Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Leadership That Seeks Unity, Peace, Justice

October 3, 2022

Leadership strives to unite people into striving for a common cause. Leadership in America and many other parts of the world strives to divide people. The hope is that when the division is proclaimed these leaders hope to cling on to some sort of majority. Or, at least power.

This can be as true in business and religious organizations as it is in politics. 

Andy Stanley took a thoughtful look at the condition of politics and evangelical Christianity in the United States. It broke his heart. That combination has created divisions among people, among families, among communities, among churches all in the name of winning points against “the enemy.”

Jesus taught us to love our enemies. Everywhere I look today I see people hating and disparaging their enemies.

This podcast conversation between Andy Stanley, author of Not In It To Win It, and John Maxwell, long-time leadership teacher, discusses the problems for organizations and politics when leaders abdicate their essential role and seek to divide.

Speaking to Christians, they point to Jesus who did not lead with belief but instead led with values. And above all he valued every individual person he met.

And so should we.

As for me, I seek to not be affiliated with any organization or movement that seeks to discriminate against any of God’s children whom he loves. Just bring us all together. And we can find solutions to many of the ills that confront us.

I seek not to win. I seek to promote life and justice and peace. Is there a leader somewhere?

It Is A Practice

September 20, 2022

Vitaliy Katsenelsen emigrated from Soviet Russia with his family when he was 18. He was thoroughly indoctrinated into the Soviet system with a few difficulties because he was Jewish. He is now a successful financial analyst and CEO of an investment firm in Denver called IMA. I follow him because of his financial analysis writing. He also calls himself a “student of life.” I like that phrase. I resemble that remark.

He published a book called Soul in the Game: The Art of a Meaningful Life. He talks of family life and also of his discovery of Stoic philosophy. You may wonder about bringing the Stoics into this blog. I have done it before. Seneca’s writing sounds so much like Paul’s that Christians in the 4th and 5th centuries thought he was a Christian.

Katsenelsen writes, “Stoic philosophy is not an academic distraction; it is a practice.”

Those words should also describe following Jesus.

Christ-followers for a couple of centuries after Jesus were known by how they lived, not by what they said.

Then Christianity became political in the middle ages. Then a proposition to agree with rather than a way of life.

Rebellion to this spurred the “Jesus movement” of the late 60s and early 70s. But the movement was co-opted by commercial interests. This gave us the mega-church movement of the last 40 years with its rock concert followed by a TED Talk.

I’ve always pictured following Jesus as like those scouts in the American West during the 1800s. Pioneers. Out in front of the trail. Showing the way with wisdom and foresight.

Following Jesus is not an academic distraction; it is a practice.

Develop the Best in Everyone

August 11, 2022

The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.

Charles Schwab

“Spare the rod and spoil the child” is a phrase I’ve heard from my youth before someone got smacked or chastised.

Some people use the method of criticism even to physical punishment or threat of losing job, security, family in order to “improve” the object of their wrath.

In Jesus’ time, the Romans used violence and the threat of violence to achieve power over others. This attitude went from emperor down to head of the family.

The Pharisees were great at comparing how great they were and loved by God to how others were outside of God.

Jesus took a different approach. “It is the sick who need the physician,” he once told the Pharisees. 

Appreciation and encouragement—the better path.

Doing What I Can

April 26, 2021

I don’t ignore the news. That is hard to accomplish and probably not wise. However, I don’t immerse myself in it. That, also, would not be wise.

The easy thing for a Christian is to pretend to be an ancient Hebrew prophet and expound on hypocrisy and godlessness and the evil of people who disagree with me.

But that is merely ego-centric.

The news and pictures I’ve seen coming from India regarding the impact of the failure of the government to tackle the Covid crisis with the resulting deaths have moved me to deep sadness. And that is repeated with perhaps less drama in some other populous countries.

As an adolescent student and young man, I harbored a great dislike for the writings of the Apostle Paul. Later, I discovered that it wasn’t Paul himself, but the way people went through his writing and picked out parts they liked and build legal frameworks around them.

So, as a civil rights and anti-war person, I totally misunderstood what Paul wrote in the 13th chapter of Romans. Here, he expounds a view, not that the government is always right (and I wondered what he’d have written had he been living under Nero at the time), but that government is placed here by God to bring order and justice and the like to society.

We can see throughout this pandemic the differences in political leadership and the various impacts upon the societies. Leadership in the government is important. All the leaders made mistakes–just some learned and adjusted and some, well, failed.

But I’m not here to be an ancient Hebrew prophet predicting God’s judgement upon them all.

Instead, what is the response I can make when I learn about all this immense suffering. I cannot write a check with enough zeros to provide vaccines and healthcare for the world. But I can write a check. And I can encourage those I meet. And I can support good leaders.

Living in the dominion of the heavens that Jesus had announced doesn’t mean that I change the whole world. I can change me and influence those around me. And so can you.

It’s kind of like Arlo Guthrie singing at the end of Alice’s Restaurantand it’s a movement, yes the Alice’s Restaurant Massacre movement. We can participate in the share the kingdom of heaven movement and learn from Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan. Help where we can.

Pride and Power

April 16, 2021

Power seems to draw out the latent personality tendencies within us.

Think of people you have known or read about who achieved some level of power–political, organizational, familial–and whose basic personality came out.

Some leaders use the power to satisfy sexual lust that had lay hidden and eventually caused a downfall. Some have seen their pride cause them to lose their way and alienate those around–even to the extent of losing power and even winding up in jail.

On the other hand, sometimes power draws out hidden strengths. Think of people who have been thrust into powerful leadership positions whether in government, business, church. They stepped up to the challenges often surprising all but their closest friends.

Self-awareness becomes important. We must see those tendencies. We must deal with them before the negative ones cause our downfall.

Sometimes I think that Wisdom literature such as the Proverbs or the letter of James lead me to believe that there is no hope for the prideful. I hope not. Although I’ve seen many prideful people in positions of power who seem unable to come to grips with their own pride following a fall.

A lesson for us. In our daily meditations, take some time regularly to do a self-check. Have people been dropping hints that perhaps our worst tendencies are showing in our leadership? Or have our strength and vision and humility come through?

People Like Us

April 14, 2021

Not that people like us, but people such as us. Seth Godin likes to talk about “People like us do things like this.”

That is a definition of culture. Within your group. Your church. Your business. Your neighborhood, perhaps.

It is worth stepping back mentally and observing: is what we do in our business, our church, our committee on target with our goals and mission; or, is what we do dysfunctional?

If we are starting a business or committee or organization, we must be conscious of this. Or, it will just happen. And the loudest or strongest personalities will determine culture.

If we are joining something already existing, we need to be aware. Do we fit in? Are we the type of person who does what they do?

You can tell. There are hints when you walk in. Do people complain? Are people full of energy and focused on mission?

What do you project when people see you and talk with you? Would they think, I want to join her group. I would like to be like them in order to do things like that.

“People like us do things like this.” Choose the right things to do and join in. If you’re the leader, be aware and make changes as necessary.

Jesus Turned Power On Its Head

March 8, 2021

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:42-45

The Roman-ruled world where Jesus and his followers lived was structured on power. At every level of society, someone had power over some others. And they were expected to exercise that power, brutally if necessary.

We often overlook the Roman context of the 1st Century and its influence on the writings. It is likely, for example, that Paul never saw the end of Roman power until the end of the age. John’s vision with which the Christian Bible is ended places that vision in metaphorical language.

Jesus turned that all upside down. Leaders were not to exert power over followers. Leaders who followed him were to lead with the attitude of serving. This is a teaching that leaders who call themselves Christian often seem to forget judging by their words and actions.

Jordan Peterson has published a new book, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. He discusses this power relationship.

Those who are power hungry–tyrannical and cruel, even psychopathic–desire control over others, so that every selfish whim of hedonism can be immediately gratified; so that envy can destroy its target; so that resentment can find its expression. But good people are ambitious (and diligent, honest, and focused along with it) instead because they are possessed by the desire to solve genuine serious problems.

Peterson, Beyond Order

These describe a human condition. Political leaders, bosses, CEOs, parents, pastors… If you thought of someone immediately when reading this, that may be true. The most important person to consider from this point of view is the one in the mirror. How do each of us, you and me, handle ourselves when we have authority at any level? Are we following Jesus’ teaching?

Seeking Wise Counsel

January 8, 2021

“Where there is no guidance, a nationa falls,
but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” — Proverbs 11

“Without counsel, plans go wrong,
but with many advisers they succeed.” — Proverbs 15

Sometimes I think of the Hebrew story of Solomon’s son Rehoboam, who became King of the united Israel upon his father’s death. And then he had to make a decision. He consulted with his father’s advisors who were schooled in wisdom. And then he consulted with his buddies, other younger men.

He chose poorly. Instead of being king of a united country, he was reduced to king only of one tribe and one small territory.

We can look at world events. We can look into our own hearts.

Are we seeking and heeding wise counsel?

What will be the story told about each of us in future years?

Leadership in Hard Times

January 7, 2021

A man approached me while I was in queue at the post office. “Gary,” he said, “I’m going to work and defeat that tax levy you have on the ballot.”

I had been elected to the school board. The system had gotten into dire straights forcing cuts in employment and courses.

“The easiest thing to do,” I replied, “is to lead for a negative result. Why don’t you help us lead toward the future and a stronger school system poised for the future for these kids and the community.”

There was a company-wide management retreat. The president stated in his keynote, “Our business plan for the year is to stretch out our payables and collect receivables more quickly.”

Nowhere was the hard work of developing products to serve customers better. Or the hard work of encouraging all of us to look for innovation in systems and products or what could add more customers.

Once I was at a business roundtable seated beside one of the most powerful (or infamous) CEOs in America at the time. He was famous for how hard he questioned his managers publicly. There was only talk of cutting, not of finding new ways to serve. He became a former CEO of a former company.

Yes, the easy work of leadership is to emphasize negativity and stir negative emotions.

The hard work of leadership is to bring people together working toward something better for all.

Is this a political statement? Yes.

Is this an organizational observation? Yes.

Is this a personal challenge to each of us? Yes.

Virtuous Leaders Do As They Say

December 28, 2020

She taught home economics, as it was called back in those days, at the high school. Half of her days were devoted to teaching healthy meal planning and preparation. One day at lunch a student observed that her lunch did not seem to be very healthy.

“Do as I say, not as I do,” she replied.

That phrase embedded in my memory. At 15, I knew it was wrong. Her education failed to inform her actions.

For we know that an effective leader at any level of leadership from classroom teacher to president of whatever, does what they say. This is called trustworthy.

We hear too many stories of leaders recently who say one thing and do the opposite. Especially telling are those who pretend to be virtuous. They teach virtue. Their private (soon to boil over into public) actions belie their words.

A virtuous leader worthy of following matches words with deeds.