5 for Leadership-February 6th


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5 for Leadership is a collection of timely posts on the topic of leadership from this past week. Sometimes I will introduce you to new bloggers, sometimes I stay with tried and true. I always aim for quality and variety while staying focused on what leaders need.

Leadership Lessons From an NFL Exec

“You never know when someone is watching.”

“That could be Lake Dawson’s mantra, writes Poets&Quants’ staffer Jeff Schmitt. A personnel executive with the Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, and Cleveland Browns, Dawson once toiled in the shadows. He focused on mastering his craft and helping his team gain an edge – always probing deeper and never sugarcoating his true beliefs.”

The Horizontal Leader

‘As the world gets flatter and faster, there are three changes that challenge the assumptions that made those leaders of the yesteryear appear in our bookracks.” See what else Raghu Krishnamoorthy has to say about the nature of leadership in the 21st century.

5 Rookie Pastor Mistakes

“Finally, after all your training and praying and longing, you receive a call from your first church. You are elated—and determined to do a great job. Here are the five most common rookie pastor mistakes I’ve observed.” Hershael York offers some great insights for every first pastor.

8 Personal Qualities for Success: A Coach’s Perspective

“In my experience, there is no one thing that makes someone successful. I believe real success involves a combination of eight critical components—and that a person needs all eight of these qualities to truly succeed.” Madeleine Blanchard shares some timeless insights in this brief post.

The Courageous Leadership of Winston Churchill

Churchill’s significance extends beyond his political victories and historical influence. I have argued for many years that Churchill represents, in many ways, a model of compelling leadership, even for Christians.” Read Albert Mohler’s excellent piece on this important leader. 

There are the 5 for this first week in February–enjoy!

Your Greatest Gift & Your Greatest Wound


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Leaders are often defined by two things.

Celebrity leaders . . . even more so.

These two aspects of every leader’s life will define them for better or worse.

These two aspects of a leader’s life are observable, verifiable, and experienced by those who follow . . . or fall within a leader’s wake.

The outcome can be humility, courage, and compassion . . . or it can be pride, self-loathing, and control.

These two realities can feed the vision of a hopeful, other-centered future . . . or can cannibalize itself towards an ultimately despairing, self-centered present.

Every leader carries both of these realities . . . they are unavoidable . . . the choice lies in the heart response.

I am talking about a leader’s greatest gift and a leader’s greatest wound.

A gift is something you are born with. It’s your created ability. For some, this may be the gift of communication. For some, it may be the gift of seeing the potential in others and understanding how to develop them. Or maybe it is the ability to empathise deeply with those in need. It could be your natural ability to adapt to any and every situation. Or it might be your natural ability to mobilise others into action. This is the most natural aspect of who you are. It finds expression through your leadership influence without you even thinking about it. It is part of what makes you unique . . . and a unique and special leader. This gift may be your most powerful form of leadership influence. But just having this gift doesn’t ensure that you will use it for good. Many gifted leaders have wreaked great misery and destruction on the lives of their followers. Others have stewarded their natural gifting towards blessing . . . the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

A wound is usually something you also don’t choose. Often, wounds just happen. They are part of living life as broken people living and leading in a broken world. They may come by way of your own choices . . . but they are impossible to avoid. They may be physical, emotional, social, or spiritual in nature. But every person . . . every leader . . . has one that is worse than all the others. A wound could come in the form of a broken relationship, loss of something or someone dear, being bullied when you were young, or ignored and overlooked when you were older. Maybe your deepest wound is simply a lack of love and acceptance that has led to a profound sense of fear. Many leaders lead out of fear. Like our greatest gift, our greatest wound can be a source of great blessing to others . . . or a source of great harm to those around us. Wounds can allow us to be more vulnerable, authentic, and sensitive . . or more harsh, hypocritical, and reactive. The real issue is in our heart response to what comes our way.

For me, I believe my greatest gift is the ability to think systematically and strategically. I can naturally look at a problem or opportunity, see the beginning and the end, and intuitively determine the three best ways to get there. My greatest wound is a lack of confidence . . . maybe from an emotionally absent father . . . maybe from a series of small defeats that add up to the belief that I am simply not good enough.

These are powerful elements, which in combination can lead to great influence . . . the essence of leadership. A friend of mine once made the statement that leadership always works. And I think he is right. If you bear a title or simply carry great influence, then your leadership is leveraged and it will always work. It might work for great good or it might work for great bad . . . but it will work.

It comes down to our heart response. Our heart is not just that part of us that contains our emotions. That is a western way of thinking about the heart. But the people of the Ancient Near East thought about the heart in a much more holistic way. Our heart is our governing center. It is that part of us that chooses every day. It is our mind, will and emotions working in concert to encounter, respond and choose. Our hearts are not perfect, but they can be redeemed. Our governing center requires a governor.

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:3-6

“Not good enough” is a banner that leads to striving, fretting, worrying, and blaming. And I can be very strategic in my futile efforts to overcome. Several years ago I was awakened to the fact that I could carry another label, another banner that was more than I dared to dream–“treasured possession.” That is the nature of redemption. Belonging can overcome inferiority. The ability to be strategic can bring blessing. The greatest good for the greatest number of people.

Are you able to name your greatest gift and your greatest wound? 

Have they been redeemed?

Your leadership life may depend upon it.

5 for Leadership-January 30th


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5 for Leadership is a weekly offering of five quality posts from this past week on the topic of leadership. This week there are posts on leader accountability, life purpose and work, and interview with the grandson of Nate Saint, a perspective on introverts, and the most important question a leader can ask.

Always, Always Entangle Purpose with Life Work

“Have you ever picked up a book because of a few quick social clips you see? I have, and the latest one resonated within the prairies of my mind. When Breath Becomes Air is the story of a neurosurgeon who often thought about what career would deliver the most meaning with his life. Although he became a physician, he wasn’t certain. Being a writer was also calling him, as he felt the impact of literature on his life. As his story unfolds, it is disrupted by lung cancer. Now, the physician becomes the patient, and the person struggles with the question of what to do with his remaining time.” John Mertz brings a very interesting perspective on life and work–take a look.

Quit Focusing on Accountability and Follow These 5 Steps Instead

“I don’t like the word accountability. It’s always rubbed me the wrong way for some reason. I think it’s because it assumes the worst about people. When we talk about accountability, it always seems the assumption is a person is incapable of, or unlikely to, follow through on his/her commitments. So we spend a lot of time and energy creating systems, processes, or consequences to make the sure the person is held accountable.” Randy Conley offers these 5 principles to counter the accountability trap.

The Legacy of Nate Saint

I love reading biographical posts of great leaders. Nate Saint qualifies. Here is an interview with the grandson of Nate Saint–you won’t be disappointed.

4 Lies About Introverts

“I’m an introvert. Most people who don’t know me well wouldn’t guess this about me, but it’s true. On a practical level, being an introvert means I’m generally more energized by time alone than by time with people, and I have a preference for a less externally stimulating environment. I feel very alive in a quiet, empty room.” Aime Patrick writes a sensitive and very informative post . . . be sure and read the final point on leadership.

The Most Powerful Question a Leader Can Ask

“Yesterday, my 8-year-old son, Nolan, asked me a question about World War II. As I was explaining certain battles and what happened, he cut me off. “Dad, I know what happened, I want to know WHY they did it.” He had many questions and all of them dealt with why generals and leaders made the choice they did. That opened up a discussion about how to make hard choices and what he would do if he faced a hard decision.” This is a great guest post by Chris Turnley on Bob Tiede’s blog.

There are the 5 for this week as we close out the month of January.



The Power of Journaling


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A few years ago I wrote a post entitled, Keeping a Leadership Journal. It has been one of my most popular posts ever since. In that piece, I suggested four good reasons for keeping a specific journal on leadership. I hold to those four principles to this day.

In today’s Wall Street Journal there was an article that quickly caught my eye . . . 52 Years and Counting: The Power of Daily Writing. Clare Ansberry writes about a man named Charley Kempthorne who has been keeping a daily log since 1964. There are some wonderful principles about the tangible benefits of journaling. You need to click on the link and glean from Charley’s insights.

In the sidebar, there was a section on “How To Build a Daily Writing Habit.” Here are the 6 practical steps to get you there.

  • Write 500 words every day for 28 consecutive days, preferably at the same time and same place, to create a routine.
  • Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation. Be willing to write badly. Authenticity is more important than excellence.
  • Use prompts to get you going. Make a list of 6 of the stories you commonly tell. Get a photo and tell the story of that picture. 
  • Keep it private. If you show it to others, you might worry about what they will say and never start.
  • If you can’t think of what to write, describe the room you are in, what you are wearing, or a room from your childhood home, or what it felt like to brush your teeth.
  • Carry a notebook to jot down ideas or a recollection, conversation or image. 

(From “Narrative Journaling: 28 Days to Writing More or Less Happily for the Rest of Your Life”-a workbook by Charley Kempthorne)

Busy is Not the Pinnacle of Leadership


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I was in the grocery store the other day and overheard a conversation between two shoppers.

“Hey, how are you doing? I haven’t seen you for a while.”

“Oh, I am so busy–but I have been meaning to get in touch with you.”

“I understand, I am up to my ears in busy. That’s just life these days–eh?”

This exchange got me to thinking. “Busy” has become a badge of honor in our U.S. culture. I don’t think I have talked to a leader in years, when asked, “How’s it going?” they simply replied, “Great-I am refreshed–living and leading with complete balance, and energy to spare.”

No, it almost seems as if one is not truly leading if they are not “busy” beyond what they can genuinely handle. We equate leadership status with “busy.”

But the dictionary equates “busy” with “full.” “Full” means there is no margin–it means “full.” But “full” of what? Merriam-Webster goes on to define “busy” as “full of activity.”

3 Places “Busy” Will Take You

Distracted-ville. “Busy” over time will lead to distraction. It is really difficult to focus on what’s important if you are always living in the urgent. Isn’t that what Stephen Covey taught us all those years ago? Was anyone paying attention? I can remember many seasons of leadership where busyness reigned. In those moments it seemed as if team complaints were amplified, to do’s became endless, and my inbox grew exponentially. True success according to the mission was fleeting and my level of leadership satisfaction was nearly nil. I was completely distracted from my intended purpose and the team goals we set out at the beginning of the year. That is what “busy” will do. You will be distracted to the point of lost.

Luke 10:40-42  But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Foolish-city. “Busy” over time will lead to foolish decisions. It is extremely challenging to make quality, strategic decisions in the midst of the urgent. You will always choose the expedient thing–that which brings immediate relief. But relief rarely brings lasting leadership satisfaction either. Nothing of worth is accomplished. There is simply temporary relief–and mark my words–it is temporary. If a problem is not thoroughly solved it will return. An easily applied salve is foolish when surgery is necessary. A quick decision is often a decision delayed. That is foolish.

Proverbs 21:20 Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.

Exhausted-island. “Busy” over time will lead to exhaustion and it is truly exhausting to be busy all the time. And exhaustion harms relationships. A leader is nothing apart from their relationships. When I am worn out from extended seasons of busyness everyone around me feels it. I am more irritable, more judgmental, more easily offended, more prone toward depression . . . more focused on what is behind me rather than what is in front of me . . . and rarely grateful. Busy usually means that you have crowded out the things that truly feed you. You de-prioritize those aspects of life that give you life. You will tend to lean into the things that only drain you. You will damage your relationships. And you will become an island unto yourself.

Matthew 11:28-30 (the words of Jesus) “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

How does a leader with weighty responsibility avoid “busy?” I have said on many occasions that the key to complexity is not simplicity . . . it is focus. This kind of leadership focus prioritizes the work as well as the play.

Here are a few resources to get you started on good leadership focus . . . and avoiding “busy”:

What’s Best Next-by Matt Perman

Getting Things Done-by David Allen

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People-by Stephen Covey

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives-by Richard Swenson

How To Create More Mental Focus-a podcast by Michael Hyatt

5 for Leadership-January 23rd


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This week in 5 for Leadership we have posts covering a leader’s need for support that leads to courage, counting the cost of leadership, living for your resume or your eulogy, leadership promises for the rest of the year, and one woman leader in history you need to get to know. Take a few minutes and be inspired.

Why You Must Count The Cost of Leadership or Risk The Well-Being of Others!

“Do all of us count the cost when we accept the mantle of leadership? I mean do we really count the cost when weighed against the conflict, misunderstandings and ultimately the potential persecution from those we have a charge to “lead-well” while in our care. I believe many of us do not and move into a place of leadership ill-prepared and armed only with information from Universities, books, certifications and maybe even an internship or two.” Jason Carthen hits at the essence of leadership in this post and why counting the cost matters.

The Power of Asking for Support: Courage is Contagious

“Good leaders know that in order to spark and sustain change, support is a must have. Yet our society ironically holds “doing it on our own” in high esteem, even when it comes to leading and managing. We revere the strength it conveys to accomplish things alone, despite the often miserable journey. Why?” This is a guest post by Mala Grewal on Bob Tiede’s blog. While you are on Bob’s site . . . check some of his other posts. You will not be disappointed.

Should You Live For Your Resume . . . or Your Eulogy

This brief message from David Brooks reminds us that depth of character is more important than accomplishments.

52 Leadership Promises for Every Week of the Year

“A new year means a new beginning, and here’s a promise a week for 2016. Following them through will end up changing your leadership and your life.” Lolly Daskal provides us with a commitment roadmap.

A Women’s Ministry Pioneer You Need To Know

“There’s been a huge surge of interest in women discipling women in recent years. Books, conferences, blogs, and podcasts urge us to pray, study, organize, read, and counsel one another. For some, this seems like a new development. After all, wasn’t women’s ministry in the past just jam-making and missionary teas? Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. Aside from the many godly women who discipled younger women, there were those who trained and organized them, transforming whole areas by God’s grace. Ellen Ranyard was one of them.” You will enjoy and be inspired from this brief biography . . . from the Gospel Coalition web site.

There are the 5 for this week. Stay warm.


Preventing Leadership Mush


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Last week I participated in some national meetings with the team in which I serve. While discussing a particular topic, I mentioned the word “mush” tied to leadership. This caught one of the other team members off guard and quickly stated that I must blog about leadership mush. It became a common refrain for the rest of our three-day meetings. So this is for you Bob!

Mush can be defined as “a thick porridge made with cornmeal boiled in water or milk.” That is not what I am talking about . . . although I am sure there is a leadership analogy somewhere in that definition.

The secondary definition for “mush” is “something soft and spongy or shapeless.”

I am sure that definition has leadership implications.

One of the defining characteristics of leadership is the ability to make things clear. Let’s take the three elements of the dictionary definition to learn how to avoid leadership mush.

Soft. In leadership terms, this relates to direction and decision making. If the direction is “soft” it is difficult for those who follow to be certain they are on the right path. No one wants to have to guess about where they should give their best efforts. Followers want great clarity in both long and short term direction. Be relentless about pointing them towards “true north” on a regular basis and you will avoid the consequences of “soft.” It is also critical that your day-to-day leadership decisions support that directional clarity. Some leaders will wax eloquent about the overall vision, but the in time decision making does not reflect or support the stated vision.

If you want to avoid leadership mush be sure that your daily decisions don’t derail your overall direction and leave those you lead with “soft.”

Spongy. Regarding leadership traits, I believe this relates to key goals and objectives. You know how it goes when you punch a sponge, right? It simply bounces back . . . no imprint made. Those you lead want to know that they can make a difference in and through the organization. They want to make a clear contribution to the purpose of the organization. But if goals and objectives are left unstated, unclear, or lack accountability . . . it will be nearly impossible to know when true progress is made. And the motivation of those you lead . . . those you have entrusted with the execution of the overall plan . . . will wane.

If you want to avoid leadership mush be sure that you have stated, clear, and accountable goals and objectives in place. Don’t settle for “spongy.”

Shapeless. Shape is something you portray. Shape depicts form and function. If you lead a team of people are you leading according to their “shape?” You have to know your team well enough to lead according to their shape. You must be aware of their strengths, emotional intelligence, and ability to collaborate. To assume that any team will do is to be “shapeless.” You must shape the team and lead according to their shape. This will help you achieve maximum impact.

If you want to avoid leadership mush be sure you have the “right people on the bus” and lead according to their “shape.” Shapeless looks like everybody else.

By the way, one of the added descriptors for “mush” according to Merriam-Webster is “mawkish.” That is a new word for me . . . but you have to love the sound of it. It just seems to cry out “mush.” It certainly describes what “mush” can become . . . something “having an insipid often unpleasant taste.” Don’t let that become the leadership experience of those around you.

5 for Leadership-January 16th


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This week we take a closer look at spiritual leadership for both men and women. There are topics related to the all important task of leading teams, dealing with fear, worrisome leadership profiles, and leadership discouragement. And you will be introduced to some new leadership blogs . . . take a strong look.

7 Questions That Measure Team Culture

“Do you know whether or not your team culture is healthy? Many churches don’t, and this eventually always comes at a great price. It’s pretty common for organizations to make plans for a new year without first gaining clarity and insight about the team that will actually be executing the vision. Churches can’t reach their full potential until they can positively answer the following questions . . .” See what else Jason Vernon has to say on the Tony Morgan Live web site.

5 Ways To Build Diverse, Inclusive Leadership Teams

“There is an increasing body of evidence that diverse teams of varying racial and ethnic makeup produce better results. They perform better financially, gain a competitive edge when recruiting top talent, experience less employee turnover, and offer greater benefits for those they serve. This is true in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, but is particularly important for nonprofits that serve communities of color, which is overwhelmingly the case in the education sector.” Molly Brennan gives us five practical ways to build diverse teams . . . and why it matters.

Stepping Out Of Your Fear Into Calling

“The non-denominational church I started wasn’t even a year old when a successful church-planter declared: ‘Your church will never make it!’ ‘Why do you say that?’ I asked, feeling instantly wounded.’Because you’re way too insecure!’ He thoughtlessly replied. Ouch. All these years later, I still feel the sting from his words.” Linda Wurzbacher describes a critical element of leadership through the lens of her own experience.

8 Questions Discouraged Leaders Need To Ask

“As leaders, we all face times when things are not going as well as we would like.  In those seasons, it’s important to remember that before we can ever re-energize the church we lead, we have to first be energized ourselves. ” Brandon Conner addresses this common leadership malaise head on.

15 Leaders Who Worry Me

“None of us is a perfect leader. I’m certainly not. For that reason, I’m always hesitant to critique leaders. Nevertheless, leadership is so important that I want to list fifteen types of leaders who worry me.” Chuck Lawless hits 15 leadership profiles to be aware of . . . may none of them be you.

There are the 5 for this week. Take some time to read more than one.


5 for Leadership-January 9th


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Here is a fresh 5 for Leadership. The new year is still young and this is a great season to set some personal leadership development goals. Some of these topics may be just the thing to jump-start 2016.

God’s Cleaning His House . . . The Church

“God is cleaning house in the American Church. Through current events dealing with ethnicity, race, and systemic oppression, He is exposing our dirty laundry (the systemic segregation in our churches, interpersonal networks, and theological formation) because He loves us.” This comes from D.A. Horton . . . and is worth the read. He also includes a great reading list as a resource.

16 Keys To Creating The Year You Want

The title speaks for itself. See what Dan Rockwell shares about getting your year off to the right start.

How To Tell Who You Can Truly Trust in Leadership

“So who can you trust… mean truly trust in leadership? You’ve trusted people you thought you could trust, only to be disappointed or get burned (sometimes badly). You’ve decided not to trust someone, only to realize you were wrong and he or she was completely trustworthy, and you missed a great opportunity to grow your team. Trusting people in leadership can be a disheartening and confusing proposition.” Take a look at Carey Nieuwhof’s three principles for trusting leaders.

Best of Leadership Network Today-January

“Here’s a collection of interesting, thought-provoking articles from around the web from recent weeks.” There are a wealth of resources in this post . . . as Leadership Network always does.

The 25 Essential Books for Every Entrepreneur’s Library

“No matter what stage you’re at in the entrepreneur journey, whether you just launched your first startup or have started several successful businesses, you can always use the advice of people who have “been there, done that.’’ What better way to get advice than from the pages of a book?”

There are the 5 for this week. I hope your 2016 is off to a great leadership start.

5 for Leadership-January 2nd

Time flies-Leadership

Alan Cleaver-Time Flies-on Flickr

Here is the first 5 for Leadership of 2016! I always appreciate this time of the year to reflect and evaluate . . . and make changes. I hope these recent posts aid you in your preparatin time for leading in 2016.

The Power of Vision, Part 5

“As you look out the future, what is the picture of a preferred future both for you and your organization?” Justin Irving provides some very practical principles and steps to help insure you stay on track in 2016.

3 Box Thinking–Structuring Your Church for Innovation

“As you enter 2016 it is helpful to put everything you do in your church into one of three boxes.” This is a great post from Eric Swanson . . . and will help you immensely in getting off to a great start in 2016 . . . whether you are part of a church staff or not.

How Not To Make New Year’s Resolutions

About 150 million Americans make New Year’s resolutions every year. That’s a lot of disappointed people. A quarter of those people will abandon their resolutions in just a week. Fewer than half will still be on track by summer. Ultimately, only 8 percent will be successful.” See what Michael Hyatt has to say to help you not be part of the 92%.

Personal Disruption–The Force That Will Shape 2016

“Disruption has the power to transform organizations, communities, and well, the world — but it doesn’t start on that macro level. It starts with individuals. Companies and organizations can’t disrupt, if their people don’t.” Whitney Johnson does a great job at disclosing the truth of this concept and helping us understand its benefits.

20 Encouraging Bible Verses For Young Leaders

Leading is never an easy proposition. Add being young to leadership and you can easily feel overwhelmed. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, I know I can turn to the word of God for a bit of encouragement. The good book is full of encouragement for young leaders (and people in general). If you’re not a believer, I strongly believe you can still find the words of the Bible encouraging. Let’s take a look at the 20 verses I believe can encourage young leaders.” Joseph Lalonde points to some thought provoking and practical parts of the Bible that will benefit any leader.

There are the 5 for this week–are you ready for 2016?