The Journey of Everyday Leadership

Three Killer P’s

Psychologist Martin Seligman has identified three P’s that can stunt our recovery from loss and undercut our resilience as human beings. These P’s sometimes come into play when we experience trauma or loss. Grief opens the door to these soul-sapping P’s. But these P’s also threaten leaders who experience failure or setback.

Three P'sPersonalization — the belief that we are wholly and solely to blame for a failure or setback (“It’s all my fault; it wouldn’t have happened if I had been more attentive, more present, more intuitive, more something”).

Pervasiveness — the belief that a particular failure will affect all areas of our lives and ruin everything (“This ruins everything; my relationships, my reputation, my family, my finances”).

Permanence — the belief that a failure or setback will last forever (“I’ll never recover; I’ll feel this way till the day I die”).

In her compelling book on facing adversity, building resilience, and finding joy Sheryl Sandberg (Option B, p.16) notes that “Hundreds of studies have shown that children and adults recover more quickly when they realize that hardships aren’t entirely their fault, don’t affect every aspect of their lives, and won’t follow them everywhere forever.”

Many leaders find their effectiveness thwarted and their joy diminished because these P’s have assumed gargantuan proportions or have set up residence in their thinking.

Of course, leaders do take responsibility for their failures. They should. But a failure, loss, or set-back usually also involves complex factors beyond our ability to fully manage or control. Similarly, major bungles will indeed cast wider ripples of impact. But we usually have choices about how far those ripples flow. Finally, the words “never” and “forever” reflect a defeated spirit (at least for the moment) but not the reality of life. Second chances abound.

Have these P’s been knocking on your door?

Sometimes it’s our very fear of the P’s that might stifle our innovation and creativity; fear of the P’s that quenches our courage and diminishes our vision.

Personalization. Pervasiveness. Permanence.

When we yield to these fiends that whisper threats to our souls, we retreat from life itself. If you are grappling with grief, don’t hold hands with these three P’s. If you are facing failure, look these three P’s in the eye and move them from center-stage. They are not good friends.

Resilience is the great hallmark of faith. We recover and we endure — with joy — because we know that the loss of the moment is neither fully our fault, inescapably universal, nor ultimately perpetual. The grace of Christ sustains us, heals us, restores us, and renews us.

Friday Quote

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

In my reading of the Gospels, Jesus was always lifting His hearers to a higher level of seeing.  Sometimes they understood, sometimes they didn’t quite get it. But still, He persisted.

Find someone to lift with your words this weekend!


Commending Others

We’d all agree that building leaders takes time. However, we might not all agree on the process. Let me give you one perspective that I learned in the military, and in my reading of Scripture.

During my military career, I received medals of commendation for service rendered. The official Letter of Commendation always included two elements: a brief description of why the member was noteworthy for a particular service rendered, and the start and end date of the service rendered.

These letters (accompanied by a medal) consistently ended with something along the lines:

“Chaplain Nichols’ personal initiative and unswerving devotion to duty reflected credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Air Force.”

Quite honestly, I never felt I had lived up to the highest traditions of the military. Notice however, there was no suggestion that my training was over. Rather, the commendation implied that I was simply on track in my leadership development.

In a similar light, the Apostle Paul gave two of his key leaders public commendations. I am speaking of Timothy and Titus.Medal

They both labored as Paul’s co-workers (Rom. 16:21; 2 Cor. 8:23), and he had enough confidence in them to be his personal delegates (1 Cor. 4:17; 2 Cor. 12:18). Both served as capable evangelists in areas where false teachers had to be confronted and the local church more firmly established and organized (1 Tim. 1:2-3; Tit. 1:4-5).

However, it seems that Timothy needed elaborate commendations from Paul (1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10-11; Phil. 2:19-24; 1 Thess. 3:2), probably to help bolster his confidence and promote acceptance and respect. The Corinthians were instructed, “If Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear… let no one despise him” (1 Cor. 16:10-11). Timothy himself was urged, “Let no one despise your youth…” (1 Tim. 4:12), “Use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities” (1 Tim. 5:23); and “God has not given us a spirit of fear [timidity]… Therefore do not be ashamed …” (2 Tim. 1:7-8).

Titus, on the other hand, was apparently just the opposite. Titus did not need such detailed commendations.

As leaders, we must not only lead well, but ultimately raise up other leaders. This takes time. More importantly, it takes individualized consideration (empathy) to bring out the best in others.

It was expected that a military member would receive several commendation medals by the end of their career. In fact, if a member lacked a certain quantity of medals, his or her direct report was not doing their job.

The point is, leaders nurture and bring along other leaders. They commend them to others.

Whom in your family, or sphere of leadership influence, might you commend today? They do not need to be perfect, but they may need your commendation in order to continue toward building leadership confidence.


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


The Bottom Line

Business leaders have long talked about “the bottom line.”

In for-profit ventures, increasing shareholder wealth reigns supreme. Money is the ultimate end, and “time is money”.

You have probably also heard of the double-bottom-line principle. Not only should a company increase wealth, but a greater societal good should be the aim. Chic-fil-a is a great example. While they are committed to making great chicken sandwiches (and delicious sauces!), they also pursue numerous avenues to better their communities and serve people.

What about a triple-bottom-line? Yes – such a thing exists. Here – making money and accomplishing a greater good are important, but a third metric shapes this organization’s goals. It must employ practices that sustain the environment, or at least not make it worse. This ethic has emerged as an increasing value among consumers, especially millennials.

But a quadruple-bottom-line? Let’s not get carried away!

Indeed, scholars have identified a fourth benchmark for organizations. They must not only build wealth, accomplish societal good, and engage in sustainable practices, but also pursue transformation (often spiritual) for their “customers”. In other words, people they impact should both be better off because of the organization’s mission (e.g. receive care, helpful products, etc), and be transformed in the process!

Is this goal too idealistic?

Here at Jessup Leadership – we think not. If transformational leadership is to “produce change and build lives…” as Dr. Timms recently reminded us, then those we lead, whether in for profit or nonprofit ventures, should walk away different than when they first encountered us.

How often did Jesus emulate this kind of leadership? He was frequently overheard saying to the broken, “your sins are forgiven,” or to the lame, “get up and walk!” He built lives through offering opportunities for transformational change.

My guess is, today you have some tasks you need to accomplish. In your interactions with people, is your sole aim to get what you want from people (we call this transactional leadership), or that people would become better because of your interaction with them?

Consider how you might offer an opportunity for transformation for someone you encounter today.

Daniel Gluck serves as Associate Professor and Lead Faculty for the B.A. in Christian Leadership program at Jessup.

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?


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