The Top Posts of 2016!

I trust you have had a good and profitable 2016. Here are the top 5 posts from my blog for this past year. Thank you for helping to make this blog a success. I hope your leadership was strengthened this past year–and may you excel still more in 2017!

Delegation vs Empowerment

To delegate means to choose or elect a person to act as a representative for another. To empower someone means to give power or authority to someone else. Do you hear the difference?

A Leader’s Prayer-Psalm 25

King David penned Psalm 25.  We are not sure when he wrote this psalm.  Therefore, we are uncertain about the circumstances of Psalm 25.  David speaks of his enemies in verse 2 and verse 19.  But David had many enemies and they were a consistent part of his life and leadership.  What most intrigues me about this psalm or this prayer from David lies in verses 4 and 5.  David the leader asks to be led.

Two Types of Courage

Merriam-Webster defines courage as the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous. Real leadership deals in the currency of courage on a daily basis. Yet there are different kinds of courage. Some forms are more valuable than others.

3 Marks of Leadership Maturity

One aspect of leadership I have been pondering is how Christ-centered leadership matures. As I have looked back over my own leadership life it is clear that there have been seasons marked by immature leadership–leadership that was more focused on self than on Christ and others.

The Principle of Focus

There are many things to which you can give your leadership energy.  The tendency is to fall prey to the urgent, which as Mr. Covey reminds us does not always include the most important priorities.

Servant Leadership & A Campus Visit

Old Main2Last week my son and I made a trek to the University of Arkansas. This is his junior year in high school, so it is time to begin considering where he will attend college. Being the second child, I have done this once before.

Campus visits are often the first step in the investigative process of choosing a college. We had three separate women student leaders who guided us through different aspects of the campus . . . Ali, Aubrey, and Andi. All three did an outstanding job. They gave us all of the relevant information information we needed to better understand the value of an Arkansas education. Each one enhanced the visit in their own way.

Why were they able to do this? I think there are three primary reasons why these student women made our campus visit a quality one.

1. Belief. Each of these women had gone through a similar process when they were juniors in high school. They had made a choice to attend this institution of higher learning. They believed that it had been the best choice for them. Now they were giving others an opportunity to see what they saw. They believed in what they were promoting. Someone within the administration had also demonstrated belief in each of them to entrust them with this ambassador responsibility.

Their belief was contagious. 

2. Ownership. All three women are students at the university. They are experiencing what they are talking about. The university certainly could have hired alumni to give tours and talk about the merits of Razorback land. But it would not be the same. These leaders are living the U of A life right now. Their voice resonates. When they talk about the latest dorm food, outdoor concert, or best business class . . . they are in the moment. This is their reality. A twenty year old describing college life to a seventeen year connects, because they own it. They are vested. Passing on their experience also serves to validate their own experience. Each of these young women owned the vision of Arkansas and were great ambassadors for the school.

Their ownership made them credible.

3. Empowerment. Obviously, each of these three women had been trained. There was likely a selection process and a developmental season for them to be fully equipped to function effectively in representing the university. They had also been given a voice and a platform. No one was acting as a superior to them while on tour. They were entrusted with the task of leading our band of 10-15 people alone. They had the power of choice within a range of options to determine how and where the tour went. They were also empowered to engage and answer questions that arose from the prospective students and their parents. They were fully empowered to represent the university for their unique contribution. They served the needs of these high school juniors and their parents.

Their empowerment allowed them to serve well.

Emerging leaders need the same three elements if they are to rise to a higher level of leadership.Pig

Belief is foundational to commitment. Belief arises from being selected, trained and encouraged. Belief flows from experience and being believed in. Belief leads to ownership.

Ownership is a result of being allowed to speak into something. It comes from being given decision making ability. Ownership is accompanied with resources. Ownership rises when you allow a young leader to fly solo. Ownership leads to empowerment.

Empowerment is the culmination of leadership development. Empowerment is accompanied by authority. You can truly empower a young leader when you are confident they will represent you and the organization well. Empowerment is about trust.

I don’t know what my son will decide regarding his college experience. But this campus visit paid dividends and left him with a very good impression . . . thanks to the servant leadership of these three women at the University of Arkansas.

Are you investing well in the next generation of leaders? These three elements will help you get there.

5 for Leadership (1/17/15)

medium_7419220612This week’s 5 for Leadership includes posts on an important movie for leadership, a collegiate quarterback on leadership, empowering leadership, future leadership, and women in leadership. Take a few minutes and grow your leadership.

What Marcus Mariota Teaches Us About Success  “But how do people like Mariota become so successful? Are there certain characteristics these people share that set them apart?? See what Michael Lee Stallard has to say about the outstanding quarterback of the Oregon Ducks.

Let Your Leaders Lead  ‘If you want a great culture in which leaders are excited, then do six simple things.” This is a guest post on Ron Edmondson’s blog by Tim Stevens. This is an important piece on empowerment and raising up more leaders.

2015 Leadership Predictions: 7 Big Changes Every Leader Wants to Know About  “Every leader knows the importance of being strategic.  Being strategic means looking into the future and identifying trends, opportunities and threats.” See what Dense Corcoran has to say as she peers into the future of leadership.

Women In Leadership Is Not A Zero-Sum Game  “When it comes to discussions on the state of today’s leadership, one topic that understandably comes up is the issue of women in leadership. Specifically, why there continues to be so few women holding senior-level leadership positions in both the private and public sectors.” This is really two posts in one. Tanveer Naseer rekindles the need we have to value women in leadership. Chelsea Berler shares her great learning in being a woman CEO of her own marketing firm. This is a great read.

‘Selma’: American History, Raw and Honest  Leaders need to be aware of current events as well as historical realities to lead well. Jason Collins provides some great insight through this post on the current movie Selma. Hope should always be a valued currency in the expression of leadership.

There are the 5 for this week. Prepare for next week by reading a few of the posts featured here.

(photo credit)

Top 10 Posts for 2014

medium_96228072Here are the 10 posts that you made the most popular during 2014. Thank you for helping to make this past year such a success for me and The Leadership Crossing blog. Lead purposefully and effectively into 2015.

Delegation vs Empowerment  “To delegate means to choose or elect a person to act as a representative for another. To empower someone means to give power or authority to someone else. Do you hear the difference?”

Winston Churchill on Leadership  “Winston Churchill was certainly one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. But it was not without trial nor failure. His leadership character was forged in the crucible of suffering and fatigue.”

3 Types of Leadership Decisions  “This is the 2nd post on the topic of leadership decisions. In the first one I discussed the nature of leadership decisions and offered some diagnostic questions to help you in thinking through every leadership decision you make. In this post we will look at three types of leadership decisions.”

3 Marks of Leadership Maturity  “One aspect of leadership I have been pondering is how Christ-centered leadership matures. As I have looked back over my own leadership life it is clear that there have been seasons marked by immature leadership–leadership that was more focused on self than on Christ and others.”

4 Critical Questions for Strategic Planning  ““Strategic planning” has become buzz terminology in the past ten plus years. There are several varieties of strategic planning approaches. All are designed to help teams and organizations focus on the most critical aspects of reaching a desirable future.”

Monty’s List of 7 Necessary Leadership Qualities  “Taken from his Memoirs, here is a list of what Monty believed to be seven necessary qualities for a military leader. I would suggest they would stand well for any leader, and certainly spiritual leaders who realize they are ultimately in a spiritual battle.”

A Leader’s Prayer-Judges 5  “The period of the Judges in the Bible was a tumultuous one. During this time, Israel as a nation entered into cycles of sin that constantly required a deliverer  in the form of a judge.”

Courage and the Next Leader  “In this case Joshua is succeeding an icon in the man Moses. Yet it was Joshua’s task to take this million plus people  across the Jordan River and into Canaan. Four times in eighteen verses Joshua is exhorted to be courageous. You would need a healthy dose of courage too if you were leading over a million people into a hostile land.”

Finishing Well  “Recently, I was part of an energizing time of leader development with all of the staff of our church here in Austin. While I was upfront making a brief presentation on the framework that we would be using for development, a critical question was asked by one of the participants. I had made the comment that I think it is difficult to finish well as a spiritual leader. The question was asked, “How does one finish well?”’

The Principle of Focus  The key to complexity is not simplicity, but focus. “I have often made that statement about leadership and stand by it.  I usually preface that statement with the idea that if you are not dealing with some level of complexity then you are not really leading anything of significance.”

5 for Leadership (9/6/14)

small_101655312Here is a new 5 for your football watching weekend. Take some time and add depth to your leadership perspective.

Empowering Your Team To Take Initiative  Empowerment is a word being tossed around a lot lately. This post does a good job of adding some clarity to this important concept.

Lead With Your Feet  “Whether you move across the room to shake a hand or travel around the globe to partake in local cuisine and share in the culture of a partner, the significance and impact of a firm handshake and face to face interaction cannot be overstated.” Kent Landreth give us some very practical and timely advice about cutting the virtual cord and getting out among your people.

The Best Leaders Are Insatiable Leaders  “It takes a real sense of personal commitment, especially after you’ve arrived at a position of power and responsibility, to push yourself to grow and challenge conventional wisdom.” Bill Taylor highlights the power of a monumental speech and the desperate need of every leader.

Groups Vs. Teams: What’s The Difference  “Although you likely have been part of both groups and teams in the past, do you understand the difference? What are the key distinctions between a group and a team?” This post from Justin Irving gives us some great definitions, contrasts, and needed principles for knowing when you should want a group or a team.

How Pastors Get Hired Today  “Applying for full-time vocational ministry positions does not mean what you probably think it means. The days of dropping a hundred resumes in the mail (or e-mail) are gone.” This is a very insightful post on the Gospel Coalition Blog for any and all in full time Christian ministry.

There are the 5 for this week. Roll Tide!

3 Steps Toward Leadership Confusion


Pabak Sarkar on Flickr

There were times during my life in Italy when I would get so confused in my driving. There would be great road sings to get you started on your journey, but for some reason, those signs would become really scarce when you needed them most. Even the GPS would get confused. Of course as a man, I would keep driving no matter how lost I was. Somehow I confused driving activity for driving effectiveness–if the goal was actually to get to an intended destination.

Leadership in any arena of life is a life-long learning process.
There are plenty of opportunities to fail, to be discouraged, to give up–and to learn.
To be confused is to be unable to think or understand clearly.
To be confused is to be perplexed or disconcerted.
To be confused is to be disoriented or mixed up.

It sounds like this in a sentence: “I have never been so confused.” or “I am confused about what to do next.” or “His words were confusing.” These are not words you want running around your head as a leader. These are not words you want others saying about you as a leader. But leadership confusion can also be very subtle. We can think we are doing the exact right leadership actions, and yet our followers are confused. They may be confused because they are not being maximized. People have experienced me as a confused leader at times. How about you?

Here are three major areas that I see where leaders get confused on a regular basis.

1. Leaders can confuse vision for clarity of direction. Vision is the mental image of a desirable future that elicits passion. But there will come a day, and soon when those who follow you are going to need more than hyperbole. They are going to need some sense of “how.” Vision is the motivation. Direction begins to fill in some of the blanks with pragmatic steps of implementation. People have a deep need to know next steps. They may not need all of the details. They do need to know that you have thought the vision through enough to understand the path to see the vision fulfilled. They need to know that the vision is actually feasible by understanding their unique contribution and celebrating progress along the way.

2. Leaders can confuse delegation for empowerment. Leaders can be so focused on reaching the goal that they view followers as mere assets along the way. We delegate that which is beneath us or is demotivating to us. We don’t see our primary job as raising up more leaders. But I believe that a leader should always be about raising up more leaders. You can only do that if you are focused on empowerment over delegation. Empowerment by definition gives away power. You provide an emerging leader with proper authority, resources and accountability to nurture them towards greater responsibility. You might actually give away some leadership responsibilities that you truly love doing. Delegation helps you get your agenda accomplished. Empowerment looks to the future and is committed to raising up the next generation of leaders.

3. Leaders can confuse contribution for impact. The tyranny of the urgent can become a leader’s worst enemy. We show up every day. We fulfill our duty. We act like a leader. But we are merely making a contribution. A contribution is about what is due. Impact is about transformation and change. It is easy as a leader to settle for contribution and miss true impact. Who is holding you accountable? Who is challenging you to do more than simply show up and perform? Aim for impact.

Where are you living out leadership confusion?

What are your thoughts about leadership confusion?

What other areas do you see that can cause leaders to settle for less without even know it?

Disempowering Beliefs

small__8095592977It is no secret that leadership in the 21st century must look different. Many have contributed well to a fresh understanding of what it will take in a global, hyper-informational, multi-cultural, rapidly changing, and highly mobile society to lead well. One of the truest notions is that current leaders must be continually focused on raising up new leaders. We must develop empowerment cultures within our organizations if we want retain talent and keep the leadership bench full.

There are many leaders today who still lead under an old paradigm. Not only are they not creating an empowerment culture for the next generation of leaders, they are living out old beliefs that are self limiting and adding to a disempowering culture. This type of disempowerment can actually reside in very subtle, but powerful attitudes. It becomes the air that emerging leaders breathe. It becomes the reason that emerging leaders leave.

Lynn Joy McFarland, Larry E. Senn, and John R. Childress collaborated to write Twenty-First Century Leadership: Dialogues with 100 Top Leaders. In one section of their work they highlight five beliefs, that when communicated and lived out, become powerful organizational culture guides to disempowerment.

1. “If I’m the boss, I’m suppose to have all the answers.”

2. “If I’m the boss, I’m not suppose to make any mistakes.”

3.” I’m in charge, no one should question my authority.”

4. “If you want the job done right, you have to do it yourself.”

5. “If we create new things around here, they should be my ideas.”

Do any of these ring a bell? If your answer is “No” then ask someone else close to you who will give you some honest feedback. You might not ever voice these words, but you could still be communicating these attitudes in ways that those around you comply as if you were shouting from a roof top.

Obviously, if you could reverse every one of these statements you would be well on your way to creating a culture of true empowerment.

In a section of the Bible that actually talks about leadership as a grace gift, the Apostle Paul provides a needed context that speaks well to how we must see ourselves. “For by the grave given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3)

I believe that it is this type of authenticity and self examination that will aid a leader in choosing to empower others–and in the process will multiply the leaders.

(photo credit)

Top Posts for March

imagesHere are the five most popular posts from my blog for the month of March. Thanks for reading and contributing. My hope is that you become a stronger leader in the process.

Delegation vs Empowerment  “To delegate means to choose or elect a person to act as a representative for another. To empower someone means to give power or authority to someone else. Do you hear the difference?” This is the most popular post in the history of my blog.

Four Critical Questions for Strategic Planning  “My aim to help everyone engage is to keep the process simple. To do this I think there are four main questions that every strategic planning process must answer.” Maybe this will be of help the next time you need to lead a team through the planning process.

Close: Leading Well Across Distance and Cultures  This is a book review of Ken Cochrum’s new book. He addresses the growing reality that all leaders face, and he does so in an insightful and practical way. This is a great book for any leader. Take a look at the review and learn more about Close.

Innovation & Faith  “A leader is not always recognized for his or her innovation immediately. Somethings are more important than recognition.” Here is a six and half minute video that will give you some fresh perspective.

Ken Blanchard on Collaboration  “I have admired Ken Blanchard for many years. I have never had the privilege of actually meeting him, but I have at least come to know much of his thoughts on leadership through his wonderful writing. Here is a 16 minute video that was a TEDx presentation in San Diego in 2012. The topic is collaboration.”

The Benefits of Delegation & Empowerment


Exodus 18 is a well known passage about delegation. Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, observes that there is a great inefficiency in how the people are receiving justice. Moses is acting as the lone judge, with every daily dispute being brought before him from morning until evening. No matter how big or how small, the cases came to Moses alone. Moses alone was the keeper of the Law and he alone settled every dispute. In verse 17 Jethro declares, “What you are doing is not good.” Jethro has enough foresight to see that both Moses and the people will become exhausted by this judicial process. Jethro has some prescriptions to set things right.

First, Jethro encourages Moses to educate the whole of Israel as a people concerning the Law of God. 

Second, Jethro tells Moses to find able men. These are to be men who truly fear God, who are trustworthy, and who hate a bribe. 

Third, Jethro exhorts Moses to take such men and place them as chiefs over groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. The title “chief” can carry a broad range of leadership meanings. But all of these titles require delegated authority and power. These men are to judge those allotted to them on any small matter at any time. Only the large matters will come to Moses. The expression of their delegated power is that they are able to vindicate or punish those who have been brought before them.

In verses 22 and 23 Jethro lays out two clear benefits in light of this form of delegation and empowerment. These benefits are worthy of our attention as well. When we educate, delegate, and empower others we will experience the same benefits.

1. The “For” and “With” Principle

Jethro states the first benefit this way, “So it will be easier for you. And they will bear the burden with you.” When leaders delegate clear responsibilities to others and empower them in decision making, their load becomes lighter because others are getting under the rock with them. 

2. The Peace and Prosperity Principle

Jethro goes on to say, “If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” The follow through on this advice promises God’s direction, most likely because Moses will no longer be so distracted and in a better position to hear from God. The follow through also promises endurance for Moses and peace for the all of the people. What leader does not need staying power? Part of the answer is in shared leadership. The ultimate benefit is the shalom of the people, which not only means the cessation of anxiety, but the prevalence of prosperity.

Everyone is blessed when a leader wisely delegates and empowers others. And every now and then a father in law may have some really wise advice.

(photo credit)

Top Posts for February

imagesHere are the top five posts from my blog for the month of February. I hope you will enjoy them again.

Delegation vs Empowerment “To delegate means to choose or elect a person to act as a representative for another. To empower someone means to give power or authority to someone else. Do you hear the difference?” This is always a favorite.

Lincoln on Leadership  “Richard Brookhiser wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled What Would Lincoln Do? In his article, Brookhiser highlights five leadership lessons that he believes the 16th President exhibited that are worthy of reflection. Take a look and see what you think.”

The Distracted Leader  As a leader, how do you deal with anxiety and spiritual attack? I believe that 1Peter 5 reveals these two elements as primary enemies for any good leader.

The Strange Path of Leadership  “I am in my latter 50′s and I wonder what the rest of my leadership life holds. My strong desire is to finish well. I want to remain a learner to the end. I long to be viable, usable, and effective till the last day. Yet, the path of leadership in this phase of life will be different than when I was in my 20′s.” The path of Joseph toward leadership in the Bible was not linear. Is yours?

The Dangers of Isolation  “In the winter issue of Leadership Journal there is a fascinating article entitled The Friendless Pastor. Mark Brouwer, pastor at Jacob’s Well Church Community in Evergreen Park, Illinois, does a great job of bringing clarity to a common problem among all spiritual leaders.”