was fired.

Follow up.

Jon Swanson wrote today about letting your yes be yes. How many times have you been involved where leaders chart a course, reach a temporary milestone, and then everything is dropped. No finish. No follow up. People left dangling in the breeze. They said they’d do something, but…

When you coach athletics or conduct an orchestra, you pay attention to the fundamentals or perish. Can’t throw and catch? Don’t know your scales? Performance will be less than acceptable.

In leadership also, pay attention to the fundamentals for success.

When You Find Yourself In Complacency

January 26, 2017

So you wake up. Who knows what wakes you up. There you were happily asleep and Pow, there you are, wide awake.

It happens in the middle of the night.

It happens when you’re in an organization.

You were lulled into complacency. The pot has not yet boiled (see yesterday’s post). You have time. Just like the “good guy” in those 1930s short movies. You pull the girl off the railroad track just before the train comes.

But there is no girl. No train. Except metaphorically.

You can rescue yourself. Can you rescue the organization?

That is the question.

What do you do?

1. You can bail out. You wake up. Look around. See the signs.  Think you’ll be better off elsewhere. There you go, searching for a new adventure.

2. You can close your eyes. Ignore the signs. Slip back into the comfort of the known. And slowly…die. If not physically, then spiritually.

3. You can decide to try to change things. Become an idea monster. Every morning you awake. Brew that cup of coffee. Grab your notebook (you do have a notebook, right?). Write 10 ideas. Every morning. You talk to people about doing things differently. Find some people who are awake. Build a coalition. Go for it.

Me? I went off for other adventures. Sometimes you just can’t find that coalition. Sometimes the “supreme leader” just doesn’t have the skill or stomach for change. Or, they have a different agenda. Then it’s time to forge your own trail.

That light in the tunnel. It could be a train coming at you. Or…it could be the light out. The light to a better you.