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The Journey of Everyday Leadership

Month

February 2017

Leadership & Burnout

In the winter of 2003, I wanted to give up.

Having been thrust into somewhat public leadership at an early age, signs of fatigue and emotional brokenness were bubbling to the surface. I learned only later that these were symptoms of clinical depression and anxiety.

What was once my first love – using music to lead people toward the throne of worship – had become a daunting chore. No longer was I ready to stand in front of large groups and receive both the praise and criticism that accompanied.

I was ready to hang up my guitar, and leadership hat – forever.

Those who are called to lead must, at some point, realize that leadership will invite greater judgment and possibly isolation, if we allow it.

“Not many of you should become teachers [masters, leaders], my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1, NIV).

Author Dan Allender posits that the greater your leadership influence, the greater difficulty you will find in maintaining deep, meaningful community (Leading With A Limp). “Few friendships can endure one person having more power than the other,” he cautions (p. 33).

Are leaders, then, simply doomed to scrutiny and loneliness?

I certainly hope not, but one must acknowledge some telltale signs of burnout. Several include irritability, hopelessness, erratic emotions, lack of focus, chronic insomnia, lack of energy and body aches/pains.

depression

Lest we despair, several practical steps to address burnout and isolation have proven useful (each could merit a separate discussion!). Leaders must own their past areas of brokenness and address them. They must find healthy ways to express emotions, and safe places to do so. They should pursue rhythms of reflection and Sabbath.

I close, realizing this might tear off a big scab for some. Before you get overwhelmed, identify one small step you can take today to pursue healthy community. Is there something “sticking” to you that you need to offload? How might you pursue Sabbath in the next week/month?

Here are a few additional book resources for consideration: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (Scazzero), Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership (McIntosh & Rima), Leading on Empty (Cordero).

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

Friday Quote

“Today authenticity is seen as the gold standard for leadership.” — Bill George, Discover Your True North (2015)

In the twentieth century, leadership was largely defined by charisma, strength, experience, and IQ. But with the chronic ethical failures of businesses, churches, and non-profit organizations in recent decades, the focus has shifted. People now look for transparent, collaborative, and authentic leaders. Would these words describe you as a leader? How might you embrace this gold standard a little more this week?

Leadership or Dictatorship?

“True leadership only exists if people follow when they have the freedom not to.” — Jim Collins, Good to Great and the Social Sectors: 13

Jim Collins, renowned author of two best-sellers (Built to Last and Good to Great), offers simple but profound insights into leadership. But this one little throwaway line in his small monograph that accompanies Good to Great drives deep to the heart of true leadership.

good-to-great-and-social-sectorsMany of us have heard that “a leader who looks back and sees nobody following is merely taking a walk.” It brings a smile to the face because we can visualize the rather comical scenario. Many self-proclaimed leaders find themselves oddly alone. But Collins’ statement adds a different dimension. It’s not just “Are there followers?” but “Do the followers have true freedom?”

Families (yes, families), businesses, churches, and non-profit organizations can all be set up as mini-dictatorships. Dad’s word must never be challenged. The boss’s decision is final. The pastor’s authority must not be questioned. Of course, some kids leave home, some employees quit, and some church staff and members move to other congregations. But those who stay may feel the oppression of the dictatorship.

Is Jim Collins correct? Is one of the marks of true leadership, the true freedom of the follower? When followers are not coerced, manipulated, or forced in any way to comply?

The power to fire or excommunicate someone can muddy these waters. At times, compliance can look like freedom of choice when it’s not. Fear will drive many of us to smile and fall in line.

As leaders, how do we genuinely build a culture of freedom?

Of course, our own fears and insecurities may drive us towards heavy-handedness; threats, belittling, and harsh discipline. But controlling others and leading others are two very different matters.

If Collins is correct, and I suspect that he is, what might you do this week to nurture an authentic culture of freedom in your families and other settings of leadership?

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

Friday Quote

“A keen sense of humor helps us overlook the unbecoming, understand the unconventional, tolerate the unpleasant, overcome the unexpected, and outlast the unbearable.”

-Billy Graham

 

Go ahead a laugh with someone today. It’s good for you now and you may need it later.

Leadership and Love

 

Since 2004, the amount of money spent on Valentine’s Day has climbed dramatically (48%). In 2004 Americans spent $12 billion; in 2016 it was near $20 billion. Men outspent women by nearly 100 percent. But are we learning anything about real love?

We don’t typically think of love and leadership as words that go together. I suggest they are more connected than what it appears.

I was captivated recently by an article that highlighted the heroics of Joe DaSilva; a West Point graduate and new Army officer with no battle experience. Bill Murray Jr. writes, “Hours before the invasion, [DaSilva] gathered his soldiers and gave them a subdued but inspiring speech. It ended with his promise, “I don’t know what awaits us on the other side…but if I have to give my life for any of you, I will do it in a heartbeat.”

Murray continues, “Great leadership—at West Point and everywhere—has a lot to do with love. Not romantic love or unconditional love but that caring, passionate drive that binds teams together to accomplish goals greater than any individual among them could imagine.”

Rick Warren once remarked, “Great leaders genuinely care for and love the people they lead more than they love leading itself.” Bill Hybels concludes that “Self-sacrificing love is at the very core of leadership.” Jesus said the greatest act of love is laying down one’s life for another. In fact, the very description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 are characteristics of mature, loving relationships and, I might add, of leadership as well.

While we may not be called to lay down our lives, we can embrace love in leadership. How do leaders love?  I believe they do it through people, processes, and content.

They love to practice self-sacrificing service. That’s people. They love fueling an authentic and creative culture. That’s process. They love the mission. That’s content.

Step out and show your leadership-love with those around you. Model a culture of authenticity. Embrace your mission with passion.

Leadership is love.

How might you practice leadership as love today?

Dennis Nichols serves as Lead Faculty for the Master of Arts in Leadership program

 

Friday Quote

Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.

– Cesar Chavez

It has been said that it is a leader’s job to shape culture. If this is true, how does one go about influencing culture, while remaining sensitive to other cultures?

Leading Across Cultures

Can leaders employ the same approaches in Beijing, China as they do in Lagos, Nigeria or Chicago, Illinois?

As one who has engaged in a diversity of cultures, this question peeks my curiosity. Because most leadership scholarship arises out of “Western,” Anglo-influenced institutions, the topic solicits great debate. Leadership theory often emulates linear, systematic and direct approaches which stem from ancient Greek philosophy.

Yet, much of today’s world favors a narrative, contextually-nuanced and indirect approach (“Eastern” thinking).

Some years back, several well-known theorists set out to define universal leadership principles, publishing The Quest for a General Theory of Leadership (Goethals & Sorenson 2006). After months of careful exploration and pontification, they essentially conceded that a ‘general theory’ had eluded them. “We can barely agree on what a ‘theory’ is in the first place,” they quipped (p. 49)!

Chart depicting the leadership style of transformational leaders

The authors DID agree, however, that leadership has everything to do with power, influence, change, and context. As such, they seem to suggest that cultural context matters greatly when determining one’s leadership approach.

You’re welcome for saving you $136 for the book, by the way… =)

Based on my [limited] experience around the globe, I would suggest that leadership is highly situational and contextual. While many aspects of humanity may be universal, cultures send and receive information in unique ways. I lead very differently in Rocklin than I do in Nairobi or Tokyo.

Western settings are typically more informal, direct, and individualistic, whereas Eastern contexts are more likely to value formality, indirectness and conformity in their interactions. Thus, I use greater care to respect elders and collective consensus when I lead in Kenya, vs. the U.S.

Perhaps the “way we’ve always done it” may not work in every situation. The apostle Paul supports contextually-based leadership, saying “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22, ESV).

How might you adjust your leadership approach to increase effectiveness within a context in which you lead?

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

Friday Quote

“What all people want is a sense that they are valued, a sense of community where they belong to something special, and a sense of personal purpose. When those needs are met, people feel fulfilled in their roles and empowered to join the team and go to work.” (Carla Sanderson, in Christian Leadership Essentials: 221)

If you are leading others, how well are you building these three things into them? Do they feel valued, in community, and with personal purpose? Perhaps someone today needs our attention in one of these three areas.

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