Imagine Leadership

The following video is entitled Imagine Leadership. I came across this work a few years ago while living in Italy. It was created by Nitin Nohria, Amanda Pepper, and XPLANE. It is part of the Harvard Business School Leadership Initiative. This 6-minute video poses the question, “What does leadership mean to you?” The creators stated that they made this video “in order to generate a discussion of the value and importance of leadership to address some of societies most pressing problems.”

I hold the conviction that everything rises or falls on leadership. Leadership always works. Sometimes it works for good and sometimes it works for bad. Can you imagine a leadership that changes the wrold?

Do you find this video message relevant to today? Do you agree with the overall message this video communicates? Does this video inspire you? What are your overall impressions?

The Culture of Fame In A Throw Away World

imgresFame is a double edged sword.

One side is your renown-the public’s acclaim toward you.

The other side is your reputation-the public’s estimation of you.

Sadly, most people are myopic when it comes to fame.

We live in a culture today when it has never been easier to be known, to have acclaim. Social media in all of it’s various forms can make you instantly famous. In a virtual moment you can be known for all of the right reasons or for all of the wrong reasons. But thats OK, because its all disposable, right? We can discard our mistakes. We can retweet our successes. We can endlessly manipulate our image, can’t we? We want it to be so.

One side of fame is fleeting, Unfortunately, the other side is not. Your moment in the sun may be only that. Your acclaim from the crowd may even make you feel deeply significant–for a time. But the lasting estimation is what matters most. The internet has a long memory. People have long memories.

That provocative pose you captured today will be remembered tomorrow, even with Snapchat.

That cynical remark you posted on Facebook might get “Liked,” but never forgotten.

That smart phone video of someone else’s stupidity may only reflect on your own, and have lasting consequences.

Your biting post with lurid language may cement your image as a gritty writer, and forever tarnish your ability to be taken seriously.

Even as the fan craves the latest gossip they will still assign a reputation.

As people we have a deep longing to know and be known. That is part of our humanity. We want to give and receive a lasting love. That is part of our dignity. Instead, we will chase after a thousand different idols for a fleeting taste of ecstasy. That is part of our depravity. But we can simply place all of our longings gone bad in the virtual recycle bin and reboot–true? We want it to be so.

Deep down we hope someone will notice, just to be famous for a moment.

We want significance, but we will acquisse for a little attention.

We long for intimacy, but we will settle for acclaim.

We desperately need redemption from this throw away world, but we will embrace momentary release instead.

The biggest lie is “all that we see is all that there is”–that we are simply one dimensional beings. Deep down, we know better.

The acclamation of fame is fleeting. The estimation of fame is lasting. Every choice we make affects our soul.

None of us are perfect.

There is One who knows absolutely everything about us, and He says Come! In place of fame He offers us eternal meaning.

In Matthew 11, as Jesus gives us a glimpse into His deity, he proclaims, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This is not merely cessation. This is deep satisfaction of soul that flows from a bonded relationship that only our Creator and Redeemer can provide.

Follow the truly Famous One who will not discard you!

“Lowly But Chosen”

imgresThe headlines this week have been dominated by the naming of a new pope. Some have wondered why this is such big news. The Catholic Church claims some 1.2 billion adherents, which cannot be ignored. But it is a well known fact that those who truly follow it’s teachings make up a much smaller number. Latin America can claim a greater cast of faithful followers, while Europe is certainly in decline. I lived in Italy for five years, and while most Italians would claim to be Catholic, there is great suspicion and distrust towards the church and little taste for its moral teachings. So why all the fuss?

I hold a conviction that every person on the planet has created value and will worship something. Therefore, we long for spiritual guidance and moral leaders. The pope becomes a visible representation of that longing. And that’s why the news this week matters.

Pope Francis is faced with some really tough leadership challenges. He steps into a 21st century reality needing to reform an institution who many feel is stuck in the last century. The church is being rocked by scandal. The Vatican Curia is seen as divided and divisive. The congregations are growing old. And the church is seen as culturally out of touch with a world in need.

We now know who will lead the Catholic Church into this complexity, and his name is Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina.  He is the first pope from the Americas, the first pope from the Jesuit order, and the first pope to take the name Francis.

But how will he lead? What clues do we have of his posture towards the needs of the Catholic church and that of the world? The best indicators of how a leader will lead into the future come from looking at his past. People don’t typically change simply because their title does (we could take some lessons from that principle alone). Here is my humble assessment of how Pope Francis may lead.

1. Without Pretension.  By now you have probably heard the stories of Archbishop Bergoglio choosing to take public transportation in Argentina rather than a limo. He chose to live in a small city apartment rather than the royal trappings fit for a Cardinal. His first public message as pope was to request prayers for himself from the masses, rather than declaring a papal blessing over those who had gathered.

2. With Compassion.  As a Jesuit, Archbishop Bergoglio made much of meeting the needs of the downtrodden and neglected. Kim Daniels, Director of Catholic Voices USA, stated “He is a real voice for the voiceless and the vulnerable. That is his message.” Even his chosen papal name, Francis, harkens back to St. Francis of Assisi, who was renowned for leaving a life of comfort to identify with   those less fortunate. St. Francis is often depicted as having compassion for all of God’s creation, including the animals. The chosen name was meant to reflect an internal desire to minister to “the least of these.”

3. With Conviction. Archbishop Bergoglio is known to have had his differences with elected officials. He has had several run ins with the current President of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez. When he believes he has seen injustice his voice is raised. A significant part of his conviction seems to lie in the belief that a true spiritual leader must live among the people. Last year, Bergoglio made this charge to the priests of Argentina, “Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony. Go out and interact with your brothers. Go out and share. Go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit . . .”

Obviously time will tell what type of leader Pope Francis will be. And time will reveal his effectiveness as a leader in meeting the needs of the Catholic Church.

These three traits are only ones that I will put forward at this time from the writing that has appeared about this Argentinian priest. I believe, though, that they are traits that would serve any of us well who claim to be leaders–certainly those who claim to be spiritual leaders.

The title of this post, “Lowly But Chosen”, are the words that make up the moto of Archbishop Begoglio’s archdiocese in Argentina. I appreciate these words. They seem to well represent the man. May they be true of him. May they be true of us.

5 for Leadership (3/9/13)

images-2Here are the 5 for this week. We have some “never do’s” for social media, culture thinking for the church, the need for resiliency, the end game for LD, and a right response to March 8th. I hope you find something that inspires you and proves beneficial.

Want to Change the World? Be Resilient  This comes from the HBR blog. John Mckinley writes that the difference between idea and impact is being resilient. He defines this term by looking at three ingredients that matter most.

Evidence Is Essential In Leadership Development  This is a very interesting post on the true impact of LD programs. Do we really know what the impact is? This comes from the blog and highlights seven constructs for making sure your LD plan leads to real results.

8 Mistakes You Should Never Make on LinkedIn  This was found in Forbes and written by Libby Kane. She argues for the notion that LinkedIn can be a very powerful tool for networking–when it is used correctly. When used incorrectly it can do as much damage as good. Take a look.

Create A Contrast Culture In Your Church  This was found on the Gospel Coalition blog and written by Jonathan Leeman. He highlights the profound difference between church programs and cultivating a culture that leads to greater effectiveness in carrying out the mission of the church. In particular Jonathan highlights 12 ways to help cultivate the right kind of church culture.

International Women’s Day: A Christian Response to Violence Against Women  This final post is in celebration of International Women’s Day, which was yesterday, March 8th. This day was declared in 1975 by the United Nations, yet the U.S. still does not acknowledge it as such. But while I lives in Italy it was recognized meaningful ways and with parties. Kathy Erb highlights why this day must call out out attention as followers of Christ.

There are the 5 for this week. I hope you have a great weekend.

5 for Leadership (2/9/13)

images-2Here is a fresh 5. This week we have something on social media, the emerging religious culture of America, an unlikely conversion, the source of real power in leading, and ways to stay encouraged as a young leader. Click away and take note!

America’s New Government Imposed Religion  This is a must read article if you lead as a spiritual leader, or if you lead a spiritual endeavor. How we navigate our influence over the next few years will be critical.

The 1 Thing Every Business Executive Must Understand About Social Media  My brother in law highlighted this post for me. Social media can no longer be ignored as a key pathway for leading. This article places great value on using it for listening and empathy. See how.

My Train Wreck Conversion  This article from Christianity Today is the narrative of an academic leader who had a most unlikely conversion to the Christian faith. I think this is an important voice, both for how leaders can be influenced and for the influence they have.

Finding Real Leadership Power  You know by now that I really enjoy Dan Rockwell’s blog. In a quick, to the point fashion, Dan distinguishes between humility and arrogance–and where real power comes from. Take a look.

8 Words of Encouragement for The Young Ministry Leader  This final post comes from Ron Edmondson. Every new leader needs perspective and some practical advice to be able to make it for the long haul. Ron gives us 8 pieces of wisdom for getting there.

There are the 5 for this week. In advance-Happy Valentines Day for those in the U.S. Love well. Lead well.

5 for Leadership (1/26/13)

imagesHere is a fresh 5. In this edition we have harsh truths, bad leaders, performance orientation, rookie status, and statistics. Click your way through and learn.

5 Harsh Truths Every Aspiring Leader Needs To Know  This is from David Dye on The Lead Change Group blog. Dye offers five principles that are harsh in the sense that they speak to our naiveté. We must be deadly accurate in our perspective about our role as leader. These principles provide a good foundation for getting there.

Leading A Team For The First Time  I often highlight Dan Rockwell. His leadership lessons are on target and practical. This is a great read for anyone who is brand new or fairly new to leading teams. There are principles here that are worth keeping on your smart phone and looking at regularly.

Bad Leaders Can Change Their Spots  This is a really interesting post on the HBR blog. It speaks strongly to the notion that bad leaders can improve when feedback and specific areas of need are highlighted. Be sure to take a look at the bottom of the post for the most common areas that needed to improve-#1 was “Developing Others.” Most of the needed areas of growth were based on the foundation of failure to establish interpersonal relationships.

Stop Focusing On Your Performance  This is another good post from the HBR blog and Peter Bregman. He teases out the critical difference between “performing” and “experiencing.” Are you trying to look good? Do you want to impress others or win something? Are you looking for acceptance, approval, accolades, wild thunderous applause? Is it painful when you don’t get those things? You’re probably performing. See what Bregman says about the benefits of “experiencing” instead.

America’s Most and Least Biblically Minded Cities  Finally, here are some interesting facts from the Barna group about how open or resistant certain cities in America are to the Bible. This is fascinating and necessary–spiritual leaders must be aware of their leadership environment to be effective. Take a look.

There are the 5 for this week-can you believe January, 2013 is nearly gone? Lead well!

We Are All Armstrong & Te’o

images-1We long for a greater story.

I was very intrigued by our collective response last week to the stories of Manti Te’o and Lance Armstrong. There has been a lot of press on both of these men and many are tired of hearing about them. Yet I think there is something in these stories for all of us. I believe that we are all created with a longing for a greater story. At our core we understand that we are living out a story. I also believe that we can comprehend the whispers of a larger story we were meant to fit into. We especially love redemptive stories, where the broken are healed and the enslaved are rescued. We all wanted Lance to come clean, to own up to his indiscretions. In some strange way we wanted Manti to have loved a real person, even in the midst of tragedy. We want these stories to be fulfilled and be fulfilling.

I can identify with Armstrong and Te’o.

We want these things because we see ourselves in them on a smaller stage. We have tried and failed and we have loved and lost. And we had to live with the consequences. And sometimes there is redemption. I will be cautious here and state that I obviously don’t know either of these men. But I do think I can identify with the apparent desires that contributed to their behavior. I believe that Te’o simply wants to be loved and accepted. He longs for unconditional love. I believe Armstrong intensely wants to succeed. He longs for significance. How can I make these claims? Because I long for the same things, and so do you. We all long for love and significance. We want to matter. We want to be unconditionally loved and accepted.

How did you respond?

That is why I was surprised by the public’s general reaction to both stories. Those who are following the Armstrong story see him largely as an egotistical liar. Those who are following the Te’o story see him as a naive, truth stretching young man. I see me. You and I may not go to the extremes that either of these celebrities went to in their quest to fulfill their longings. Our exploits are not on the same level of public display either. But I have done things to be noticed, hoping that someone would love me or count me as significant. And if you are really honest, so have you, at some point in your life.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:1-9

How will you respond?

The human condition claws and scratches for transcendence and is never content until it is achieved. And there is the problem. Our personal stories, including that of Armstrong and Te’o, are too small to achieve what we long for. Until our small stories are connected to the greater story of redemption that Christ offers we will continue to struggle, in big and small ways. But the greater story is one of grace. Grace can only be received. Grace actually recognizes our inability and offers forgiveness anyway. Grace replaces our small story of sin and struggle with the greater story of love and forgiveness. Grace is found in Jesus Christ alone because only Jesus Christ offers true redemption at the cost of his own life. His, the greatest story, gives ultimate meaning to ours. Will you connect your story to His?


Words Matter

images-1The currency of leadership is communication. Therefore, words have impact and words matter.

For some time now I have been bothered by the current state of communication among spiritual leaders. But I would actually expand that concern to the leadership climate in general-because every leader is responsible for what he or she says.

In particular, I am concerned with the use of vulgarities and profanities in Christian communication. On a daily basis I can find blog posts that throw obscene language around like its no big deal. I regularly hear Christian speakers use off color language to spice up their messages. I am even surprised by the careless words used in casual conversation. Often I hear the refrain that this is for the sake of relevancy. I hear its generational and I shouldn’t let it bother me. Or I hear its cultural and these words just don’t carry the same sense of offense they once did–it’s natural to communicate this way.

I’m not buying any of it.

It has nothing to do with being relevant, nor generational, nor cultural. My sense is that it has everything to do with the communicator and their perceived need to provoke, appear hip, or demonstrate power and authority over someone. I have never encountered someone inside the faith or outside the faith who could not endure my lack of foul language. Ever.

Words reflect the heart. A biblical understanding of heart goes beyond emotions. Our heart is our governing center. It is that part of us that chooses every day. It is core to who we are and how we relate to the world. It is the seat of worship. That which we worship shall be revealed by what readily flows from our lips.

The writer of Proverbs extolls virtue by personifying God’s wisdom.  In chapter 4:20-24, the writer highlights the value we are to place on words.

My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ears to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flows the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.

Paul, in the epistle to the Ephesians, amplifies how a true Christ follower is to live. When it comes to our speech he is clear.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Eph. 4:29)

Paul also warns us against false speech, angry words, and slander. They are damaging inside the body and outside the body. They have no place within the Christian context. I think some of our language issues arise from a low view of the Word of God. When THE WORD no longer matters or stands over us, then our puny words become trite, tawdry, and offensive. The written and spoken word should be carefully considered and weighed. We must remain attractively different from culture. We will gain our hearing through our compassion, which needs no help from profanity or vulgarity.

Leadership is influence. The currency of leadership is our communication. Therefore, words have impact and words matter. Let us escape our idolatry and bring grace to all who will listen.

What are your thoughts?

Questioning Values

images-1I read a very interesting article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Ponder this subtitle, “Why legacies and life lessons are an increasingly important part of estate planning.” The entirety of the article was about the growing desire of people to leave behind more than an estate. Even financial planners are beginning to help people think through how to capture family stories and pass on core values and lessons. There is something fundamentally profound about this trend.

I think it speaks to our desire for immortality. And I believe it speaks to our longing to actually see legacy as wisdom over money. 

What especially caught my attention in the article were 10 questions at the end. They were under the heading “Ten questions to ask the important people in your life.” I love good questions. And leaders should always be thinking of good questions, either for personal learning, or for leading and empowering others. I believe that a leader should always have a few good questions tucked away for the opportune moment when you in are in the presence of an older and wiser leader.  These questions are especially relevant for emerging leaders. Here are the ten questions captured from a book by Karl Pillemer.

1. What are some of the most important lessons you have learned in your life?

2. What kind of advice would you have about getting or staying married?

3. What kinds of advice do you have about rasing children?

4. What advice can you share about finding fulfilling work and how to succeed in a career?

5. Difficult or stressful experiences can yield important lessons. Is that true for you? Can you give me examples of what you have learned?

6. Do you see any turning points=key events or experiences-that changed the course of your life?

7. What would you say you know now about living a happy and successful life that you didn’t know when you were age 20?

8. What would you say are the major values or principles that you live by?

9. Have you learned any lessons regarding staying in good health?

10. What advice would you give to people about growing older?

Here is the link to Karl Pillemer’s book, 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice From the Wisest Americans.

What are some good questions you use or recommend to learn from others?

5 for Leadership (12/8/12)

images-2Just for you! A fresh 5 for Leadership for the 1st week in December. There are some posts on the upside of leadership and the hard reality of leadership. I hope there is something that meets your leadership need today.

Why Courage Requires Fear  This is a guest post on Michael Hyatt’s blog. It is by Jared Latigo and he states, “Courage is not the absence of fear but requires fear.” He also says, “Without fear we can’t have courage.” I like this post a lot because it normalizes fear but does not let us live there.

What Great Leaders Know  This is a post by Mark Miller, a VP with Chick-fil-a, on the Smart Blog on Leadership. I had the opportunity to meet Mark recently and I immediately recognized that he was qualified to write this post. Great leaders serve. This is a must read.

The Teen Test For Your Leadership Skills  This post was found on the Lead Change Group blog and is by John Mertz. John plots four key leadership issues that every parent must apply to the raising of teenage kids and then makes application to leadership in general. This is thought provoking and practical.

Spurgeon’s Take On Trials  Charles Spurgeon was a British pastor in the 1800’s. He had, and still has, a profound impact upon Christendom. This post is by Steve Fuller on his blog Living By Faith. I find this post important for leaders because Spurgeon was a leader-a leader who suffered greatly at times, and yet led well towards kingdom impact. There is content here for all of us.

Quick Review: Lincoln (The Movie)  This final post is by a colleague of mine, Brian Virtue. He does an excellent job in this post not only highlighting his take on the movie, but also in critiquing some of the themes related to racism and leadership. I have not seen the movie yet-but Brian’s insights make me want to see it all the more–and reflect more profoundly on my own leadership flaws.

There are your 5 for this week. Give me some of your thoughts below. Which posts did you find most helpful? What topics would you like to read more about?