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The Journey of Everyday Leadership

Month

October 2017

Leaders Who Stand

Today, Christians around the world celebrate the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

On this day in 1517, German priest and theologian Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of his church, challenging the religious systems of his time. This audacious act provoked controversy that would split churches, bring revivals and ultimately transform history.

While we could talk about Luther’s theology (I’m not the guy to lead this discussion), or address the benefits and woes of denominationalism, let’s instead explore Luther’s decision to take this very risky stand.

What kind of leader summons this kind of courage?

I suspect Luther acted not out of desire to start a movement, but because staying quiet would have compromised his integrity. As the old adage emphasizes – “silence is tacit approval.”

Stephen Carter, in his book Integrity (1996), suggests that integrity requires 3 things of the leader. Leaders must:

  1. Discern what is right and wrong – Luther saw a great disconnect between scriptural teaching and church practice. This proved especially problematic in an era where only priests had access to biblical texts.
  2. Act on what they believe, even at personal cost – Luther, after refusing to recant his beliefs, was excommunicated from his beloved Catholic church by Pope Leo X on January 3, 1521.
  3. Say openly that they are acting on their understanding of right and wrong – After Luther’s removal, when ordered to defend himself at the Diet of Worms, he stood strong under immense pressure, saying…

“I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”

Taking a stand involves great risk. Like Luther, leaders do well to pursue counsel, pray earnestly and seek to honor God-given authority. Certain moments, however, require the great courage to stand.

And occasionally, such valor changes history.

Ask yourself today: Do I, as a leader seek God’s Word, His Spirit, and godly counsel in ethical decision making? Are there any areas where I currently need to take a stand for truth?

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

Humor & Leadership

Kevin Cashman (Leadership From the Inside Out, 2008) surprised me. Tucked deep inside his seminal work on leadership, he tackled a topic I have rarely heard anyone else raise. Quoting Daniel Pink, he writes: “Play is emerging from the shadows of frivolousness and assuming a place in the spotlight….” (p.189)

LaughterLeadership is a serious matter, but we can take it too seriously. We can easily over-rate our own significance or the importance of the project at hand. For a season of my own life I embraced a leadership goal to develop gravitas; an authority that comes with intensity and seriousness. I would have benefited if somebody had written this blog for me then.

I think about Ron Hewitt. He was tall, large, and loud. He laughed hard, hugged people tightly, and carried crowds into fits of giggles and guffaws. He loved widely and was widely loved. And he brought energy into every room that he entered, even when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Some people thought that Ron’s humor (and God’s answer to prayer) helped his short-term healing. He was one of 42 men diagnosed with the same disease, at the same time, at the same hospital clinic. Forty-one of them passed away within 12 months. Ron lived a further 6 years. But the gift of his humor should not really be measured in months or years, but leadership and influence.

Looking back at Ron’s life, and reading Cashman’s comments, has made me pause and ponder.

Intensity drains; levity rejuvenates. Solemnity depresses; laughter lightens. Gravitas makes a helpful side-dish, but not a great meal. Teams (even marriages and families) that are constantly serious, lose their energy. When we lack humor and lightness with each other, when everything is altogether too formal, leadership suffers.

There are, of course, a great many things to take seriously; mission, strategy, contracts, and threats. But if Cashman is correct, then humor and leadership might be a great topic for deeper consideration (and plenty of application).

We may achieve far more (in most instances) with a smile than a scold. How might you inject more humor and warmth into your leadership today?

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

 

Friday Quote

University of Houston research professor Brene Brown has over the past few years soared in popularity because of her groundbreaking work in the areas of vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Brene is the author of several New York Times No. 1 bestselling books.

Here is one of my favorite quotes:

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

“Lord, help us to listen to our lives today, to embrace all that is happening as the training ground for your image to be formed in us and through us. For your glory.  Amen.”

Leadership Hoarders

I was 15 years old and still innocent about how life can go sideways at times. My family was invited to dinner at the home of a friend whose wife was quite ill.

She suffered from what the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) describes as a hoarding disorder. Otherwise gentle and kind, she could be absolutely unbendable about moving or discarding anything in the home. So, their home was literally stacked to the ceiling with old cans, plastic wrap, newspapers, and more. You name it, she kept it.

Dianna Booher makes a similar analogy in her book Communicate like a Leader. In it, she briefly addresses the tendency of some leaders to hoard.

She writes: “Somewhere between elementary age and the workplace some people decide to hide their light, their creativity, insights, passion, along with information…that would help another do their job better. Instead, they adopt an ‘every person or department for himself/herself’ attitude.” They hoard.

“Leaders,” Booher says, “hoard information for various reasons.” It may be to punish others, to feel smarter than others, or to control a situation. We may hoard credit, opportunities, or status. Sometimes we hoard because we honestly do not know what others need to know. Other times we don’t share because we think no one cares. In any case, hoarding hurts everyone.

Leaders may need similar checks and balances as those with the mental disorder.

What strategies may be helpful for a leader who hoards? Based on Mayo Clinic ideas, we could say:

  1. Resist the urge to use information as power. Empowering others enhances the entire team.
  2. Let others have a voice. Indeed, give someone information privately that they may share with the group. It increases the group’s value of that person.
  3. Give to others more of who you are as a person rather seeking a reputation as the smart one.

Leaders have relatively few secrets that cannot be shared with others. Practicing generosity, including generosity with information is good modeling and good leadership.

How might you serve others around you by giving away information for the sake of the team today?

 

Friday Quote – Reconciliation

“Emphasize reconciliation, not resolution. It is unrealistic to expect everyone to agree about everything. Reconciliation focuses on the relationship, while resolution focuses on the problem. When we focus on reconciliation, the problem loses significance and often becomes irrelevant.”

– Rick Warren

Are there areas within your leadership today where reframing your focus toward reconciliation of relationships, vs. resolution of problems, might be helpful?

Leaders as Reconcilers

I woke today feeling the weight of the socially and politically charged environment in which we live.

Men with guns fire into random crowds. Tweeters rant on social media, shooting back and forth like a Wimbledon match. “Breaking News” explodes on every network, like popcorn kernels bursting in the kettle. Loved ones embrace more tightly, looking into others’ eyes with depth and pain.

A key question troubles me: what kind of leadership is required for situations like these?

In fact, some scholars suggest that leadership is a phenomenon that primarily arises in/around crisis and conflict. Maybe that’s why the Apostle Paul urges Christ-followers to be “ministers of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5).

John de Gruchy, in his book Reconciliation: Restoring Justice (2002) says reconciliation is a “process in which there is a mutual attempt to heal and overcome enmities, build trust and relationships, and develop a shared commitment to the common good.”

In my study of leadership and reconciliation in another politically charged environment (Kenya), I found that leadership is crucial for reconciliation.

Among the numerous ways leaders promoted reconciliation, interviewees said three especially shined. Perhaps they’ll shed light on our potential response to the crises around us. “Ministers of reconciliation” were especially committed to the following:

  • Prayer – leaders prayed before conflict, during conflict, and after conflict. Prayer was both a proactive and reactive practice to promote unity.
  • Preaching Peace – leaders clung to a moral compass, a biblical ethic that drove their speech and action. They called others to join forces around a greater good, rather than divisive agendas.
  • Inclusive Language – leaders intentionally flavored their speech with language that fostered inclusion, rather than contention. Instead of reactive rants, they used great care to speak in ways that would amalgamate disparate factions.

In light of events around us this week, I encourage us first to pray. God hears us, and prayer changes our heart’s posture. I implore us to speak words of life and truth. Lastly, I invite us to think carefully about our language. Do the words we speak unify others, or promote division?

How can I lead today as a minister of reconciliation?

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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