The Journey of Everyday Leadership

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.

Friday Quote

The idea that a leader is identified by her followers is a powerful truth.

Max de Pree says it this way, “The signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among the followers. Are the followers reaching their potential? Are they learning? Serving? Do they achieve the required results? Do they change with grace? Manage conflict?

On this Good Friday, what are the gracious signs you might leave with others that show you have been with Jesus?


Are Facilitators Leaders?

We sat having lunch, enjoying a sandwich together. Katie is a longtime friend from my career as a pastor. Our conversation topics were all over the place. Church life, personal challenges, Border Collies, and leadership. We found all of it intriguing, and fun-loving too.

When I probed a little deeper on the topic of leadership, she responded rather bluntly, “Well, I am really not a leader; I’m more of a facilitator”.

Frankly, this distinction caught me off guard. I thought to myself, is that true? Is there a difference between leadership and facilitation? Later that week, I began to explore the idea.

The word facilitate means: to make easier: help bring about, as in, to facilitate growth. Immediately I started to see a connection. In their book, “Managers as Facilitators”, Richard Weaver & John Farrell distinguish between the visionary leader, the manager, and facilitator. Notice the facilitator column.

Visionaries                            Managers                                Facilitators

Doing the right things       Doing things right                Helps people do things

Takes the long view           Takes the short view             Helps people find a view

Sets the vision                     Sets the plan                          Helps people function well

The concepts behind the facilitator style leadership remind me of one major component of Transformation Leadership. Transformational Leadership teaches the principle of Individualized Consideration.

The principle of Individualized Consideration means the leader “facilitates” the person’s own growth and development, not in an abstract way, but toward greater leadership capacity and mission accomplishment. This could apply in a small group, an art project with a student, or even a coach- athlete relationship.

Facilitative leadership may not always be appropriate. The particular type of leadership style depends on the abilities, situation, and even culture of the organization or individuals involved.

For instance, facilitative leadership can miss the mark in settings where followers are learning the basic skills their work demands. Furthermore, in crises, autocratic leadership is often the style of choice.

In an environment of rapid change, however, no single person can see all that is going on and that needs to be done. Facilitative leaders look for engagement and empowerment of the team.

My friend is more of a leader than she realizes. In fact, she is a great leader in the settings where she functions as a facilitator.

Next time you hear someone make a distinction between facilitating and leadership, chime in. Remind them, leadership is a collaborative process; Collaboration means facilitating.


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

Friday Quote

On Tuesday, we discussed whether decisiveness is a core aspect of leadership. Compelling evidence does suggest that leaders have a bias toward action. Consider this quote:

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

Where are you experiencing a leadership “stalemate” today? How might you take action to move things forward?

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.

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