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December 2006
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February 2007

I Have To vs. I Want To

I am in the West Palm Beach airport heading home to Pittsburgh.  As usual, I had a great time with my friends and family at Urban Youth Impact.  We left West Palm last Friday to drive up to Orlando for our weekend retreat.  I was driving a vehicle following the bus holding 19 staff.  Suddenly, the bus had a blowout at 75 miles per hour!  I don't know how the young man driving was able to control the bus, but he did and no one was injured.  That certainly got everyone's attention.

We rented a seven-bedroom home near Disney World for the weekend.  Our theme was "Seeing What You Can't See."  The most interesting and spirited discussion came around the topic of doing what you want to do and not what you have to do.  When you coerce people (or yourself) to do something, you get less-than-spectacular results.  One man expressed the opinion that the concept wasn't biblical because God coerces people, and he used Jonah as an example. 

The discussion carried over to the staff meeting when the team got back to West Palm on Monday and I think they will discuss this issue for quite some time. I wish all the church and its leaders would discuss this topic.  I think it would cause people to evaluate why they are doing what they do and set people free from the legalism that torments and drives the body of Christ.

Care to weigh in on this subject?  I know I haven't written much about it in this entry, but you can still respond as you see fit.  The issue is:  Do Christian leaders have the right to demand that people do something, even if it's the right thing for those people to do?  When is it appropriate to tell someone to "suck it up" and just do it?

Feel free to post your comments or feelings on the site where this entry is posted.  Don't hold back.  Let me hear from you and let me and my readers know your thoughts. 

Team of Rivals 2

I am in West Palm Beach, just in time to miss the really cold weather in Pittsburgh.  It is 77 degrees F here and will be 14 degrees F back home in Pittsburgh tonight.  I have never enjoyed cold weather.

Last week, I did a book review on Team of Rivals:  The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearne Goodwin.  There were some other thoughts stimulated by the book that I wrote in my journal and thought today would be a good day to share those thoughts with you.  Here goes:

1.  Leadership is critical.  Great men and women do things that no one else can do.  I say this because when I talk about servant leadership, some believe that I am against strong leadership altogether.  I don't agree, however, with statements like, "Nothing happens until someone leads."  In my mind, that diminishes the work and sacrifice of all the people around the leader who help him or her do the great things.

2.  Great people and leaders are criticized.  When great people are alive, they are usually criticized and maligned.  When they die, we build monuments to their memory.  Lincoln is revered today as a great leader the world over.  Some of his contemporaries felt the same way, many did not.  If you are going to be an effective leader, everyone may not give you a parade or accolades now. 

3.  Great people make mistakes.  There are no perfect leaders.  My wife has always said that the closer you get to a leader, the more "wrinkles" or imperfections you notice.  We should not expect perfection from a leader, yet we should expect that a leader has the character and grace to admit mistakes and learn from them.  Leaders who don't become dangerous.

4.  Great leaders suffer.  Someone said that a person's leadership ability is directly related to their ability to bear pain.  Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for what he believed.  Eventually he led South Africa to freedom but not before he bore more than his share of suffering and sorrow.  When properly processed, that pain can forge a great leader.  Improperly processed, it can produce a tyrant.

5.  History is the ultimate judge of a great leader.  Sometimes it takes the perspective of years to evaluate a great leader.  That is because part of leadership is making decisions that anticipate problems that no one else can see coming at present.  The Founding Fathers of the United States put off answering the question of slavery and their leadership stature has diminished in time because of it. Martin Luther King was considered by many a poor leader when he was assassinated, but today is counted among the best of all time. 

As you can tell, I enjoyed this book on Lincoln and it stirred me to think and reflect, which I suppose is the sign of a good book.

Feel free to write your comments, quotes or other thoughts about leadership on the site where this entry is posted.  I would also invite you to write your own reviews of books you have read recently.   

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A New Blogger

I want to welcome Diana Scimone to the blogosphere.  Diana is my editor, creative consultant and sister-in-law and she fulfills all those roles well.  Diana is the president of Peapod Publishing and Paw Paw's Pals, an international relief agency. PawPaw’s Pals is currently involved in helping to end child trafficking by launching an awareness campaign called “Not For Sale.” The program is being tested in Thailand, and will then be made available to other countries where trafficking is a crisis.

Diana has some great material on her website called The Writer's Workshop.  If you are a writer or want to be one, the material in those newsletters will prove helpful to you, I'm sure.

So check out Diana's blog and then drop her a line to encourage her. You may also want to support her latest "Not for Sale" initiative by making a contribution.  Whatever you do, let her know I sent you so I can earn points with her and her sister and my wife!

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Sixteen Meetings

I am in the Minneapolis airport on my way home to Pittsburgh where I will be one whole night.  Then I will head up to Providence, Rhode Island for one whole night.  Then I will be home again for one whole night until I head down to Florida.  There the pattern will be broken since I will be in Florida for one whole week.

This past week I was in Nashville, Seattle and San Francisco where I had a total of sixteen meetings during the week.  That's a lot of meetings. I met with attornies, creative and business consultants, and a variety of other interesting folks.  Perhaps it's fitting that I ended the week with my friend Pat Lencioni, who wrote the book Death by Meeting

Pat makes the point in that book that we don't really have too many meetings in business today. After all, that's what we do.  Pat contends that we have too many bad meetings and gives a lot of great advice in his book on the types of meetings we should have, with a philosophy to go with each type.  I would heartily recommend any of Pat's books if you are looking for an insightful but non-complex business read.

I had the unexpected pleasure of looking up in the Nashville Northwest Airlines lounge to see my friend Mike Davis from Los Angeles.  I hadn't seen or heard from Mike in a year and I had just been talking about him to someone the day before.  Lo and behold, he turned up in Nashville.  It turns out he is working for a British company and living in England part-time like I live in Zimbabwe.  It's a small world.

I have to run and catch my plane but I'm sure I'll have more travel stories for you in the coming weeks, leading up to my return to Zimbabwe at the beginning of February.

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Rental Cars and Security Lines

I got up at 4 AM this morning to get to the Seattle airport heading to San Francisco.  I made the mistake of renting a car at an off-airport site here.  When I arrived to drop it off at 5 am, the place was jammed with others returning their cars and waiting for the shuttle to the airport.  So we waited outside in the cold until the smallish shuttle bus arrived and jammed everyone with their luggage into the bus.  It was then that I understood why this company offered the cheapest rates.

Then I began the security procedure at the airport.  I have found West Palm Beach on the East Coast and Seattle on the West Coast to be two uptight airports.  (WPB is by far the worst.).  The lines are long and it seems like the Transportation Safety workers are sure that an attack or security breach is imminent.  I suppose this was just a warm up for West Palm next week where I am always tempted to say something about their attitude and passenger treatment.But I dare not lest I find myself in the airport brig.

By far the unfriendliest police in the country are at my own Pittsburgh airport.  The Allegheny County police there are also convinced that you are a terrorist until proven otherwise.  If you linger too long with your vehicle at baggage claim or the departure level, they chase you with sirens.  If you park along the many airport access roads waiting for someone's flight to arrive, they drive by and chase you away like you are perched with a grenade launcher ready to shoot down the US Airways commuter flight to Bradford, Pennsylvania. 

These police are trained to never, ever smile or have any kind of interpersonal, friendly contact with any passenger or person associated with a passenger.  I guess some of them are in training to be guards at Buckingham Palace; you know, the ones who never flinch or show any signs of life. Since they can't face the enemy far away, these police officers adopt you, who are close by and paying their salary with tax dollars, as the enemy.

I know that they are all just doing their jobs and I am not complaining, for I am amused by it all.  And it certainly makes for interesting stories as I move around the country.  So it's on to San Francisco and more adventures.  And who knows, perhaps right now some airport worker is writing about me on their blog, telling the world what a cooperative, friendly traveler I always show myself to be.

Leaders Make Tough Decisions

I have already finished four books this year, and one of them was Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  I have read quite a few books on Lincoln and I am convinced more than ever that he was a great leader and manager of people.  This book only confirmed that thought.  The book read like a novel and I couldn't put it down once I started.

At the same time, I have to wonder if 600,000 men had to lose their lives in the American Civil War as they did.  England ended slavery decades earlier than the U.S. without a shot being fired and the Quakers in the U.S. voluntarily ended slavery well before the Civil War.  Why did so many have to lose their lives to see something happen that took place without bloodshed in other settings? 

One reason I believe is that the founding fathers of the U.S. did not address this issue when they should or could have (Benjamin Franklin is the exception).  They ignored the wrongs of slavery to keep the colonies united even after the Revolutionary War when they could have come to a better resolution on the subject.  When leaders don't lead, people suffer and opportunities are lost.  Those fathers did not lead where the subject of slavery was concerned and, almost 100 years later, men died because of it.

The lesson here is that leaders have to make tough decisions that are second-guessed and criticized by many.  If those leaders don't have the courage to do so, then they are not leaders.  They are really just followers with leader titles.  Are you facing a tough decision as a leader?  Then make it!  Don't rush to make it, unless you must, but set your heart to do what you know in your heart to be right, even if everyone else says it's wrong.  That's what Lincoln did and I think the conclusion of most today is that he was a great leader. 

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Facing Reality

I mentioned that I attended an NBA game this week featuring one of the league's best teams, the Dallas Mavericks.  They demolished their opponents the night I went and they did it for one reason:  They had superior talent.  The other team played hard, tried with all their might, and tried everything they knew to defeat the Dallas team.  They haven't defeated Dallas in three years and won't defeat them any time soon. 

Why do I mention this?  Because I work with churches and businesses who want to win but don't have the talent to do so.  They want world class results from a team that is less than world class in its capabilities.  When faced with the need to make some changes on the team, however, usually these same leaders or managers recoil, choosing instead to restructure, put team members on probation, send them to seminars or just fuss at everyone.  The results are almost always the same because at the end of the day all they have done is tried to get different results using the same players.  It's like someone who wants a new look but only rearranges the "furniture" they already have.

As a business or ministry grows, the dynamics and nature of the business change.  Sometimes people reach their limits or don't really want the increased pressure that growth brings.  When that happens, they need to be honest and leadership needs to help them be honest.  Then everyone needs to pursue "Win/Win," a scenario that is in the best interests of both the business and the team member.

It requires courage to do this and most leaders and managers don't want to feel bad when a change needs to take place in the team.  They may say they are doing it for the team member, but usually they are doing it to protect themselves.  I always felt it was the most merciful thing I could do, and that was to get the team member to a place where they could connect with an opportunity that was better suited to their gifts and talents. I also felt I was employed by the organization to serve its best interests and not my own.  Not making a tough talent decision was shirking my responsibilities.

So, have you been putting off a tough team member decision?  Are you unhappy but trying to redouble your efforts to make someone effective who is no longer doing the job?  Or perhaps you are an employee, and you are not facing the reality that you are no longer happy where you are?  Whatever the scenario, it's time to face the music.  Results come from people doing what they do best.  Any effort less than that is frustrating to everyone in the organization and needs to be addressed honestly and directly.  Are you up to the task? 

Dallas Mavericks

I had a chance to attend the Dallas Mavericks versus the Portland Trailblazers NBA game last night here in Dallas.  The Mavericks are "loaded" again this year after reaching and losing the NBA finals last year to Miami.  The Trailblazers are one of the worst teams in the league this year, so it wasn't much of a game.  The Mavs won by 25 points.  It was interesting to see Avery Johnson, the Mavs' coach, keep the game under control.  Otherwise the Mavs could have won by 50 points!

The Mavs play at the American Airlines arena, which is a great place to watch a game. They share the arena with the Dallas Stars hockey team.  Parking is easy there and the food is better than average.

Of course, the Mavs are owned by Mark Cuban who is usually at all their games.  I didn't see him there last night.  Cuban is a bizillionaire, whose blog makes for enjoyable reading (although his posts can be a bit long). He certainly has done a fabulous job as owner of the Mavericks.

So it's time to head home after a week of work here in the Big D.   

Back To School

I am still in Dallas and will be here for a few more days.  I'm staying busy, with new opportunities coming up every day.  This is a great place for my purpose work. 

I have made a decision to go back to school.  Starting in August, I will attend classes at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh.  The classes will lead to a Doctorate in Ministry (D. Min.) in two years with a minimal of class attendance and a ministry project.  You may ask why I would decide to do this since I already have an earned doctorate. 

There are many reasons, but mainly I have a goal to attend at least one program or seminar every year that can add something to my ability to carry out my work.  This program certainly achieves that goal.  I have other reasons that I won't go into here.  The program's schedule is already published through 2009, so I will be able to adjust my travel schedule to attend the classes.

What are you doing to develop and grow in your capacity to fulfill your purpose?  What classes are you attending?  What books are you reading?  What other things can you do to equip yourself for excellence and success?  I am not saying you have to go back to school or do anything academic.  But surely there is something you have been putting off that could yield great returns in your own personal PurposeQuest.  Perhaps this is the year to pursue those things. 

Back in the Saddle

All right, I'm not back in the saddle, but I am back in Texas!  It's time again for another round of purpose work here in Dallas.  It's said that there are only two things to do here, and that's eat and shop. So far, I've done a little of both, with a lot of purpose work squeezed into my free time.

The weather is about the same here as in Pittsburgh, which just tells you how mild of a winter we are having at home.  I am in a Panera's Bread Co. right now before my next appointment.  I live Panera's because they have free wireless Internet and, just in case I'm hungry, I can get something to eat. 

I went by my favorite BBQ place today and it's closed!  Holy Smokes is no more but there are plenty of restaurants to take its place.  I opted to go to Jason's Deli instead today, where there is a great salad bar.  I ate at Pappadeaux's Seafood the first night I was here and Salt Grass Steak House last night.  So many restaurants, so little time.

Not only are there a lot of restaurants here, but there is always a wait to get in.  I think most Dallas' homes don't have a kitchen, so people have to go out so often.  Well, I have to run.  If I don't eat soon, I will be off schedule and won't get in all the places I have in mind before I return home next Thursday.