Are You Really Leading?

How we can value people over our positions

 

If God gives us a voice we must speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.

If God gives us strong hands we must help those who can’t help themselves.

If God gives us a place to stand we must stand for those who cannot pick up themselves.

 

God does not give us these good gifts for us to build kingdoms for ourselves but rather to build up the people in His Kingdom.

 

If we only serve those who can benefit us, is that really serving?

If we only honor those who can honor us, is that really honor?

If we only sacrifice when there is someone to see, is that really a good deed?

If we only step out when there is no risk, are we really leading?

 

People matter to God. He does not give position and influence to protect those who already have it, but so those with it can protect and provide for those who do not have it. Position is not for the leader but for the follower.

 

We should measure success in our leadership…

Not by how many people like us, but by how we love the unlovable.

Not by how many celebrate us, but how many we celebrate.

Not by how much pain we avoid, but how much pain we enter into.

Not by how many we have serving us, but how many we are willing to serve with what God has given us.

 

Christian leadership is a paradox. It’s not corporate leadership. It’s not amassing followers. It is serving the masses by caring for the one. It is a two-way street. It’s influence rooted in stewardship. We must be careful that as we grow in influence we also grow in the same portion of selflessness as well.

Benefits of Critics

4 Reasons to Listen to Your Critics

Many people say to ignore your critics. Don’t listen to them they say. Once during a wedding prayer of blessing, I actually prayed that the bride and groom would, “shake the haters off.” For some odd reason, people haven’t rushed to ask me to pray for them at their weddings after that.

I don’t know that this advice is always good. Sometimes I think we say “ignore your critics,” as a way to insulate ourselves from some tough things we don’t want to hear. This can lead us to even mistakenly identify people who are trying to help as people who are hurting us because they are sharing difficult truths with us.

But what do we do about the actual critics – the people who we can’t make happy no matter how hard we try? Is there anyone like that in your life? What do we do when folks keep getting drunk on the “haterade” or seem to always pull into work in their Navi-hater.

There are secret benefits of having critics, fault-finders, and unwelcomed commentators snickering behind you. All the greats had them. I don’t think you can stand for something worthy without having someone stand against you. If you turn to scripture instead of cultural expectations in your response to critics, you can tap into the benefits of those that seem to love to hate.

4 Benefits of Critics

Listen

Our friends are often hesitant to share things they know we may not want to hear. This is because they want us to like them. They keep our feelings in mind. Critics don’t care if you like them. They are not interested in our emotions. In some small way, this can be a good thing if we pause to ask ourselves if there is a grain of truth in what is being said.

We may not always agree, but we can always listen. Listening is a way we can show that we value people even when we may not agree with what they are saying.

Learn

Critics can broaden your appeal when we learn from their perspective. Maybe their attitude is wrong. Perhaps they have an agenda. But maybe we can also learn how to better reach someone with their outlook on things next time before they even become a critic.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” We should be looking to win people over and not just win arguments. We can’t do this if we do not slow down and learn from those that are different than us.

Lean-in

Suffering through some unfair criticism can cause us to lean into what matters most. It can hurt when we hear someone doesn’t like our idea, perspective, or well-intended actions. This can also give us the opportunity to evaluate if we are living for the approval of God or others.

We don’t always get to respond to our critics. At times we have to turn the situation over to God. In these moments, we are able to draw closer to Him and reflect the grace and mercy we have received from Him.

Don’t Linger

While we can learn from critics, and at times should even listen to them to build future bridges, we shouldn’t linger there. Some criticism offers a lesson in letting go and moving on when things are outside of our control.

We shouldn’t allow criticism to be a focus. If we are always concerned about avoiding critics or responding to them, then there is no time to just be who God made us to be. Doing the right thing at times will be criticized. It’s not always fair, but most of the time it is best to keep loving and moving forward.

Give them what they lack

I used to be an extremely critical person. No one or nothing was good enough for me. I realized along the way that my high standards were keeping me from enjoying the people God gave me in my life. Since then, I have started offering more grace to people. I have noticed though, that the last person we are willing to give grace to is the judgmental among us.

Why give mercy to someone who doesn’t show it to anyone else? Because that is apparently what they are in most need of because they don’t have any to spare. Give grace to your critics and over time their cup may eventually overflow and begin to refresh others as well.

Doing too much

Doing less so that you can accomplish more

Have you ever seen someone is “doing too much” or being what we used to call a “try hard”? Maybe they are being inauthentic, trying to impress someone, or overcompensating for some reason. On the basketball court, he is the guy with all the new gear but can’t dribble or shoot. At a party, this may be the person who talks too loud and laughs at his own jokes but no one is really interested. In some ways, we can all be doing too much. It may not be annoying as the person I just described but doing too much can lead to us being less productive overall.

Normally our greatest strengths are also connected to our weaknesses. I have the gift and curse of doing too much. In fact, one of our family values is “hard work.” This is because it is not only a strength of mine but also of Amy. Our parents have a great work ethic and have passed that down to us. It is something we want to pass along to our kids as well. But is there such a thing as doing too much? Are you someone who sometimes has trouble accomplishing everything on your task list?

I didn’t realize how busy I was until the other day when I was on the phone with a friend I listed all the things I was involved in.

1. Training for a half marathon

2. Writing a book

3. Keeping up with a blog (Setting aside time for creative thinking, writing posts, editing posts, creating email marketing campaigns, scheduling social media posts, finding images to support the blog posts, etc.)

4. Working on numerous DIY projects that include finishing a deck, building a pergola, creating a stone pathway, adding a shelf desk in our kitchen, creating a hanging storage system in our garage, etc.

5. Onboarding new employees at ARC

6. For the first time, we were doing two ARC trainings in back to back months followed by the ARC conference

7. Preparing for the ARC conference

8. Reading 5 books at the same time (Leadership Book, Audio Book, Self-help book, funny book, small-group book, and not to mention my daily Bible reading and the book I was reading to Sophie each night)

9 Leading a small group and

10. Preparing a team of 25 for a mission trip to NYC. And I’ll stop here even though some of the most significant challenges we faced as a family are not even listed here.

I wonder what your list would look like?

Here is the thing about doing too much. This list of 10 things is actually not a list of accomplishments but of failures. I know that sounds harsh but I mean failure in three very specific ways.

How Accomplishments Can Become Failures

When we do too much…

  1. ...we don’t do anything to the best of our ability – While doing all of this I was constantly feeling like I was falling short in each specific area because my attention was constantly divided. I couldn’t do one thing without thinking about all the other things that needed to be done. I was exhausted mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually which means I was never able to give my best.
  2. …we fall prey to discouragement – When I would look at my to-do list over the past couple of months I would often get so discouraged that I would not feel like doing anything. If there were only a couple of items on the list I could have been energized to get them accomplished. In my case, the shadow from the mountain of tasks before me often darkened my day before it even began.
  3. …we live by the tyranny of the urgent instead of by the priority of our values – A long list of activities and accomplishments may be impressive to some. My experience has taught me that doing a lot often means not doing what is most important. What is not on the list above is being a husband, dad, child of God, and being a witness of Jesus Christ. When we try to do too much we often end up sacrificing the things that are most important on the altar of accomplishment.

In the past couple of months I have not been blogging; which is one of my favorite things to do. This is because I have been doing too much which is an old habit of mine that is resurfacing. Learning lots of lessons from this and maybe it will give me content for future posts. For today I will wrap up with this thought: The key to doing more is actually doing less. We have to learn to edit the good things in order to be focused on the God things.

Thoughts for reflection:

  1. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What weaknesses are connected to your strengths? How can you manage this?
  2. What are your priorities in life? How can you arrange your to-do list to match your priorities and values as a person?
  3. What good things need to be edited in your life in order to focus on the God things?

Moses CEO Part 2

4 Steps to Lead Your Team Out of Dysfunction

Moses returned from his executive retreat to find his organization in total disarray (Exodus 32:9-10). You can see the four decisions that lead to this disaster in my previous post. The results of Aaron’s passive leadership led to the group getting off mission, internal corruption, and dangling on the edge of total destruction.

How Moses responded to this dysfunctional situation shows us how to problem solve and lead in an organization. I read this story in Exodus while I was also going through the book, The Five Dysfunctions of Team. This caused me to wonder what Moses would do if he was the CEO of a corporation, church, or non-profit. You do not have to be an executive to learn from Moses’s example. You can make difference in any position with these 4 steps,

Take responsibility (Exodus 32:10-11)

Moses was not willing to be promoted at the expense of his team. Instead he took responsibility for something that was out of his control so his team could succeed together. He didn’t blame others. He looked for the best version of his team and refocused on their original vision (the future) instead of focusing on their failure (the past) or current circumstances (the present).

Be proactive instead of reactive (Exodus 32:19-20)

When Moses returned from his leadership retreat and saw that things were in disorder, he immediately took action. Moses did not sweep the situation under the rug and move on. He didn’t take a vote to see who wanted to keep the detestable golden calf. He addressed the root of the issue. He made sure a crack in their foundation would not compromise the integrity of the team, even if it meant a painful immediate adjustment.

Prioritize what is right over what was popular (Exodus 32:25-26)

Moses was willing to step away from what was popular in order to prioritize what was right. Sometimes groups can do more wrong than individuals. When no one speaks up, we all assume everyone else is in agreement. The reality is many times others are just waiting for someone else to speak up. Who is waiting on you to prioritize what is right over what is popular and stand with you?

Be loyal (Exodus 32:30-32)

Behind closed doors Moses was for his team. He was not in denial that they had made a mistake, but was willing to honor them when their behavior could only be seen as a liability to him. Not only that, but Moses also honored up by seeking God in this situation instead of taking matters into his hands.

Moses was not a perfect CEO, and he did not lead a perfect team. However, he did many things right and does have a special place of honor in the hall of faith. Ultimately we look to model Jesus in everything we do, and we can see Christ in how Moses led his team.

What is Your Gold Calf?

The gold calf is present in every team and organization, even the most healthy ones. It represents the one things that obviously needs to change, but we dance around it or are unwilling to admit it. We can make a lot of little adjustments, but until we find our golden calf and are willing to confront the weaknesses in our own leadership, little will change.

What lessons do you see in leadership from the story of the Golden Calf?

What are Jesus style leadership traits that seem to contradict worldly wisdom?

Which of these four traits are a weakness for you.

I hope you enjoyed this post! Be the first to get the next one by subscribing here.

If you are interested in a great leadership fable that talks about pulling together as a team checkout The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Moses CEO Part 1

Aaron COO: 4 Leadership Mistakes

Moses took over a failing corporation that had a brilliant founder, but was plagued by internal discord. After delivering some miraculous results that impacted the world, these people found themselves under dictatorial leadership. Moses comes in to lead them to the Promise Land but not without some resistance and lessons we can all learn from along the way.

What Went Wrong?

Before we look at what Moses did right let’s see what Aaron the COO did wrong. Moses was away at an executive retreat with his assistant, Joshua. Meanwhile Aaron is left to lead the organization, and we see he makes a few common mistakes right of the bat.

He didn’t honor up (Exodus 32:1)

When the people complained against Moses, Aaron didn’t step up to honor his leader with a defense. Instead of guarding Moses’s leadership, Aaron gave room for complaints and tried to be the solution to the void people saw in Moses’s leadership.

He didn’t practice sacrificial leadership (Exodus 32:2-3)

Aaron had the people bring their best to him instead of him giving them his best. Getting to the top is not about having the most people serving you. Filling a leadership role is about being in the best position to serve the most people. The top of the org chart is not for those who want to prop their feet up.

He put a spiritual skin on a selfish ambition (Exodus 32:4)

It is very easy in church environments to mistake grand plans for God’s plan. We must be careful to not call something God that didn’t originate with Him. We shouldn’t dress up a need to be noticed with a good cause. God’s plans always draw people closer to Him, before they lift up the false idols of success, competition, and popularity.

His was reactive instead of proactive (Exodus 32:5)

Aaron waited for the problem to occur, and then chose a solution that would be the most popular over the most effective. We must lead with foresight and learn from hindsight. Reactive leaders display passivity in moments of need, and prioritize stabilizing the boat instead of plugging the hole.

Conclusion

The result of Aaron’s leadership is that his team drifted off mission and began to crumble from the inside out (Exodus 32:7-8). He lost the leadership battle by allowing his position to become about him, and then protecting that position by pleasing people. Reactive leaders see pleasing people as the solution, while proactive leaders know protecting people is the priority. Reactive leaders don’t want to compromise their popularity, while proactive leaders don’t want to compromise the values that protect people and the vision that keeps the mission clear and secure.

This is part 1 of 2 of Moses CEO. Next up are the four things Moses did to turn this situation around. Be the first to get the latest post by subscribing here.

If you are interested in a great leadership fable that talks about pulling together as a team checkout The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Crossing the Line

4 Questions that show you have gone from honest to harsh

How do we know when sharing truth has needlessly moved from bold compassion to insensitive confrontation? We have to be able to honest without being harsh. In my previous post I talked about sharing our opinion without burning bridges. Today I would like to explore how to know when we have crossed that line. Here are four questions to ask that show if we have gone from apologetics to just annoying.

Am I correcting or embracing?

Correcting before disarming undermines our influence. When it becomes about being right instead of using our influence to help others we need to change gears. We don’t want to correct people we want to influence them. If we want to walk with someone to a new destination then we should probably start with an embrace, or at least a handshake, instead of a finger in their face.

Am I invading or inviting?

We need to make sure people actually want to hear what we have to say before we say it. If not, we are just wasting everyone’s time. Getting things off our chest is about us. Doing this sacrifices our leadership collateral. Blowing off some steam online alienates others from the very truth we want to give them.

Am I building walls or bridges?

Walls divide and protect while bridges connect and protect. We shouldn’t live in a world without either. We just need to be wise in how we use them. One way we build walls in a wrong way is by making ultimatums. This forces people to accept everything we say without us seeking to understand the other side. Ultimatums divide but they don’t protect. A bridge allows people to take one step at a time until we are walking side by side.

Am I leading by example?

Sometimes it seems we can actually see people winding up at the beginning of an online post before delivering their fastball of truth. They got it over the plate but it came by so fast that no one could hit it. We should make sure are goal is to influence and not just attack. We must be careful we are not lashing out at those we want to learn from us.

How can we set an example of disarming that is easy to follow? Slow down before we post. Ask ourselves if we have left room for the small but all to often case we are not right. If we can’t walk a statement back if we are wrong then maybe it needs to be rephrased. Considered that there may be more to the story that we haven’t discovered yet. 

Lines in the sand

We need to do what Jesus did and extend truth with grace. He drew a different kind of line in the sand. His lines caused people to put down their stones and change their ways. In the same way we should also kneel down to where people are instead of only expecting them to climb up to our platform of truth.

I hope these two posts help us influence others instead of being isolated from them. Social media can be a great tool. Following these steps may help us use our online platforms to work for us instead of against us.

For more thoughts on this subject check out Chris Hodges’s book The Daniel Dilemma.

 

Bridges of Opinion

4 ways to share truth without burning bridges

I recently read a post on social media that was right but wasn’t very friendly. I wondered if the thought would have gotten more traction if it would have been shared with a smile. When we are right but don’t present our truth in a right way we alienate ourselves. This not only discourages us but also keeps our solutions from those who need them most.

How do we share truth without burning bridges? There are probably many ways, but here are four that came to me.

Disarm

We disarm people with humility. By stating the obvious like, we don’t know everything, we could be wrong, and that we are just presenting one way of seeing things, we cause people to put down their defenses. When we make big statement and don’t give room for the perspective of others we only get both sides more entrenched in what they already believe.

Build a bridge

Making dogmatic statements or targeting certain groups with identifiable phraseology is like firing shots over the bow. People aren’t going to come out to listen in this situation. They are going to duck and cover, or fire back.

Making “we” instead of “you” statements says we are in this together. This builds the bridge to their understanding. So does owning our part of past mistakes. It is easier for people to join us by crossing a bridge that we extended than it is to climb down and then up the cliffs of our different opinions.

Invite people over

We need to make sure we have earned the right to instruct the group of people we want to influence. A social media account doesn’t magically make us an expert. Acknowledging that by inviting people to be part of a conversation instead of just asking them to “like” our bold statements grows our influence more than a single post ever could.

One way to do this it to ask sincere questions. Judgmental questioning that casts blame doesn’t help. This just points out how others are on what we see as the wrong side. It doesn’t invite them over to what we believe is the right side.

Embrace them

Abraham Lincoln is famous for preserving the Union. His life also shows that he was able to build a team of rivals instead of like minded friends to lead our nation. He was once accused of treating his enemies too kindly. He responded by saying, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” When was the last time you “destroyed” an enemy in this way?

We should be careful not to take positions that make it impossible to embrace people if they do come to our side. When someone lashes out respond with grace. Billy Hornsby said that anytime we back someone into a corner we should be wiling to let them out. Give room for there to be people different than you on your side of an argument. If not, there won’t be room for anyone to make their way over from the other side. Once they do make sure you embrace them.

This is only part one of two on sharing truth without burning bridges. In my next post I am going to talk about how to know when you have crossed the line from apologetics to just plain annoying. Subscribe and not only will you be the first to know when the post is out, but I will also give you a free gift.

For more thoughts on this subject check out Chris Hodges’s book The Daniel Dilemma.

 

Lessons From A Tree

How to Multiply Your Influence

Have you ever been extremely proud of something that no one else seemed to really care about? No? Are you not as vain as me? Well, good for you. I, on the other hand, have a tendency to become a little self-focused. This is especially evident with the tree that is in our front yard.

Tree obsession

I am very proud of our tree. Mostly because when we first moved in we didn’t think that our tree or most of our landscaping would survive. I am limited in the area of gardening but still set out to prove I could make our landscaping grow. And against all odds our little tree has done quite well.

In fact, whenever someone comes over to our house I always make it a point to talk about how amazing our tree is. Normally, they don’t seem to care. So to highlight my tree’s awesomeness I usually begin to point out how much better it is than other trees that aren’t growing as fast (I am a jerky arboriculturist I know). It is only when I have reached a point of complete awkwardness that causes my guests deep regret for ever coming over that I eventually let them into our home.

I guess you could say I don’t have the gift of “hospitality.”

Lessons from a tree

Anyway, this obsessiveness with my own tree recently changed when a couple of family friends came over to help us with our yard. While Mr. Ron was helping us build a deck, Mrs. Patti began working on our landscaping. I saw this as a great opportunity to talk about my crazy awesome tree with Mrs. Patti. When she wasn’t that impressed, like most people, I showed her how much better it was than another tree that was not doing so great. Then she looked even less impressed and asked me, “Well honey… She paused. Have you ever considered adding a little fertilizer to the tree that’s not growing as fast?”

“No, I don’t think I have.”

“Well, you know, your tree will always look better when the trees around it are growing as well.

Ouch. I immediately went over and added some fertilizer near the dying tree and shared some tips with its owner to help their tree shine as well.

I can be an idiot sometimes. This adventure in gardening reminded me of that. We shouldn’t just fertilize our own trees. Our tree looks better when we spread the fertilizer around and help others grow as well. You influence people more by giving than by getting.

Empathy multiples influence

One way we can do this is by showing empathy towards others. Being self-focused will cause us to not realize that someone near us is shriveling up and may need some encouragement to nourish their soul. We can get so focused on wondering why no one seems to care about us that we forget that the best way to receive that kind of attention is to be good at giving it away. If you want to look good then you need to do a great job of making others look good. If you want others to notice you then you need to do a great job of noticing others.

No one likes being around someone who only talks about their own tree/themselves. And when you point out how others are not doing well in order to make yourself look better you are the only one who ends up looking bad. The key to gaining influence is not found in getting people’s attention but in giving people attention. Don’t just fertilize your own tree.

How to get noticed

I’ve heard that there are more songs written about the moon then there are about the sun. This is interesting when you think about the fact that the moon doesn’t produce any light on its own. All it does is reflect the light it is given unto others. You always shine when you reflect praise and attention on others.

If you have ever wondered why people are not noticing you are giving the credit you deserve then you try to gain influence by giving away what you hope to receive from others. Who can you reflect some light on? Who is it that you can do a better job noticing? How can you help someone else’s tree grow a little stronger? What can you do to spread some empathy and encouragement?

I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment or share this post with someone else if it resonated with you!

Here are a couple of books that have helped me grow in empathy and making others bigger: