It's Not a Chinese Thing

Much has been made of late of the concept of white supremacy in the United States. This article will not discuss or debate the impact of that issue, for there is a host of material on the subject, and it often leads to contentious and acrimonious arguments and hurt feelings. What I want to focus on is the recent XiJinpingconstitutional amendment that removed the two-term limit of service for the party general secretary and chairmanship of the party’s Central Military Commission. In other words, the man who holds those positions is free to rule for life, although Xi Jinping has said he is personally opposed to lifetime rule. We shall see, for it was not unusual for two-term limits in African nations to be challenged when the ruler approached the end of his second term. It was once said in an American comedy movie, "It's good to be the king."

My point is that the tendency, perhaps even the drive, to dominate others is not a Caucasian trait, or a Chinese thing, or an African weakness. While it has often revealed itself as an expression of racism (Caucasian against black, Caucasian against Aboriginal people, tribe against tribe in Africa), it is a human trait that goes beyond race to cast its ugly shadow over every age, culture, nation, or tribe. The source of this tendency is explained in only one place and that is the Bible in Genesis 3:16 when the Lord said to Eve, "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” The result of the fall is that Adam would want to "rule over" Eve.

We have seen this play out again and again in male and female relationships, but this desire to "rule over you" immediately expressed itself when Cain killed Abel (see Genesis 4) and when Nimrod established kingdoms that included Babylon, and used his warrior skills to conquer and keep everyone in line, using weapons to do so. From that point in history, we learn that every nation and people has had a tendency to find someone it could dominate and rule. (Lest you think that this tendency to dominate is only a male trait, consider the millions of women who have expressed their domination over their fetus through abortions that had nothing to do with the health of the mother or condition of the fetus.)

Then along came Jesus, whose purpose is explained in Colossians 1:19-20, "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." Jesus came to restore order as it was meant to be in the Garden before the Fall, and part of that is to reverse the tendency to abuse power that clings to all human beings. Jesus' recommended antidote for leadership power is service to others, and even that can become an exercise in dominating others as we do things for them that they do not want because those good deeds are in their "best interests."

LambonthronepicIt is interesting that one metaphor for Jesus is the Lamb. In Revelation, we behold the Lamb seated on the throne, which represents power and authority (see Revelation 4:13). If people were choosing something to epitomize power on a throne, we would choose the lion, tiger, bear, or something equally as intimidating. Yet God chose a Lamb, and then asks us to emulate the model He chose as Jesus taught in Luke 22:24-28:

A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials."

So don't believe the lie that the propensity to abuse power resides in any one people group. It resides in us all, and while Jesus provided the cure, it has seldom been applied, even among those who follow Him and call on His name. Something tells me this problem is going to be with us until He returns again, so in the meantime, I need to look to myself to see not if but where this abuse-of-power tendency is present in my own life.


Leadership Lessons from the Black Panther

By now, I think most of the world has seen the movie Black Panther, which has garnered critical acclaim and gained financial success. I won't critique the plot or make comments about the movie's BlackPantherPicsocial significance, for there are others more qualified to do that than I. Of the many things that impressed me as I watched the movie, however, there was one theme to which I do feel qualified to speak and that is the issue of leadership. Don't worry, if you have not seen the movie, I am not about to reveal any of the plot. If you have seen the movie, let's go back and look at three of the main characters: King T'Chaka, his son T'Challa, and T'Chaka's nephew and T'Challa's cousin named Erik, who assumed the name Killmonger after he ascended the throne.

NOT PREPARED FOR POWER

Let's start with the man who became the Black Panther after a duel with his cousin T'Challa. Erik or Killmonger was a military operative who was trained by the U.S. government to kill and destroy. When Killmonger became Wakanda's leader, he was the epitome of a leader who was not prepared for leadership. For him, power was to be used for revenge and domination. He became intoxicated with his position and the authority that came with it, and was determined to wipe out his enemies and reward his friends, who would in a matter of time become his enemies.

KillmongerPicThat is because leaders who use their power for personal gain or to further their selfish ends, even if those ends will benefit some people, have no friends. They cannot trust anyone, and history bears this out that those who operate from a power base are suspicious of anyone who may siphon away any portion of their power.

Consider Herod the Great of biblical fame. He was said to have killed his wife and two sons, and then mourned them for the rest of his life. Why did he kill them? He did so because he perceived them to be "against" him and a threat to his power. Why did Herod have all the male children killed in Bethlehem after he learned of Jesus' birth? Even though he was old and near the end of his life, Herod could not bear the thought of someone in his land who would have a claim to his power, the power he had gained and preserved through deceit, bribery, and brute force.

PREPARED FOR POWER

In the movie, we learn that both T'Chaka and T'Challa were royalty and had prepared to handle power all their lives. They had a royal mindset and used their power to serve the best interests of their nation and their people. Yet, both of them had to face difficult situations for which their were no guidebooks or directions. T'Challa came to find out what his father had done that helped create the Killmonger persona and he was shocked and dismayed, telling his father in a vision that he had failed as a king and leader.

Yet, when T'Challa woke up from his vision, he embarked on a plan to try and wrest the throne away BlackPantherPic2from his cousin the Killmonger and ended up committing the same act against his cousin that his king father had carried out against his own brother, T'Challa's uncle. In the end, T'Challa announced that there would be changes in the kingdom of Wakanda and that their technology and knowledge would no longer be hidden or hoarded, but would be used to help others.

The point is that even though T'Chaka and T'Challa were prepared to lead and handle the power that comes with it, they still struggled to know how to use that power. They left themselves open to be second-guessed, as all leaders must do, because leadership power is neutral until leaders apply their leadership and personal values systems to that power and utilize it. Then, peoples' lives are impacted and they will deploy their own personal values system to evaluate what the leaders have done. 

That is why newly-elected officials have the goodwill of the people until they make decisions. Those decisions will please some and displease others, and those leaders then find what the father-and-son duo in Black Panther discovered: Even if one has prepared to lead all his or her life, it's a tough job that involves decisions and judgments about how to use power.

In the end, the Black Panther made the right decision, for the most appropriate and the safest thing to do with leadership power is to give it away in the service of others so they can be empowered. Yet even that decision is fraught with danger and controversy, for then people will question the way or the speed with which the power is used or distributed. I came away from the movie desiring to use my leadership power effectively, while realizing that goal is subject to my own limitations, which is why leadership preparation is a lifetime pursuit one never fully achieves.


Leadership is No Guarantee

"There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it." - Sir J. E. E. Dalberg.

It is dangerous for leaders to assume that just because they hold the title or office of leader, it somehow LeaderFollowerPic makes them smarter, wiser, or more talented than their followers. That is the essence of the warning in today's quote. When you begin to believe you are special and that holding a title gives you some unique insight or edge simply because you hold the title, you are in danger of becoming an ineffective leader.

The leaders in Jesus' day fell into this trap, and it caused them to miss the Lord because they thought they were smarter and wiser than everyone else. Look at these two examples of what I mean:

Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet) (Mark 11:29-32).

In the case of John's ministry, the people knew that John was a prophet while the leaders did not - or knew but refused to acknowledge his leadership. In another instance,

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet (Matthew 21:45-46).

Once again, the people had better and more accurate spiritual insight than their leaders.

Unless a leader has regular and consistent inputs, and by that I mean education, a mentor's voice, or a leadership development program, that leader will eventually begin to rely on his or her title or position or authority. When that happens, the leader will cease to lead and begin to exercise control over his or her followers to maintain his or her leadership position - and that is true whether we are talking about a business or a church.

If you are a leader, what are you doing to continue to develop and grow as a leader? You cannot answer that you are leading, for that will give you experience but not necessarily develop you, unless you ruthlessly and regularly evaluate (and have others evaluate) your leadership style and decisions.

If you are a follower, do you dismiss what you sense and think because your leaders don't agree? As we saw in today's two examples, leadership is not correct just because they are the leaders. You should not surrender your wisdom or insight simply because your leaders disagree, for there is no guarantee they are any more accurate than you are.

The next time you insist you are correct simply because you are the leader or  you back down from a position only because your leaders disagree, remember that leadership is no guarantee of correctness or superiority.


I Need Feedback

I am working on a revision of my book I wrote in 1999, So Many Leaders, So Little Leadership:  Beyond the Power of Position Lies the Price of Leadership.  I have matured in my view of leadership in the last eleven years and it's time I spelled that out in this book.  I want to define three concepts in the revised version - leadership, purpose and team - and I want to run these definitions (with some simple notes and verses without much explanation) by you to get your feedback.  Feel free to agree, disagree, recommend changes and additions or to tell me I am just off base, at the site where this entry is posted.  Here goes:

***********************************

Leadership – discovering, perfecting and fulfilling your God-assigned life purpose, which causes you to joyfully influence others and to serve in your sphere of giftedness, insight and experience.

  • The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil (Proverbs 16:4 NAS)
  • He who tills his land will have plenty of food, but he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty (Proverbs 28:19 NAS).
  • A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.  Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.  But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:24-27 NIV).

Your sphere of leadership is determined by any or all of the following:

  1. Expertise/skill
  2. Burden/passion
  3. Geographic placement
  4. Occupational domain, such as:
    • Education
    • Church
    • Business
    • Government
    • Military
    • Social
    • Relationships
    • Sports/recreation
    • Food
    • Fashion/beauty
    • Entertainment

Purpose – whatever you consistently do, with whomever and wherever you do it, that gives you joy and serves some basic need in or for others

Effective team – comprised of members who know one another’s purpose and strengths and who agree to join together to achieve team goals and objectives based on synergies available as members express, pursue and perfect their gifts, passions and capabilities.


What Servant-Leadership Involves

Let's continue with our series on servant-leadership, this time focusing on what servant-leadership is and the disciplines it requires.  What we don't need is more of the kind of leadership that we have had, much of it wrapped and explained in biblical terms.  I heard one woman in leadership teach recently that her "ministry" is similar to Jesus when He went into the Temple and chased everyone out.  She was simply trying to justify her bad leadership behavior as any of us are apt to do and she used the Bible to do so.

Servant-leadership isn't just an improved version of the leadership we already have in much of the church and business.  It is a whole new genre and requires a different set of skills and thinking.  It is not simply leaders who serve, nor is it servants who happen to attain to higher levels of leadership.  It is leaders who know how to lead while putting the highest priority interests of others ahead of their own.  It is a leadership that heals and doesn't wound, leaders who know how to direct and guide others without manipulation or control.  Robert Greenleaf stated that the test of leadership is that others follow voluntarily.

Author Larry Spears wrote:

Leadership is an influence process in which you try to help people accomplish goals.  All good leadership starts with a visionary role.  This involves not only goal setting but also establishing a clear picture of perfection—what the operation would look like when it was running effectively.  In other words, leadership starts with a sense of direction.  In the book I coauthored with John Carlos and Alan Randolph, Empowerment Takes More Than a Minute,
 we said, “A river without banks is a large puddle.”  The bank permits the river to flow; they give direction to the river.  Leadership is all about going somewhere; it’s not about wandering around aimlessly. Even Alice in Wonderland learned that concept when she came to a fork in the road and asked the Cheshire cat which road she should take.  He replied by asking her, “Where are you going?”  She essentially said, “I don’t know.”  His response was quick:  “Then it doesn’t matter what road you take.”  If you aren’t sure where you are going, your leadership won’t really matter, either.

Yet just because leaders have a vision doesn't mean they (he or she) are justified in doing whatever it takes to get people to follow.  This is usually where the breakdown occurs, especially when someone has "heard from God."  When they have, and I believe many leaders have, they then feel that the ends justify the means, that they can use ungodly leadership tactics to obtain godly objectives.

There are two skills critical to servant-leadership and they both require patience and practice. The first is listening, not just politely paying attention, but working hard to hear and understand what someone else is saying.  Robert Greenleaf wrote, "Listening, coupled with regular periods of reflection, are essential to the growth of the servant leader. . . . The most successful servant-leaders are those who have become skilled empathetic listeners." 

Stephen Covey wrote:

"Most people [and leaders] do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. . . . The essence of empathetic listening is not that you agree with someone; it’s that you fully, deeply understand that person, emotionally as well as intellectually." 

When is the last time you encountered a good listener?   Would others say that you are a skilled, empathetic listener?

The second skill is persuasion, about which Greenleaf wrote: 

Persuasion involves arriving at a feeling of rightness about a belief or action through one’s own intuitive sense.  One takes an intuitive step, from the closest approximation to certainty that can be reached by conscious logic (which is sometimes not very close) to the state in which one may say with conviction, “This is where I stand!”  The act of persuasion, thus defined, would help order logic and favor the intuitive step. But the person being persuaded must take that intuitive step alone, untrammeled by coercive or manipulative stratagems of any kind.  Persuasion, on a critical issue, is a difficult, time-consuming process.  It demands one of the most exacting of human skills."

In other words, leaders must give followers room to ascertain for themselves the rightness of the leader's path.  There can be no manipulation, but there can and should be a lot of dialogue where active and effective listening is involved.  And that goes for prophetic leaders who are convinced that they have heard from God.  (This dialogue, which slows the process down, is a safeguard against the tendency to hear God but to hear Him in part, or to mix in a whole lot of misunderstanding with what the leader has accurately understood.)

Greenleaf also wrote this warning about persuasion and leadership:

Because they are recognized as being better than most at leading, showing the way, they [leaders] are apt to be highly intuitive.  Thus leaders themselves, in their conscious rationalities, may not fully understand why they choose a given path.  Yet our culture requires that leaders produce plausible, convincing explanations for the directions they take.  Once in a while, they can simply say, “I have a hunch that this is what we ought to do.”  However, most of the time, rational justifications are demanded, and part of the successful leader’s skill is inventing these rationalizations.  They are necessary, but they are also useful because they permit, after the fact, the test of conscious logic that “makes sense” to both leaders and follower.  But the understanding by the follower, if he or she is not to be manipulated, is not necessarily contained in this rationalization that makes sense.  Because we live in a world that pretends a higher validity to conscious rational thinking in human affairs than is warranted by the facts of our existence, and because many sensitive people “know” this, manipulation hangs as a cloud over the relationship between leader and led almost everywhere.

Because this manipulation does hang like a cloud, leaders must take active steps to disarm it or else the coercion will take over naturally.  This is why we cannot just have an improved, kinder, gentler version of the leadership we know.  We need a whole new style and servant-leadership, in my humble estimation, is it.

As you can tell, anyone serious about servant-leadership must study Robert Greenleaf, the father of the modern servant-leadership message.  When I read Greenleaf years ago, I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach and took my wind away -- it was that powerful.  Nothing has changed since that first reading.  I still study his material and say, "This is what the Church needs.  This is what business needs. This is what society needs." 

Do you agree?  If so, what are you willing to do to see servant-leadership come to the forefront of your own leadership style and philosophy? 


What Servant-Leadership Is Not

I usually don't define something by what it isn't, but in the case of servant-leadership, I (and others) find it necessary to do just that.  Let's use the Apostle Paul as our focus so that I can give some examples of the points I am making. 

1.  Servant-Leadership is not being polite.  It isn't holding doors open for everyone, or picking up the tab at a restaurant.  While a leader should be willing to set up chairs if that's what is needed at the moment, that act in and of itself does not make one a servant leader. I don't think Paul was an easy man to get along with.  I think he was focused and cordial if you were on his side, but if one got crossways with him, I think that person heard from Paul. 

2.  Servant-Leadership is not "soft."  Servant-leaders don't sit still when things go wrong. They don't sit in endless meetings and listen to everyone's opinion about this or that.  I consider myself an aspiring servant-leader, yet I would release an unproductive or unhappy employee in a New York minute if that is what was best for them and/or the organization for which I worked.  Paul got in Peter's face and confronted Peter's hypocrisy as reported in Galatians 2.  He vehemently opposed putting John Mark back on the team in Acts 15 and that decision cost him his relationship with Barnabas, who was John Mark's cousin. 

3.  Servant-Leadership is not indecisive.  Servant-leaders listen and then they make decisions, when possible, in a group or team setting. If there is no group setting, then they make the decision based on what is best for the organization and the people it serves.  Paul opposed anyone or any doctrine that was not in the best interests of his "people," which in Christ were the Gentiles.

4. Servant leadership is not a little service and and a lot leadership (or vice versa).  This is why I am careful to hyphenate this concept, for it isn't either/or. It's not that one sometimes leads and sometimes serves, trying to discern which is needed when.  Paul always led when he went out, but he had no hierarchy, title, or organization. He told us in Thessalonians that he was not only like a father (" For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children" - 1 Thessalonians 2:11) but also a mother (I wonder what all those who want to be the "father" in the house of God will do with this verse?): "As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children" (1 Thessalonians 2:6-7).  This summarizes the spirit of a servant-leader.  They are both father and mother, strong and nurturing, decisive and compassionate, strong and merciful.

So what then is servant-leadership?  Robert Greenleaf, usually credited with sparking the modern servant-leadership movement, defined it as serving others' highest priority needs.  I define it as putting my experience, gifts and time at the disposal of others to help fulfill Ephesians 4:12-13:  "to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." 

This does not mean that servant-leaders can only function in a church setting, nor does it indicate that servant-leaders can only serve and lead those who are in churches.  We need servant-leaders at every level of society who use the power and wisdom of experienced and skillful leaders to build up and empower others in every walk of life.

Leaders have power and servant-leaders give as much of that power away to others to empower them to fulfill their purpose.  A few years ago, I had a 20-year-old  leader from an urban ministry come to me in a retreat where I was facilitating.  She said that she felt that she was supposed to take her discipleship group to Africa and would I help.  I immediately said, "Yes!"  She left the ministry before we could go, but if she would have gone, I was at her disposal to serve her to see that her objective was met.  It did not matter how old I was or how many degrees she did not have.  The issue was servant-leadership.  I would serve her by leading her to Africa.

I want to write next on the characteristics of a servant-leader, although we have touched on some of the traits in the first three articles.  If we are going to see a reformation in the church or society, if we want to see revival take place spiritually or culturally, then we must grasp and implement the concepts connected with servant-leadership, or else we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.  If we do what we have always done, then we will get what we always have. 


Matthew 20 and Servant-Leadership

My friend Bill mentioned Matthew 20 in his comment to yesterday's post and ironically I reached Matthew 20 this morning in my weekly Bible studies. I love it when the plan comes together! 

Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:25-28).

Here was what I wrote about one of those those verses:

v. 27 – Jesus put Himself forward as a model for leadership.  He did not come seeking power and position – we are back at Philippians 2 once again – but to do the will of the Father.  Let’s look at Philippians 2 one more time to see what attitude you and I should have as leaders:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

What steps can you take to be like the leader that Jesus was and is, the kind of leader that He wants you to be.  One thing that Jesus did was to give His life. Where does the Lord want you to give your life?  What can you do to give it more fully and completely?

No matter how many books I read on leadership or what I seek to learn, I must always come back to the fact that Jesus, not Calvin, Luther, Collins, Maxwell or any other earthly leader, is my model for leadership.  He is the One who understands servant leadership and can help me apply the principles, whether in business, community or church. 

Tomorrow we will talk about what servant-leadership is not, but for today, it is about serving the highest priority needs of others.  It is putting my gifts, talent and experience at the disposal and use of other people, for their benefit and advancement.  It is trusting God for my needs even when they are greater than the ones I am serving and leading.  It is leading even when it's not popular or understood, again trusting that my reputation and "good name" are in His hands to control.

So while I will write a lot about what others have to say about leadership and hopefully add something of my own to the mix.  Let it never be misunderstood where I stand.  Jesus was and is the greatest servant-leader who ever lived, and He is not just the object of my affectation or emulation, but the object of my faith. 


Servant-Leadership

It has been a while since I wrote about servant-leadership, and I have noticed a general trend of people finding this site while doing a search on that topic.  My lack of writing about this isn't due to lack of interest or commitment, so I thought it would be good once again to devote a few posts to the subject.

I am on record saying that there is a leadership crisis in the Church and, in some ways, society in general.  Don't misunderstand; we have plenty of leaders and more than enough servants.  What we don't have is leaders who understand the concepts of servant-leadership.

I follow many of the blogs and sites that bemoan the condition of the local church. They mock some of the goofy trends in the Church that deserve to be mocked.  They debate and write to come up with better philosophical and theological solutions to our current dilemma.  Many of these bloggers are much better writers and thinkers than I, so I read them and agree with almost all of them. Yet the leadership crisis worsens daily.

For one of my upcoming D.Min. classes, I am re-reading and re-listening to Jim Collins' book, Good to Great.  In that book, Collins outlines the principles he discovered from his research into what made good companies great companies.  Collins has also written a short pamphlet applying and analyzing the "good to great" principles in the social sector, which would include churches.  One of the concepts that Collins describes, and it's at the top of his list, is what he has come to call Level 5 leaders.  This is just another name for servant-leaders.

What is a Level 5 leader?  Collins explains:

 "Level 5 refers to a five-level hierarchy of executive capabilities, with Level 5 at the top.  Level 5 leaders embody a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will.  They are ambitious, to be sure, but ambitious first and foremost for the company [or organization], and not themselves. . . Level 5 leaders are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce sustained results.  They are resolved to do whatever it takes to make the company great, no matter how big or hard the decisions." (page 39). 

It is my contention that we can debate the theology of the Church all day long -- what it should be, the appropriate mix of outreach and missions, and the appropriate structure -- but until we have a change in the heart and thinking of leaders, we will continue to repeat the same problems we have experienced in the last 30 years. We don't have a lack of creativity or ideas of what the Church should be; in my opinion, we don't have enough servant-leaders.

I have found that when most people plant churches, sometimes even breaking away from an oppressive church situation to do so, they don't resolve to change the leadership philosophy or practice they experienced. They simply determine they are going to do a better job than the previous leaders under which they served. Until we see and accept that the current leadership attitude and spirit are flawed, then we will not see any change in the Church, whether we call the church seeker-sensitive, seeker-friendly, seeker-tolerant, seeker-suspect, or "us-four-and-no-more."

I heard Collins talk about Level 5 leaders in New York City before he ever published Good to Great and I cried.  (For those of you who know me, you know that is a significant event!).  He talked about how Level 5 leaders practice the principles of the window and the mirror.  I'll let Collins explain what he means in his own words:

"Level 5 leaders look out the window to attribute success to factors other than themselves.  When things go poorly, however, they look in the mirror and blame themselves, taking full responsibility.  [Other kinds of leaders do] just the opposite--they look in the mirror to take credit for success, but out the window to assign blame for disappointing results." (page 39).

Why did I cry when I heard him talk about this?  I cried because I never, ever heard or read about anything like this in the Church, and I still don't, for the most part.  I read plenty about philosophical changes that need to be made in church theology but until we identify leadership as the problem and pursue specific remedies, we won't make much progress.  We will start over and over again, and enjoy the ennui of fresh starts, only to find ourselves in the same woeful predicament due to lack of servant-leaders.  My solution to the church leadership crisis is to work to become a Level 5 leader.  I don't need a title, an armor-bearer, an office or a position to do so.  And neither do you.

I want to contribute to the healing of the Church and her members not by replicating the mistakes of the past, only doing a better job of implementing a flawed system and philosophy.  I want to model servant-leadership and train servant-leaders, not working with those who are content to tweak the past but who want to learn from the past and change the present for a better future.  And by the way, I don't think the leadership crisis is limited to the Church.  I do believe, however, that we must address it there so that we can once again produce leaders who go forth to transform society.  At the present, most leaders are built and shaped outside the church and then come to worship.  I want to reverse that process -- they come to worship, are shaped into servant-leaders and go out from that point.

Stay tuned for more to come about servant-leadership in the coming days.  I haven't forgotten about it.  I am just now ready to do something about it! 

    Feel free to add your comments to this entry on the site where it is posted.


New Profile

If you know me, you know I am always looking for tools and assessments that will help people know who they are and what kind of job they are doing.  This is the kind of information that leaders especially need, but it is also the kind they tend to avoid, especially in the Church. 

Last March, I earned a certification to work with the 360 degree feedback profiles offered by a company called The Leadership Circle.  These profiles are powerful tools that measure competence levels in key areas for both organizations and individuals.  They are called "360 degree" because the profile seeks anonymous feedback from those closest to the individual or organization, whether those people are peers, bosses, or direct reports.

I had my own profile done and it has been a accurate and insightful tool in my own personal development since March.  It revealed two interesting trends in my personal leadership development:  my tendency to underestimate my strengths and overestimate my weaknesses. I carry the profile results with me everywhere I go and study the results, looking for new or renewed insights into my style and how I can be more effective. 

I have just completed a profile on two leaders and we are in the debriefing stage at this point, going over the results to make sure they are understood and to plot the way forward.  If it were up to me, I would make these profiles mandatory for all leaders, leadership teams and staff in both church and non-church entities.  Of course, that isn't possible, so I must rely on it being a voluntary process. 

If you are serious about becoming the best leader you can be and in helping to make your organization the same, I urge you to enlist someone's services (hopefully mine) in conducting a 360 degree feedback assessment.  Jesus said, "You will know the truth and the truth will make you free."  Don't rely on your feelings or on feedback from peers who may be afraid to tell you the truth. Seek the truth, no matter how painful it may be, for in that truth is your freedom -- freedom to be yourself and to grow into the best possible leader. 

In case you haven't noticed, we have a leadership crisis in our societies, especially in the Church.  It will only be solved when individual leaders break free from the cultural pressures that keep them average and fearful to become open and honest.  I am committed to see this crisis solved and want to devote my time and energy to develop servant-leaders wherever people have th courage to lead and serve.  There is one profile for individuals and one for organizations. If I were you, I would invest in both. If I can help you or your organization, please let me know.


Me and My Shadow

I had an interesting experience recently that is still causing me to think and reflect. A month ago, I was in Virginia for a seminar. I arrived every morning by train and walked to the building where the seminar was held. One morning the sun was directly behind me as I walked up the hill toward the building. As I walked, I saw a woman who I recognized from the seminar and increased my pace to catch up with her to say hello. I didn’t know she was talking on her cell phone and, when I got near her, I startled her and she reacted.

It was then that I realized that my long shadow, created by the sun behind me, had scared her. I apologized and said, “I’m sorry. I’m really harmless.”

Later in the seminar room, she explained that she had been mugged one time and still reacts in fear when approached surprised in public.

I am still reflecting on the fact that my shadow scared her. It has made me wonder how many other times my “shadow” has alarmed people and I wasn’t even aware.

You see, everyone has a shadow. It is a part of my personality of which I may not be aware. I may be aware of it, but I don’t like to acknowledge that it is a part of me. At times, I can project my shadow onto others. For instance, I may be critical but refuse to admit that I am, or may only be aware of it at a subconscious level. When I meet a critical person, I project my critical nature onto them. Usually I don’t “like” that person or their critical nature, but I are unaware (or unwilling to admit) that I actually don’t like that critical spirit in me.

My shadow can be like it was with that woman on my way to the seminar. She was aware of my shadow and I wasn’t. What’s more, she reacted to my shadow based on her previous experience. Even though I did nothing and had no malicious intent, she was still frightened.

A few years ago, I read a book by Jay Conger entitled Spirit at Work (it is now out of print.) I remember it well because of what he wrote about the shadow that he believes all leaders have or at least grapple with, and of which they may not even be aware. I believe that these shadows operate both in business and in the church. What’s more, I think I have these shadowy sides as well as a a few others. While it’s a long quote, I would like to share some of Conger’s thoughts with you, for they have been with me ever since that encounter on the way to the seminar:

A leader is a person who has an unusual degree of power to project on other people his or her shadow, or his or her light. A leader is a person who has an unusual degree of power to create the conditions under which other people must live and move and have their being, conditions that can either be as illuminating as heaven or as shadowy as hell. A leader must take responsibility for what’s going on inside his or her own self, inside his or her consciousness, lest the act of leadership create more harm than good.

The shadow lives of leaders are inevitably projected onto institutions and society. If they are to create less shadow and more light, leaders need to ride certain monsters all the way down [to examine their inner life and motivations.] I have five of them as a sampler, and a few thoughts on how the inner journey might transform our leadership at these five points.

1. One of the biggest shadows inside a lot of leaders is deep insecurity about their own identity, their own worth. That insecurity is hard to see in extroverted people. But the extroversion is often precisely because they are insecure about who they are and are trying to proves themselves in the external world rather than wrestling with their inner identity. Everywhere I look I see institutions depriving large groups of people of their identify so that a few people can enhance theirs

2. The second shadow of leadership is inside a lot of us is the perception that the universe is essentially hostile to human interests and that life is fundamentally a battleground. Have you ever noticed how often people use “battle” images as they go about the work of leadership? We talk about “do or die” tactics and strategy, about using our big guns, about allies and enemies, about wins and losses. The imagery suggests that if we fail to be fiercely competitive, we will lose, because the basic structure of the universe is a vast combat. The tragedy of that inner shadow, that unexamined fear of failing, is that it helps create situations where people actually have to live that way.

3. The third shadow in leaders I call “functional atheism” – the belief that ultimate responsibility for everything rests with me. It is the unconscious, unexamined conviction within us that if anything decent is going to happen here, I am the one who needs to make it happen. Functional atheism leads to dysfunctional behavior on every level of our lives: workaholism, burnout, stressed and strained and broken relationships, unhealthy priorities. It is the reason the average group can tolerate only fifteen seconds of silence; people believe that if they are not making noise, nothing is happening!

4. The fourth shadow among leaders is fear. There are many kinds of fear, but I am thinking especially of our fear of the natural chaos of life. Many leaders have a deep devotion to eliminating all remnants of chaos from the world. They want to order and organize things so thoroughly that the nasty stuff will never bubble up around us—such nasty stuff as dissent, innovation, challenge, change. In an organization, this particular shadow gets projected outward as rigidity of rules and procedures. It creates corporate cultures that are imprisoning rather than empowering.

5. The final example of the shadows that leaders can project on others involves the denial of death. We live in a culture that simply does not want to talk about things dying. Leaders everywhere demand that they themselves, and the people who work for them, artificially maintain things that are no longer alive, maybe never have been. Projects and programs that should have laid down ten years ago are still on life-support system.

The insight I want to draw from spiritual traditions may be best summarized in a word from depth psychology: projection. We share responsibility for creating the external world by projecting either a spirit of light or s spirit of shadow on that which is other than us. We project either a spirit of hope or a spirit of despair, either an inner confidence in wholeness and integration or an inner terror about life being diseased and ultimately terminal. We have a choice about what we are to project, and in that choice we help create the world that is. Consciousness precedes being, and consciousness can help deform, or reform, our world (abridged from pages 24-37).

Are you willing to face the fact that you may have shadow sides? More importantly, are you willing to bring them to the light, examine them and their root causes, so that they don’t drive your leadership decisions? I hope you are. I have been working to examine my shadows so that they don’t go before me to startle people, even when that isn’t my intent.

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