The Journey of Everyday Leadership


April 2018

Leadership by the Numbers

Statistics can be deceptive, but sometimes the research provides an important call to action. Here are some compelling numbers.

Right now, ten thousand baby boomers (people born 1946-1964) are retiring every day. Yes, every dayTen thousand. This mass retirement movement means that millennials (22-37 year olds) will constitute nearly half (48 percent) of the workforce by 2020.

StatisticsThat might represent simply a natural changing of the guard. However, two-thirds of the currently employed millennials are also actively looking for a new job, and most of the remainder expect to be in their current job less than three years.

There’s not much stability in the workplace. Unsurprisingly then, 84 percent of organizations anticipate a significant shortfall of leaders in the next five years. As you drive down the street, four out of five businesses, shops, churches, and agencies that you pass expect leadership gaps in the next five years.

That’s a dire prognosis.

When it comes to leadership and leadership development, less than one in five organizations feels “on track” or is doing anything to get “on track” and stay there long-term. Most people seem to be just hoping for the best.

Yes, more money is spent on leadership development than any other area of corporate learning. Nevertheless, despite all the time and money, 71 percent of companies do not feel that their current leaders are able to lead the organization into the future.

The numbers are startling, even disturbing. We face a dilemma. We’ll have a shortfall of experienced and well-trained leadership in the next decade, unlike anything we have faced in 50 years. And while the millennials are coming through, they do not have clarity on leadership models that are effective and appropriate for their generation or for the world as a whole. We are woefully short on leaders who have a thoughtful, proven, God-honoring, kingdom-consistent philosophy of leadership.

That’s what makes a conversation about transformational leadership so crucial. Who will step up to “produce change and build lives through authenticity, inspiration, empathy, and innovation”? Who will rise above self-confident ladder-climbing, to truly be agents of transformation in this next generation?

Just as importantly, what are you doing to develop and mentor such leaders (in your home, church, or organization) right now? The need is urgent. What next step can you take this week?

Friday Quote

Life is not just a few years to spend in self-indulgence and career advancement. It is a privilege, a responsibility. a stewardship to be lived according to a much higher calling.

-Elizabeth Dole

“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves  as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. ”

1 Timothy 6:18-19

Helping People to Exhale

Over the years, I have witnessed a scene played out dozens of times. It occurs when a friend, family member, or even a total stranger, comes to an emotional breaking point.

Mark Goulston was an FBI and police hostage negotiator. He was called in to de-escalate life or death situations. In his book, Just Listen, he describes a few simple responses to help others “exhale” in the midst of great distress. Goulston claims the tips he teaches for building empathy, de-escalating conflict, and gaining buy-in, will work in any situation.

If you are trying to reach someone in a state of distress, adding to his or her duress can be disastrous.  Mark comments, “it can destroy a person’s life literally,” as he found in hostage situations. It also can destroy a business relationship or family connection.pexels-photo-133021.jpeg

Challenging people in these situations may cause them to come out in full court emotional press, or even worse, suppress their feelings and go underground.

The other option involves exhaling. In other words, you give them breathing room. You do not simply get them back to normal, but you actual improve their situation. Getting others to the “exhale state” requires the leader do a few things:

First, notice body language. Crossed arms, angry expressions, rigid shoulders, for instance. If you spot someone like this, do not try to get through with facts or reason. Why? They can’t hear it. It won’t work. You need to get the person to exhale. You cannot make a person do it, but you can make them want to do it. Give them plenty of room to express whatever they need to say. In other words, do not interrupt. That is tough for most of us.

Second, Goulston says, “don’t take issue with anything they say.” Resist defensiveness, or allowing yourself to get into a debate.

Finally, after all is said by the individual, and he or she is exhausted, do not jump to talk. It is the worst mistake of all. If you start talking now you will shut them down. Instead, after they pause, simply say, “Tell me more.” People who are hurt never feel fully heard. Asking for more allows the deeper healing to occur.

If this is an attack at you personally, and they are suppressing their distress, try saying, “Have I ever made you feel that I don’t respect you?” Or, “Have I ever made you feel like you were not worth listening to?”

God made people for relationship but good relationships take their share of maintenance. Getting others to exhale is painful. The end-product, however, can be healthier, even if it is more painful in the short run. Goulston sees the exhale principle as necessary in all kinds of relationships. It moves people and organizations toward a culture of authenticity and open trust.

Good leaders lean in and diffuse, if possible. We all could do better at this. Who might you pleasantly surprise by engaging their pain, rather than avoiding it?

Dennis Nichols is the Lead Faculty for the Master of Arts in Leadership at William Jessup University.

I Would Never…

Jim is a short and smiley man I met in my doctoral program.

He grew up in a Christian denomination, and helped lead a camp every summer to train up young men in Boyscout-like fashion. Jim and his colleagues taught these youth how to camp, fish, build fires and various other skills for life.

Fast forward 20 years.

In a sobering conversation, Jim shared with me how, out of four key men who spearheaded these camps, he was the only one who hadn’t been exposed for involvement in inappropriate sexual behavior with campers. What he identified as the distinguishing difference surprised me.

“I realized I never said ‘I would never…’” he reflected.

Of all the leaders Jim worked with at the camp, he was the only one who avoided saying “I would NEVER” do this or that.

You see, something about the “I would never” statement seems to implicate immunity to our capacity as leaders towards failure and sin.

When it comes to vulnerability, where do leaders find an appropriate balance? Surely there are secrets that may not be appropriate to share in certain settings. Yet, never admitting failure or weakness simply cannot be the answer.

My parents’ generation largely adopted a “never let ‘em see you sweat” culture of leadership. Pretend you have it all together, so as to avoid looking weak. Now, my generation has perhaps over-compensated, adopting a no-holds-barred “keep it real” mentality.

C.J. Mahaney, in his book Humility: True Greatness (2005) suggests that “on our own, you and I will never develop a competency for recognizing our sin” (p. 133). We must not only invite correction from others, but be careful with the posture of “I would never.”

When we see failure in other leaders, especially moral or ethical failure, we should be slow to point fingers. Rather, we might do well to acknowledge, “That could have been me” and evaluate what checks and balances we have in place to welcome correction.

What vulnerabilities might you need to admit and/or address this week?

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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