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5 for Leadership (12/20/14)

medium_4307773668Here is a fresh 5 for Leadership on this Saturday before Christmas. We have leadership posts on leadership humility, self-awareness, leadership integrity, 12 practical leadership posts in line with the 12 days of Christmas, and a Christmas hymn from a leader of the 4th century.

12 Leadership Days of Christmas  “It may be my least favorite Christmas song (and I’m sorry if it is now stuck in your head), but two years ago I created a series of 12 blog posts inspired by the song. In the song 12 gifts are given, and in the series I gave all leaders who read them 12 gifts as well.” These are timeless posts from Kevin Eikenberry.

7 Powerful Qualities of Humble Leaders  “I heard brilliance from a twenty-something when I asked what humble leadership looks like. She said, ‘Humble leaders know they need others.'” Dan Rockwell connects the dots between humility and a drive to develop others.

How To Increase Self-Awareness In Our Leadership  “. . . researchers found that the employees that worked at poorly performing companies had on average 20% more blind spots as compared to those who worked at financially strong companies. Also, employees at poor-performing companies were 79% more likely to demonstrate low levels of self-awareness as compared to employees who worked at companies that were delivering a strong return on investment.” This quote should be enough to make you want to read more from Tanveer Naseer.

Intelligence is Important But Integrity Matters More  “When you think of leadership, you want a wise leader who is quick on their feet and sharp in their vision and intelligent in their decisions. But there is something that triumphs intelligence when it comes to leadership. Because even for the quickest, smartest, best leader, if they don’t have integrity all the intelligence is for naught.” Lolly Daskal always has foundational things to say concerning leadership–take a look.

Of The Father’s Love Begotten  Here is a piece from a leader past. His name is Aurelius Clemens Prudentius and lived during the 4th century. He was a lawyer turned hymn writer and poet. And you have never heard of him–but you should get to know him. Kevin DeYoung provides us with a great glimpse of this leader from the past and the words to one of his hymns that is profound for this time of year.

There are the 5 for this week. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and that you take the time to truly consider The Incarnation.

(photo credit)

Clothe Yourselves With Humility

small__2978526162Humility is a virtue that is misunderstood and in short supply.

This is especially true among leaders. We live in an age when the celebrity leader is most romanticized. It matters more how you look, how well you speak, how much power you wield, or how much wealth you can attain. This can be equally true for the spiritual leader. Celebrity can hinge on your latest book, your most recent conference billing, or the size and reach of your church.

It is interesting to note that the Apostle Peter placed a premium on humility. Peter was the apostle most likely to grab the headlines under Jesus tutelage. It was Peter who was first to answer and quickest to act. It was Peter who wanted to build monuments, be the last one standing, and be the defender of Jesus at all costs. But Peter learned humility.

Peter learned humility through suffering. 

That is usually the only way this present comes wrapped.

It was also Peter who denied Christ three times in the courtyard that led to the cross. Jesus had predicted this event, and upon the full realization of his failures, Peter wept bitterly. I would argue that three events rescued Peter from being a has been fisherman: the empty tomb of Jesus, Peter’s encounter with Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and Pentecost. It took a risen Savior’s forgiveness and empowerment for Peter to fully grasp humility.

In 1 Peter 5, the Apostle speaks to leaders of a suffering diaspora in Asia Minor. In the first four verses he has demonstrated the posture of a true spiritual leader, he has reminded them why they lead as spiritual shepherds, and he has pointed them to the Chief Shepherd as an eternal hope for their leadership. Now in verse 5 he commands them to “clothe themselves . . . with humility toward one another.” Peter uses a verb that had rich cultural meaning in the Ancient Near East. Peter pictures the slave’s apron when he commands these leaders to be so clothed. When a slave in that culture went to his task he would don an apron type garment to keep himself clean and to demonstrate his position of subjection and servitude to a higher authority. The emphasis is both one of submission to the Lord Jesus as the Chief Shepherd, and submission to one another. This is really at the heart of servant leadership.

Humility is not thinking that you are better, nor is it thinking that you are worse. Humility in this context is to clearly recognize your lowly position before an almighty God (see verse 6). Humility is essentially not taking stock of yourself at all.

The great challenge for all leaders is to not get caught up in the comparison game.

When we compare and measure ourselves against other leaders around us, we will always come out better than some and worse than some–and this leads ultimately to pride. Instead we are to look to the Chief Shepherd, clothe ourselves with a slave’s apron, and serve all those around us. That places us in the midst of God’s great reservoir of grace and away from being in opposition to Him.

What garment do you seek?

Do you seek a king’s crown?

Or do you choose the humble apron of a slave?

This is the path of humility.

(photo credit)

Top Posts for November

imagesHere are the five most popular posts for this past month. Take a look for the first time, or 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?”

3 Types of Leadership Decisions  “Sometimes leaders look at decision making like a game of rock, paper, scissors. We use the same approach in every situation and we leave it up to chance. But there is a way to think through the type of decision that should be made for the best possible result.”

What To Look For In The Next Leader  “This past year I was a part of a leadership development venue for 16 national level leaders. During a Q&A time with our North American Director he was asked what he looks for in a future leader. He quickly provided us with this list of four key traits.”

Humility in Service  “A critical character trait in the life of a leader is humility. I actually believe that pride can lead to great fear and humility can lead to exceptional boldness.” Take a look at this Puritan prayer for a great picture of what I mean.

Underhanded Leadership  “Beware of underhanded leaders below you. Even more, beware of becoming an underhanded leader who diminishes, exaggerates, and subverts the authority of others.”

There are the five posts that you have help to make the most popular ones for November. Thanks so much for visiting this blog. I hope that it has been some benefit to you and your leadership.

My Top Posts for April

UnknownBetter late than never. Here are the five most popular posts on my blog from the month of April.

Delegation vs Empowerment  This rose to number one this past month. It is always one of the most popular. The topic is critical.

5 for Leadership (4/27/13)  This particular 5 for Leadership was very well received. There are posts here on wise decision making, execution, authenticity, and leadership traits.

Failing Until You Succeed  This is a video from Seth Godin on the value of failure in leadership. These thoughts flow from his 2012 book Poke The Box.

Leadership: Exaltation or Humility  This post highlights some critical principles on servant leadership from Luke 14. Humility is chief among them.

Observations On A Good Leader  These are some thoughts and principles that flow from a lengthy time of reflection about a leader I had the privilege to serve under. They are worthy of emulation.

There are the most popular from April. I will have May’s out on time. Thanks for reading.

What Form Will Your Leadership Take?

images-2What attitudes can cause leaders to fail or to lead poorly? There are a couple of things in Scripture that have caught my attention recently. They are found in Philippians 2:3. These two attributes are rivalry and conceit. They are juxtaposed with humility.

Philippians 2:3 states, “Do nothing from rivalry and conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Make no mistake, this is not a leadership verse. Paul is not writing exclusively to leaders in this part of his letter. Yet, Paul does clearly address this letter to “all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.”

Paul not only includes those who are spiritual leaders within this body of believers, but even singles them out as special recipients. I think the reason he does so is that he knows that whatever can possibly entangle a congregant can more readily entangle a leader. Leaders have influence, and therefore have leverage. That leverage can either be for good or for bad. A leader’s blessings are always multiplied, and so are their sins. And leaders are always susceptible to the clamoring of the crowd.

Think about rivalry and conceit for a moment.

Rivalry is about winning.

Think of the best college football rivalries and you readily think about bragging rights for the year. When you have the attitude of rivalry you are bent on winning, often at any cost. The unstated attitude is, “I am going to beat you!” This is often born out of a feeling of resentment based on jealousy. In some translations this term is labeled “selfish ambition.” Conceit is subtly different. Rivalry says, “I will show you that I am better than you.”

Conceit is the notion that you are already better than someone else.

It has the connotation of cheap pride, largely because it is all in your mind.

I think where this shows up in leadership is when we compare ourselves to other leaders or other organizations. Comparison is always a dangerous activity. It can end up sounding like this: “I/we are better than you and I/we are going to show you that we are better than you.” As you can surmise, rivalry and conceit are cousins of the sin of pride. It is so easy to slip into these sins as leaders. We want to be fruitful and we want to be effective. One of the easiest ways to feel good about ourselves is by feeling better than they guy next door. It is in our flesh to feel superior as a leader. But this can come at a high cost. God tells us in 1 Peter that He opposes the proud. No spiritual leader ultimately wants to be in opposition to Almighty God.

What does Paul offer up as a solution to this leadership disease?

In the second half of the verse Paul tells us, “in humility count others as more significant than ourselves.” “In humility” is a loaded phrase. Humility does not mean thinking less of ourselves. It actually is not thinking of ourselves at all. Paul gives us a beautiful application of the definition. We are to choose to count others as “more significant.” That automatically rules out rivalry and conceit. To indulge in rivalry and conceit is to think of ourselves as more significant than other leaders or other organizations. Those twin attributes are antithetical to humility. To desire superiority is to not live “in humility.” But Paul goes on to offer up a better and greater “form” of humility. In the ESV we find this word “form” three times in the passage-in v. 6, 7 and 8. The word “form” originally meant the very nature or character of something and the idea was both an internal and external transformation.

Notice what Paul says as he refers to Jesus as our example. In v.6-8 Paul states,

(Jesus) who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Don’t miss the progression. Jesus already existed in the form of God, but took on the form of a servant, and in doing so took on human form-which took him all the way to the cross. Jesus, who is God, truly became a servant, a human being, and a sacrifice. That is the idea of “form”, to morph or change from one shape or posture to another. It is not playing to the crowd. It is staying fundamentally true to the character of Christ while being willing to count others as more significant. There is a similar progression outlined for us in Matthew 20:20-28. Jesus was addressing the twelve in regards to James’ and John’s request for the right and left hands of power in the coming kingdom. Jesus lays out a form or path of leadership-that of a servant, slave and ransom. For Jesus this is a descent into greatness. Philippians 2:9 tells us that the consequence of this “forming” for Jesus was ultimately exaltation. And Paul tells us that we are to have the same mind of humility formation in ourselves.

I would suggest that this applies even more readily to spiritual leadership. The world sees a leadership form that resembles an upward ladder leading towards visible status and outward personal success.

God sees a leadership form that includes successive descending steps towards character and servanthood that bring glory and honor to Him and empowers others.

Will your leadership reflect rivalry and conceit? Or will it create various and creative ways for others to succeed? What form you take makes all the difference.

The Task of Christ-centered Leadership-Part 1

8388427993_5f9b2d8ed1In Acts 20 there is a very informative scenario on leadership. Paul is in the midst of his 3rd missionary journey and stops in Asia Minor to gather and meet with the Ephesian elders. These are the current leaders of the Ephesian house church movement. Paul had spent more time in Ephesus than any other city on his journeys. These people were dear to him. Paul does not know when he will see these leaders again and he wants to remind them of some key principles. We can learn something too as we eavesdrop on the setting.

What do leaders do in the midst of crisis?

First we have to take a look back at Acts 19 to grasp the full picture of what Paul experienced in Ephesus. Paul had stirred up a riot in Ephesus. The problem was that this city had a reputation throughout the known world for the temple to Artemis. Artemis was the Greek fertility goddess, among other things–and very popular. Idolatry was rampant and there was a lot of money to be made in the idol offering business. But as people started coming to faith in Christ and setting their idols aside business was in decline. The main charge brought against Paul was that he had stated , “gods made with human hands are not gods.” While this seems rather intuitive, it wasn’t then, nor is it now. So the people (mainly those profiting off idolatry) were enraged and sought to discredit and harm Paul. Yet in the midst of all of this the church had not only been birthed in this town, but leaders had been raised up and the church was vibrant and growing.

What can we learn?

Paul knew that there were still some who were trying to discredit him falsely, and this could cause these current leaders to shrink back in fear. In v. 18 he says, “you yourselves know how I lived among you . . .”

He reminds these leaders that they had first hand knowledge of how Paul lived and ministered among them.

Paul could make this claim because he was an authentic leader.

He was not a distant leader.

His testimony was his leadership life lived out in front of them.

Paul goes on to say in v.19 “serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials . . .” Part of Paul’s authenticity was his honesty and vulnerability. These are critical elements of humility. Paul did not pretend to be something that he wasn’t. He entered into his audience’s reality. Finally, in this first small section, Paul says, “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable.”

Leaders, if they are going to lead by example, cannot shrink back from that which is core.

For Paul this meant openly proclaiming Jesus Christ in the midst of an openly idolatrous city as the one true God worthy of total devotion. There is no way this message was popular, but it was true and it was effective and people’s lives were changed. Lives were changed so much so that the idolatry business was taking a huge financial hit.

A friend recently defined leadership to me this way:

A leader is a person who has an agenda for change and followers.

That was Paul.

He had an eternal cause and it cost him dearly at times.

But people not only heard the gospel from Paul they saw the gospel in Paul, and they followed.

Here are four principles from this episode:

1. There were those who wanted to discredit Paul, and there will be those who will want to discredit you. Your imperfect life of grace will silence your critics.

2. The task of leadership includes a very real presence among your followers-the distant leader is hard to follow.

3. The task of leadership has humility and authenticity at it’s core.

4. The task of a Christ-centered leader is committed through their leadership to declaring the whole gospel-for believers and unbelievers alike.

In a few days-part 2. A presto!

A Leader’s Prayer-Psalm 131

Steps-Psalm131-Leader-Prayer

Art Gallery ErgsArt on Flickr

Psalm 131 in the Bible is for leaders. It was written by a leader, King David. It was penned from a leader’s perspective. It is a Psalm, a prayer, that every spiritual leader must heed. It is that important.

Many do not read the Psalms as they were intended. We try and read Hebrew poetry like one of Paul’s letters. It can’t be done, at least not in a meaningful way. Poetry is meant to affect your soul. It is meant to move you, to draw out your emotions towards Yahweh. There is meter, rhythm and rhyme. Of course, some of it is lost in translation. But most of it remains fully in tact. And it is God’s inspired and infallible word, so it can still have the desired result in our lives.

Leaders can spend most of their days in an emotionless world of strategic plans, HR decisions, or cost-benefit analysis. Even spiritual leaders can get caught in a very man-centered approach to giving oversight and direction. We need to pray back the Psalms to God and allow the emotions He gave us to wash over us, so that we feel as leaders and not just think like one.

Psalm 131 is a very brief Psalm, yet it is packed with wisdom and perspective.

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.

This is a psalm of ascent, meaning it was one that was prayed, quoted, or sung on the way to the temple on a holy day. But notice the language and the emotions of this psalm. David declares that his heart is not lifted up. This is King David, the most revered king in Israel’s history. He had great power and authority. He had every reason to be proud. But his own status and accomplishments were not his focus. Notice that his only audience in this Psalm is the Lord. Any other would draw his focus to himself.

He proclaims “my eyes are not raised too high.” David recognizes where his help comes from, even as a leader. The greatest stumbling block for any leader is self-competent pride. Most leaders, especially when they have tasted a measure of success, quickly lift up their hearts and raise their eyes, not unto God, but unto themselves.

David goes on to say that he does not occupy himself with things too great or too marvelous. Instead, he states that he is like a weaned child–that his soul is like a weaned child. A weaned child is one who has learned to draw nourishment other than through suckling. A weaned child is a content child, one who is quieted and calm. A weaned child is one who has moved past infancy into the role of a toddler, and who is content to simply be with his mother, not always demanding of her the next meal. David ends the psalm with the exhortation for all of Israel to “hope in the Lord.” This is a humble prayer, a humble declaration to fully trust in Yahweh. This is from a king, a great king! This is a song of great humility. And humility is a necessity for great leadership.

How many leaders do you know that live like this?

How are you doing?

Do you live a leadership life that is occupied with what God has given you to do?

Do you lead more from self-competency or godly character?

Do you live and lead as a calm quieted soul, or as a hurried, preoccupied driven person?

The issue is one of humility, hope, and trust.

Will you lean into Him for life and leadership?