Context Matters


Gonzalo Deniz on Flickr

Context = the group of conditions that exist where and when something happens. 

Every leader stewards their influence within a particular set of conditions.

Every leader exists within a particular set of conditions that help to determine the degree to which they are able to maximize their influence. 

The prerequisite for determining a proper leadership context is self-awareness. A leader must understand who they are and what they bring to the equation in terms of strengths, personality, and emotional intelligence. If they have a healthy sense of these factors they will be in a position to assess a favorable set of leadership conditions.

There are at least three levels of context which every leader should consider: organizational, role, and direct report.


Organizational context is primarily about the mission. Are you in alignment with what the organization is determined to do? Does the purpose of the organization elicit sufficient passion within you to give your best leadership effort? Can you still lead when the organization makes decisions that run contrary to some of your preferred beliefs or operating style? These are some of the conditions that matter in deciding if your current organization is the right context for you.


Role context is primarily about your unique leadership contribution. Does the organization provide sufficient direction, resources, and support for you to make a significant contribution towards the mission? Does your role match your primary strengths? Do you have a role platform that allows you to make a unique contribution to the mission? Does your leadership role position you to empower emerging leaders to multiply the impact of mission? These are some of the conditions that matter in deciding if your current role is the right context for you.

Direct Reporting Relationship

Direct reporting context is primarily about your freedom of leadership expression. Does your boss allow you to lead according to who you are? Does he or she provide sufficient feedback and developmental support to help you lead better? Does your boss keep your properly accountable to the desired results of the organization? Do you have proper decision-making authority and empowering resources that promote your leadership platform? These are some of the conditions that matter in deciding if your current reporting relationship is the right context for you.

5 for Leadership-October 17th


Susanne on Flickr

5 for Leadership this week includes posts on leadership prayers, leadership possibilities, leadership discomforters, the need for coaching, and leadership effectiveness. Take a few minutes and be inspired.

10 Principles of the Thorn

“Comfort isn’t a solution. Recurring problems fester when comforters win. But, if you allow pain to escalate, change eventually becomes necessary. Discomfort motivates change.” This is Dan Rockwell at his best.

Leading From The Land of Possibilities

“Whenever you launch a business or organization, launch day is a big day. It’s exciting and possibilities are endless.” Joseph LaLonde captures some powerful thoughts from Jeff Henderson at the Catalyst conference.

3 Indisputable Reasons Why Everyone Needs a Coach

“Everyone needs a coach. But, not everyone wants a coach or wants others to know that they need a coach.” Marshall Goldsmith Lays out some great principles for the value of coaching.

4 Components of Leadership Effectiveness

“When one talks about being successful at leading people and resources, they really mean being effective. It’s impossible to have one without the other. So the natural question arises; how do you truly know if your leadership is effective?” This comes from Christian Knutson on the General Leadership blog.

10 Good Prayers of an Effective Leader

Ron Edmondson gives us a list that may be the most important thing we read today–and pray.

There are the 5 for this week!

“Why” for Leaders


La Ciudad Visible on Flickr

“What” is for followers.

“Why” is for emerging leaders.

I have often commented that the greatest task for every leader is the responsibility to raise up more leaders. This really should be a leader’s first and controlling thought.

But most leaders treat those that report to them as mere laborers. They only delegate tasks. They focus on the “what” of a job and forget to explain “why.” To merely tell someone what you want them to do is to focus more on the task than the development of the emerging leader. To tell them “why” is to help them understand the leadership principles behind the task you want them to complete.

“Why” points to the overall direction behind a decision.

“Why” lays the philosophical foundation for the task at hand.

“Why” helps an emerging leader in how to think–so that next time they can make a great decision.

It is best to ask an emerging leader “why.”

But you can also tell an emerging leader “why.”

Education will leave its mark.

Personal discovery will last a lifetime.

Listen to some of the questions of Jesus:

“Why are you anxious about clothing?”

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?”

“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”

“Why do you think evil in your hearts?”

“Why do you question in your hearts?”

“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

“Why put me to the test?”

“Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?”

“Why” gets to leadership motives.

Lead well!

5 for Leadership-October 10th


Susanne on Flickr

Here is a fresh 5 for Leadership for this beautiful fall day in October. Take some time between all of the football games and baseball playoff games to grow your leadership through these outstanding thought leaders.

What is Leadership?

“Do you consider yourself a leader?  I’ve noticed that this basic question provokes a lot inside people.” This insightful post comes from Adrian Pei on his personal blog. Take a look at this post and other titles by Adrian.

Observations From An Overwhelming Week

“My week was not overwhelming due to a massive crisis hitting my life, though there are plenty of crises hitting our world these days. In fact, most of the various items hitting the schedule were extremely enjoyable taken individually. The overwhelming feeling simply came as the normal flow of life built up and a few added curveballs were thrown into the mix.” You will enjoy and identify with this very real post from Justin Irving–take a look.

Guy Kawasaki On How Leaders Can Be More Innovative

“I’m live blogging from Catalyst Conference. Catalyst is a next-generation conference that  embolden leaders from all over the world. The theme of Catalyst for 2015 is “Awaken the Wonder.” Wonder invites potential. Wonder provides vision. Wonder inspires. Wonder leads us to God.  Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. He is the author of The Art of Start 2.0.” Paul Sohn does a great job of capturing insights from Catalyst–glean from his experience.

Q&A With Millennial CEO And Book Author Rick Lindquist

“Millennial Rick Lindquist is making his mark in the business world and enjoying the success of his co-authored 2014 bestseller book, The End of Employer-Provided Health Insurance. Lindquist, in his 30’s, is the President and CEO of Zane Benefits, Inc. Today, he kindly answered questions about leadership, mentors, his book, and Millennials in the workplace.” This post comes from Eric Jacob’s blog and is incredibly insightful.

How Is It Even Possible To Be Aware Of Wonder?

Joseph LaLonde has also been blogging from the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. He captures the essence of this important message from Erwin McManus about capturing the wonder. Every leader should read this.

There are the 5 for this week. Pass this post on so others may benefit from this crossroad of leaders and ideas.


Leadership Authority-Where Does It Come From?



Merriam-Webster states that authority is “the power to give orders or make decisions.” Another aspect of this definition claims that authority is “the power or right to direct or control someone or something.”

This is probably the most obvious definition of leadership authority. It may be the one that most leaders depend upon. We often equate leadership authority with power. We might long for the ability to order or control.

Andy Crouch, the editor of Christianity Today, offers this definition of authority:

Authority is the capacity for meaningful action.

Notice that this definition has two important nuances over the dictionary definition. First, it is defined in terms of capacity instead of being defined in terms of a “rights” or “power.” Second, it is defined also by its outcome–meaningful action. This places authority in a more benevolent light. Leadership actions should carry meaningful action. They should truly benefit someone.

There are at least three primary ways leadership authority can be gained. Each one has its consequences.

Authority Through Title

Titled authority best fits the dictionary definition of authority. This is authority because one bears the title. This is authority in a hierarchical structure. This authority is most often experienced in military or business settings. This is power to influence because the title carries the ability to make decisions, give orders, or control. This kind of authority can also be experienced in any societal institution, including the family or the church. This type of authority does not automatically lean towards negative consequences. That all depends on the character of the one who holds the title.

Authority Through Expertise

Another type of authority is attributed to those who have acquired or possess specific knowledge or expertise. This has become a more powerful form of authority in a global context of constant innovation and technological change. In this version of authority, leadership influence is attributed regardless of title. It is attributed out of necessity and esteem. We follow and take direction from those who know what we do not know and can lead us toward solutions. This type of authority does not have to come with a title. It is attributed because of the knowledge or expertise one has.

Authority Through Trust

I actually believe that this is the most powerful form of authority and best fits Crouch’s definition. This is granted authority. This type of authority might come with a title or not. It might be displayed through expertise or not. This is granted authority because of the profound ability for followers to truly trust the one who is having influence. The actual authority to influence derives from the follower. It flows up  instead of down. This is profound. Followers follow because they want to and fully trust the leader.

Meaningful action can flow from any of these three forms of authority, but when it flows from granted authoirty based on trust–it can multiply exponentially. This is authority based solely on the character of the leader. This is the authority that we as leaders should long for.

From which source does your leadership authority derive? Are you aiming for granted authority?

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28

5 for Leadership-September 26th


Tristan Martin on Flickr

Here is a fresh 5 with topics like the need for leadership rest, why teams fail, the power of truly listening, what VW missed about the nature of trust, and the need to rethink ministry calling. There is great variety here and something just for you!

8 Reasons Why Teams Fail

“We use the word team so often that it has almost become a garbage can word. Everything is a team. Because we use the word so frequently, we think we know how to work effectively with teams. Unfortunately we do not. Teams are complex dynamic systems that face many challenges. In fact 60% fail to reach their potential.” This comes from the Lead Change Blog and is worth the read.

When’s The Last Time You Rested?

“Why did I push rest to the back of my life? I never really did. I let it slip to the background and forgot about it. This is what so many people do. We get our projects. We get our hobbies. We get our busyness. And we forget to rest.” Joseph LaLonde highlights through his own experience our need for rest from the churn of leadership.

What Happens When We Really Listen

Karin Hurt shares some wonderful insights from one of her most popular blog posts ever! Take a few minutes and learn from her experience.

What VW Didn’t Understand About Trust

“The ripple effects of the Volkswagen scandal go well beyond the 11 million cars affected, the CEO’s resignation today, and the steep fines the company is facing. Though the story is still developing, there are a few big, interconnected lessons to be drawn from what we know so far.” This comes from Andrew Winston and the HBR.

Why Its Time To Rethink What It Means To Be Called To Ministry

“Chances are you’re likely struggling with the same issue almost every church leader is—a lack of truly great leaders for ministry. Whether I talk to megachurch leaders or leaders of churches of 50 people, they say the same thing: they just can’t find enough capable, gifted leaders who want to serve in a church staff role.” Carey Nieuwhof provides some great perspective and thoughtful principles for what it means to be called into ministry.

There are the 5 for this final week in September. It’s bound to get cooler here in Austin sometime.


5 for Leadership-September 19th


Anne Elliott on Flickr

Here is a new 5 for this 3rd week in September. The summer heat is finally waning and the fall season is just around the corner. Take some time to strengthen your leadership. The topics cover Ben Carson’s success secret, the leadership language of pronouns, what mature leaders look like, differing kinds of feedback, and how to minister to women in crisis. There is something here for you.

7 Attributes of a Maturing Leader

frequently say to our church I’m less interested in where a person has been and more interested in where they are going. I would make that statement about leadership also.” This is Ron Edmondson with some very applicable principles for every leader to consider.

The Secret Language of Pronouns: How to Drive Ownership and Accountability

“The pronouns we use reveal a lot about our ownership, accountability, and relationships with others. And words like I, my, we, us, our, you, your, they, them, and their not only show where we think we stand, they also tell our listeners or readers where we think they stand.” This comes from Jesse Lahey on the Engaging Leader blog.

12 Flavors of Feedback

“There are many flavors of feedback. Here is a list of some of the most common types, with good and bad sample word tracks for each. They are ranked ordered from easier to harder.” This is a very practical post that can broaden your feedback skills from Dan McCarthy.

5 Ways To Minister To Women In Crisis

“Cancer strikes. A spouse is unfaithful. Abortion haunts. Sexual sin is exposed. A baby is stillborn. These tragic experiences are regular occurrences in our fallen world. Women we know are in these situations right now, and we must care for them in their trauma.

But how? I often feel at a loss for where to begin ministering to sisters in such situations. I don’t know enough Bible or have enough wisdom. The situation may be so far beyond anything I’ve experienced personally. I listen, trying to appear calm, but inside I’m panicking, fearing I’ll have nothing to offer this sister.” This is a timely post by Kristie Anyabwile–with some very practical advice.

The Secret To Ben Carson’s Success

It’s been fascinating to watch Dr. Ben Carson’s recent rise in the polls. Whatever your political bent, he deserves attention. What’s his secret?” This comes by way of Michael Hyatt and may surprise you.

There are the 5 for this week. Take advantage of the wisdom and principles that are offered through these great thought leaders.


5 for Leadership-September 12th


Mario Donati on Flickr

5 for Leadership is a weekly collection of posts on the topic of leadership. Some posts are from a faith-based perspective and some are simply practical leadership teaching for leaders from any vantage point. This week there are topics ranging from how to fight your leadership bias to how to do an excellent SWOT analysis. There is something here for you.

An Essential Guide to SWOT Analysis

This SWOT guide by Gomer and Hille is a great resource for doing solid evaluation with your team towards any plan or project. This is a great tool!

6 Ways To Keep Good Ideas From Dying At Your Company

“Anyone who has worked inside a large organization can rattle off a lengthy list of the things that regularly kill promising ideas: conflict with existing businesses, naysayers, management turmoil, insufficient resources. And yet when companies suddenly decide to “get more innovative,” starting hackathons, idea competitions, and accelerator programs, they typically forget to address all those things that kill perfectly good ideas after they hatch.” This comes by way of Scott Kirsner on the HBR website.

How To Avoid 3 Big Mistakes About Being Biased

“Done intentionally and constructively, not self-destructively, giving your actions one last loving look before moving forward is a good thing – for you, your colleagues, company, community, and workplace culture.” Jane Perdue offers this sage advice on The Lead Change blog.

How To Give Effective Staff Evaluations 

For years I’ve used this form below when I perform my twice-annual staff evaluations. I have every staff person complete the form on themselves and attach their goals for the previous and upcoming year.  These documents provide the talking points for the evaluation. Afterward, I compile a one-page written evaluation I give to them.” This is a really good, practical tool–from Charles Stone.

Leadership 101-Leading By Example

This comes from a new blogger for me–Tiffany Cooper. Her blog is called Leading & Loving It. She writes from a faith perspective and does so very well.

There are the 5 for this week. In the same week, we have celebrated Laboe Day and remembered 9/11. Both reflect our need for character based, godly leadership. Let’s strive to be that person.

5 for Leadership-September 5th


Kelly Hackney on Flickr

This week in 5 for Leadership we have your Labor Day specials. There are posts on limiting leader beliefs, leadership strategy questions, the right ingredients for every team, biblical principles of work, and leadership vulnerability. There are some worthy topics for your extended weekend.

On Leadership and Vulnerability

“True leadership is achieved when a team identifies with their leader as a real human being, and that includes faults, fears, shortcomings, and of course, vulnerability.” This comes from Anil Saxena on the Linked2Leadership blog.

5 Strategy Questions Every Leader Should Make Time For

“If you can’t find time to think, it probably means that you haven’t organized your firm, unit, or team very well, and you are busy putting out little fires all the time. It also means that you are at risk of leading your company astray.” Freek Vermeulen offers this insightful post on the HBR blog.

Missing Ingredients: Finding the Right Team Recipe

“The dynamics and culture of a business are certainly different than what you might find in a government agency, a community organization, or a non-profit. But the elements that make a great team and create an environment for success are similar in all of these cases.” This comes from Robbie Bach on the Leading Blog.

Labor Day: 8 Biblical Principles of Work

“Some people hate to do it. Some love to do it. Some go to great lengths to avoid doing it. Some do it too much. While there are many different attitudes toward work, one thing remains constant: work must be done. Since the Garden of Eden everyone has worked or depended on someone else’s work for their survival. Work sets a person’s lifestyle—where you live, when you sleep and eat, the time with family, even your dress.” I wanted to share this perspective in light of Labor Day–from James Eckman–take a look.

5 Deadly Beliefs That Limit Leaders

“Action begins with belief. Wrong beliefs result in wasted effort. Ineffective leaders believe wrong things about themselves, others, situations, and organizations.” Dan Rockwell shares some very important perspectives that no leader can buy into.

There are the 5 for this Labor Day weekend. Time to watch some college football–right after you click on one or two of the links above.

“Flee & Pursue” Leadership


Timothy was Paul’s protege.

Timothy was placed in charge of the house churches of Ephesus, arguably the most precious ministerial work Paul ever did. 

In 1 and 2 Timothy Paul instructs and exhorts his young protege in how to lead the church.

1 Timothy 1:2 Paul states, “To Timothy, my true child in the faith . . .” 

We first learn about Timothy in Acts 16. Paul was at the beginning of his second missionary journey and stops in Derbe and Lystra. He picks up a disciple named Timothy, who was the son of a believing mother, but most likely not the son of a believing father. For all practical purposes Paul became Timothy’s spiritual father.

I actually see 2 Timothy 2:2 as leader multiplication strategy more than a general discipleship strategy. Paul is challenging Timothy to rasie up more leaders for the Church. But he knows there is one besetting sin that will always be the likely one to render a leader ineefective for the cause of Christ. This is the issue of sexual immorality.

With the revelation of the Ashley Madison scandal it has become evident that possibly hundreds of pastors or other church workers were engaging in extra marital affairs. The total fallout is till to be revealed. In 2 Timothy 2:20-21 Paul reminds Timothy that there are vessels for honoable use an dishonoarble use within God’s kingdom. It is only the clean vessel that is able to be used fully by God. This teaching is followed by a double command, to flee and to pursue.

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith , love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22

These are present tense commands. Paul fully intends for Timothy, and those emerging leaders around Timothy, to flee youthful passions and keep on fleeing every day of their lives. Paul fully intends for Timothy, and those emerging leaders around Timothy, to pursue righteousness and keep on pursuing every day of their lives.

To flee means to shun or avoid something abhorent. It is to escape a trap. It is to be saved by flight.

To pursue means to intensely strive after something. It is to do something with intense effort with a definite purpose or goal.

Paul declares that one should flee youthful passions. The notion is to not covet or desire what is not yours. The context implies immoraltity. To have an affair is to always over desire something that does not belong to you. This was King David’s problem even though he had been warned. David committed adultery with Bathsheba. It was David’s servant that keenly reminded David that Bathsheba was another man’s daughter and another man’s wife (see 2 Samule 11:3). Bathsheba was not his to pursue. He was to flee in every sense of the word.

Paul also provides the remedy. Every leader is to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. And we are to do so in community–so as not to become islolated alone with our lusts. Every virtue and vice is rendered more powerful with an object. Lust leads to sin when it finds it’s next. Righteousness, faith, love, and peace find their true fulfillment among others within the body of Christ.

Tim Challies provided a timely and strong exhortation via his wife for all Chrisitan leaders to cease from sexual sin in My Wife’s Plea to Christian Men. You need to read this pleading post. You and I need to heed her exhortation and the exhortation of Paul to Timothy. The very future of the Church depends on it.

(photo credit)