Posts Tagged ‘vision’

Responding To Good Leadership This Year

January 6, 2017

Responding has been the word of the week. It started with a talk I heard which ended with a conclusion about responding, and I thought, wow, if he’d have used responding as his theme, then the talk would not have wandered and it would have been powerful. So, I started thinking about various ways we respond starting with people from the Bible.

Friday is often leadership day at Faith Venture, so I wondered about how leaders set the tone of the organization to get a beneficial response. Here are a few thoughts you might be able to use this year in whatever you might be leading–committee, department, company, non-profit organization.

Vision – Effective leaders are responding to a cause, problem, need. They don’t just say to themselves, “I just want to be the boss.” People like that may be managers. Or they may be ineffective leaders that end up in some sort of mess. But the good ones know where they’re going. It’s a cause or fills a need. It’s big enough to get others involved.

Communicate – Effective leaders can articulate the vision in 40 words or less. Peter Drucker says it should fit on a T-shirt. I’m part of an organization that has two statements. They call them “mission” and “vision”, but in reality they are statements of vision. And each is too long. Last year they re-wrote them after 12-14 years and said the same thing using more words. I heard about the process and offered some suggestions. They dropped me from the mailing list immediately. <sigh> Beyond the written statement, effective leaders talk about the vision at every opportunity. If someone suggests a new initiative, they ask, “Does it fit the vision?” Everyone in the organization should be familiar with the vision.

Decisions – Effective leaders assure that decisions are made in a timely manner. They either make decisions promptly and clearly, or they give people closest to the action the power to make decisions with clear guidelines.

Process – Effective leaders pay close attention to system and process of how things get done. If things are not happening the way you like, look at the process before you try to fix the people. The process may be set up to assure failure.

Execution – Effective leaders know that vision is worthless unless you get something done. If it is a business, then you must satisfy customer needs and make a profit. If it is a non-profit, you must serve your clients well, and assure adequate funding for the work. They encourage, no insist upon, collaboration. I had a boss with a gift for words who would pull together an ad hoc team and say, “Why don’t you gather like the witches in Macbeth and solve this problem.” Fair is foul…oh, that’s another essay. 

Here’s to a more effective 2017.

Leadership And The Discipline of Focus

July 22, 2016

What defines a leader?

Not a manager or someone with a title? No, a leader.

We always start with vision. A leader has a vision of where to go. A vision of what the goal of the organization or committee is.

I knew a leader once. I’ve worked in a number of organizations and businesses. I’ve known few leaders.

It was a larger organization. Several hundred people–maybe reaching toward 1,000 for a while. A church, for what that’s worth.

He knew where he was going and where he wanted to take the organization.

He selected close advisors–mostly wisely.

He encouraged teams to develop–as long as they moved the vision forward.

He could change teams as situations changed requiring new responses–but still moving the vision forward.

Researching yesterday’s post, I remembered Nehemiah.

He had a vision. He convinced the residents of Jerusalem, who had become adjusted to living in a city without walls, that it was essential they build a wall.

He organized teams, recruited leaders, but always focused on his goal.

He accomplished the goal in a remarkably short time. If any one of you has ever been part of a construction project or watched one, you know that they are almost never done on time and under budget. Nehemiah did it.

He was focused on the task. “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”

What great work are we doing right now? What are our potential distractions that could prevent us from doing that great work.

Focus. Recognize distractions and discard them. Keep the vision in mind always.

Leaders Are Communicators

October 9, 2015

Reflecting on Paul, perhaps the greatest leader (outside of Jesus) in the early church. He came out of nowhere. He was not part of the inner circle. Heck, he wasn’t in any circles when Jesus was alive. We don’t hear about him until after the resurrection and the formation of the early church. And then he was an instigator.

Then, he was converted. He was taught. He was commissioned.

He visited little groups of followers and taught and preached. He encouraged them to grow in numbers and in strength of spirit.

He also wrote. That’s how we know about him today. We all study what he wrote way back then in letters that he could only hope would make it to their destinations, let alone make it into books that we read today.

He had a vision. He had passion. But he exploited that through his use of the written and spoken word.

Much as  I never much cared for Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, he did teach me one thing from his books–the importance of crafting your message as a leader and then speaking and writing that message at every opportunity. As a leader, you have to get your message out.

I have interviewed the senior leadership of a $7 billion automation company many times. I’ll interview the CEO, and he’ll give me the message. Then I’ll interview three or four senior vice presidents. They’ll all give me that message as it relates to their areas. Then I’ll talk to director level people. Same thing. The message gets through.

How about your organization? Does it have a message? Is it clearly articulated such that just about everyone can understand it? If I interviewed all the people in your organization, would they be able to tell me what the message is and be able to relate it to their role?

In some of the organizations where I am in a leadership role, I find myself communicating all the time. Emails, notes, brochures, phone calls, text messages, Facebook or Website. You’ve got to use every means available.

If you are working quietly away from people, you’re probably not leading.

Do Not Lag in Zeal

October 7, 2015

Do you ever find yourself during the day with a loss of focus, lack of energy, and uncertainty about what to do next?

It happens to us personally. There are times when I just can’t seem to focus and find the energy to do something.

Still deep into studying Roman and looking at the third paragraph of chapter 12, I read “outdo one another in showing honor, do not lag in zeal, be ardent in the spirit.”

Look at those verbs. Outdo, do not lag, be ardent. Action words. Don’t sit around and mope. Do something.

So, what causes the problem?

  • trouble making a decision
  • too many things to do, feeling swamped
  • not focused on the next task (check your Nozbe app!)
  • the food you ate
  • not enough sleep
  • not centered in purpose

I think we can sense that corporately, whether in church or business. Check these thoughts.

  • loss of vision
  • everyone with an opinion, no one with a direction
  • leadership that kills motivation
  • politics
  • no one cares
  • people just want to get along, like a little club
  • forget about those you’re serving

If you personally get into this state of being, it’s time to 

  • pause
  • breathe
  • consciously refocus
  • remind yourself of the purpose of the day
  • go to the to do app and choose the next action
  • oh, and go to work (nothing cures apathy like work)

If it is a corporate thing, then

  • there is a real need for a leader to step forward
  • start reminding people of the purpose / vision
  • refocus on those whom the organization is serving
  • determine tasks
  • go to work

There is much work to do between the steps. But both situations require pause, breathe, focus on vision, go to work.

I think that whoever read these words of Paul “be ardent in the spirit” knew exactly what he meant. Paul must have lived that command daily. As should we.

Leadership Tip-Team Building

July 31, 2015

What made Phil Jackson such a great coach in the National Basketball Association. Arguably it was his ability to take a group of super-talented individuals and convince them that their role in the team was important but that all of them working together blending their roles would bring championships.

Building teams is the best way to move an organization or even committee forward.

Here are some elements of team building for leaders:

  • Define why you are building a team (winning NBA championship, leading a new building campaign, selling a product, leading a church)
  • Define the roles you need to be successful (not just filling spots, but recruiting talented people to fill roles)
  • Carefully recruiting people who can fill a role or be trained for that role
  • Continually work with each person and the group to build trust and communication
  • Leaders must constantly hold out the vision and purpose to the team to avoid splintering into factions going different ways

If you are leading a team of leaders, it’s the same thing. But each team member will go off to lead their teams. It is important that the team building be passed down the organization. A good team at the top builds teams all the way throughout the organization.

The enemy of teams–silos. When leaders appear to communicate together, but the conversations are superficial, that is a warning sign of silos. When each leader goes off and does their own thing without regard to the work of other teams, then the organization grows dysfunctional. That reflects lack of top leadership. It also reflects lack of vision.

When Jesus said people would know his followers by their love, he didn’t exactly mean that they were always sitting in a circle holding hands and singing Cum Ba Yah. Love demands respect.

A team-building leader respects people as a first priority. And respect for people filters througout the entire organization.

A great team consists of people who fulfill their roles in pursuit of the common visions where everyone has respect for the others.

Why Become a Leader

June 5, 2015

Betrayal, failure, working excessive hours, exhaustion, worry, fear.

By the time you finish Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth by Samuel Chand, you wonder why anyone would want to be a leader. He has written eleven chapters that contain about 30 stories of leaders who experienced all of that and more.

He doesn’t take the easy route out, either. No simple formulae. No quick list of top ten tricks and tips.

There is no easy solution. People are people. Some lie to you and then betray you. Some betray you yet continue to smile when you meet. It happens. It’s happened to me, it’s happened to you.

What you know is that you have a vision of how you want to make a difference. And it takes an organization to make that difference. You want to build a business, a ministry, a church, a non-profit. You begin to hire people and you think they share the vision. Then someone will turn on you. Or there will be a market setback. Revenues dry up. There are big challenges.

What Chand shows is how people worked through all the crises. You will suffer some degree of pain as a leader. It is inevitable. One would hope not to suffer as his examples did. You have to have examples out on the extreme a little in order to have enough drama for a good book.

But we all get in the middle of something and discover the pain.

How you handle the pain is the key to growth and success or decline and failure. Pain is inevitable. Overcoming it is probably a myth. But we must work through it to emerge on the other side as a stronger and more energized leader.

Many people had only intellectual knowledge of potential negative side effects of leadership. Experience drives real understanding. Especially experience reflected upon and viewed as a tough teacher.

Why lead? Because we have a vision and want to make a difference. Is it worth it? Yes.

The Art of Leadership Requires The Art of Communication

May 15, 2015

He just sort of went his own way. Left the others behind and bewildered. Instructions were muddled. Text messages with u and 4 and ty rather than spelled out, complete sentence communiques.

She could talk and talk; and then when you walked away you wondered, “Just what did she say?”

Worse still is the leader who just doesn’t talk, or text, or send emails.

A friend of mine used to say, “Just pick up the phone and call.”

The leadership lesson I’m contemplating today is when a leader does not communicate–either clearly or at all.

We all know them. We’ve worked for them. Maybe when we look in the mirror we see one.

In the Bible I can think of Joseph who clearly communicated–first to the king and then to the people and saved them from starvation. Daniel who spoke clearly to a number of kings and the people who served him.King David, who was able to give clear and explicit orders–even when they were wrong. Nehamiah. Oh, yes, Nehemiah. He spoke clearly to his leader to get permission to travel to Jerusalem. Then he spoke clearly to the leaders of the Jews when he arrived. And he did a great work.

Are you aware of your weakness in communication? I know that I’m a better writer than one-on-one communicator. I hate “just picking up the phone” even when I should.

Recently I know of a situation that I’m trying to rectify where there was almost a total breakdown of communications that almost wrecked a project. One person didn’t speak up. Another didn’t assure that he was undersood when he talked. Worse, most was done by brief email exchanges.

I consulted with an executive director of an agency once where I was trying to get him to see how to communicate with his board. It started from within, that he felt like an equal. That his opinion and vision mattered. And then he needed to take his vision to the board collectively and individually.

What I have learned through bitter experience–a leader must be a great communicator. There is no one correct style of communication. But she’d better have a good one and be good at it.

Leaders Build a Great Team

March 27, 2015

Good leaders build a product at a profit; great leaders build a great team.

A great team fits together seamlessly. Each member knows and is great at executing the assigned role. Yet, each member knows and believes in the goal of the organization. The leader need not look over the work of each member in minute detail. 

In this situation, the leader is free to fulfill the role of leader.

  • Reinforce the vision to avoid “vision leak”
  • Be aware of the “big things” so that the little things go the right direction
  • Encourage each team member in growth and development of skills
  • Groom the next generation of leaders
  • Watch the details so that actions may be taken immediately upon changes in external or internal environment

Have you ever been part of such a team?

If you have, you will never forget the feeling. You actually enjoy work. You enjoy relationships with the team.

I have been on both–this type of smooth functioning team and dysfunctional teams. But mostly the latter. So much so, that a friend suggested I write a book on dysfunctional leadership. 

Someone asked me recently about an area where I am leading currently. What should I be doing? I answered, finding a younger person to replace me and then mentor them to grow into leadership and commitment to carry forward (and grow) the mission that I’m on.

Organizing–that’s what I do. It’s second nature by now. Looking out at opportunities for new things–I think about that often. Finding and grooming  a replacement? That is my challenge.

Whatever your challenge–whether it be lack of sufficient trust in your team members to let them be free to do their jobs and suggest improvement areas and new directions or whether it is a state of mind where you feel compelled to watch over everyone’s shoulder–recognize that as a weakness. Then go to work on it. Find a coach to help if necessary. There are many of us out there more than willing to help people grow.

The world does not suffer from an overabundance of good leadership. There’s room for one more.

It Takes Energy to Lead

March 13, 2015

Nehemiah, a leader of the Jews during the time of the Persian empire, had heard about the sorry state of Jerusalem. His brother described how the walls were torn down and the gates burned. About how this made the city a laughingstock among the nations.

Chapter 1 of the book describing his work describes how he was motivated to do somehing about the problem. The next chapter describes how he traveled 800 miles to Jerusalem. He arrived, but said nothing for three days. Then he went out with a small group at night to survey the situation.

Today, I can get into a car and drive a mile over to I-75 then head south for 800 miles and stop at a hotel in south Georgia in one day and be a little tired. For Nehemiah and his troops and entourage, it was a long and physically demanding trip. He took three days to recover and rebuild his energy. Then he could cast his vision for the restoration of the walls to the people.

It takes energy to lead. Energy comes from attitude, fitness, nutrition, adequate rest. People feed off the energy of their leaders.

But, the energy must be positive and uplifiting. Many leaders have an energy that destroys motivation. The energy is perhaps nervous energy. Or perhaps self-directed. Maybe it comes from the “high” pole of bi-polar disorder. Maybe it comes from fear.

On the other hand, have you ever met people who seem to just suck the energy right out of you? They are exhausting!

If you take care of your body–as Paul describes it as the temple of the spirit, then you have the beginnings of energy. Next build prayer into the rhythms of your work. Your work, indeed, becomes prayer in action. Your service becomes prayer in action actually building more energy as you expend it on your service. (Another one of life’s paradoxes.)

Einstein worked out the math to come up with energy=mass times the speed of light squared. Leadership=energy times vision.

Leadership: Vision and Problem-solving

January 30, 2015

The Apostle Paul was a doer. A leader. A problem-solver.

Did you ever think that it was interesting, or even meaningful, that Paul only wrote letters?

He didn’t write a philosophical treatise. He didn’t write a scholarly book of theology (not that that subject existed in his time). He also didn’t write (to the dismay of many of my legalistic friends) a book of laws and rules.

Paul founded little communities of Christ-followers. Many of them. His letters reflect the problems presented to him by these various communities as they sought to live out this new life in the spirit.

Leaders must have a vision. We can see glimpses of Paul’s vision in his letters. Often, I think, he assumed knowledge on the part of the listener–knowledge we don’t have 2,000 years later. But his vision is clear.

How God revealed his “glory” through Jesus. How Jesus was killed and then resurrected. How the spirit came to dwell in believers. How we should live in community.

As his followers struggled to live in a multi-cultural and often hostile world, Paul wrote to them to give guidance and reproof as necessary. Sometimes we see the questions they asked. Sometimes it’s implied.

There were many other leaders in the movement at the time. Paul stands out, his writings are timeless.

Paul shows us the example of great leadership–a vision planted deep inside articulated clearly and often; action bringing the vision into reality; follow-up, care, and nurturing of followers; development of the next generation of leaders. And, like all great leaders, often misunderstood by outsiders.