The Journey of Everyday Leadership


September 2017

What Matters Most

“This is the journey that men make: to find themselves. If they fail to do this, it doesn’t matter much what else they find.” — James Micheneris

Leadership usually looks outward. We talk about vision-casting, influencing others, managing organizations, creating culture, building teams, and so on. And these elements all matter. Leadership generally moves people. However, we would err if we assumed that leadership only functions when two or more people are together.

JourneyThose who have thought deeply about leadership — for centuries — have concluded that some of the most profound leadership experiences we can have (and need to have) emerge from self-leadership in solitude. Consider the deep work of the soul that people like Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela did for years before their public roles.

This is the journey that matters most.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (6th century B.C.) wrote: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” It’s a powerful and confronting statement.

Of course, Micheneris, Ghandi, Mandela, and Lao Tzu did not embrace a Christian worldview. Nevertheless, they intuitively understood that the inner life of the leader matters most. While others see the shell, we must attend to the core. Mastery of systems is secondary to mastery of ourselves.

We can lead others (families, congregations, organizations, and communities) only so far, if we are are not consistently leading ourselves to new places; new heights of authenticity, integrity, courage, self-awareness, and personal growth. Just ask former congressman Anthony Weiner who acknowledged yesterday that he has been a very sick man for a very long time as he was sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting a 15-year-old.

This aligns entirely with our Christian perspective. The Apostle Paul wrote of the fundamental importance of becoming “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15), being “transformed” (Romans 12:2), and “changed” (2 Corinthians 3:18). He consistently reminds us that the Christian journey involves putting off and putting on various traits (Colossians 3:12-16). He had no illusions that leadership was simply a skill to learn.

Apart from Christ we can do nothing, because only He can ultimately change our hearts, renew our spirits, restore our souls, and radically renovate our personal lives.

This is the journey that matters most.

What are you doing today and this week towards becoming the new man or woman, and the more grounded leader? Godly leadership (in any area of our life) springs only from deep wells.

3for3 Interview Series – Pastor Joy Johnson

Greetings from Jessup Leadership! This week, we resume our Jessup “3for3” Interview series with our friend Joy Johnson. Enjoy!

BIOGRAPHY – Pastor Joy Johnson is the founder of Life Matters, Inc and the President of Sacramento Area Congregations Together (ACT), where she mobilizes public sentiment toward justice grounded in faith. As a member of the Executive team for City Pastors of Sacramento, Pastor Joy builds bridges of racial reconciliation among varied races and ethnicities. She is recognized as a regional pastor and a peer-leader for preacher formation with Fuller Theological Seminary. Currently, she is a teaching pastor at Agape Alive Church in Roseville California. Pastor Joy and her husband, Mai-Gemu, have three grown children. They most enjoy movie going and spending time with grandchildren.

Friday Quote

“Contemporary leadership dilemmas have less to do with the specificity of the given problems than with the way everyone is framing the issues.”

The Failure of Nerve, E. Friedman

As you face personal or organizational challenges, imagine yourself looking in from the outside as opposed to trying to answer the questions everyone is asking. Gaining outside perspective is imperative.

Imaginative Gridlock

The late Edwin H. Friedman rocked the leadership world with his book A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix (1999). One look into any of its eight chapters will leave you scratching your head.  Why aren’t we talking about the implications for our churches and non-profit organizations? I won’t attempt to write a review of the book. There are plenty out there already. Rather, here is just one principle which applies in friendships, marriages, and organizational settings. It’s the concept of imaginative gridlock.

Friedman states emphatically that relationship systems often become “imaginatively gridlocked” or conceptually stuck. He writes:

“When any relationship system is imaginatively gridlocked, it cannot get free simply through more thinking about the problem. Conceptually stuck systems cannot become unstuck simply by trying harder. For a fundamental reorientation to occur, that spirit of adventure which optimizes serendipity and which enables new perceptions beyond the control of our thinking processes must happen first. This is equally true regarding families, institutions, whole nations, and entire civilizations.”

Friedman describes relational systems that are imaginatively gridlocked as characterized by three interlocking realities:

  1. An unending treadmill of trying harder; with each other or in the organization.
  2. A continual search for new answers to old questions rather than an effort to reframe the questions themselves.
  3. Either/or, black or white, all-or-nothing ways of thinking that leads to false dichotomies.

Still not convinced? Here are some question others have used to break out of imaginative gridlock.

Where am I stuck in patterns that I can’t seem to get out of? Is my family, business, or organization growing and excelling? Am I willing to separate from my relationship or organization enough to see things clearly?

Friedman was clear that imaginatively gridlocked relationship systems will not change on their own. New or additional information is not enough.

“There must be a shift in the emotional processes of that institution. Imagination, and indeed, even curiosity are rooted in the emotional responses, not in the cognitive. In order to break out of gridlock, people must be able to separate themselves from surrounding emotional processes before they can even begin to see things differently.”

Where might you need to step back far enough to break your own imaginative gridlock?


Dennis Nichols teaches in the School of Christian Leadership at William Jessup University and is Lead Faculty for the fully-online Master of Arts in Leadership degree

Leadership and Decision Making

There once was a leader named Moses.

God chose him to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt. You remember the story – “Hey Pharaoh, let my people go!” Before long, Moses and the Israelites (an estimated 1-2 million) ended up wandering around the desert, trying to survive and find the Promised Land.

In one of my favorite leadership passages in the Bible, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro (of all people) comes to him and observes his leadership. “What you are doing is not good,” he says (Exodus 18:17). Essentially, too many people were bringing trivial problems to Moses, depending on him for solutions. Pops-in-law offered thoughtful advice:

“But select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men . . . and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens . . . have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves.” (Exodus 18:21-22)

(I would guess in a different time and cultural context, he would have recommended women too).

We call this principle delegation.

Too often, leaders feel the need to involve themselves in as many decisions as possible. Perhaps if we loosen the reigns too much, we’ll lose control, influence, or popularity. Yet, if Jethro was right, seeking involvement in every organizational decision lacks sustainability. “You AND the people who come to you will wear yourselves out!” he suggested (Exodus 18:18).

In his book Managing the Nonprofit Organization, Peter Drucker (2006) devotes a whole chapter to this principle.

“The least effective decision makers are the ones who constantly make decisions. The effective ones make very few. They concentrate on the important decisions.” (p. 121)

Initially, delegation (done properly) requires more time than simply making decisions yourself. Yet, as your leadership and organizations grow, a lack of empowerment will eventually backfire.

Are you feeling the weight of leadership in your organization? Ask yourself today – Who am I raising up to lead? What decisions are most important? Which can be delegated to other capable men and women?

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

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