Passion and Compassion


knitsteel on Flickr

Passion is defined as a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something.

Compassion is defined as a feeling of wanting to help someone. It is a conscious sense of another’s distress and a desire to alleviate it. 

A leader can be a person who possesses either one of these traits. A leader can demonstrate influence through either one of these traits. But may I suggest that a true servant leader must possess compassion.

Leaders can be excited and enthused over many causes and from a variety of motives. A leader can be enthusiastic about the next hill to climb or objective to be reached. A leader can also be motivated by the excitement of a new title or position. A leader can become enthused by the very nature of power. Therefore, passion requires a strong governing center.

Compassion is other-centered. Its focus is on the wellbeing of another. True compassion has little chance of being about the leader.

Passion only requires an outside stimulus. Something that taps into what already lies within–positively or negatively. 

Compassion requires focused observation. Compassion requires deep listening. Compassion by definition is aware of need in someone else.

It is stated in the Bible that there were seven instances in which Jesus felt compassion. Certainly these were not the only occasions where Jesus felt this sensation. But these are the ones recorded for us to study and understand. The compassion of Jesus was a feeling always expressed towards the crowd or an individual. The action of alleviation was varied. In one instance Jesus fed the crowd. In another, he requested prayer for the crowd. On another occasion, Jesus healed the sick that were part of a gathered crowd. Once, the corresponding action Jesus took was to teach the crowd. On one incredible occasion, Jesus raises the dead son of a grieving widow, because he felt compassion for her.

Twice, Jesus tells a story of compassion to make a teaching point for his hearers. Both stories are quite familiar to us. One is the story of the Good Samaritan. The other is the account of the Prodigal Son. One story teaches us that our compassion should lead us to meet the needs of anyone who comes across our path, the one in need. The other teaches us about the gracious and lavish love of a father–literally God, our Father.

The common Greek word for “passion” in our Bibles is almost always negative in its connotation. The Apostle Paul in Colossians 3:5 tells us to “put to death that which is earthly in you . . . (including our) passion.”

Our life in Christ is the governing center that allows our compassion to well up and be expressed in the most generous way. Compassionate leadership serves because He served.

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.     Henri Nouwen

We live in a passion saturated world.

Not every passion is bad.

But we could certainly use more compassionate leaders today!

5 for Leadership-October 24th


Totororo.roro on Flickr

This week in 5 for Leadership there are posts on servant leadership, how to deal with anxiety, the difference between careerism and leadership, leadership lessons learned, and important leadership trends. Take a few minutes during this fall day and stretch your leadership.

Top 12 Trends in Leadership Today

This is a great, quick read from Brad Lomenick that will keep you thinking. These are trends that merit your attention.

Are You A Serving Leader? A 5-Point Checklist

“Ken Blanchard believes there is one fundamental question all leaders need to ask themselves:  Is the purpose of my leadership to serve—or is it my expectation to be served?  A leader’s answer is important because it leads to two fundamentally different approaches to leadership.” This comes from Terry Watkins on the Blanchard Leadership blog.

The Surprising Difference Between Careerism and Leadership

“Are you leading with purpose or just trying to get ahead? Do you actually believe in something larger than your compensation, your career trajectory or your next success? I often tell young leaders, if their work has no meaning or satisfaction, they are better off quitting and sitting on the beach until they decide what they want to do.” This comes from Bill George on Linkedin Pulse.

What My Boss Taught Me About Leadership

“Let me set the scene. My career was plateauing. I had done well, but things had started to get a bit stale. Then, I had a meeting/interview with Neil Hobbs. Neil would have the biggest impact on my professional life.” Colin Shaw shares some poignant principles on leadership lessons learned–on Linkedin Pulse.

Anxiety & Prayer

Finally, I offer this brief, 2:43 video on anxiety and prayer by Crawford Loritts. All leaders face anxieties on a daily basis. What is your solution to dealing with them? Dr. Loritts provides the secret.

Servant Leadership & An African Church

church-congregation-servant leader

The congregation praying for us as we finished our time with them

According to Robert K. Greenleaf, “The servant-leader is servant first . . . it begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first . . . to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.”

Last week I was in Uganda as part of an 11 person team from the United States to minister to a partnership church in Pader. The Ugandan pastor’s name was Enoch. He is not a man tall in stature, but he is certainly a man tall in heart.

He had asked a few of us to speak to the congregation on leadership, highlighting that this was a great need among his people. I was nervous to make my first presentation. The African culture has a long history of strong patriarchal leadership . . . almost always focused on one strong man at the top. Servant leadership has a different agenda, a different approach. But would that leadership teaching and style be accepted in this rural Ugandan church setting?

My fears were allayed when Pastor Enoch introduced myself and the rest of our speaking team as those who would teach on the topic of servant leadership. I was surprised and in awe of this culture breaking leader who wanted to see every member of his church better understand how they could have unusual influence through the concept of servant leadership.

Pastor Enoch not only espoused servant leadership . . . he lived it. Here are three attitudes I saw lived out through his life while we were in his midst.

1. Deference

Pastor Enoch briefed us before we began as to the needs and desires of the congregation. Each evening of our visit he would update us as to how the present day had gone and what we might consider teaching on the next day. Yet, he always wanted to know what we thought might be most appropriate as we taught principles of servant leadership. And he almost always deferred to our suggestions.

This was his congregation of some 200 people. He was the spiritual shepherd. He had to live with the consequences of our teaching . . . we could get on a plane and go home.

He was equally concerned for our well being as he was for the well being of is congregation. He bowed to the perceived expertise of our teaching team. He did not do so without consultation or without feedback . . . but he did do so. And it make our ability to stand and deliver so much easier.

2. Flexibility

Every day Pastor Enoch would adjust the schedule and the suggested content for the needs of his people. He would prayerfully assess their emotional and spiritual stability. He would change the pace, the breaks, the prayer times, and the meals to best ensure a listening and attentive audience . . . because he wanted them to benefit and be better people . . . better leaders.

This was not about him. Its always easier to run a routine program. The hard thing is to listen carefully, inspect closely, and make adjustments so that the deepest needs being met. That begins with a servant first orientation.

3. Inclusion

Pastor Enoch took a broad view of leadership. He strayed from the cultural norms by seeing men and women as people of great potential influence. He allowed my wife to speak on the topic of servant leadership . . . twice.

One evening we convened a dinner for leaders of the church. Pastor Enoch invited over 20 men and women to participate. There were young leaders and older leaders. There we committed members of the church and those who were only participating in our mini conference. He invited other leaders from other congregations. He included many that many more might be blessed. He was able to see beyond his own territorial borders to the broader needs of the community. Their well being was upper most in his mind.

I learned a lot from Pastor Enoch. My leadership improved by observing and experiencing his leadership.

“The servant-leader is servant first . . . “

servant leader

Pastor Enoch with my friend Brian


Augustine on Leadership


Augustine by Sandro Botticelli

Saint Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, was an early Christian theologian and philosopher whose writings were highly influential. Without a doubt Augustine was one of the most important figures in Western Christianity during the 4th and 5th centuries. He is also considered by many to be the early father of the Reformation. Two of his most prominent works were The City of God and The Confessions.

Augustine was also a great mentor of leaders. I have written a previous post about this aspect of his life and some of his methods. Through his sermons and writing Augustine had much to say about leadership. In many ways he was a forerunner of the servant leadership philosophy.

In one of his pastoral sermons Augustine uses Ezekiel 34 as a background text to describe some of his convictions about leadership. Ezekiel 34 stands as a strong rebuke from God towards the religious leaders of Israel. They were to be watchful shepherds over God’s flock. Instead, they proved to be wayward shepherds only interested in bettering themselves.

Here are some of Augustine’s translated leadership principles from this sermon (Sermo 46, 1-2: CCL 41, 529-530):

. . . true shepherds take care of their sheep, not themselves.

I must distinguish carefully between two aspects of the role the lord has given me, a role that demands a rigorous accountability, a role based on the Lord’s greatness rather than on my own merit. The first aspect is that I am a Christian; the second, that I am a leader. I am a Christian for my own sake, whereas I am a leader for your sake; the fact that I am a Christian is to my own advantage, but I am a leader for your advantage.

Many persons come to God as Christians but not as leaders. Perhaps they travel by an easier road and are less hindered since they bear a lighter burden. In addition to the fact that I am a Christian and must give God an account of my life, I as a leader must give him an account of my stewardship as well.

Here are a few other quotes from Augustine with implications for leadership:

Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.

No man can be a good bishop if he loves his title but not his task.

Order your soul; reduce your wants; live in charity; associate in Christian community; obey the laws; trust in Providence.

Other related posts:

Leadership the Augustine Way

15 Augustine Quotes That Helped Shape Modern Christian Thought

Servant Leadership & A Successful Season

basketball-success-seasonLast week we participated in my son’s high school basketball banquet, celebrating the end of another successful season. Five different teams across four grades were highlighted, all of which had winning seasons. Each player was introduced by one of the coaches who made insightful comments as to how that player contributed to the team’s success. Parents, players and siblings enjoyed the accolades which mark such occasions.

In particular the head coach went out of his way to talk about the joy it was to coach this year’s varsity team. He hyped their unity, dedication, and work ethic. He highlighted their selfless play and chemistry. He put the spotlight clearly on the players and their accomplishments.

But we all know that it takes a leader who can create a unique environment for those qualities to be able to grow and flourish. I would submit it takes a servant leader, one who cares more about the development and success of others above his or her own success.

But it wasn’t until the end of the evening that my imagination was stirred. A varsity player who was a graduating senior, and one who had been recognized as one of the best players in the state, stood up to commemorate the head coach. In almost a jesting manner this player lifted up three events that took place during the season that made all the difference between success and failure. They all took place during practice and all three were initiated by the coach.

1. Jersey Switch.  In the middle of the season, during district play, the varsity team suffered a three game losing streak. The district crown was on the line and something needed to change. During the last practice before the next game the coach informed the entire team that everyone would be wearing a different jersey number for that game. Why?

The charge was “play for someone else.”

The coach realized that the issue wasn’t talent or scheme. It was motivation and belief. By not playing for yourself, and therefore not consumed by your own play, you could dig deeper and play for your teammate. It worked. The losing streak ended and they won the district championship.

2. Freeze Tag.  There was also a point in the season where practices had become routine. The energy was lacking and precision was being lost. The coach showed up at practice one day and declared that the team was going to play freeze tag that day. Rather than doubling down on a rant about how lazy the players were or the need to be more dedicated, he simply decided to change the whole dynamic.

The real need was a change of pace and to do something totally different.

The routine was broken by something fun and creative. It was actually disrupted by reverting to a child’s game. But it worked and the players were re-energized.

3. The Hugging Line.  This might have been the most controversial thing the coach did if you were to ask any of the players in public. But the best basketball teams play together as a unit. You can have your superstars, but unless all five players on the floor at any given moment are committed to the same end you will end up with a mediocre season at best. They must be committed to each other and not just a successful season. Thus the coach walked in one day and instituted the hugging line. The players had to line up and give each one of their teammates a hug in appreciation for who they were and what they brought to the team.

It was a tangible expression of care and commitment.

For every player to play their part, their role, there had to be a level of mutual care and commitment.

It strikes me at a principle level that all three of these ideas could be implemented in any team environment and a “successful season” would be possible. It takes a servant leader to figure out what the team needs to operate at a high level and do what is necessary to take them towards success. True servant leadership can lead to a successful season.

5 for Leadership (4/4/15)

6000569509_28942bcaaaHere is a fresh collection of leadership posts on 5 for Leadership. This week there are posts on better understanding your senior pastor, the practice of servant leadership, the best leadership quotes of all time, essential leadership strategies, and your pursuit of your dream job. Take a look at one or more!

60 Top Leadership Quotes of All Time  This comes from the N2Growth blog and is worth the read.

Servant Leaders Aren’t Doormats  “How do you serve for results without being manipulative?” Dan Rockwell brings some of his own principles to bear, as well as a synopsis of Cheryl Bachelder’s new book.

The 9 Essential Leadership Strategies in the Age of Information  “Once upon a time, in a land called Industrial Age, the leaders of organizations resided at the top of a hierarchy, managers were in the middle, and workers were supervised.” Jesse Lyn Stoner provides some great principles for today’s leader.

When You Realize You’ll Never Get Your Dream Job  “I once had dreams of becoming like Bruce Springsteen. Now, at age 62, I write about him, go to his shows, sing along to his songs in my car, teach my children about his significance, use his works in my Wharton classes, and even serve as a Guest DJ on E Street Radio. But despite my earlier wishes to live a successful musical performer’s life, it’s not going to happen. I’m not Springsteen, and never will be.” This comes from the HBR blog and will prove insightful, no matter where you are in your career.

10 Secrets of Many Senior Pastors  “I share this post simply for the purpose of understanding. I know and have felt the extreme love most of the church has for it’s senior pastor. I’m grateful for that in my own life. Hopefully this helps you love and understand your pastor even more.” This comes from Ron Edmondson.

There are the 5 for this week. Happy Easter!

5 for Leadership (3/28/15)


In 5 for Leadership this week there are posts on the cost of profanity, the biggest issue in the church, servant leadership and virtual teams, how to plan your next big meeting, and the one necessary bias for every leader. Each topic packs some power. Find one that interests you.

Why Leaders Who Hold THIS Bias Are The Most Effective Leaders  “You probably have something exciting that you’ve been thinking about doing for a long time. Every leader has dreams, goals and hopes. The challenge is you haven’t done anything about it…yet. And as a result, so few leaders end up with a track record of accomplishment. Why? Because almost all of us struggle with something the most effective leaders in their field don’t struggle with. What is it? It’s a bias so few leaders have. But the great ones all possess.” This is Carey Nieuwhof at his best.

How Much Business Is Your Profanity Costing You?  “follow a lot of speakers, bloggers, and podcasters who swear on stage, on screen, and at the microphone. I’m no fan of profanity, but I’ll wade through it if there’s a payoff.” This is a topic I have addressed several times myself. I am a strong proponent of “every word matters.” Michael Hyatt does a great job of speaking to this important topic.

Minimum Viable Spiritual Growth Plan  “Leadership Network recently surveyed over 1,600 ministry leaders of large (1000+) churches. The most frequently cited issue facing churches today is ‘discipleship.'” This comes from my friend Eric Swanson, who is an excellent thought leader and practitioner. Take a look.

How Can A Leader Of A Virtual Team Express Servant Leadership?  “As my workday begins, I pop into our Facebook group, my team’s virtual water cooler, to say good morning. I often add the request: Let me know how I can serve you today. As I do it, it feels, at times, like an empty offer.” This comes from Becky Robinson on the Lead Change Group blog.

A Checklist For Planning Your Next Big Meeting  “In theory, everyone understands that preparation can make or break an important meeting. The more work you do before you walk into the room, the more productive and efficient you’ll be. But who has the time to properly prepare? Our checklist makes meeting prep quick and easy—be sure to print it out or save it for later.” This is a very practical post from the HBR Blog.

There are the 5 for the final week in March. Lead well.

(photo credit)

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.

Servant Leadership & The Ryder Cup


Matthew Futterman recently wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal entitled “Advice for New Ryder Cup Captains.” The Ryder Cup is a biannual team golf event between professional players from the U.S. and Europe. This unique tournament has an 87 year old tradition. This past September Europe soundly defeated the U.S. for the 8th time in the past 10 contests. The Americans have been incredibly distraught as to why the Europeans have been so successful.

Futterman’s article was very insightful in laying out the simple approach of the European captain, Paul McGinley, in getting his team ready to play in 2014. As I read McGinley’s plan I realized he had simply employed servant leadership principles in ensuring that his team was as relaxed and mentally prepared as possible.

Robert Greenleaf defined servant leadership in 1970 thusly, “The servant leader is a servant first . . . it begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.” The approach by the servant leader is “to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.” 

Golf is certainly a game of skill, but even more so a game between the ears. Even the very best have been known to crash and burn on the last day due to stress and expectations. Golf requires no distractions with all of your mental energy going toward the very next shot. That is why playing relaxed and focus is so crucial to victory.

McGinley wanted to insure that his players on the European side were as relaxed as possible. As I read the article, four practical aspects of servant leadership stood out.

1. Familiarity. McGinley created comfortable pairings for the big event by seeing to it that every Ryder Cup pair played multiple rounds together on the regular European Tour throughout the year. The European players did not even realize what McGinley was up to until they showed up at Gleneagles golf course for the Cup. As each pair stood on the first tee they realized they had already been in this setting many times before.

2. Focus on Form. McGinley did not want his players thinking about the Ryder Cup before it was time. Therefore he actually had as little contact with them as possible through the year in leading up to the tournament. When he did, he told them to focus on form, not results. He got them playing their best golf all year, not just once in September.

3. Freedom From Pressure. McGinley wanted to ensure that his number one player, Rory McIlroy, did not bear the burden of expectations from the team or European fans. So he never placed him as the first match in any rotation throughout the tournament. McIlroy performed wonderfully and secured three points for his side over the course of the match.

4. Familiarity 2.0. One of McGinley’s biggest challenges was to unite a group of golfers from several different cultural backgrounds, even though they all hailed from Europe. One example was not scheduling a uniform team meal time. Instead there was a rolling buffet that ran from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. That way Norther Europeans could eat early as they desired, Central Europeans could eat a little later as their custom, and Southern Europeans could eat at their normal late evening hour. McGinley kept cultural routines familiar so that his players could focus on the golf alone.

McGinley understood that success would come only if his players owned the results. And that would only come about if he served them by creating the best environment possible. Not only could the American side take a few cues from McGinley, but so could any leader who sees the desired result and serves his or her people in such a way to get there.

(photo credit)

Sacrificial Leadership


Has anyone ever laid down their life for yours?

I don’t mean in an ultimate way, but has anyone ever sacrificed for you in such a fashion that you were changed?

The summer before my senior year in college myself and a few of my fraternity brothers spent a few days in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. One afternoon I decided to swim out to the sandbar that was just off shore. I underestimated the distance, the depth, and the current. When I arrived I could not stand up and I was completely exhausted. The shore looked so small and distant as to be a complete non-reality for haven. I was already taking in enough sea water to feel nauseous. It was taking all I could muster to gasp for a breath of air between the waves.

I was going to drown.

Mike saw me struggling with my head barely above the wake. He came to my rescue. He came and wrapped his arm around my chest and slowly and surely pulled me back against the current and back to shore. It seemed like it took forever. Mike was now exhausted too. But I was alive.

Mike had risked his life for mine.

He had sacrificed his will, his strength, and his logic so that I might live.

I have pondered that event many times. I have rarely shared this experience, but it did change me. I wondered why God allowed me to live. I thoughtfully considered my ultimate purpose in life. How was I suppose to live? How was I suppose to lead? How do I do for others what Mike did for me?

Servant leadership must contain a sacrificial element to it.

It is not really servant leadership unless one is willing to sacrifice something for the sake of the one being served. It may be time. It may be reputation. It may be some aspect that is far more costly. But sacrifice is required so that the one being served and led is impacted in such a positive way that they will never be the same. This usually doesn’t take place in one act, but happens in fully connected and sequential moments that leave a profound impression. The one being led is marked and changed. They will never be the same.

In John 10:1-18 Jesus proclaims that he is the Good Shepherd.

What is required of a such a shepherd? Twice Jesus says that he is the “door.” Three times he states that he will “lay down his life.” The imagery is that of a sheep pen in the wilderness. These were rudimentary dwellings constructed out of branches, briars, and rocks. They were temporary shelters for the sheep at night in between pastures. Sheep are incredibly vulnerable animals, given to self-destruction as much as being overcome by enemies. The sheep pens were meant to ward off would be predators through the night. They were always constructed in a U-shape, with an opening at one end. This was the entry and exit point for the sheep. When every sheep was accounted for and it was time to bed down for the night, the shepherd would lay down and sleep at the entrance. This was to make sure that none escaped and none were attacked. The shepherd laid down his life for the sake of the sheep. Jesus was using this metaphor to depict what he was ultimately going to do on the cross. His life for ours. Salvation secured. None will escape and none will be truly destroyed. The leader laying down his life for those that were his and for those he leads.

What does that look like for us?

It may call for a heroic act on our part. But most likely it will require many smaller sacrifices in a long succession of service to impact those we lead. To keep them from drowning. To see them survive and succeed as future leaders. The path will be unique for each of us.

That is sacrificial leadership.

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