The Journey of Everyday Leadership


December 2016

Christmas Quote

This Advent we look to the Wise Men to teach us where to focus our attention. We set our sights on things above, where God is. We draw closer to Jesus… When our Advent journey ends, and we reach the place where Jesus resides in Bethlehem, may we, like the Wise Men, fall on our knees and adore him as our true and only King.

 – Mark Zimmerman

Merry Christmas from William Jessup University and the On Ramp blog team!  We hope and pray that blessing fills your holiday season and look forward to continuing our conversations in 2017.  Until then,

David, Dennis & Daniel

NOTE:  On Ramp will resume weekly postings starting the week of January 2nd.

Incarnational Leadership

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
– John 1:14 (NLT)

The fact that God appeared in human form sparks my amazement more than anything else at Christmas time—Emmanuel: God with us.

This truth struck me again as I recently tried to explain it to my kids. God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. For centuries, He spoke through prophets. Then He fell silent—for 400 years! Imagine what that felt like…

The people of God desperately cried “O come, O come, Emmanuel.” And then, it happened. Jesus appeared; not in an expected way, but in the form of a baby. He wasn’t birthed into a royal family, but to a simple woman engaged to a humble carpenter. Yet, He arose as the most influential figure in all of history!


What might this mean for leadership?

So often, we think of leaders as the “Big Man,” the Chief, or the person in charge. But as I suggested in a previous post (Called vs. Qualified), what if the most influential leadership stems from the lowest levels of society?

When Peters and Waterman first wrote about the principle of “Management by Walking Around” (In Search of Excellence, 1982), it struck the 1980s business world as a novel concept. The principle ultimately transformed innovative companies like Hewlett-Packard and Apple. MBWA simply means to seek intentional incarnation—face-to-face, ground-level interaction with those you lead.

Did not Jesus influence followers this way?

To glean the greatest impact, leaders often maximize connection with key influencers, often at the expense of “lower-rank” people within their spheres. While Jesus engaged with a number of “high-level” leaders in society, they usually sought Him. Instead, He seemed to focus His attention on prostitutes, con artists and paraplegics.

What would it look like for us to seek deeper incarnation in our places of work/ministry? Who might greatly benefit from a pop-in, or invitation to coffee? I suggest the investment will be well worth your time.

Daniel Gluck
Lead Faculty, B.A. in Christian Leadership

Friday Quote

Endings are a part of life, and we are actually wired to execute them. But because of trauma, developmental failures, and other reasons, we shy away from the steps that could open up whole new worlds of development and growth.         Henry Cloud

Leaders accept endings as part of life. Is there something today that needs to end so that something  better can get real traction? Remember, God is in the little things too.

Leaders as Harpooners

Moby Dick. When was the last time you opened that iconic novel? In a recent article describing the most influential books for ten Christian leaders, Moby Dick was mentioned by many of them.

Eugene Petersen includes an analogy to one of Melville’s lines in his memoir, The Pastor.  From Melville’s Moby Dick he quotes: “To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start to their feet from out of idleness, and not from out of toil.

boat-919039_1280The harpooners of this world.” Wow, what a line. I have imagined myself in many settings and vocations. But myself as harpooner? That would be brand new!

Petersen specifically has the vocation of pastor in mind. Pastors must see themselves as harpooners, rising to their greatest task from a position of focus, not from the busyness and distraction of the oarsmen. For those of you who know your 19th century whaling strategy (really?), harpooners do not row.

My fellow scholar and California historian relates a parallel to the Aleutian sea hunters who designated one warrior to throw the spear in the pursuit of sea otter.

Are leaders of every kind also harpooners? I would suggest so.

Our western busyness resists this analogy, yet it bears several implications for leaders. First, how distracted are you? Second, in your personal leadership what is your “harpooning” duty? Third, can you live with stillness amidst the chaos?

Leadership is not “doing it all.” We call that obsession.

Petersen muses, “Our culture publicizes the opposite: the big, the multitudinous, the noisy. Is it not, then, a strategic necessity that some of us deliberately ally ourselves with the quiet, poised harpooner, and not leap frenzied to the oars?’’

Many of us may resist that last sentence. I do. It challenges us deeply. We talk of the work of parenting, the work of ministry, the work of leading. Work, work, work.

Make no mistake. Even while waiting, the harpooner is in the hunt and on a very wild ride. Jarring slaps of a wooden boat against high seas; soaked in chilling wind-tossed sea spray, with a 40 ton ocean creature just yards away! It makes me nervous picturing this harpooner. It haunts me.

Yet, maybe there is something here for us. Staying still and focused is a work in itself.

Lord, help us to hear your voice in the noise of it all. Give us focus and calm to lead your way.

Dennis Nichols, Lead Faculty, Master of Arts in Leadership



Friday Quote

Value, voice, and vote are three good words for leaders to remember. All persons want to be valued, given voice, and allowed to participate in decision making that affects them.”
— Randall O’Brien in Christian Leadership Essentials: 301.
How much do these three v’s mark your approach as a leader in the home, the Church, or the marketplace?

Leadership Metaphors

Mental images make a difference.

In Creativity, Inc., Ed Catmull (President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation) writes about the value of leadership metaphors; images that sustain us in our leadership roles, whether we are parents raising children, visionaries for non-profit organizations, or running a business.

sailingFor some, leadership looks like back-packing in the wilderness. For others, it’s the ups-and-downs of marathon running. For still others, it might look like sailing. When we embrace a specific metaphor, it has a way of carrying us through both the good and the challenging times.

One colleague of mine likes to describe his leadership in terms of mountain climbing. The goal is to reach the top and see the Promised Land, but he knows that there will be times and places of great exertion and sometimes confusion on the way to the summit. Yet, the view from the top will make it all worthwhile.

Andrew (a colleague of Ed Catmull’s) said: “If you’re sailing across the ocean and your goal is to avoid weather and waves, then why are you sailing? You have to embrace that sailing means that you can’t control the elements and there will be good days and bad days and that, whatever comes, you will deal with it because your goal is to eventually get to the other side. You will not be able to control exactly how you get across. That’s the game you’ve decided to be in. If your goal is to make it easier and simpler, then don’t get in the boat.” (Creativity: 228)

Metaphors make a difference. They help us keep moving forward, despite adversity. They help us generate patience and endurance; whether that’s as parents raising children or as volunteer ministry leaders in the local church.

What might be a helpful metaphor for you to embrace? Consider something that already connects with a passion or experience that you have. How might it serve as an anchor for you when times are great … and when times are not?

David Timms serves as Dean of the School of Christian Leadership at Jessup.

Friday Quote

“We teach what we believe, but we reproduce who we ARE.”

Kenneth Boa – Conforming to His Image (2001)

Boa presents a sobering truth for leaders who will take it to heart.  Questions for today: What kind of leaders am I reproducing?  Are there any areas within my sphere of influence where my values/beliefs fail to align with my actions?

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