April 18, 2014

A Leader’s Reflection on Good Friday…

Originally posted April 6, 2012

For many Christ followers, Good Friday is merely the warm-up act to the main event; Easter Sunday. But I believe there is tremendous “soul-filling” value for leaders in focusing on a key moment in the Good Friday narrative.

It starts by looking at two critical “walks” that God took with his people.

The first walk took place in the Garden of Eden, where Genesis records how God would walk in the garden with Adam “in the cool of the day.” Imagine how much God must have enjoyed those times, simply strolling with His people, just doing life together.

But the next “walk” we read about takes place in a very different reality. God was about to lead Moses and the Israelites on a 40-year walk through the wilderness. But the presence of sin meant that God would not be able to enjoy the kind of communion he enjoyed in Eden.

Instead, God instructed Moses to:

Make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim worked into it by a skilled craftsman…The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. (Exodus 26: 31–33)

That curtain came to symbolize the separation between God and his people.

But on Good Friday, everything changed. At the moment where our Savior cried out, “It is finished!” we read that:

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Matthew 26:51)

It was as if God reached down out of heaven, took hold of that symbol of separation and ripped it apart with his bare hands! In that moment God was declaring, “No more separation! With the sacrifice of My beloved Son, communion is restored. We will once again walk together, just as we did back in Eden.”

As followers of Christ we live in the power of the resurrection, making Easter Sunday a day completely worthy of celebration.

But on Good Friday, let me urge you to take time to remember the ripping apart of the veil. For it was in that moment that God declared for all time that you and I would walk together with Him, “in the cool of the day.”.

For Christian leaders, that’s the walk that keeps us going.


Why Effective Leaders are Always Great Step-Takers

Leaders are step-takers.

Faced with a challenge, sometimes of overwhelming proportions, the instinct of effective leaders at first might not to be to solve the entire problem; usually it begins with a burning drive to simply take the first-step.

For this to happen typically there are three elements than converge, and leaders need to constantly be on the lookout for these elements.

1.   A pressing need

2.   A “holy discontent”

3.   A catalyzing event

No more powerful example can be found than that of Maruti Pujari.

Maruti lives in Goa, India, and I recently sat down with this remarkable leader to discover how these three elements had converged to move him from the sidelines and towards taking a powerful step to alleviating poverty.

1.   A pressing need

Maruti described his reaction upon first visiting the largest slum in Goa. “When we first came here, so many children were on the street. They had no shelter, no homes, no education.”

2.   A “holy discontent”

Bill Hybels’ teaching on a leader’s “holy discontent” has given new language to that gut-level drive that grips effective leaders.

That’s exactly what happened with Maruti Pujari.

“A burden came in our heart to do something for good, to help the people.”

3.   A catalyzing event

But, as is so often the case, a third element comes into play that drives the leader to becoming a step-taker.

For Maruti Pujari, that catalyzing event was the Global Leadership Summit (GLS).

“At the GLS we began to learn how we could take care of the people,” Maruti explained. “It gave us the courage to find out how we could take care of the children.”

Spurred on the by courage he and his colleagues found at the GLS, Maruti launched a Community Center in the heart of Goa’s largest slum.

“All the things we learned at the GLS we applied in our lives, and we started this Center. All the materials, all the teaching, all that we learn, we apply here”

Today, five years later, this Community Center is transforming the Goa slum, providing education, food and medical services to hundreds of families.

But it all started with one step.

In your leadership, watch for these three elements to converge.

They could be preparing you to take the biggest step of your life.

What is the biggest leadership step you’ve taken recently?


The “Secret Sauce” of a Dynamic Growth Plan

Growth is not a “given” in organizational life.

For significant growth to take place there are several factors that must come together to form a sort of “secret sauce”.

These include:

  • A compelling, God-breathed vision
  • A unifying sense of purpose
  • A radical commitment to raising up new leaders

For an example of this one need look no further than what has been unfolding in the church in Thailand.

Thailand is country of 65 million people, 94% of whom are Buddhist, with 5% Muslim and less than 1% Christian.

But that Christian population is on the move, growing from just 100,000 Christians 30 years ago, to more than 400,000 today.

Recently I met with one of the pillars of this growth movement, Pastor Anuparp Wichitnantana of Bangkok Liberty Baptist Church, who unpacked how the secret sauce had sparked the remarkable growth of Christianity in Thailand.

A compelling, God-breathed vision

“It began with a goal, which is to see 1 million Christians by 2015,” Anuparp explained. “And after that our next goal is to see, by 2030, 10% of Thailand be Christian. That would be about 7 million Christians.”

That’s a compelling vision, and it has galvanized the Christians in this beautiful country to do whatever it takes to get there.

A unifying sense of purpose

“In the last 30 years there has been a movement of great unity in the churches and among denominations,” Anuparp said. “Christians have been coming together for prayer and all moving in the same direction in order to see Thailand transformed and changed.”

A radical commitment to raising up new leaders

The final critical ingredient? A plan for leadership development.

“The Global Leadership Summit has played a very vital role.” Anuparp emphasized. “It is helping people to see a bigger vision and how to strategize.”

Today there are 3 GLS sites in Thailand, with plans to add more and more locations.

If growth has stalled in your organization, check to see how you’re doing with these secret sauce ingredients. If it’s leadership development that requires attention, check out the Global Leadership Summit when it comes to your area. For more, click here.

As they’ve seen in the church in Thailand, you could find that growth is just one dash of secret sauce away.

Which of these components are you focusing on these days?

How Effective Leaders Change the Odds

Every leader faces situations where the odds just seem overwhelming.

But effective leaders know that the best way to shorten the odds is to raise up more leaders to tackle the problem alongside you.

Case in point- Meet Ivan Satyavrata, senior pastor of Assembly of God Church, Kolkata, (Calcutta) India.

Pastor Ivan leads a growing congregation in one of the most desperately poor cities in the world. In addition to the despairing poverty, this is also one of the least-Christian places in all of India. With a population of 20 million, less than 1% are Christian.

I recently spoke with Pastor Ivan in Kolkata and asked him about how to overcome such tremendous challenges.

“I came here to Kolkata just under eight years ago,” he began. “And to be honest, one of the things I became most acutely aware of, what I found was, a lacking in leadership.

If you were to ask me, ‘What is the greatest need for the church in India?’ I would say it’s leadership.”

By developing hundreds of leaders, today his ministry feeds 10,000 children every day, operates schools and hospitals, and is a shining beacon of Christ’s love in the heart of impoverished Kolkata.

With such a passion for leadership development, it’s no wonder he was so enthusiastic about seeing the Global Leadership Summit come to his city.

“When I heard that the Global Leadership Summit was coming to Kolkata I was so excited. I said, “Wow Lord, this is an answer to the cry of our hearts.”

He went on to explain, “I think with the GLS coming to us, it’s going to galvanize the city. It’s going to create a buzz. I think we’re going to see not just information, I think it will begin to change the social equilibrium.”

But pastor Ivan is doing more to change the odds than to merely “cheer on” the GLS in Kolkata. This coming August, he has accepted an invitation to be among the faculty of the GLS itself, bringing his message to leaders in more some 200,000 leaders in more than 100 countries around the world.

Check out the full GLS lineup here, and make plans now to be a part of the GLS when it comes to your community.

It’s just one more way leaders can stack the odds in their favor.

Why leaders focus on OUTCOMES, not just OUTPUTS

Every leader seeks to identify, and measure, the results of their initiatives.

But truly effective leaders also understand that there is a time and place for measuring OUTPUTS, and another time and place for focusing on OUTCOMES.

Outputs are the tangible metrics you can see, feel and touch. Outcomes, on the other hand, are the impacts you are trusting your initiatives will produce.

A recent discussion I had with a remarkable leader in Goa, India, paints a powerful picture of this.

At the Willow Creek Association (WCA), we are witnessing a tremendous growth surge in the number of Global Leadership Summit (GLS) sites being requested by leaders in the remarkable country of India.

As an OUTPUT, we are tracking the number of new GLS sites being requested, and the number of leaders these sites are training.

But as an OUTCOME we focus on what impact these GLS sites are producing.

For an example of an outcome, meet Ronald Raj.

Ronald is a business leader in Bangalore, located in the Indian state of Karnataka. Ronald heads a business consulting firm, but his world was shaken a year ago when he attended his first GLS.

“It was during the GLS that God deposited a dream into my spirit, to raise up thousands of Christian business leaders.”

I asked Ronald why this dream was so important, and his answer floored me.

“What we see in India is that the economy is the backbone of any nation,” he explained. “And until we have Christian business people who are influencing the economy we cannot have an impact on this nation.”

In other words, as a result of his participation at the GLS in India, Ronald is now throwing himself with full vigor into a plan to develop thousands of Christian business leaders in India, who in turn can have a powerful Christian impact on the Indian subcontinent.

Ronald concluded his comments to me by saying, “I have always wanted to serve the Lord. But I didn’t know how to use my talents and skills to serve him. Then at the GLS I began to see how I could bring together the business principles I know and the Christian principles I believe coming together to serve the Kingdom, to advance the Kingdom.”

From the perspective of the GLS, THAT’S an outcome we can celebrate.

In your leadership what are your desired outcomes (versus outputs)?

10 60-Second Leadership Actions That Can Have Timeless Impact

Originally posted December 9, 2013

In leadership, there are no mulligans.

Every minute counts. The question is, are you making the most out of every minute?

Effective leaders know that the game isn’t always won by the big impressive grand slam play. Sometimes it’s all about making every minute count.

If you find yourself with a minute or two to spare between phone calls or meetings, do everything you can to maximize those moments.


Well, there are no doubt countless ways to get those most out of every leadership minute. But to get your thinking started here are 10 leadership actions that take less than a minute.

  • Write a thank you note to a supporter


  • Tell a team mate they’re doing a good job


  • Order two leadership books- one for yourself, one for a “rising star” on your team


  • Review your strategic plan


  • Subscribe to a leadership blog


  • Circulate a leadership article to your board or executive team


  • Connect with someone in the organization you don’t know well


  • Start researching a creative team-building off-site activity


  • Identify your 6 highest priorities over the next 6 weeks (Bill Hybels’ 6 by 6 grid)


  • Review your organization’s core values and reflect on any requiring special focus

In and of themselves, these ideas might not seem like leadership game-changers. But think of the difference it could make if you could accomplish just one of these in your next spare minute?

Now, imagine what would happen if you could string together two, three, or four of these leadership minutes.

The results could be huge.

Before you let another idle minute pass you by, consider trying one or two of these ideas. Or better yet, come up with your own list.

It might only be 60 seconds. But maximized in the hands of an effective leader, a 60 second investment of leadership horsepower can have a timeless return.

What would you add to the list?

How to Bring Clarity Through Tuning-Fork Leadership

Take a minute and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is everyone in the organization clear on our overall direction?
  • Is everyone clear on our highest present priorities?
  • Does everyone see how their contribution fits into the big picture?
Image via iStockPhoto.com

If any of these questions cause your leadership alarm bells to go off, it might be time for tuning-fork leadership.

Tuning-fork leadership is a skill leaders can develop to make sure that clarity is being re-established throughout the team. My teammate Brian McKenzie introduced me to this term after I had helped to re-clarify his understanding of a key initiative.

An actual tuning fork is a simple tool used as a standard of pitch to tune musical instruments. And like a piano tuner, your job is to chime the tuning fork to make sure your teammate is operating with complete clarity.

How does it work?

Here are 4 key components of tuning-fork leadership:

1.   A “6th sense” ability to perceive misalignment
As a leader you must be constantly listening and watching for indications of very subtle mission drift among your team.

2.   A patient, listening posture
Follow up your hunch with a casual, inquisitive conversation. Your job is to confirm, or dispel, your notion that a teammate has drifted off course. Such a conversation must be safe and unthreatening.

3.   An environment of affirmation
If your teammate has drifted, chances are they are only off-base by 10%. Affirm the 90% they are getting right.

4.   A clear ringing of the tuning fork
Now you’re ready to ring the fork. This involves unflinchingly pointing out where the drift has taken place, and ensuring your teammate’s understanding is back on pitch.

It’s important to note that tuning-fork leadership is an ongoing, never-ending process. Mission drift is inevitable in every organization. And just when you think you’ve brought everyone back into alignment it will be time to re-clarify things for someone else on the team.

So always keep your ears open to the subtle indications that a part of your organization is out of tune.

Always keep your tuning fork handy.

How do you keep your organization in tune?

4 Ways to Achieve Great Leadership Results When You Least Expect It

Most leaders thrive in what I call “Destination Leadership”.

That’s the emphasis on leading from the head of the conference table, from the white board in front of the leadership team, or from the podium at the front of the room.

In other words, these and other similar destinations are where many leaders focus their preparation and anticipate delivering their greatest leadership results.

But effective leaders achieve great leadership results in the most unlikely of places.

I call this “On the Way Leadership”.

“On the Way Leadership” was best modeled by the person many of us consider to be the greatest leader of all time; Jesus of Nazareth.

It is uncanny how much of what Jesus accomplished he did while “on the way” to someplace else.

It seems that for Jesus there were no throw-away moments. Whether it was a teaching moment, a chance to bless someone, or indeed an opportunity to perform a miracle, Jesus consistently did some of his most profound ministry not just at his destination, but while he was still on the way.

Effective leaders can learn something from this.

On the way leadership takes place when you seize a coaching moment to help a team mate learn from a mistake. It takes place when you provide a timely word of encouragement to someone whose shoulders are sagging. It takes place when you ask for feedback from staff members who happen to be walking by your office door.

How does it work? On the Way Leadership has four key components:

1.   Intentionality

On the Way leaders are always on the lookout for leadership moments where ever they are.

2.   Margin

Leaders who frantically operate at Mach 10 speed rarely have the time or bandwidth to take advantage of On the Way moments.

3.   Flexibility

You need to be able to take a detour in your carefully planned day if you’re going to take advantage of these moments.

4.   Creativity

Not every on the way moment will present itself in an obvious way. You also need the creativity to look at a routine situation with a view to uncovering a leadership moment.

None of this is to downplay or diminish the importance of leadership at the destination.

Just remember that for effective leaders your best contribution might just happen on your way there.

What would you add to the list?

How Leaders Know When to be an Optimist, Realist or Pessimist

Originally posted October 21, 2013

As a leader are you supposed to be an optimistic, a pessimist, an idealist, or a realist?

The answer is “yes”.

The key is knowing when to be which.

This is not about being inauthentic.

The reality is, in some circumstances a leader must be a grim-faced pessimist, while in others it requires being a cheery-faced optimist.

How do you know? Here’s a basic guideline to help you navigate this.

1.   A leader must be a PESSIMIST when…

…making financial forecasts in a challenging season.

When the financial fortunes of the organization are at stake it’s time for the leader to put on the demeanor of a pessimist.

Perhaps a better word than pessimistic is “cautious”. Any leader who has led a turnaround will tell you that the first step is to stop the bleeding by taking a worst-case scenario approach to budgeting.

2.   A leader must be a REALIST when…

…developing the team.

A leader must not only be committed to the development of the team, the leader must also be ruthlessly realistic when it comes to the potential of each team member.

Nothing will crush the spirit of a rising leader quite like giving them too much responsibility too soon. Instead, effective leaders must be realistic when it comes to each one’s potential, and then design their development plan accordingly.

3.   A leader must be an IDEALIST when…

…casting vision.

Ideals have gone out of fashion in our culture. But effective leaders must embrace the ideals of their organization’s mission and vision and describe them with authentic passion.

Why does the organization exist? What difference will it make in the world? These are the organization’s ideals, and the leader must espouse them eloquently and proudly.

4.   A leader must be an OPTIMIST when…

…building a healthy culture.

When the going gets hard, the team wants to know essentially one thing: “Is all of this work worth it?”

The leader’s job is to remind the team that, together under God, things are going to get better…That the mission is worth pursuing…and that success will come.

The point is, effective leadership requires knowing when to be pessimistic, realistic, idealistic or optimistic.

Can you learn this skill?

I’d be optimistic about that.

What have you learned about being an optimistic, idealistic, realistic or pessimistic leader?


The 5 “Isms” of Insecure Leadership

“A lot can happen when you have an insecure leader. None of it very good.”

That wisdom from a church leader with whom I served in Canada has stayed with me for years.

He was pointing out that an insecure leader will inevitably speak or act in ways that ultimately will do harm to the people or organization.

Ever since then I’ve learned to keep a watchful eye out for signs of insecurity in my own leadership, and those around me.

Here are what I’ve found are 5 of the most common indicators of an insecure leader:

 1.   Me-ism

Me-ism is a particularly destructive trait among insecure leaders. It frequently shows up as an undeserved demand for esteem. Rather than focusing their energies on the needs of the organization, the me-ist leader sees everyone and everything as revolving around themselves.

2.   Stubborn-ism

The stubbornist is the leader who pushes an idea regardless of input being provided by the rest of the team. Even when an idea has been demonstrated as being unwise, the stubbornist will cling to it and push it even if only to save face.

All of this flows out of insecurity.

3.   Talk-ism

The insecure leader can often be spotted merely by the volume of words they feel compelled to spew. Talk-ists seem to justify their leadership by the word count; the more they talk, the more important they must be.

4.   Agree-ism

Insecurity often leads to people-pleasing, and one of the first indicators of this is an uncontrollable desire to agree with just about everyone.

Eventually of course, this gets the leader into trouble, when they realize they are agreeing with opposing views on the same topic. Such leadership will grind forward movement to a halt.

5.   Defensive-ism

The insecure leader will often respond very negatively to opposing views. Even when those views are presented with respect, the insecure leader will sometimes lash out, feeling that their tenuous position of authority has been threatened.

The reason? The insecure leader can’t separate the idea from their own identity. And the result is a team unwilling or unable to present genuinely fresh, innovative ideas of their own.

So keep on guard for these indicators of an insecure leader and learn to develop grow through these various “isms”.

Because as my friend said, as an insecure leader you can still accomplish a lot. But none of it very good.

What other indicators of insecure leaders have you seen?

How Bill Hybels Advises Church Leaders to Approach the Weekend Service

“Imagine if I could give you a newsflash, that the person you’ve been trying to invite to church for the last 3 years is coming this Sunday.”

With those opening words, Willow Creek Community Church senior pastor Bill Hybels grabbed the attention of the 1000 leaders gathered at the Church Leadership Conference in Riga, Latvia.

But Bill would then ask, and answer, a question that every church leader must come to terms with:

 “What are you hoping will happen to that woman or that man during that one hour church service?”

Here’s how he answered that question.

“I think all of us would hope and pray that at some point during that church service, that your friend would in some way be supernaturally touched by God…That heaven would breakthrough and somehow touch the heart of that person you invited. If they’re totally non-Christian that a seed of faith would be planted in their heart that day.

If they came with a heavy heart, that maybe that day a burden would be lifted.

If they came with a broken heart, that maybe that day some mending would occur.

If they came as a cynic, that maybe that day a little bit of faith would be instilled.

If they came discouraged, that maybe that day God would give them a little hope.

But wouldn’t you want to be able, after church, to sit down at a restaurant and have that person say to you, “I don’t know how to explain it, I don’t have language for it, excuse me if I’m not using the right words, but something happened in there. It felt like something, or someone, touched my life during that church service.”

I think that’s what all of us would hope and pray for.

That’s what gives us that sense of nervous anticipation when a friend comes to church with us for the first time.

“They might just be touched by God.”

Many church services flounder because they haven’t figured out what they hope will happen in the life of a person who actually attends the service.

So take time with your leadership team and wrestle with Bill’s question.

How you answer it will have a huge impact on what happens next weekend.

How would you answer that question today?

3 Indicators You Could Be Developing the Wrong Person

Originally posted May 29, 2012

Bill Hybels has accurately described the local church as the most leadership-intensive organization on planet earth.

Therefore, for prevailing churches, leadership development is not a function of filling empty slots in an organization; rather it’s an ongoing process of identifying, equipping and releasing leaders to live out their call.

But how do you know where to invest your leadership development time and energy?

 Image via iStockPhoto.com

That’s more an art than a science, but at the very least I’ve learned three indicators that I could be developing the wrong person.

• Indicator #1: The person is an agenda-driver
I’ve had conversations with people whom I thought had the potential to be a church elder, only to find out that they viewed the position merely as an opportunity to advance a personal agenda.

If you’re developing a leader, be very wary when you hear things like, “If I were on the board there’s a couple of issues I’d want to push really hard.”

Nothing wrong with strong opinions, but when they’re focused on side-issues you have a problem.

• Indicator #2: The person is enamoured by “prestige”
I was having coffee with a rising leader in the church about future roles. But he kept veering the conversation back to questions of his own profile.

Be cautious when a leader’s primary concern seems to be how much platform time they will have or how it is that they will be identified or profiled in the church.

• Indicator #3: The person tries to wedge church leadership into a crowded daytimer
If you’re developing a leader for broader church responsibilities, be careful if they begin to ask things like, “How much time do I need to devote to this?”

That can be a very legitimate, reasonable question. But it can also point to someone who is living life at Mach 10, and who is looking to figure out the bare minimum investment of time and energy.

Look instead for someone so captivated by the call of God on their lives and the vision of the church that they will move “heaven and earth” to be a part of it.

Keep your eyes and ears open for where God is at work in the lives of rising leaders.

And keep your discernment on “full alert” for these warning indicators.

They could save you, and your church, a lot of grief.

How can you tell if you’re developing the wrong person?


How to Measure the Character of Your Leadership

Can the character of your leadership be measured?

Character is at the core of effective leadership. Without a deep sense of integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, and so on, nothing else in leadership really matters.

But if this is so important it raises important questions such as:

  • What does character in leadership really look like?
  • How can a leader know they are growing in the area of character?
  • What are the essential ingredients of a high-character leader?

Well, a recent conversation I had in Australia provides some great insights.

I spent some time with one of the Willow Creek Association founding leaders of the ministry in Australia, Phillip Mutzelburg.

I asked Phillip these questions, and he immediately took me to a resource that might be the definitive word on the subject.

In Matthew 5, Jesus taught on a series of characteristics we now call the Beatitudes.

“These qualities,” Phillip explained, “provide the best picture I think you’ll find anywhere of what a high-character leader looks like.”

Check out this abbreviated version of the text and you’ll see what he means.

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit
  • Blessed are those who mourn
  • Blessed are the meek
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
  • Blessed are the merciful
  • Blessed are the pure in heart
  • Blessed are the peacemakers
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness

Imagine if more and more leaders were so authentically humble that their demeanor could be described as poor in spirit, even mournful. (Which is not to say they can’t be fun-loving, positive people, they simply don’t exude arrogance and showmanship)

Imagine if more and more leaders led in a way that could be described as merciful, pure in heart, and peacemaking.

Imagine if more and more leaders were genuinely meek, (which is not to be confused with “weak”; meekness flows out of strength)

Imagine if more and more leaders stood out in the crowd because of their inherent sense of rightness.

The point is that Jesus’ teaching on the Beatitudes serves as an ideal template for what leaders should strive for in their character.

So why not adopt this template as your own leadership-character metric.

And imagine what this could mean in your own leadership.

What do you think of this approach?


Beware of these 5 Fake Leadership Costumes

Originally posted July 18, 2013

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has a hilarious routine about being given a Superman costume for a Halloween present.

Reading the box, he was surprised to read the disclaimer, “Do not attempt to fly!”

“I love the idea of the kid who’s stupid enough to think he really is Superman,” Seinfeld muses, “but smart enough to check that box before he goes off the roof.”


Thinking that by merely putting on the right costume it could somehow magically transform you.

And yet some people think that’s how leadership works.

They’ve seen the costume and believe that if they simply put it on then they too will be magically transformed into a leader.

These fake leadership costumes come in a variety of forms. Here are five of the most common:

1.   Bossy-ness

Simply barking out orders doesn’t make you a leader.

Usually it just makes a person a bit obnoxious.

2.   Busy-ness

This is a common one. Some people actually believe that by darting frantically from one disjointed activity to another, it must mean they are a great leader.

Often it means only that the person is either unfocused or a poor time manager.

 3.   Distracted-ness

This costume is easy to spot.

It’s worn by the person who keeps their smart phone on ready alert, even when they’re in a conversation with you. At the slightest vibration their attention is immediately diverted away from you and onto their device.

That’s no indication of leadership. Really, it’s just poor manners.

 4.   Crankiness

This one is a personal favorite. Some people actually believe that simply by taking on a frustrated disposition it indicates that they must be carrying huge leadership responsibilities.

Actually, it just means they’re not much fun to be around.

 5.   Talky-ness

While it’s true that effective leaders are good communicators, some people get this one all wrong. They believe that they can be a leader simply by being able to talk…and talk…and talk…and talk…and talk…

But anyone can talk. Leaders, on the other hand, communicate. Huge difference.

Bill Hybels has provided what I believe is one of the best definitions of leadership ever given. “Leadership,” he explains, “is being able to move people from here to there.”

In other words, the measurement of leadership is, “Are you taking people with you to a goal?”

If not, you might just be wearing the costume.

What other forms of leadership costumes have you seen?


4 Myths about Kindness Leaders Must Overcome

What qualities define great leaders?

A good argument can be made for each of the following:

  • Decisive
  • Bold
  • Daring
  • Tough
  • Resilient

But in this list I would venture that a less common but equally important quality should be included.


By kindness, I’m not referring to “niceness”. Niceness is a personality trait, (which also has a place in the world of leadership).

No, kindness is different. Kindness is a core leadership value that places the well-being of others ahead of yourself.

Kind leaders get the job done by ensuring that those they lead are well served, supported and understood.

Now, some leaders shy away from exhibiting this leadership value because they have come to believe four myths of kind leadership. If you’re going to excel in your leadership you must understand and dispel these myths.

Myth #1: If you’re kind people will take advantage of you

Being kind doesn’t mean being weak. Kind leaders are strong and hold people to account. But they do so in a way that doesn’t diminish people.

Myth #2: If you’re kind people will not be motivated to excel

People can respond to kindness with a deep desire to do their very best. Don’t be misled into thinking that motivation is the exclusive purview of the tough boss.

Myth #3: If you’re kind the organization will move too slowly

Quick decisions can be important in any organization. And being kind is absolutely no handicap when it comes to sizing up a situation, seeking input, and then making and communicating a fast decision.

Myth #4: If you’re kind you can’t make hard decisions

Perhaps no myth is more wide spread than this one. But there is no connection between being kind and the ability to make the tough call. The advantage to kind leadership is that you can communicate the tough call with sensitivity.

So as you develop your leadership, continue to be bold, daring, decisive and resilient.

But don’t forget a little kindness along the way too.

And if you find yourself thinking that kindness doesn’t belong in leadership, remember that’s just a myth.

How myths would you add to this list?

How to Turn Your Plan from an After-Thought into an Engine

Is your strategic plan an abandoned after-thought or an energizing engine?

A well-executed plan can be the engine that drives your organization forward, creating energy, focus and momentum.

But often it can simply become a forgotten after-thought, just collecting dust on a shelf.

So how do you turn your plan from an after-thought into an engine?

Years ago a leadership mentor taught me a simple yet profoundly effective tool to keep an organization aligned with its plan.

It’s a matrix that looks at each opportunity or idea and asks two basic questions:

Is this on plan?

Does this add value?

Take every proposed strategy or opportunity and see where it fits in this grid.

Box 1: Not on Plan and Adds no Value

It’s amazing how many organizations entertain ideas that are neither on plan nor which add any relevant value.

An example might be an opportunity for you to do a series of lectures for an outside organization.

Opportunities like this can be tempting, but leaders need the discipline to give them a wide berth.

Box 2: Not on Plan but Adds Value

This is a seductive box.

This represents opportunities that seem to be a good thing for the organization, but you didn’t plan for them. Unrestrained pursuit of such opportunities can leave the organization feeling rudderless and unfocused.

Leaders need the discernment to know when to leap at such an opportunity and the discipline not to abandon the plan each time such an opportunity comes along.

Box 3: On Plan but Adds no Value

Sometimes you’ll find that even an opportunity that fits under the umbrella of your plan turns out to be of limited value.

Have the discernment and courage to recognize elements of the plan that just aren’t pushing the ball down the field.

Box 4: On Plan and Adds Value

This is the sweet spot.

Relentlessly pursue opportunities that are in the center of your plan and which add tremendous value to what you’re trying to accomplish.

Bottom line; if an opportunity or idea is on plan and adds value, go for it. Otherwise, have the discipline to set it aside.

In doing so your plan can indeed shift from being an after-thought to being a powerful engine.

How do you keep focused on the plan?

3 Ways to Sharpen Your Leadership Edge When the Pressure is On

Do you remember the tv ads for the knives that could cut through a tin can and a leather shoe, and still be sharp enough to slice a tomato?

Pretty impressive stuff!

The point of course, was that this knife’s edge was so sharp it could cut through just about anything.

The same is true for your leadership edge. If you keep it sharp.

When your leadership edge is sharp you make better decisions, you build stronger teams, you cast more compelling visions and you get more done.

But if you’re not careful, your leadership edge can become dull, especially when you’re under a lot of stress, when you’re battling to meet a deadline and when you’re leading through a crisis.

But effective leaders know that during these seasons there are ways to keep your edge sharp. These are three of the most important edge-sharpening strategies for leaders:

1. Maintaining physical health

When the pressure is on there can be a tremendous temptation to abandon exercise, to cut corners on sleep and to sacrifice healthy food for fast food.

Resist these temptations at all cost.

When the pressure is on you need to be at your physical best.

2. Nurturing spiritual vitality

“I’ll pray later.”

“I’ll catch up on bible reading later.”

“I’ll worship later.”

The times when you’re under pressure are the very times you need to lean into God, not withdraw further from him.

3. Deepening relational roots

Effective leaders are always focused on adding value to others. But when the pressure is on there can be a huge temptation to make it all about one’s self.

Don’t let this happen.

When the heat is on, that’s the time to go the extra relational mile. That’s the time to discipline yourself to continue pouring yourself into others in your relational world.

It’s counter-intuitive, but the payoff is huge.

The point is that many leaders under estimate the critical importance of their physical, spiritual and relational worlds. Then, when the pressure is on, these vital edge-sharpening dynamics can be quickly abandoned.

Don’t let that happen.

When the heat is on, ramp up these vital sharpening tools.

Because when your leadership edge is sharp you can cut through just about anything.

How do you keep your leadership edge sharp?




Why Leaders are Saying ‘Good bye’ to Meetings & ‘Hello’ to ‘Power Conversations’

Have you noticed how much is being written these days about the need to do away with so many time-wasting meetings?

Let’s face it, to the delight of Type-A introverted leaders everywhere, dull, ineffective meetings are on the way out.

Unfortunately, what is often emerging in their place is “cocooning”; an environment where human interaction is kept to a bare minimum.

But there is a better way.

I call them “Power Conversations”.

You can reduce and even eliminate the “too many meetings” culture without creating a stifling environment of cocooning.

It begins by replacing meetings not with isolation, but with a Culture of Conversation.

Power conversations are not idle times of chit-chat.

These are not coffee-room sessions where last night’s episode of the Big Bang Theory is discussed.

Instead, power conversations are highly charged, dynamic interactions among team mates. They take place when team members actively engage with rigorous, sometimes intense interactions designed to solve problems and advance projects.

When you get this right, you end up with an energetic culture of highly engaged, solution-focused team members.

To transition either a meetings-dominated culture or a cocooning culture into a Culture of Conversation, it begins with the leader making 6 essential declarations:

  1. Around here we primarily solve problems together, not alone in your office.
  2. Around here we go and talk to people; we don’t rely on inter-office email.
  3. Around here you don’t need a department head to schedule a meeting in the board room in order for you to gather with your team mates.
  4. Around here power conversations can involve anybody who has something to contribute; you don’t have to have a particular title.
  5. Around here power conversations take place in hallways, offices, common spaces and coffee shops. There’s not set place.
  6. Around here a power conversation can last 10 minutes or it can take all day.

The idea is not to eliminate every single organized meeting, nor is it to forbid all solitary work.

Rather, it’s to reduce these work habits in order to create an environment where power conversations can flourish.

Try it. You may well discover a more dynamic environment than you’d ever thought possible.

How have you unleashed the power of conversations?


3 Lies that can Shipwreck a Leader

“The water should be deep enough here.”

Many a ship’s captain has believed that lie, and many of their ships have ended up stranded on a sandbar or dashed against a reef.

In the same way, there are lies that leaders are tempted to tell themselves every day. And some of these can shipwreck their leadership too.

In my experience these are some of the most dangerous lies a leader can ever tell themselves. Start believing these and you could easily find your leadership dashed on the shore.

  • “I got away with it last time. I can get away with it this time.”

There might be nothing worse for a leader than to have once cut a corner and gotten away with it. Because the next time an opportunity presents itself to shave the truth or to take a financial short cut, the temptation can be almost irresistible.

“After all,” a leader can think, “Borrowing that money from petty cash last time was ok. I returned it before getting caught. I can get away with it again this time.”

Eventually, this will shipwreck a leader’s integrity.

  • “It’s just a one-time thing.”

The idea that an off-side action can be justified “just this once” is one of the worst lies of all.

Because leaders who believe this once can begin to believe it repeatedly.

And when that happens, a leadership shipwreck isn’t far behind.

  • “It’s okay. No one will notice.”

This lie is a doozy.

It happens when a leader has dropped a leadership ball and, rather than coming clean and owning up, the leader instead pins hope against hope that no one was watching.

Instead of accountability, this leader is counting on being able to fly below the radar. “After all,” they’ll reason, “If no one picked up on the financial blunders, I’m in the clear.”

No leader ever starts out wanting to abandon their impeccable character. Leadership shipwrecks happen one little lie at a time.

So keep your radar on full alert for lies like these.

Because if you can identify and resist these kinds of lies, your leadership can sail strong for years to come.

What are some other lies leaders are tempted to believe?

15 signs you’re really a leader, not just a boss

Every leader might be a boss, but not every boss is necessarily a leader.

There are a unique and distinctive set of qualities that leaders possess that mere bosses simply don’t share.

And effective leaders regularly take personal stock to make sure they are indeed operating as a leader, and not merely as a boss.

What are the qualities that distinguish true leaders from mere bosses?

There are many distinguishing characteristics, but these are 15 of the most important signs you’re a leader, not just a boss.

  1. You care more about your people than you do your position
  2. You don’t just CAST the vision, you EMBODY the vision
  3. You don’t criticize, you coach
  4. You don’t bark orders, you inspire passion
  5. You listen more than you talk
  6. You’re more interested in sharing the credit than seeking the limelight
  7. You build teams, not just committees
  8. You’re driven to solve problems, not just assign blame
  9. You’re more interested in people’s gifts than their job description
  10. You don’t quit at 5:00 pm, but when the job is done
  11. You stand for what is right, not just what is expedient
  12. You speak the truth as a matter of principle,  not just policy
  13. You seek organizational success more than personal achievement
  14. You seek honest feedback, not empty compliments
  15. You celebrate your teammates’ success more than your own

Another important distinctive is that while being a boss is about self-preservation, being a leader is about self-assessment and growth.

So keep this list handy and take a personal leadership inventory on a regular basis.

Because while every leader might be a boss, not every boss is necessarily a leader.

What marks of leadership would you add to this list?