12 Principles of Leadership Inspired by Jesus

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There are many leaders I admire who have influenced my own leadership. I admire the teachings on leadership by guys like John Maxwell, Andy Stanley, and Patrick Lencioni.

There are leaders from my personal life such as a former pastor, a former boss, a high school principal and leaders in my own community who have influenced me as I have watched their leadership.

I also love to learn from a great athletic coach. There have been teams I have chosen to support because of the coach that leads them.

The principles, however, which I admire most are found in the leadership style of Jesus. Jesus’ leadership is still impacting culture today.

Here are 12 leadership principles of Jesus:

He invested in people others would have dismissed.

When I consider the disciples I see a group of men who were not the “religious” elite, yet Jesus used them to start His church.

Jesus released responsibility and ownership in a ministry.

I recall how Jesus sent the disciples out on their own. There was little micro-management it appears.

He had a leadership succession plan. 

Jesus consistently reminded the disciples He wouldn’t always be with them. Of course, He was still the “leader”, but He left others to take the ministry forward.

Jesus practiced servant leadership better than anyone.

Imagine this – the King of kings was willing to wash the feet of His followers.

He was laser focused on His vision.

Regardless of the persecutions or distractions, Jesus kept on the mission God had called Him to complete.

Jesus handled distractions with grace.

When the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years touched His garment, Jesus stopped to heal her, even though headed to a definite purpose.

He was into self-development.

We find Jesus constantly slipping away to spend time with God.

Jesus was into leadership development and replacement.

The disciples were very purposefully prepared to take over the ministry. Jesus pushed people beyond what they felt they were capable of doing.

He held followers to high expectations.

Jesus was not afraid to make huge requests of people. “Follow Me” meant the disciples had to drop their agenda to do so. He told the disciples they must be willing to lose everything to follow Him.

Jesus cared more about people than about rules and regulations.

I see Him willingly jeopardizing Himself by breaking the “rules” to help someone in need.

He celebrated success in ministry.

People that were faithful to Him and His cause were rewarded generously.

Jesus finished well.

Do we have any questions whether His ministry was effective?

Any other reasons you admire the leadership of Jesus?

8 Ways to Add Margin to Your Day

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How do you fit more activity into an already busy schedule?

Isn’t this a great question?

How do you create more margin in your schedule – to do the things you want to do and the things you need to do?

Here are a 8 tips to create more margin:

Prioritize your life.

What do you value most? Without knowing this we find ourselves chasing after many things that have little value. If you haven’t identified a set of values for life, start here.

Stop unnecessary time-wasters.

If every night includes three hours of television, don’t be surprised you didn’t get to spend a lot of quality time with your children. Most of us form bad habits of doing something that waste bulks of time. Make a list of what you spend the most time doing and see if there are places you can cut.

Work smarter.

I know so many pastors who simply handle things as they come up rather than work with a plan. The benefit of organization is that you can do what you need to do more efficiently and are more productive.

Schedule times to organize.

Spending time planning the week will make the whole week more productive. Usually for me this is the first part of my week. If I know where I’m headed it’s much easier to get everything done and still handle distractions.

Prioritize your day.

It doesn’t matter what system you use, but keeping some sort of prioritized list of tasks increases the rate of completion. Sometimes I start with the easy ones first to feel a sense of accomplishment.

Don’t say yes to everything.

Be picky with your time allotment based again on your end priorities and goals. It’s even okay to say no to some things.

Schedule down and family time.

When my boys were young, I wrote on my calendar time with them. This may sound mechanical, but it kept other things from filling up my schedule. (I still schedule this time for Cheryl – and, it sounds counterproductive, but we get away even more frequently during busier seasons.)

Evaluate your schedule often.

Plans should not be implemented and then ignored. Develop your plan to create margin in your life, then periodically review the plan to see how you are doing and what needs to be changed.

One Danger In Vision-Casting

By | Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Leadership | No Comments

Vision casting can be dangerous for the health of a team.

Sometimes vision-casting can destroy an otherwise healthy team.

I know that goes against what all the great leadership books and experts say, but it’s true. I have been guilty of this one – many times.

The most prolific vision-casters can ruin a good team.

Let me explain.

Casting a vision is one part of success in an organization. It is an important part. I have been known to cast a vision of things to come. My favorite way this happens is to go away for a few days, think, pray, and jot down notes. Then I come back to our team and draw out my thoughts on a whiteboard.

Oh, that’s so much fun! (My team knows when I go out of town it can be dangerous.)

So, yes, casting a vision is an important part of leaders. And, for clarity sake, I’m not talking about the one over-arching vision which drives the organization. I’m talking about the current thoughts in a leader’s mind of where the organization needs to go next week, next month or next year.

There’s more to leading a team than casting vision.

Completing the vision is another, equally important part.

And that’s the danger part of casting vision sometimes. The danger is when the team doesn’t understand the vision, there are no plans created of how to complete it or competing visions are still on the table from the last time I went out of town.

That spells danger for a healthy team!

It won’t matter how well the vision was cast. In fact, in this scenario, it can even do more harm than good if the leader is a really good vision-caster.

Here’s the thing, visions can often appear bigger than life. They can be lofty and stretching for the organization. They can be exciting and inspiring. That’s all good.

But people left without the “how” to complete it may feel discouraged. When people never seem to be able to keep up or complete their assigned tasks they can feel defeated. And if this is repeated over time, they may even feel like failures in their work.

They may even give up and the the vision dies.

Vision-casters, by nature, thrive on casting, so they are continually throwing out the next big idea. It’s fun, exciting, motivating – visionary.

But good leaders continually work to ensure people not only catch the vision, but also understand the how and have the resources to accomplish the vision.

It takes both.

As I’ve self-admitted, I can struggle here as a leader. Part of recognizing this is building discipline into my leadership.

Good leaders:

  • Ask questions to make sure everyone understands the vision
  • Ensure there are plans, strategies, and systems in place
  • Break the vision down into measurable steps or goals
  • Stay with the process during implementation phase
  • Allow the team to push back when there are too many competing visions on the table
  • Set the pace of the team so that there are seasons of pushing hard for what’s new and seasons of implementing
  • Make sure there are built-in seasons of rest for the leader and the team

Have you been on the bad side of vision casting?

5 Ways to Listen to Different Voices as a Leader

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One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen leaders make is forgetting everyone doesn’t think like them. I have personally made this mistake many times. We assume what we are thinking is what everyone else is thinking.

Wrong.

And time has proven this to me repeatedly.

The fact is people are different. They think differently, have different desires and, thankfully have different ideas. The way they process and share those ideas are often different from the leader.

This can be frustrating if we allow it to be, but with intentionality it can also be extremely helpful. As a leader, I limit the organization when I limit it to my ideas or abilities.

So, if you recognize the need and want to lead with people who are different from you, you’ll often have to lead differently from how you wish to be led. Make sense?

I’m just being candid here, but frankly, I’d be comfortable leading by email, but how healthy would such an environment be?

When you fail to remember this principle of leadership – that people are different – you frustrate those you are trying to lead. You get poor performance from the best leaders on your team and, worst of all, your team fails to live up to its potential.

Here are some thoughts to warrant against this:

(Please understand, I am using the word “I” a lot here. I don’t really like the term, because I think better leadership is a “we”, but I want you to see how I try to be intentional in this area.)

Welcoming input.

This has to come first and is more about a personal attitude. I have to actually want to hear from people on my team – even the kind of information which hurts to hear initially. Personally, I want any team I lead to feel comfortable walking into my office, at any time, and challenging my decisions. Granted, I want to receive respect, and I also expect to equally give respect. Knowing what my team really thinks empowers me to lead them better.

Intentionally surrounding yourself with diverse personalities.

One intentional thing I do is try to have good friends who stretch me as a person. I have some extremely extroverted friends, for example. They remind me everyone isn’t introverted like me.

On any church staff where I have led, I found some different personalities to compliment mine. I try to consistently surround myself with different voices, so I receive diversity of thought. We will all share a common vision, but we should have some unique approaches to implementing it.

Ask yourself, “Have I surrounded myself with people who think just like me?”

Asking questions.

Personally, I ask lots of questions. If you come to me with a question I am likely to answer with a question, such as, “What do you think we should do?” I give plenty of opportunity for input into major decisions before a decision is final. Periodically, I like to set up focus groups of people for input on various issues. I want to hear from as wide a range of people as possible.

Most important, I place a personal value on hearing from people who I know respect me, but are not afraid to be honest with me.

Never assume agreement by silence.

I want to know, as best as I can, not only what people are saying, but what people are really thinking. To accomplish this I periodically allow and welcome anonymous feedback. It is important to provide multiple ways for feedback. Even during meetings I welcome texting or emailing me (depending on the size and structure of the meeting) during the meeting. I’ve found this approach works better for some who may not provide their voice otherwise.

Structuring for expression of thought.

Here I am referring to the DNA and culture for the entire team. There has to be an environment where all leaders are encouraged to think for themselves. This kind of culture doesn’t happen without intentionality. As a leader, I try to surround myself with people sharper than me, but I want all of us to have the same attitude towards this principle of hearing from others. I believe in the power of “WE”.

It’s not easy being a leader, but it is more manageable when you discipline yourself to allow others to help you lead.

How do you structure yourself to hear from people different from you? What are some ways you have seen this done by other leaders?

Communicating Personal Vision – A Huge Challenge for Senior Leaders

By | Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Team Leadership | 3 Comments

The Challenge

One of the greatest challenges I have felt as a senior leader is to regularly communicate the big picture vision I own in my head.

Of course, this is the idea behind vision and mission statements, but those are very broad statements. I am referring to the dreams I am currently dreaming. There are often specific goals and objectives I think we should currently be attempting as an organization.  

The importance:

I know I need to share what I’m thinking for people who can’t read my mind.  It is hard for those we lead to get inside our head, but so important if we want to lead well. If we want to earn and keep trust and credibility in our leadership, then we must make sure people understand our broad visions.

In fairness, they are thinking about their own individual responsibilities. Their role may not be to think for the entire organization. That’s usually the role of senior leaders.

What I attempt to do:

Sharing my heart for the personal vision I have requires more intentionality in communication. Many leaders assume others are following. It isn’t until people don’t accomplish what the leader hopes they will that they realize the people trying to follow never fully understood what a leader was expecting.

This is always a work in progress for me, and more difficult in a new position, but here are some things I try to to communicate my personal vision as a senior leader:

  • Communicate regularly
  • Keep notes to myself of what needs communicating (and I do that in categories of the people that need to hear it)
  • Utilize different communication styles for different listening types
  • Use understandable language – and explain when it is not (I like to draw a lot of diagrams to flesh out my ideas in front of people.)
  • Do not assume others know what I am talking about – they may not
  • Speak openly and transparently
  • Allow people the freedom to ask me anything they want

And the greatest suggestion I have – Ask lots of questions of others! Make sure people understand what you are saying.

What about you?

Does anyone else struggle with this challenge?  What suggestions do you have for a leader sharing their heart with those around them?

Don’t Hire Yourself When Adding to the Team

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In my experience, people typically tend to hire someone they can easily get along with, relate to and with whom they will enjoy working. That often translates into hiring people who think like them, make decisions like them, and even have similar life interests.

While hiring for cultural fit and chemistry on the team is certainly something I agree with and try to practice, I encourage senior leaders not to add another “of them” to the team.

The challenge:

If we are not careful, simply because of the chemistry between us, we will be attracted towards candidates that are a lot like us. It often translates into hiring clones of the person doing the hiring. Before long, as the organization grows, it is full of people with similar interests attempting to reach the vision.

Again, while a team of “like-minded” people may sound good in principle, it can actually become a very limiting system. Variety on a team is what stretches the team to reach new heights.

You can hire people who can get along, but are still different from you.

The more I have grown as a leader the more I have concentrated on my weaknesses.  I know my strengths well. I now need to know what is holding our team back from all we could be. In recent years I have strived to surround myself with people that stretch me and have skills – and even personalities and temperaments – different from me.

Leaders, as you are building your team, I suggest you look for people that are not like you. Don’t hire yourself – hire someone who completes you. Hire people that take you out of your comfort zone, maybe even conflict with your style a little. In the end, it will make your organization better.

How I Blog about Current Leadership Issues

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All the leadership examples I post on my blog come from real life situations – either mine or yours, collected through years of leadership experience. 

I get asked frequently, “How do you post about people you know? Don’t they figure out you’re talking about them?”

And, truthfully, sometimes they ask, “Is that post about me?

The reality is, however, that every situation seems to repeat itself – many times. (There is nothing new under the sun.) In fact, I will seldom post specific details of a specific situation. I wait until I observe it more than once and I keep posts as broad and general as I can.

Many of the situations from which I draw principles come from readers of this blog sharing their stories with me. And I have received lots of them over the years. Some come from other churches with whom I’ve worked. Many of the situations from which I develop leadership principles happened years ago when I was in secular business and management. Sometimes the details are cloudy, but the principles are still quite clear.

I do have a system (informal that is), however, of how I post about current leadership issues, especially those real life to me, where I know the people involved.

Here is my “system”:

I wait until some time has passed – The principles learned will still be good. It could be a month or several years, depending on how easy to discern the details would be. (Evernote is where I mostly keep my notes.)

I also try to make sure I have removed my emotions before I post about a situation. I’ve been burned a few times (and burned others) by posting in anger, so I’ve learned to never post until I’m back on even ground emotionally.

I consider all parties involved – I want to make sure I’m telling the story correctly. The point is trying to capture the facts as they happened, not as someone felt (or I felt) as they were happening. If it’s a personal issue for me, I never share any situation I wouldn’t be comfortable discussing with the people involved.

I especially don’t want people I lead feeling slammed through my blog, so I make sure to address leadership problems outside this blog. Frequently, I mention upcoming posts so they know in advance I’m writing about a certain topic.

Examine what was learned – I always want to learn from experiences; good or bad, so I ask myself how the teams involved are better and how things could improve because of this situation. Again, I try never to post out of personal frustration, but I do try to share that which can benefit others from my experience or the experience of others.

Change details – I never share names, unless I have permission and it’s necessary for the story. Also, I change enough details to keep people guessing as to the characters in the situation.

Post – Eventually I use the story or situation to write about a leadership problem or principle. My theory is that all leadership principles develop somewhere – and there is always a story behind them.

Where did you learn some of your best leadership principles?

Life Cycles of an Organization: And the Team That Leads Them

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Every organization has a life cycle. In fact, over time an organization will likely be many separate cycles. I have written about organizational life cycles before.

But I have observed another dynamic within these life cycles. In each life cycle the most successful organizations I have been a part of had a team skilled at three separate functions.

The three functions are:

Starters

Starting involves those who can dream, vision-cast, and recruit people to follow a new idea or initiative. These are the people who embrace change and are always ready for something new. (BTW, this is the group where I typically fit.)

Maintainers

Maintaining involves setting up and managing systems in an effort to continue the progress usually begun by others. These people may be slower to embrace change; valuing things which are organized, structured, and understandable. (BTW, every team needs these people to be successful.)

Finishers

Finishing is different from starting or maintaining, because it’s not beginning new, nor is it staying the same, but it involves taking an established idea and carrying it to the next destination. It could be to improve things or to close them gracefully. These are people who have the ability and desire to make existing things better and to finish things well.

Here’s why this matters in an organization:

In my observation, people tend to lean towards one of the three, and may be comfortable in two of them. I have found it rare for someone to be gifted in all three. But on successful teams, all three are operating together within a life cycle.

I love being a starter. Since I was in high school, I’ve wanted to start clubs or initiatives, alter the direction of something, or stir up some intentional change. It is one reason I’m consistently tossing out new ideas to our team. (It’s also how I frustrate them most.) I can live in the finisher role for a time if it involves development or innovation, but I always drift back to starting something new. And I burn out very quickly in the maintaining position.

One goal of a team could be to balance the strengths of the team members around each of these, so the team is always starting, maintaining, and finishing. The most important thing is that the team and leaders recognize that each of these functions of a life cycle are equally important.

Every healthy life cycle requires all three.

Which one are you wired for best?

(If you say all three, you might want to ask people around you to help you evaluate your answer.)

7 Everyday Tensions Every Leader Faces

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Being a leader isn’t easy. With every decision a leader makes someone is happy – and someone is not. One often misunderstood reason leadership is challenging is the tension every leader feels when making decisions.

And every leader experiences some of this tension – every single day.

In fact, learning to balance the tensions of leadership may determine the level of success a leader can sustain. If a leader leans too far one direction – their leadership effectiveness suffers.

Let me share some examples of these everyday type leadership tensions.

Here are 7 everyday tensions of every leader:

Displaying confidence without being arrogant.

People want to follow a confident leader, but pride is a repulsive trait. I feel this tension especially when I’m leading on a new team or with new people on the team. With several decades of being a senior leader, I’ve learned a few things. I need them to understand there are reasons for them to follow my leadership, but I shouldn’t unpack my resume for them immediately either.

Making bold decisions while building collaboration.

This one I experience most every meeting we have as a team. I can almost always sense the room waiting for my opinion. Many times I realize we won’t move forward until I weigh in to the matter. But good leadership involves collaboration. I’m not the only voice – and many times not the smartest voice in the process. If I have the only answer no one will participate, but if I never have any answers no one will want to follow my leadership.

Showing strength while displaying compassion.

People want to follow leadership who generally care for them as individuals. Compassion for those who can’t help themselves is an attractive leadership quality. The best leaders I know have a concern for others. But no one wants compassion to be translated as weakness. There are times a leader has to stand strong for they know is right thing – even when everyone can’t fully understand yet what they are doing or why.

Controlling energy towards a vision but allowing individuals to chart their path.

Good leaders create healthy structure which can be managed for effectiveness, but, at the same time, the best discoveries often come when people are allowed the freedom to create, explore, and “break the rules”.

Celebrating victory while not resting on current success.

Another way to say this one would be: Honoring history while pushing towards the future. This one is hard for me. I’m ready and wired for “next” and like to keep moving. Sitting still is one of my hardest disciplines. I know, however, there are those on our team who can’t adequately move forward until we’ve recognized our current success. They need to celebrate. They need to reflect. And, continually balancing this tension is good for the team.

Learning from other leaders but being who you were uniquely wired to be.

I’m a huge proponent of wisdom-seeking. I think we should always have a mentor. And usually more than one. Plus, I try to always be reading, attending conferences, and learning from the experiences of others. But there’s a tension of attempting to duplicate another person’s success and being exactly who God has called me to be. God has not called me to preach like Andy Stanley. He’s called me to preach like me. He also has not called me to lead like John Maxwell – but to lead like I would lead. This doesn’t mean I can’t learn from both of these, because I have, but I cannot forget God has uniquely wired me. By the way, He has uniquely wired you also.

Spending time with people versus completing tasks. 

This may personally be the most common tension for of the ones listed. Leadership always involves people. Without people – without getting to know them, earning their trust, investing in them and showing them we care – leadership will never be effective. But I have work to do also with people I’m not necessarily leading. Also, I have paperwork to do. The real work of a leader is people – and yet the “other” work must get done.

Tension. I realize I’ve only exposed the problem, without a lot of solutions. And, honestly, your solution will be different from mine. But I think the answer isn’t necessarily an easy to define solution for each of these tensions. It is recognizing they exist and continually seeking to live within them. And, when one side of the tension is getting more attention than the other, fighting to get back to a better balance of tensions.

Do you have another to add?

7 Dangerous Mindsets for a Leader

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I’ve seen it so many times. Most likely you have also. It is tragic.

A leader can be doing everything else right and yet one flawed mindset overshadows and jeopardizes all the good leadership principles he or she knows.

One constantly repeated action. One trait. One habit. One mindset.

Sadly, many times it’s not even that the person isn’t a good leader – it’s the one mindset that gets them off track. So, I believe leaders should constantly be working on the bad mindsets which will keep them from being as successful as they can be.

(In full disclosure, I’ve been guilty of some of these – sometimes for a season – sometimes until someone helped me discover I had a poor leadership mindset.)

Here are 7 of the dangerous leadership mindsets I’ve observed:

Allowing small details to overwhelm a view of the big picture.

There will always be details, which have to be handled, but the smaller a leader is forced to think, the less he or she can focus on the larger vision ahead. I can get bogged down in minutia which wastes my energy and drains me. Sometimes it’s a systems problem that requires too much of my time and sometimes its a failure to delegate.

Interestingly, I have personally found, when I’m free from the responsibility of handling as many details, I’m more likely to notice the smaller things which greatly need my attention.

Constantly seeing the glass as half-empty.

A negative leader will almost never be successful long-term, simply because people will not care to follow. Some people have this mindset all the time (and I don’t personally think leadership is their thing), but this mindset can also last for a season – especially when there are numerous setbacks around us either in our personal life or where we lead. It could also occur in times of fast change, when the complainers seem to outnumber those offering compliments.

If we aren’t careful – we can let negative mindsets carry over into every other area of our life – and start to view our world this way. It’s very difficult to follow a negative-minded leader.

Not enjoying the journey.

Never taking time to celebrate will eventually derail good leadership. High achieving leaders can often fall into this trap. I get there at times and have to be reminded – either through personal discipline or when others speak into my life. I’m always seeing the next big opportunity ahead and striving for constant improvement. Also, I can fail to recognize current success while continually searching for future potential. The problem is a constant forward push isn’t sustainable long-term. It burns people out, makes them feel under appreciated, and leads to a very low team morale.

All leaders need to discipline themselves towards plateaus where they can rest, catch their breath and celebrate the victory already achieved.

Expecting more from others than you’re personally willing to give.

One leader I worked for had high expectations for everyone, not only in quality of work, but also in how many hours they should be working. The problem was this leader didn’t appear to have high expectations for himself. He would work just enough to bark out a few orders, but then he was gone. And, because he was mostly an absentee leader, even if he was working when he wasn’t around (and I personally knew he was often working out of the office), no one believed he was.

People following a leader with this mindset mostly stay for a paycheck.

Assuming all the credit.

This is especially true if the leader’s mindset thinks he or she deserves it. There is no success on a team without the efforts of others. When a leader takes all the accolades or rewards for himself, the team becomes employees of a boss rather than followers of a leader. Work becomes a job, not a career. It could be simply in the language of the leader. If “I” did it – if it was all because of “me” – “they” may soon, even if in only in their motivation – let “me” do it on my own.

Shared success is paramount for a leader’s long-term success.

Never shutting down.

You can’t do it all. Don’t think you can. You may think you can always be on – do everything – be everywhere – but you can’t. Superman couldn’t. Jesus didn’t. Don’t try. (Someone reading this still thinks they can – okay – you’ve been warned.) For me, this usually comes when I don’t discipline myself to say no, worry too much what people think – especially the ones who expect me to be everywhere or think I should know everything which happens in our church.

Thankfully, I’ve matured enough I won’t let the season go long without an intentional shut-down. (For me, this usually involves me getting out of town. As a potential workaholic, there’s always something to do as long as I’m here.)

Isolating yourself from others.

The mindset which thinks a leader can’t let others too close to them is one of the most dangerous I’ve observed. Leadership can be a lonely job. But it shouldn’t be the job of a loner. We need people, accountability and community.

All leaders need those who can speak into the dark places of our hearts and lives. When we become islands to ourselves we are an invitation for the enemy’s attacks.

Those are a few dangerous leadership mindsets I’ve observed. Any you would care to add?