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The Journey of Everyday Leadership

Month

January 2017

Leadership & Networking

I’ve never liked the term “networking.” It’s what computers and machines do. It seems manipulative, impersonal, and utilitarian. When leadership gurus urge us to network, it evokes images of business-card-swapping or data collection so we can leverage these relationships later. It all sounds rather cold to me.

act-like-a-leaderBut I recently read Herminia Ibarra’s Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader (2015).

She has changed my mind.

Networking means making connections with people outside our usual circles. For moms, this might involve jumping into a mothers’ group. For church leaders, this likely requires reaching out to other pastors in other places and listening to them. For community or organizational leaders, this calls us to connect with people in the same industry but not necessarily the same geography.

Why do this?

On the positive side, networking helps in the following ways.

  1. Networking gives us fresh voices to listen to, and therefore fresh perspectives on our own circumstances.
  2. Networking reflects thoughtful stewardship of our leadership, stewarding relationships for the good of our family, organizations, or communities.
  3. Networking has potential to enlarge our vision, our capacity, and our resourcing.
  4. Networking helps us avoid the trap of “birds of a feather.” When our contacts are too homogenous (people who are just like us and think just like us), it gets harder and harder to think creatively.
  5. Networking encourages a future orientation. If our network is all about people in our past, then we may experience “lag” as we try to step into the future.
  6. Networking minimizes the “echo chamber.” If everyone we know knows each other, then eventually we all simply repeat the same old advice, solutions, and ideas. It just echos around.

Networking, understood from these perspectives, has dramatic potential for our leadership…and those we lead. It turns out that networking means listening, learning, expanding, and innovating, whether that’s as parents, pastors, or CEOs.

Perhaps my initial fears were fueled more by poor examples or false assumptions. If we fail to network with others outside our circles, we may be simply embracing the path of least resistance…and limited leadership.

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

Friday Quote

Today’s quotes explore the idea that leaders serve as key decision makers in organizations.  Peter Drucker, in his book Managing the Nonprofit Organization (2005), offers the following:

The least effective decision makers are the ones who constantly make decisions. The effective ones make very few. They concentrate on the important ones…

What is the decision about? Very rarely is a decision about what it seems to be about. That’s usually the symptom…

Decisions involve risk taking. And effective decisions take a lot of time and thought.

(pp. 121-122)

What decisions should rise as your primary focus today? Which ones can and should be made by other capable leaders around you?

Friday Quote

Inauguration day has arrived.

Regardless of where you stand politically, today offers a reminder that those who aspire to leadership must also cultivate the ability to graciously follow. I offer two quotes from my all-time favorite book:

Romans 13:1 – Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

I Timothy 2:1-2 – I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

Reflection: What steps are you actively taking to submit to God and the leaders He has placed over you? Consider taking a minute now to pray for those leaders by name!

Giving Millennials A Chance

Ask most any older, ‘wiser’ person, and they will likely indicate that “young people just aren’t what they used to be…” The canvas in my mind depicts an old guy in a rocking chair on his front porch, hound dog by his side, smoking a pipe and cursing at the cars going by (and occasionally firing his shotgun into the air!).

man-gun

If you ask Boomers or Gen-Xers about the Millennial generation, they might use descriptions like “entitled, self-focused, uncommitted, and distracted.” But as a Gen-Xer who works and interacts with Millennials every day, I cringe at these assessments. When did we decide that everything that comes after us must, by nature, be bad?

A recent book by Gabe Lyons presents an entirely new perspective.

In his work, The Next Christians (2012), Lyons paints a very hope-filled view of Millennials. And while I tend to dislike the idea of categorizing humans into crude generational blocks, the book struck me as a breath of fresh air!

Great leaders see their followers’ potential more than their liabilities.

Lyons suggests that the new Millennial leaders possess a holistic approach to life and ministry which drives them to address societal challenges in a restorative way. They won’t just preach about issues (we call this “Word” in missions), but will additionally take them on with action (“Deed”).  Settling for black and white theology fails to satisfy them, but seeing the “gray” emerges as their strong suit.

Yet, some question whether Lyons speaks from an overly naïve, rose-colored perspective.

This raises an important consideration for Christian leaders. How do we walk the thin line between serving as gatekeepers for sound theology and values, while also empowering people to express that theology with fresh style and passion? Here at William Jessup University, we grapple with this by challenging students to think deeply about the why, before developing the what and how.

To what degree are you seeing and affirming the potential of next-generation leaders in your context?

Daniel Gluck serves as Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies at Jessup, and Lead Faculty for the B.A. in Christian Leadership program.

Friday Quote

Learning is experienced as personal transformation. A person does not gather learnings as possessions but rather becomes a new person….To learn is not to have, it is to be.

Gib Atkins, University of Virginia

As you reflect on last year, can you see a new “you” emerging from your experiences? Are you ready to embrace new growth this year?

PRES…. A Way Forward

The growing leader grows from the inside out. But sometimes growth opportunities go unheeded. We don’t see the connection between seemingly unconnected things.

In 1993, Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar launched a dream to combine the art of theater with the power of leadership. Their goal was to teach leaders to be better communicators through techniques they learned as professional actors and performers. Together they wrote a book titled Leadership Presence in which they discuss the “PRES” model for understanding ourselves.

Presence (P): Be completely in the moment and flexible enough to handle the unexpected (not pretentious)

Reaching Out (R): Build relationships with others through empathy, listening, and authentic connection (not looking down on others)

Expressiveness (E): Express feelings and emotions appropriately by using all available means (words, voice, body, face) to deliver one congruent message (not seeking to be impressive)

Self-Knowing (S): Accept yourself, be authentic, and reflect your values in decisions and actions (not self-absorbed)

Each of the four elements builds upon each other and contribute to establishing a healthy leadership presence.

In my opinion, most of us need to step out of our usual safe patterns. Try more openness about your intentions, feelings, passions, and values. Is this level of vulnerability too painful or risky? Then maybe consider starting with one component of the PRES model and make a goal to add the other elements as your confidence and skill grows.

As a believer, I see a connection with the words of Jesus when he says out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Our authentic self is worked from the inside out and requires intentionality. I encourage you to explore the implications of Leadership Presence. Is there someone today (a spouse, a child, a co-worker, or a team member) with whom you can begin to use the PRES model?

Richard Kriegbaum writes a relevant prayer in his book, Leadership Prayers:

Leadership is hard to define. Lord, let us be the ones to define it with justice. Leadership is like a handful of water. Lord, let us be the people to share it with those who thirst. Leadership is not about watching and correcting. Lord, let us remember it is about listening and connecting. Leadership is not about telling people what to do. Lord, let us find out what people want. Leadership is less about the love of power and more about the power of love.

Dennis Nichols,  

Lead Faculty, M.A. in Christian in Leadership

Friday Quote

I am convinced that the most powerful location from which to lead is not in front of, above, behind, under, or on a cell phone with the people God has given us to lead. It is among them, in their midst. — William Robinson in Thriving in Leadership: 302

Incarnational leadership (modeled by Christ) takes time, effort, and intentionality. How are you doing with the people God has given you to lead?

Leaders are Readers

Leaders typically have demands on their time that others do not.

Young parents (leading families) find themselves stretched to meet the needs (and wishes) of their children. Volunteer leaders find themselves making phone calls and spending hours organizing and serving. Market-place leaders put in extra time and often find themselves mentally exhausted by the constant decision-making.

readingI don’t have time to read!” some of us say.

It’s entirely understandable. Urgent demands (and the need to just unplug) leave us with little time, energy, or motivation to read. So, we make one of the most common mistakes of leadership. We assume either that we have all the tools we need already, or that we can learn everything we need “on the job.”

In their book An Impractical Guide to Becoming a Transformational Leader, Gilbert and Medcalf write: “There is too much on the line not to read. Not having time to read is like saying you don’t have time to eat or exercise.”

Years ago, I asked a retiring University President for his advice. After his lengthy career as both a megachurch pastor and a University President, I  wondered what he considered most important for my future. Sitting in a small Thai restaurant over lunch, he shared just two pieces of encouragement. One of those: “Read voraciously.” At the time I smiled and politely received the wisdom, but I wrote it off (mostly) as the musings of a PhD in English literature. I was wrong to do so.

Reading is not what we do in addition to leadership. Reading provides a strategic framework for our growth in leadership. The thoughtful writings of others help broaden our horizons and shape our thinking. Good writing provides priceless mentoring. The wisdom of others soothes the soul and nourishes the spirit.

Leaders are readers.

Reading matters as much to the leader as food, exercise, and rest. Many pastors, CEOs, business leaders, and others have made reading optional. It’s our last priority. It’s what we’ll do when we have some time left, but leftover time never comes.

As we launch into 2017 together, I’m delighted you are reading this blog! Thanks for adding this to your leadership reading diet this year. But what else might you resolve to read this year? How about the New Testament? How about a book a month on leadership?

Leaders should understand the value of investment. Reading is not killing time; it’s a profound investment of it. Read alone; read with others; share your reading…and may this year be an extraordinary year of leadership growth for you!

David Timms is Dean of the School of Christian Leadership at William Jessup University.

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