February 11, 2016

Sallie Krawcheck- How Diversity Can Save Your Team from ‘Groupthink’

When Sallie Krawcheck took the stage at the 2015 Global Leadership Summit she grabbed the attention of every leader with her compelling message of team diversity.

But there was one line in particular that was, to me, an absolute game-changer when it comes to team building.

Krawcheck said slowly and deliberately, “When you’re building a team, you ask, ‘Who is the best person for the job?’ But for too many, the best person for the job looks just like you.”

She was, of course, referring to the innate bias of most leaders to build their teams by stacking each position with people as similar to themselves as possible.

Leaders will tend to gravitate towards team members who look, sound and, unfortunately, think as they do.

And the inevitable result can be ‘groupthink’.

The term and concept was coined in the early ‘70’s by social psychologist Irving Janis, and refers to what can happen when judgment is short-circuited through the collective mindset of a highly cohesive group.

Such groups can become relentlessly focused on a particular way of seeing things. And the result can be consistently poor decision making.

Scripture is full of examples of groupthink, perhaps none stronger than when the Israelites defied God’s warnings and chose instead to invade Canaan. “In their presumption they went up toward the highest point in the hill country…Then the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah.” (Numbers 14: 44-45)

The key phrase is in their presumption. Group thinking, characterized by unfounded or ill-informed presumptions, had the Israelites marching towards certain doom. Groupthink had replaced clear leadership.

The antidote to groupthink is to ensure that your team is comprised of as many diverse leaders as possible. As Krawcheck pointed out, “Diverse teams make more effective decisions.”

This week, take a diversity audit of your team. Honestly assess,

  • “How much do we look the same?”
  • “How much do we sound the same?”
  • “How much do we think the same?”

The results might be telling you that it’s time to consider moving towards greater diversity.

The alternative could be decisions that will drive your team “all the way to Hormah.”

 

Are You a Leadership Hoarder, Lender, or Giver?

I am often asked about the leadership culture at the Willow Creek Association.

The best word I often find myself using to describe this culture is that of being “generous”. There is a natural bent among my teammates to give of themselves to one another in order to ensure the achievement of the organization’s vision.

And this raises an interesting question for any leader to wrestle with; in your leadership, are you a hoarder, a lender or a giver?

How you answer that question will go a long way to determining what kind of impact you’ll have.

The hoarding leader

This is someone who devours leadership learnings, but keeps it all to themselves. Rather than investing their knowledge and experience in other rising leaders, the hoarding leader will simply amass more and more leadership knowledge.

Sometimes they’ll toss out some leadership nuggets they’ve picked up someplace, or they’ll casually mention the title of the latest leadership book they’ve read, but this will be more to impress people than to build into them.

Ultimately the hoarding leader will have almost no impact. They’ll just keep reading leadership books (and blogs), they’ll listen to leadership podcasts and they’ll attend leadership conferences.

But no one else will derive any benefit from any of it.

The lending leader

This person is a notch better than the hoarding leader. But not by much.

They will indeed share their leadership insights with others. And these lending leaders will do so in the hope that others will develop as a result.

But lending leaders have an agenda. Like a money lender, lending leaders expect something in return. While they will invest in rising leaders, their hope will be that this investment will yield dividends that will benefit themselves in some way.

The giving leader

Ultimately, it is only the giving leader who will make a lasting impact.

That’s because giving leaders selflessly invest all of who they are in the development of others, with no thought to any personal reward.

Giving leaders are driven only by the desire to see other leaders grow, mature and develop. Giving leaders recognize that the investments they have received are not meant to be either hoarded or exchanged. They know that their experiences and learnings are a gift that must be shared.

So they’ll study leadership and they’ll learn everything they can from their own experiences. Then they’ll take this rich investment and they’ll pour it into the development of rising leaders around them.

So, once again, what kind of leader are you?

If you truly desire to make a positive, lasting impact, the only route is to be the kind who gives it all away.

How do you give away your leadership?

Updated from October 9, 2014 post

 

4 Surprising Disciplines Effective Leaders Must Master

Ask any leader what disciplines are most important in their leadership, and you’re likely to hear such responses as “the discipline of punctuality” or “the discipline of ongoing learning”.

But my recent trip through Australia and India reminded me that there are other, less celebrated disciplines that effective leaders must master as well.

In conversation after conversation I encountered leaders who also upheld other disciplines which, while perhaps less notable, are nonetheless equally important for leaders to master.

In his celebrated leadership book, Great by Choice, Jim Collins unpacks the profound wisdom of the leader’s “20 mile march”.

Collins argues that the discipline of consistency is one of the leader’s greatest allies.

He writes, “The 20-Mile March imposes order amid disorder, consistency amid swirling inconsistency. But it works only if you actually achieve your march year after year. If you set a 20-Mile March and then fail to achieve it — or worse, abandon fanatic discipline altogether — you may well get crushed by events.”

So what are the fanatic disciplines a leader must master?

Volumes have been written about the disciplines of team-building, vision casting and strategic planning.

But I believe that there are at least 4 often overlooked disciplines that effective leaders must master.

1.  The discipline of not working

By this I simply mean that effective leaders know the value of ending the day, of putting down the phone and the laptop, and of saying “Team, we’re done”.

The day of the all-nighter is over.

2.  The discipline of fun

Many driven leaders find that simple fun does not come easy, and that it has to be placed in their Outlook calendar.

That’s ok. Whatever it takes, effective leaders must find a way to keep the discipline of laughter and light-heartedness alive in the organization.

3.  The discipline of celebration

The natural instinct of every leader is to look forward at the distance still to be traveled towards the goal.

But don’t forget the discipline of looking back at the ground that’s already been covered.

Celebrating the progress already achieved builds tremendous momentum for the team.

4.  The discipline of “counting your blessings”

Effective leaders make a regular routine of stopping just to notice how fortunate they, and their organization, really are.

These leaders know that one of the best ways to combat the daily pressures inherent in the role of leadership is to take regular stock of the things that are just going well these days.

So keep diligently focused on the disciplines of number crunching, attendance counting and budget analyzing.

But along the way don’t forget the importance of these other disciplines too.

They’re some of the best ways to keep a spring in your step along your 20 mile march.

What would you add to this list?

Updated from May 5, 2014 post

 

With the Right Approach, Every Day Can Be Leadership Training

Leaders can learn and grow through conferences, books and mentoring relationships.

But, with the right approach, leaders can and do learn every day and in every situation.

As I’ve been writing all week, my just completed leadership trip through Australia and India provided scores of leadership learning moments. If you missed any of these earlier posts, check out the first set of learnings here, the second set here, and the third set here.

Regular readers of this blog and of my Twitter feed will know that my role with the Willow Creek Association involves quite a bit of global travel, working with our partners in the development of the Global Leadership Summit worldwide.

And so while this particular trip was simply another in a long line of such travels, this time I took with me a heightened intentionality to keep my “leadership learning” radar on full alert.

Some of my most important learnings on this trip were reserved for the final leg of the journey…

Willow Creek Association's GLS India Team

Day 13: Great leaders think beyond their roles

You’ll never hear the words, “That’s not in my job description” from an effective leader.

From Cochin we traveled to Hyderabad, where I met with a leader who was having an impact far beyond his role as a Youth Ministry leader in his church.

While still building a fantastic youth ministry, he was also impacting the entire region with innovative initiatives that extended far beyond his own church.

Roles matter. But leaders should never be limited by them.

Day 14: High impact teams are defined by clarity of purpose

The trip wrapped up in Hyderabad with two days of strategic planning with our Global Leadership Summit India team.

This team has helped to grow the GLS from 6 sites in 2013 to 60 sites planned for 2016. And much of this impact has flowed from the singularity of purpose with which the team continues to operate, namely to transform India by growing the GLS.

Such clarity drives team effectiveness.

Day 15: Expressing Gratitude is a Core Function of Authentic Leadership

On our final full day together I was able to take our India staff, and their families, out for a celebration dinner.

The only item on the agenda; saying a heartfelt “Thank you” for their diligence and faithful service.

You can’t provide authentic leadership without saying “Thank you”.

Day 16: There are opportunities for leaders to grow every single day.

I wrapped up this trip where it all began; revisiting my resolve to look for leadership growth opportunities every day.

As I departed India I took time to review my notes.

And I recognized that, by maintaining a posture of learning, indeed I had encountered key leadership growth moments every single day.

My ultimate take-away from all of this?

Daily leadership growth need not take place in the far flung reaches of the globe.

There are opportunities for leaders to grow every day, no matter where you are.

It’s simply a question of maintaining a learning posture, and of recognizing and applying such learnings.

Let the learning continue…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Leaders Must Spot Development Opportunities at Every Turn

Effective leaders keep their radar on “full alert” to spot opportunities to learn and grow.

Certainly my recent trip through Australia and India provided scores of such ongoing growth opportunities.

Regular readers of this blog and of my Twitter feed will know that my role with the Willow Creek Association involves quite a bit of global travel, working with our partners in the development of the Global Leadership Summit worldwide.

And so while this particular trip was simply another in a long line of such travels, this time I took with me a heightened intentionality to keep my “leadership learning” radar on full alert.

Yesterday I wrote about some of these opportunities, as I had done the day before as well

But some of the biggest growth opportunities were still to come…

Enjoying the beauty of Kerala, India

Day 9: Everyone Wins when you Leverage Each Person’s Leadership

In Cochin, India, in the beautiful state of Kerala, the leadership of my colleague Varghese Chacko really began to have a multiplying effect.

Chacko, who was born in Kerala and who now lives in Chicago, took center stage when we visited Cochin, as he led us masterfully through a series of key meetings and connections.

Watching his leadership rise to another level it reminded me yet again what can be unleashed when each person is allowed to lead in their area of strength.

Day 10: Leaders Must Find Time to Re-fill Their Tanks
10 days into this trip, I was beginning to feel my leadership shoulders beginning to sag.

In earlier days I would have told myself to “suck it up” and push through. But this was out of naive stubbornness, not out of mature self-awareness.

These days I’ve learned to recognize the tell-tale signs of fatigue, and have learned to schedule times of soul replenishment.

In the beautiful state of Kerala we found the ideal opportunity to do just that, with a full day boat tour on the lush waterways of the region.

I emerged ready to tackle the rest of challenges that lay ahead.

Day 11: Leaders Can Learn from Anyone
The central purpose of our trip to Kerala was to participate with key church and denominational leaders in round-table discussions. On the table was the question, “How can the various denominations most effectively work together to impact all of India?”

There were very bright people there from every walk of life in India. And I was reminded yet again that leaders really can learn from everybody, if you carry a “learner’s mindset” with you.

Day 12: There is power in unity, not uniformity
The interdenominational meetings were true to their stated purpose. What was being sought was unity, not uniformity.

That is a critical leadership distinction. Uniformity invariably leads to bland mediocrity. Unity, on the other hand, can power movements that can produce lasting change.

All of this brought me to the mid-way point of my trip. But some of the most important leadership learnings were just around the corner.

More to come…

 

How Every Day Became a Leadership Development Day

My just completed leadership trip through Australia and India reminded me that every day can be a day in leadership school.

As I wrote yesterday, regular readers of this blog and of my Twitter feed will know that my role with the Willow Creek Association involves quite a bit of global travel, working with our partners in the development of the Global Leadership Summit worldwide.

And so while this particular trip was simply another in a long line of such travels, this time I took with me a heightened intentionality to keep my “leadership learning” radar on full alert.

Yesterday I shared my key lessons from early in the trip.

Here’s what happened next…

Enjoying worship in Chennai, India

Day 5: “Forceful” Doesn’t Equal “Right”
My first stop in India was in Mumbai, and in one of my first meetings I found myself across the table from someone with a very strong personality.

Quickly I began to see that his opinions were beginning to sway the meeting towards his way of thinking. There seemed to be an unwritten understanding that, since his opinions were so strong, they must be right.

I had to navigate this with great dexterity. Because forceful doesn’t equal right.

Day 6: Opportunities for Servant Leadership Can Appear Anytime, Anywhere
The next stop in India was in the city of Nagpur, where I found myself in conversation with a pastor; this was a pastor with a problem.

His only son had recently left home to attend university overseas and, like any loving father, this pastor longed to see his son connect with a good local church.

It blew me away when he told me where his was living; He was in Kelowna, Canada. Not only was this my hometown, but I would be there in a few weeks.

An opportunity for servant leadership had presented itself, and I was able to set about connecting this young man with some great contacts in Kelowna.

Leaders should be grateful when an opportunity to serve presents itself.

Day 7: The Most Effective Leadership Flows from Relationships
The next stop in India was the city of Lucknow, and a meeting with the Lucknow Global Leadership Summit team.

This was a team made up of pastors from across the city, and it quickly became apparent that these people genuinely loved one another.

“No wonder,” I thought to myself, “that this is such an effective team. These people would do anything for each other.”

Such relationships form the bedrock for great leadership results.

Day 8: A Leader’s Word is their Bond
That night we flew to Chennai on a late flight, and at 3:00 am as we arrived at our hotel, my colleague reminded me that I was preaching in two church service the following morning. I would be picked up at 8:30 am.

True confession; I had forgotten I had made this commitment weeks earlier.

Seeing the look of concern on my face my colleague assured me he could get me out of this commitment.

“Thanks, but I made a promise,” I replied. “With God’s help I’ll be fine.”

A night of prayer and preparation made up for a night without sleep, and God enabled me to carry through on my commitment.

Leaders must be people of their word.

But my real-time leadership training school was far from over.

Tomorrow I’ll share some of the most important lessons of the entire trip.

How to Put Yourself Through Leadership School…Every Day

Every day, and every situation, can provide compelling leadership lessons and principles, if you are open to recognize them.

That was the perspective I took with me on my just completed leadership trip through Australia and India. It was a trip that quickly reminded me that every day can be a day in leadership school.

Regular readers of this blog and of my Twitter feed will know that my role with the Willow Creek Association involves quite a bit of global travel, working with our partners in the development of the Global Leadership Summit worldwide.

And so while this particular trip was simply another in a long line of such travels, this time I took with me a heightened intentionality to keep my “leadership learning” radar on full alert.

Here’s a quick summary of what I came away with…

Willow Creek Association Australia Board

Day 1: Leaders must have the fortitude to allow them to “not sweat the small stuff”.
I managed to get from Chicago to San Francisco to Sydney, Australia, incident free. But, wouldn’t you know it, on the brief flight from Sydney to Brisbane the airline misplaced my suitcase.

But I knew I couldn’t allow this irritation from taking my eye off the leadership ball; I was in Australia to participate in critical planning with the board of WCA Australia, and this would require my full attention.

The bag showed up a day later. But more importantly, I managed to keep my focus where I needed it to be.

Day 2: Effective leaders build on ideas; they don’t tear them down.
The first day of planning with the WCA Australia board saw this team of leaders put on a clinic in teamwork and planning.

There was lots of passion in the room, and plenty of ideas being tossed around. What impressed me was that each idea served as a platform for building an even better idea.

Egos were left at the door. These leaders reminded me that, when it comes to planning, we need to be in the construction business, not the deconstruction business.

Day 3: Without timelines and accountabilities even the best ideas will quickly evaporate.
On the second and final day of our planning in Australia, Stu Cameron, the board chairman, took us methodically through each action item we had landed on, and made sure each one had a timeline attached and a person accountable for it.

It demonstrated once again that the best planning in the world means nothing if it is not followed with specific action steps and, most importantly, someone accountable to make it happen.

Day 4: The primary job of a leader is to solve problems.
My travels took me from Australia to India via Singapore. It was there that I recognized that I had a concerning problem. My passport was almost full, and because of another mix-up with my suitcase, it would have to be stamped in Singapore. I could run out of passport pages before I finished my trip.

Faced with this dilemma I sat down on a bench and said to myself, “Scott, leaders solve problems. This is a problem. Figure it out.”

Bill Hybels has observed, “Leaders eat problems for lunch.” I had a full course meal that day in Singapore.
I managed to solve the passport problem, but that was hardly the biggest obstacle, or leadership moment, I would face.

Check back tomorrow to see what happened next during this leadership school…

Bill Hybels on Bridge-Building Leadership

I am in my second week of my leadership tour of India, where a common theme has been emerging.

These church leaders have recognized the opportunity they have to impact all of India, across denominational, cultural and economic lines. They are committed to being leaders who build bridges.

And it has brought to mind an earlier trip I took to India with Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. During a meeting in Delhi, Bill asked a leadership question that immediately grabbed everyone’s attention, and which should resonate with leaders everywhere.

”Are you a bridge-builder, or a wall-erector?”

Bill raised this vital question in response to a leadership issue that was apparent among some churches in this part of India, and which applies in leadership circles globally.

As a leader, Bill was reminding us, our energies and focus will either result in the bringing together of people, organizations, ideas and communities, or it will drive things further apart. Effective leaders, Bill taught with great urgency, must devote themselves to being bridge builders.

He used an example of Bridge-Building leadership by talking about a group of churches in Buenos Aires, Argentina who collaborate at a jaw-dropping level. For example, when one of these churches begins a building program, each of the other churches in the community will provide financial support out of their own resources!

As Bill continued to teach about this I began funneling this principle through my own leadership lens. On my notepad I created two columns; one called “Bridge Building” and the other “Wall Erecting”. I then began to list all of the ways my leadership might contribute to each of these outcomes.

I become a wall erecting leader when I:

• Say anything negative, even in private conversation, about another leader or organization

• Do anything less than offer whole-hearted, enthusiastic support and cooperation to other leaders and their organizations

• Fail to pro-actively build intentional relationships with these leaders

I become a bridge-building leader when I:

• Season every conversation regarding other leaders and organizations with words of affirmation,

• Pro-actively reach out to offer support and resources

• Make it my personal leadership mission to seek the success of those who can’t offer anything to me in return.

My huge take-away was that, whether we realize it or not, every day as leaders we are either erecting walls or building bridges. I came away with renewed resolve to leverage my own leadership to be an intentional bridge builder.

How do you build leadership bridges?

Bill Hybels on Bridge-Building Leadership

I am in my second week of my leadership tour of India, where a common theme has been emerging.

These church leaders have recognized the opportunity they have to impact all of India, across denominational, cultural and economic lines.

They are committed to being leaders who build bridges.

And it has brought to mind an earlier trip I took to India with Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. During a meeting in Delhi, Bill asked a leadership question that immediately grabbed everyone’s attention, and which should resonate with leaders everywhere.

”Are you a bridge-builder, or a wall-erector?”

Bill raised this vital question in response to a leadership issue that was apparent among some churches in this part of India, and which applies in leadership circles globally.

As a leader, Bill was reminding us, our energies and focus will either result in the bringing together of people, organizations, ideas and communities, or it will drive things further apart.

Effective leaders, Bill taught with great urgency, must devote themselves to being bridge builders.
He used an example of Bridge-Building leadership by talking about a group of churches in Buenos Aires, Argentina who collaborate at a jaw-dropping level. For example, when one of these churches begins a building program, each of the other churches in the community will provide financial support out of their own resources!

As Bill continued to teach about this I began funneling this principle through my own leadership lens. On my notepad I created two columns; one called “Bridge Building” and the other “Wall Erecting”. I then began to list all of the ways my leadership might contribute to each of these outcomes.

Wall Erecting:
I become a wall erecting leader when I:
• Say anything negative, even in private conversation, about another leader or organization
• Do anything less than offer whole-hearted, enthusiastic support and cooperation to other leaders and their organizations
• Fail to pro-actively build intentional relationships with these leaders

I become a bridge-building leader when I:
• Season every conversation regarding other leaders and organizations with words of affirmation,
• Pro-actively reach out to offer support and resources
• Make it my personal leadership mission to seek the success of those who can’t offer anything to me in return.

My huge take-away was that, whether we realize it or not, every day as leaders we are either erecting walls or building bridges.

I came away with renewed resolve to leverage my own leadership to be an intentional bridge builder.

How do you build leadership bridges?

Bill Hybels on Avoiding Leadership Power Plays

This week I’ve been on Australia’s beautiful Gold Coast, working with the Willow Creek Association’s Australia board on strategic planning.

It has been a fascinating leadership experience, as step by step we have moved closer and closer towards consensus on key issues.

And it has brought to mind an important leadership lesson that I heard Bill Hybels speak about earlier this year, in response to an interesting question he was asked.

“I know that, as a leader, I need to build consensus. But sometimes I feel like I just need to declare a decision. Is it ever ok to do that?”

That was a question asked to Bill Hybels at a coaching event in the Philippines.

For some, Bill’s answer was a game-changer.

“Every time you make a unilateral leadership power play, you cash in some trust chips.” Bill said with great emphasis.

Bill went on to unpack the deeper leadership truths.

“If you have positional power and authority, you have the right to simply make the call. You can bypass the messiness of aligning people around a vision, or building consensus and so on. And if you do this consistently you will pay a price.

And the price you will pay is the erosion of trust.”

Was Bill saying that it is never appropriate for a leader to simply “make the call”?

Not at all. There are those occasions when the leader must step up and simply declare a decision.

However he was pointing out the leadership truth that you need to be very careful about how often you make a unilateral power play.

When Bill was making this point, I quickly jotted across my page these 5 problems leaders create when they make a unilateral power play too often.

1.  Your team will wonder if their contributions matter, or will you simply make the call regardless of their input.

2.  Your team will begin to doubt their own effectiveness.

3.  You will create unhealthy distance between you and your team.

4.  You will create a culture of followers instead of leaders.

 5. You will slow the pace of productivity. If you have to make all the decisions, you will create a production bottleneck.

Leadership requires the ability to make decisions.

But as Bill reminded these leaders in Manila, a little too much decision-making can get in the way of some big-picture team-building.

How do you keep from making too many unilateral power plays?

Updated from February 10, 2015 post

 

Bill Hybels, on How “Bandwidth” Can Expand Your Leadership

This week I’ve been working on 2016 plans with our Global Leadership Summit leadership team from Latin America. More than once a strategic question has been put on the table that has drawn us in to “either/or” thinking.

For example, it was asked, “Should we focus on numeric growth this year, or on qualitative improvements?”

In response, I referred to a key leadership insight I had heard from Bill Hybels during a trip to Asia earlier in 2015. Bill’s take on a leader’s “bandwidth” was a game-changer for us. And perhaps it will be to you in your leadership.

During a leadership coaching event in India a leader had been attempting to nail Bill down on a “this or that” kind of leadership question.

“Should I be a tough-minded leader or more of a relational leader?” he had asked.

Bill quickly responded with a much better leadership perspective.

“What you should really be focusing on,” Bill began, “Is ‘What is my elasticity as a leader?

I’m talking about your bandwidth as a leader. For every growing leader this is a huge concept to master.”

As Bill went on to explain, I was busily taking notes.

“The bandwidths of leadership refers to the tension leaders must constantly monitor in various leadership situations.

You need to know when to be passionate, and when to be dispassionate.

When to be clear, and when to be ambiguous.

When to launch, and when to delay. These are all questions of a leader’s bandwidth.”

And that, I noted to myself, was a masterful leadership insight.

All too often leaders try to let themselves off the leadership hook by reducing leadership to a set of formulas or simplistic extremes. “Leaders must be tough”, one leader will say. “Leaders must be quick to act” another will declare.

But for growing, leaders, Bill reminded us, effectiveness lies in the nuances in between. They recognize that some situations, some seasons, and some people, require leadership that is quick to act, decisive and blindingly clear.

At other times, in other seasons, and perhaps for other people, leadership requires patience, seasoning, even a bit of ambiguity.

Here are the key points I scrawled on my notepaper that day.

  • Leadership can never be reduced to a set of inflexible formulas
  • Leadership requires the ability to read a situation and respond to its unique circumstances
  • Leadership is much more fluid an art than it is an exact science

Keep these concepts firmly in mind, and your leadership bandwidth can experience tremendous elasticity, and effectiveness.

How broad is your leadership bandwidth?

Updated from February 19, 2015 post

 

The Power of “Loaves and Fishes” Leadership

At the 2015 Global Leadership Summit, Albert Tate accomplished something truly remarkable for a Summit speaker.

He managed to make us laugh hard, to think deeply and to resolve to act, all at the same time.

In his memorable Summit talk, Tate drew our attention to the biblical story of how Jesus took the loaves and fishes provided by a young boy, and proceeded to feed thousands of people.

With a focus on the boy’s astonishment at what Jesus had done, Tate challenged us by asking, “What if Jesus is going to do a miracle using what you bring?”

The central point is that Jesus can radically multiply the effectiveness of any leader, when we bring Him our skills, talents, opportunities and resources, and let Him take them, break them and multiply them.

As Take brought this challenge I found myself writing on my notepad, “What prevents leaders from being like the boy in this story? What prevents leaders from bringing all of their leadership resources to Jesus?”

As I thought about this, here are three obstacles I identified…

1.      Lack of resourcefulness

One of the key points Tate raised was that the boy was the only person in attendance who seemed resourceful enough to bring a lunch to the gathering that day.

Tate asked this leadership question, “What does it mean for you to pack your lunch?”

It begins by doing a “leadership audit” of your resources.

2.      Lack of courage

It was a tremendously courageous act for the boy to hand over his lunch. That was his sustenance for the day.

Similarly, it requires a level of courage for leaders to be able to authentically lay down all of their leadership resources before God and to say, “Take it; it’s Yours”.

3.      Lack of security

The credit for the miracle that day didn’t go to the boy, it went to Jesus.

Some leaders have a very difficult time releasing credit to anyone beyond themselves. And until that changes they’ll never see the kind of outpouring that was witnessed by the crowds that day.

If you find yourself struggling to fully surrender your leadership to God, consider if these challenges might be getting in your way, and resolve to overcome them.

If you do, 2016 could be the year where God can multiply your leadership as never before.

 

5 Keys to Reading Through the Bible in a Year

I’ve just completed my 17th year in a row reading through the Bible cover to cover. This practice is one that fills my spiritual tank and which provides the fuel that drives my leadership.

But like many others, I found it to be a very challenging discipline at first. Simply starting at Genesis and plowing my way through was cumbersome, and many of the “bible-in-a-year” plans that I looked at didn’t seem much better.

But then around my third year I realized that if I was going to stick with this discipline I would need to re-arrange the reading order in a new way. And so it was that I developed my own bible reading plan that has served me well ever since.

The key, I discovered, was to assemble a plan that was built on five important principles:

Daily Bible Plan

1.   Jesus’ story needs to be read…often.
Early on I realized that I want to revisit the life and ministry of Christ throughout the year. My plan places the four gospels in each season of the year.

2.   Name the elephant in the room – Some parts of the bible are boring.
Plowing through some sections of the Law or the minutia of genealogies can suck the life out of bible reading. I intersperse these sections with regular “bursts” of Psalms and Proverbs.

3.   The Prophets come to life when they’re matched with their history.
I like to provide context for the major and minor prophets by positioning these readings as near to their corresponding history book as possible.

4.   Grouping the Epistles creates context and texture.
I love working through the Pauline epistles, taking a “gospel break” then tackling the other letters a bit later in the year.

5.   Have a strong finish line
I’ve always had a special appreciation for “the disciple Jesus loved”. I end the year with John’s gospel, followed by his epistles, then the Revelation. To me this provides a wonderful year-end conclusion to the journey.

Now, John Ortberg has rightly observed that while getting through the bible is good, getting all of the bible through you is what really matters. Reading the bible all the way through is not in and of itself spiritually significant. But the discipline of spending time in scripture can yield marvellous results.

If you want to check out my plan click here.

Whatever plan you use, stick with it, and watch as God’s Spirit breathes His life into your leadership.

Updated from January 6, 2012 post

 

The One Leadership Blog You’ll Read NOT about Resolutions

I’m a believer in setting new goals in a new year.

But there are hundreds of posts readily available today to help you set new leadership targets for 2016.

Today, I want to ask you a very different leadership question: “Is my soul in a better place today than it was a year ago?”

For 365 days you’ve been doing the hard work of leadership. You’ve been:

  • Making tough decisions,
  • Relieving people of their positions,
  • Disappointing people for a greater purpose,
  • Saying “no”,
  • Driving people to achieve objectives,

All of these necessary tasks can take a toll on the leader’s soul.

The writer of Proverbs states emphatically, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23). For leaders, this means taking time at the end of a full year to examine the condition of your inner being.

So before you tackle another year, before you set down another list of goals and resolutions, take time to wrestle through these questions. At the end of this year of leadership:

  • Is my heart towards people more, or less, compassionate than a year ago?
  • Am I growing more, or less, irritable than I was a year ago?
  • Does laughter come to me more or less easily than it did a year ago?
  • Is my appreciation of natural beauty more, or less, heightened than it was a year ago?
  • Would people describe me as more, or less, “winsome” than I was a year ago?
  • Is my walk with God more, or less, fulfilling today than it was a year ago?

This list is far from exhaustive, but I would urge you to reflect on these kinds of questions before you even think about tackling a new hill in 2016.

Because while resolutions and goals really ARE important, a healthy soul trumps everything.

As the Proverb says, “everything flows from it”.

How would you assess your own soul at the end of this year of leadership?

Updated from December 31, 2013 post

 

‘That’s What Christmas is All About Charlie Brown’…Take 2

In the classic scene from Merry Christmas Charlie Brown, Linus takes centre stage and delivers a most eloquent defense of the true meaning of Christmas.

Reciting from Luke’s gospel, Linus reminds the Peanuts gang, and all of us, that at its core, Christmas is about the birth of Christ.

If Charles Schulz were ever to have re-visited that scene, I would have loved to see Linus carry on by quoting the New Testament passage that, I believe, tells us how Jesus’ birth should impact our lives today, and every day…

“Lights please…This is how God showed his love among us; He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loves us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4: 9-12)

And THAT’S what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Merry Christmas to all.

Updated from December 24, 2010 post

 

The Leadership Lesson Hidden in a Classic Christmas Carol

This Christmas season, hopefully you can enjoy singing carols with no thought other than the simply enjoying these wonderful songs.

But if you simply can’t turn your leadership radar off for even a moment, you’ll no doubt spot timeless leadership truths in many classic carols.

None more so, than in Good King Wenceslas.

Though the song likely contains as much myth as it does fact, it is widely regarded as being based on a real person, and the events depicted in the song are a reflection of the “good King’s” character.

As such, the carol serves as a timely seasonal reminder of one of the highest callings of leadership; that of compassion.

According to the carol, Wenceslas observed a poor man gathering firewood on a bitterly cold winter night. Moved with compassion, the king asked his page to accompany him in bringing food and drink out to the man.

As they journeyed out, the night became too cold even for the page, at which point the King ensured that the page walk behind him, so that the page would be protected from the biting wind.

If this classic carol accomplished nothing more than to fill you will the yuletide spirit, it has done its job.

But don’t be afraid to delve into the leadership qualities it espouses too.

For here you’ll find here a leader who:

  • Was aware of needs around him
  • Was quick to move to action
  • Could build a team
  • Would not ask someone to do anything he wasn’t willing to do
  • Was a servant leader
  • Was driven to meet the needs of those he leads

(If you haven’t sung this carol for a few years, you can find the lyrics here.)

So at your next Christmas gathering, enjoy all that the season has to offer. And when the carols are being sung, join in with full gusto.

And should Good King Wenceslas be included, take a moment to reflect on the leadership principles it contains.

It could enrich both your Christmas and your leadership.

Updated from December 15, 2014 post

 

The Surprising Christmas Gift Every Leader Gives

Have you watched (or read) A Christmas Carol yet this year?

This weekend I’ll be settling in to watch my favorite Christmas story (Alistair Sim version, of course), and in doing so I’ll be reminded once again of a powerful leadership truth:

Leaders have the power to give the gift of happiness, or of unhappiness.

This is not to say that the primary role of the leader is merely to ensure the personal well-being of everyone on the team.

But effective leaders know that:

  • Leaders influence the culture of the team
  • As Bill Hybels notes, the team culture will never be more healthy than the leader wants it to be
  • A healthy team is far more likely to produce sustainable positive results.

This point is delivered beautifully in A Christmas Carol.

It is found in Stave II as the Ghost of Christmas Past escorts Ebenezer Scrooge on a visit to his former place of employment. There Scrooge experiences again the tremendous joy he received from his old employer, Mr. Fezziwig.

And as he reflects on the leadership of Fezziwig, Scrooge offers a powerful leadership insight;

He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words or look; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to count and add ‘em up; what then? The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.

The power to render others “happy or unhappy” falls within the purview of each leader. And each leader has a responsibility to exercise that power with wisdom and with intentionality.

And so as the year comes to a close a worthwhile question for self-reflection is, “Are those who have been influenced by my leadership this year generally happier, or unhappier, than they were a year ago?”

Perhaps the coming year will be one in which you will purpose to increase the happiness quotient of those you lead.

That could indeed be a powerful leadership Christmas gift.

Updated from December 23, 2014 post

 

The Power of Drawing a Leadership Line in the Sand

This week an issue crossed my desk that required a tough decision to be made.

Because the issue was fairly complex, I was glad I had already learned the principle of drawing a leadership line in the sand.

And it reminded me that anytime a leader faces a complex decision, it’s important to have lines already firmly drawn in the sand.

A line in the sand where your core values intersect with real life situations.

Several years ago I was called in to help turn around a non-profit organization which had been in a financial tailspin.

About three months into this journey the Chief Financial Officer came into my office and delivered some very bad news. “Scott, it looks as though we’re not going to make it.”

He explained that there was not enough money on hand to meet the next payroll. At the point where an organization misses payroll, you are basically finished.

I asked him for options.

“Well,” he began, “We are sitting on a trust fund containing more than enough money. To be clear, it’s not our money, but we do have access to it. If we were convinced that things would turn around, and that we’d be able to replace those funds later, we could dip into that account and cover our shortfall.”

I’m not going to lie to you. This was tempting.

But then, almost in unison, the C.F.O. and I said, “Wait, what are we doing? This goes against everything you and I believe in. No, we won’t violate our principles and use funds that are not really ours.”

This encounter had reminded us of three vital “line in the sand” leadership truths.

1.  A line in the sand must be drawn before you need it.

When you’re in a moral dilemma it’s too late to start figuring out your principles.

2.  A line in the sand must be shared.

Being able to say, “I won’t cross that line” is good. But it’s nothing like the power of an entire team saying, “WE won’t cross that line.”

3.  A line in the sand must be absolute.

A line in the sand must be peppered with words like “always” (“We will always…”) and “never” (“We will never…”). Not “sometimes” or “usually”

By the way, the following week an unexpected donation arrived which covered our shortfall, and the turnaround went on to be a success.

But maybe more important than salvaging the organization was the satisfaction of maintaining our own integrity.

Do you have clear core values? Good. Now, put them to work in real-life situations.

It starts by drawing a line in the sand.

When have you needed to draw a line in the sand?

Updated from January 22, 2015 post

Leadership Getting Hard? Resist These 3 Shortcuts

Have you ever been tempted to take a leadership shortcut?

Sure you have. Every leader faces the temptation at some point to avoid the sometimes hard, grueling, long road that leadership often requires.

This week as I was looking at some year-end results from the Global Leadership Summit, it struck me that our partners around the world share the vital leadership trait of being “shortcut-avoiders”. They know and understand that leadership results are often achieved only after enduring extensive, effort over the long haul.

To achieve their results they have learned to identify common leadership “shortcuts” and have resolved not to succumb to their temptation.

Here are three of the most common, and deadly, leadership shortcuts to avoid…

1.  Creating policies

Moving people or organizations forward requires the hard work of leadership. It requires vision casting, team building, and difficult conversations.

But instead of doing this hard work, some leaders will opt instead to simply churn out a few policies.

Policies might have their place. Just don’t confuse them with leadership.

2.  Losing your cool

When a leader loses their cool, it’s like a child throwing a temper tantrum. Both are frustrated that they’re not getting their way. And so they pitch a fit.

If people give in to this, it can create the illusion that there has been a leadership accomplishment. But ‘powering up’ isn’t the same as leadership. It’s more like bullying.

And it’s just another shortcut.

3.  Creating a new org chart

…or reorganizing anything.

A leader paralyzed with indecision will sometimes whip out a piece of paper or run to a white board and start drawing boxes, circles and lines with abandon.

In time a brand new exciting organization chart can emerge, and the resulting change in reporting structures can provide yet another illusion that real leadership has taken place.

But, once again, it hasn’t. It’s just another shortcut.

Face it. Sometimes leadership is just hard. Moving a group of people forward requires tremendous effort and tenacity.

And in the midst of it all it can be very tempting to simply take one of these shortcuts.

But resist these easy ‘outs’. Stick to the hard work of leadership.

The results will be worth it.

What other leadership shortcuts have you seen?

Updated from April 16, 2015 post

 

The Surprising Power of Winsome Approachability in Leadership

Last week, during a coaching session, Willow Creek Church’s senior pastor Bill Hybels singled out WCA president Gary Schwammlein for possessing a vital leadership trait.

“More than just about anyone I know,” Bill began, “Gary Schwammlein possesses winsome approachability. And that characteristic is a huge reason for his leadership success.”

Winsome approachability.

As I thought about the importance of this quality, I jotted down three important leadership “wins” that approachable leaders achieve:

1.       Approachable leaders transfer values quickly

If a leader is considered intimidating, or stand-offish, they can find it difficult to connect with people in a way that can easily impact core values.

2.       Approachable leaders spot emerging leaders

If the primary role of a leader is to raise up other leaders, approachability is a must. You can’t identify potential leaders from afar.

3.       Approachable leaders know the pulse of the team

Only when you’re up close and personal with your team will you discover what is really going on in the ranks.

How do you become an approachable leader? As I’ve observed tremendously approachable leaders, like Gary, I’ve observed three important characteristics.

1.       Approachable leaders get out of their office.

This used to be called “leadership by walking around”. Call it what you will, the first step towards approachability is to simply emerge from the cocoon of your office and get out to where the people are.

2.       Approachable leaders talk about non-work related topics.

If all you ever talk about are spreadsheets and strategic plans, your team will never warm up to you. Talking about family, sports, movies, and other “real life” topics will draw your team closer.

3.       Approachable leaders smile.

‘Nuff said?

When Bill described Gary’s approachability he added, “I’ve flown all over the world with Gary. And I’ve always been struck that wherever we land Gary gets off the plane and gives our friends a big hug.”

If you want to up your approachability, consider getting out of your office a bit more, put on a warm, genuine smile, and ask your teammates about the latest movie they’ve seen.

The results will be well worth the effort.