The Journey of Everyday Leadership


March 2018

Are Leaders Decisive?

This morning, a young man sat in my office, grappling with his calling as a leader.

Isaiah (pseudonym) is naturally gifted as a shepherd, people-pleaser, go-with-the-flow guy. His peers naturally gravitate towards him and look up to him. Yet, he sometimes lacks clarity regarding when and where he should take the “bull by the horns” and rise to leadership.

His struggle is not unfamiliar to me.

Throughout life, I’ve been a leader who would prefer to “lay low,” avoid the spotlight, and use care when “imposing” my decisions on others. At times, I have even “demoted” myself to try and realign with my purpose. Is this wiring contradictory to my calling as a leader?

Leadership scholars have long debated whether leadership requires certain universal skills. Must leaders possess vision, charisma, strategy or decisiveness? While certain skills may be important, I hold that God never intended for all leaders to be carbon copies of one another. 1 Corinthians 12 shows that God created each member of the body with unique gifts to serve different functions. He has hardwired each one of us for specific purposes.

Am I suggesting that we never have to grow as leaders? Certainly not!

I propose, however, that instead of spending all our effort trying to become something we’re not, we surround ourselves with others who have the gifts we lack. We “hire to our weakness” as some say.

Given this discussion, to what degree does leadership require decisiveness? I would say it depends. It seems God often chose indecisive leaders to accomplish great things (Moses, Ruth, and Jonah come to mind). Further, decision-making looks different depending on context. In sub-Saharan Africa, decisions are much more consensus-driven than in the West (which some view as too “soft”).

As I sat with Isaiah, I suggested that while God may be asking him to rise to the next level of maturity, this does not mean he has to become someone he is not.

Is your leadership overbearing, or indecisive? How might you surround yourself with others who can temper your gifts?

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

The Main Thing

The late Stephen Covey used to say, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). Sometimes he would then demonstrate this using a bucket and rocks. If you have a limited amount of time (a bucket) and fill it with pebbles or sand first (email, Netflix, Twitter, distractions, etc.) there’s not much room for the big important stuff (the rocks). But if you start with the rocks — take care of the big things first — then (magically) the pebbles slide between the rocks.

Rocks & SandAlong the same lines, Verne Harnish (Scaling Up: 149) writes: “Individuals or organizations with too many priorities have no priorities and risk spinning their wheels and accomplishing nothing of significance.”

In a highly distracted culture and age, where opportunities (and expectations) abound, it can be very difficult to maintain a white-hot laser focus. We can be so easily lulled into thinking that many great things deserve our attention that we lose sight of the main thing.

Marriages and families can become painful examples of little rocks (gravel) squeezing out the big rocks. So often we race between sporting events with the kids, school commitments, church meetings, and the rest, letting these things displace simple time together where we actually communicate and connect.

In organizations, the same holds true. Entrepreneurs constantly shift their priorities. Their gift to our culture is the gift of innovation and creation. But organizational formation and strength also requires disciplined and determined prioritization. At times, the pressure of competition (or decline) can drive us to frenetic extremes. But businesses and organizations who can accurately assess their strengths and weaknesses, as well as the emerging trends (rather than fads) within their field, are best positioned to re-calibrate their efforts and succeed.

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

Churches rarely seem to get this right. What is the main thing? It will vary from place to place and group to group. The answer to the question is not found in some effort to exegete the specific mission of Christ. Rather, it is unique to each congregation based on gifts, strengths, opportunities, needs, history, size, and resources. Who has God drawn together? What is He calling this congregation to be and do? How are they wired? Where do their deepest passions lie as they follow Christ?

Take a moment to identify “the main things” in your own marriage, family, church, or workplace today. What would they be? How might you take the gravel and sand out of the buckets today, and fill them first with the rocks?

Transformational leadership flourishes with this kind of focus.

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

Friday Quote

I have often heard leaders use the phrase “”tough love” as an approach to holding others accountable for their actions. In the Scriptures, however, God uses a kind of “tough love” with himself through His self-sacrificing work on the cross.

His love drove him to ascribe unsurpassable worth to all creation, at a cost to himself. Amazing love!

“Love is the all-or-nothing of the kingdom of God. Above all we are to love (Col. 3:14; 1 Peter 4:8). Everything we do is to be done in love and, thus, communicate love (1 Cor. 16:14). We are to imitate God by living in Christ-like love (Eph. 5:1–2), and if we do this, we fulfill the whole law (Matt. 22:37–40; Rom. 13:8–10). If we lack this, everything else we do is devoid of kingdom value, however impressive it might otherwise be (1 Cor. 13:1–3)”

Gregory A. Boyd

True Connection

The introduction to Henry Cloud’s book The Power of the Other states, “Most leadership coaching focuses on helping leaders build their skills and knowledge and close their performance gaps.”

Cloud proposes something else. Based on the most recent studies in neuroscience, he suggests it is personal and professional relationships that fuel growth and help leaders surpass limits.

In recent posts, I reviewed Cloud’s four corners of true connection. The first three are not really connections at all, more like pseudo-connections; disconnected, a bad connection, false connection. We all know what they look like.

In contrast, real connection begins with our need. That is, we acknowledge we need connection just as we need water, oxygen, and food. We embrace them because we die without them. The same is true with relationships. “Real relationships surface when you can be your whole self, the real authentic you, a relationship in which you can bring your heart, mind, soul, and passion.”

Cloud says this takes mutual giving and receiving.  Both parties are wholly present, known, understood, and mutually invested. In other words, what each person needs, thinks, feels, believes, fears, and needs is safely shared.

There are so many other issues that frame a truly connected relationship, like comradery, accountability, feedback, and mutual respect. For an organization to have a high-connection culture among its employees, it takes an atmosphere of trust for these elements to flourish at all levels.

Furthermore, we need rules for the road, so


to speak; a way of operating that lays the framework for healthy connections. Here are a few rules I wrote out for myself as an aspiring corner-four connector:

  1. People matter most. I will bring my whole self to every relationship, no hiding or posturing.
  2. Accountability and grace. I will give to others what I want for myself.
  3. No sabotaging others. Give feedback with respect but say all that needs saying.
  4. Always listen to others’ ideas. Love their ideas for at least five minutes or maybe 45 seconds.

My guess is we all want corner-four relationships, but honestly, we have reservations. How can I be sure that I will get back what I am giving out to others? Well, the short answer is, you cannot be sure. I challenge you to do it anyway.

Be the kind of leader you would like to follow. Not only does this honor our Lord, but it makes for a good life too. Can you think of someone who needs a true connection today?


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


Friday Quote

On Tuesday, we talked about how poverty isn’t simply economic, but a holistic lack of understanding about one’s identity and purpose. Today, consider this quote from Merton:

“Surrender your own poverty and acknowledge your nothingness to the Lord. Whether you understand it or not, God loves you, is present in you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, saves you and offers you an understanding and compassion which are like nothing you have ever found in a book or heard in a sermon.”

– Thomas Merton

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