Posted in Personal Development, Teamwork, Vision & Goal Setting

Pivot Leadership…My Thoughts (A Book Review)

I am a leadership geek. My bookshelves are filled with books on leadership. My Masters degree is in Organizational Leadership. I am intrigued by both the science and art involved in leading a thriving organization, and drink in as much information as possible at seminars, online, and through conversations.

When Angela Craig asked me to read a draft of her book before it went to press, I eagerly agreed. To be honest, I said “yes” more because I respect Angela as a leader and appreciate her friendship. I really wasn’t sure how much I would get out of the content.

Pivot Leadership: Small Steps…Big Change pleasantly surprised me. Whether you are just starting on the leadership road or already have a wealth of experience, it is a wonderful resource to add to your library. But don’t leave it there to collect dust. It is designed to be interactive.

The thought of becoming a strong leader can seem overwhelming. However, strong leadership is created through taking small steps. Small steps set a direction that results in big change. Pivot Leadership looks at three areas and how to experience vitality in each of them.

Part One deals with the life of the leader. Before you can lead a community to greatness, you need to successfully lead yourself. Be a leader that people respect and trust. Part Two delves into ways to build a community of purpose through building a diverse team, communicating effectively, and creating a culture of camaraderie and collaboration. Part Three looks at leading into the future, doing what you were designed for and refusing to give up.

The beauty of Pivot Leadership is found in the Action Activities at the end of each chapter. Every activity guides you through the process of personalizing the content and to identify the small steps you will take. I used one of the activities in the chapter about workplace communication in a recent staff meeting. It was well received and my team immediately began identifying obstacles to understanding others in the middle of their own conversations.

Pivot Leadership is a book for leaders in any season of life. Use a separate journal to answer the questions. You can review the chapters every so often as a refresher. Most likely your answers will be different each time.

If you are serious about growing as a leader, Pivot Leadership: Small Steps…Big Change is the book for you. I highly recommend it as a tool to move forward and do the great things God has call you to do.

Click here to order Pivot Leadership at Amazon.com

Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant (Luke 22:26, NLT).

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14, NIV).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I desire to be the best leader I can be for You. Teach me how to lead with integrity, to genuinely love others, and to make wise decisions. Show me the small steps I can take that will make a big change. Empower me to take those steps, so that You will be glorified. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

The Battle of Heart and Mind

I started my new job last summer as Executive Director of a pregnancy center ministry with great excitement. Not only did I sense the Lord had opened a door to His will and was fulfilling some specific promises He had spoken to my heart, I now had an opportunity to live out my convictions about servant leadership. My project for my Masters degree had been centered on servant leadership in the workplace. This position would be the testing ground to explore my ideas more fully.

Within a few weeks, however, I was faced with a challenge I had not expected—How do I effectively balance leading from the heart and leading from the mind? Interacting with others requires a blend of empathy and logic, depending on the needs of the moment. Leading an organization requires a similar blend.

True servant leadership prioritizes people as first and the organization as second. When people are equipped to do their jobs and thrive, the organization thrives. This model resonates strongly with my pastoral heart. (Pastoring can happen in any setting. It is not just reserved for church ministry.) I love the paid and volunteer staff at work and am committed to helping them develop God’s call. I also know that walking with others can be messy business and requires large doses of patience and grace. It takes time for people to develop their skills and God-given strengths.

It is beautiful to see servant leadership in operation. Unfortunately, there are times when despite the best efforts to love and lead others, someone will be detrimental to the mission. When this occurs, we will be required to engage in a battle of the heart and mind.

The heart says

  • I want the best for her.
  • I believe in his potential.
  • I don’t want to cause pain.
  • I care deeply about him.
  • She is incredibly valued by God.
  • I should give him one more chance. He’ll get the hang of it.

The mind says…

  • His performance is affecting our business.
  • She is making too many mistakes.
  • Her behavior is damaging relationships.
  • It’s time for him to move on.
  • He isn’t a good fit for this position.
  • She doesn’t really care about our mission.

In this battle of the heart and mind, who do we listen to? How do we balance love and logic in servant leadership?

Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to let the mind lead the charge. When the facts show that it is time for someone to move on, it does the person and the rest of the organization a disservice to hold on. Keeping someone that is a poor fit in a position is frustrating to everyone. Keeping someone that isn’t doing the job well sends a message that work ethic and performance don’t really matter. In spite of the heart screaming in protest, it is better to say “goodbye.”

In the letters to the Corinthians there is an interesting story. One of the members of the church was involved in an illicit relationship with his stepmother. The Apostle Paul rebuked this behavior, and the behavior of the congregation for tolerating it. The same man who penned the love chapter (1 Corinthians 13) instructed the congregation to remove the offender from their midst (1 Corinthians 5). Later forgiveness was offered and he was welcomed back to fellowship (2 Corinthians 2).

At my workplace, among the four paid staff members, I said “goodbye” to two of them the first three months. Not my favorite way to start off a position. But I learned some valuable lessons about servant leadership in difficult situations.

Which is easier for you—to lead from the heart or to lead from the mind?

Are you currently facing a difficult situation in your sphere of leadership? What is your heart saying? What is your mind saying?

The Lord has the wisdom you need to balance the interactions of heart and mind.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You that You are “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 103:3). You also reign with justice and make decisions that build Your Kingdom. Grant me Your wisdom. Help me to reflect You in character, and that, as a leader, my actions are motivated by love. In Jesus’ name.

Posted in Character, Faith

Be the Leader God Has Called You to Be

I spent an amazing Saturday at “She Leads: Her Voice,” a conference to empower women to lead where they are and release them to become who God designed. I was blessed to be included in the line up of speakers. However, at the end of the day, I felt that I had received so much more than I had contributed.

The Lord took 12 Ted-Talk-style messages, delivered by 12 women with diverse personalities, styles, and experiences (who did not confer ahead of time), and wove them into a tapestry with one common thread—being the leader God has called you to be.

I wish you had been there with me, to soak in the passion for Jesus and authenticity of heart for yourself. In an effort to give you a taste of the rich wisdom imparted through this event, I pass along some nuggets of truth.

  • Authentic leadership requires the willingness to be vulnerable, keeping an open heart during difficulties instead of numbing.
  • Only go where the Lord leads you, and then move forward with courage.
  • Separate seeking affirmation for what we are doing from seeking affirmation for who we are.
  • Stewardship involves more than money. It encompasses everything that we are and have. And, it all belongs to God.
  • Learn to manage God’s call to avoid burn out.
  • It’s never too late to be who you might have been. It’s time to take your future back.
  • Learn to trust Jesus with your broken places. Hiding from brokenness creates a destructive emotional cycle.
  • God is concerned with the condition of your heart rather than how you look on the outside.
  • Make it your goal to reflect Jesus, not your expectations of who you should, could, or ought to be.
  • God’s goodness is seen through creation and His plans. The core of His goodness is seen through Jesus. When things are difficult and there are no answers, Jesus is enough.
  • When God calls you to lead, don’t limit His plans by your preconceived notions of what that looks like.
  • “You’re not doing it wrong.” There’s no “right way” to lead. There’s no “right way” to do you.

Be encouraged to lead where God has placed you, using the strengths and passion He has given you.

Posted in Communication Skills, Servant Leadership

Three Elements of Empowering Conversation

Have you ever thought of yourself as a detective? Sherlock Holmes is a well loved fictional character known as a mastermind, observing details unnoticed by the untrained eye. What about an explorer? Marco Polo is famous for exploring China and Asia in the late 1200s, discovering practices of the unknown culture. As a leader, you may not see yourself as an adventurer like Holmes or Polo, but every day you have the opportunity to discover important details through empowering conversations.

It is natural to be geared toward solutions and coming up with answers as quickly as possible. However, this often results in solving the wrong problem. This also does not promote deep learning, the kind necessary for sustained change. By engaging in three elements of empowering conversation, you possess the keys to discovery.

Frame problems positively. View them as opportunities to be creative and innovate, not as a threats. Take time to pause and prepare yourself to enter the discovery zone. You and your team have the option to consider new possibilities for the future rather than redesign old versions of the past. Being curious is a great way to elevate energy and mood within your team. James 1:5 states, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (NIV). Have confidence that God will provide the answers you need.

Ask, don’t tell. When facing a challenge, it can be tempting to issue directives. Certainly there are times when it is necessary to make direct statements, such as during a performance evaluation or establishing behavioral boundaries. However, empowering conversations are excellent for developing appropriate attitudes and beliefs, skills, and behavioral practices. An important part of empowering conversations is asking open ended questions. By asking questions, you assist followers in processing ideas and formulating answers. Powerful questions include: “What are we trying to accomplish?” “How else can we think about this?” “What can we learn from this situation?” Consider using double-click questions to encourage conversation. “Tell me more.” “Give me an example of that.” Even when you have a good plan, ask permission to share. “I have an idea. Would you like to hear it?”

Listen to understand. Asking is important; listening is its twin. Effective communication involves active listening–paying full attention to what is said and being fully engaged. Resist the urge to jump in with opinions and advice. Do not assume that you know what is going on. Rather, hear where your followers are coming from; zero in on their experiences and ideas.

When you are communicating with God in prayer, what is He doing most of the time? Is he constantly talking, filling every moment with sage advice and cosmic ideas? Or is He mostly listening? God, who knows our every need before we ask and the answers to all our problems, takes the time to listen to each one of us. To listen is to imitate God.1

Wise instruction comes from James 1:19. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (NIV). Listening is foundational to understanding. Leaders must be excellent listeners in order to facilitate discovery for growth and change.

1 Tony Stoltzfus, Leadership Coaching (Virginia Beach: Author, 2005), 147.

Posted in Servant Leadership, Teamwork

Three Traits of the Empowering Leader

“If you want a job done right, do it yourself.” Chances are, as a leader, you have either said this or thought this very loudly. You assigned a task to someone, and they missed the deadline. Perhaps they got it done on time, but the quality was mediocre and you ended up fixing the mistakes. It doesn’t take long before you decide the best way to get the results you want are to do it yourself and to micromanage others as they do their jobs.

Unfortunately in the organizational world of today, where team work and collaboration are valued, that approach usually doesn’t work well. Some leaders are able to successfully lead this way. However, by and large, empowering leaders enjoy greater success.

Empowering leaders relate to followers as fellow members in the cause, and focus on facilitating the accomplishments of goals. They possess three traits that empower others through shared leadership.

1. Empowering leaders are self-aware and secure. They understand how God has wired them, possessing a good picture of their personality, communication preferences, leadership strengths, and spiritual gifts. As a result, they are comfortable with who they are, but not satisfied to remain there. Personal and spiritual growth are important to them. Empowering leaders also believe God has given them their positions, and He will provide the necessary wisdom and strength. Therefore, they do not hold tightly to power, knowing it is a gift of influence that must be faithfully stewarded. They are not driven by insecurity or the need for the spotlight. They focus on what they do well, and share responsibilities with others in their areas of strengths. The empowering leader is “one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it” (Theodore Roosevelt).

2. Empowering leaders trust their followers. They move away from control and allow others to do what they do with excellence. They promote a culture of respect and acceptance, encouraging input from everyone. Cooperation and team ownership are emphasized in order to accomplish work. Empowering leaders believe that, when given the proper tools and resources, followers will do their best to succeed for the good of the team. In Luke Chapter 10, Jesus Christ demonstrated trust in seventy-two disciples when He “sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places He planned to visit” (vs. 1, NLT). This was a massive regional effort to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Jesus provided His followers with important instructions and then released them. Even though these disciples were not as experienced and equipped as Jesus Himself, He entrusted the work to them and shared some of His authority. “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!” (Luke 10:18)

3. Empowering leaders know their followers. They spend time understanding their followers’ unique personalities and strengths. By studying their followers, empowering leaders discover how to motivate them. They resist using generic motivational approaches. Rather effective motivation is applied personally and consistently.  Empowering leaders are able to match the right abilities and talents with the appropriate tasks. They provide the necessary instructions, resources, and communication for follower success. They equip followers in order to gain competence in their positions, providing opportunities for growth and satisfaction.

Look at the three traits listed above. On a 1 to 10 scale (1 being lowest, 10 being highest), rate yourself on each trait. Which one do you need to develop the most? What will you do to develop it?

Posted in Character, Faith, Servant Leadership

Exhausted or Empowered Leader? Part Three

The last two weeks, we have focused on healthy approaches to our leadership relationships. By making three simple adjustments, we can go from exhausted to empowered leadership.

The third concept that liberated me as a leader is “Caring” versus “Carrying.”

This is really another variation of taking proper responsibility. However, it provides a powerful picture. I believe the Lord showed it to me as an illustration while I was on a journey of healing, and I use it often with people who take ownership of others’ choices.

God has called us to care about others. He asks us to reach out in empathy, and serve with compassion. It is a good thing to minister with our hearts. Jesus’ ministry was marked by compassion. He had compassion on the people because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He taught them. He had compassion on them and healed them. He had compassion on them and provided miraculous fish and bread. Our Lord cared deeply about people, and we follow His example. Caring is good. It is what we were made to do. However, we were not made to carry people. It is God’s job to carry, not ours. When we are carrying, it gets too heavy. We get weighed down by this person’s bad choice, that person’s failure, this person’s poor attitude, that person’s family crisis. We become frustrated, angry, bitter, resentful, and eventually cannot move.

Rosemarie Kowalski tells a story which Joanna Weaver adapted in her book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. It’s about a man who willingly receives an assignment from the Lord to pull three stones in a wagon up the hill. As his journey progresses, in an attempt to help others, he adds more and more to his wagon–other people’s rocks, pebbles, and stones–until the weight is too heavy to bear. He can go no further.

“Let others shoulder their own belongings,” God said gently. “I know you were trying to help, but when you are weighed down with all these cares, you cannot do what I have asked of you.”

The man jumped to his feet, suddenly realizing the freedom God was offering. “You mean I only have to take the three stones after all?” he asked.

“That is what I asked you to do.” God smiled. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light. I will never ask you to carry more than you can bear.”

We often carry others because we care. But Jesus hasn’t asked us to carry them. Thankfully we can go to Jesus. He will unsaddle us from the weight of carrying. Then we will be free to care again.

A simple adjustment in perspective makes such a powerful difference!

Do you struggle with carrying others?

If so, identify some people you are carrying.

In what ways will your relationships change when you care about them rather than carry them?

To recap the last three weeks:

  • A goal is solely under your control; a desire is not. Goals for self; desires for others.
  • You are responsible to others, not for others.
  • God has asked you to care about others, not carry them.

May our Lord Jesus Christ fill you with His wisdom and knowledge to approach your relationships in healthy ways. May you walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and lead others from a sincere heart of love.

Joanna Weaver, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World (Colorado Springs, Waterbrook Press, 2002) 48-51.

Posted in Character, Faith, Servant Leadership

Exhausted or Empowered Leader? Part One

As servant leaders, we care deeply about those we lead. In fact, the feature that sets servant leadership apart is the capacity to place the needs of followers first, even above the organization. As a result, we invest emotionally in these relationships. This is a good thing. Unfortunately, when our focus is misplaced, this capacity to care has a downside. We may find ourselves frustrated and burned out by those we lead.

During my tenure at a medical pregnancy network, first as a volunteer and then as the director, I learned some valuable concepts that I apply to my life and leadership settings. By making a shift in my thinking, I am able to view my leadership influence in a new way. When I am actively engaged in this way of thinking, I am able to avoid being an exhausted leader and lead as an empowered one.

The first concept that liberated me as a leader is understanding the difference between goals and desires.

Goals
According to Dr. Larry Crabb, “A goal is an objective that is under my control.” For example, suppose my goal is to lose ten pounds. My wonderful husband can make a delicious caramel cheesecake (my favorite dessert), and he can set it right in front of me with a fork and napkin. But does he control my choice? As tempting as his efforts may be, the answer is “No.” My goal to lose ten pounds is dependent on my own personal resolve and choices.

Desires
On the other hand, a desire is “an objective that I may legitimately and fervently want, but cannot reach through my efforts alone.” We can see this played out often in our families and churches. For example, among my own congregation there are people who struggle with addiction. They come to Christ and experience the forgiveness of sins, which is wonderful. But somehow many of them remain bound by addictive behavior. I may desperately want these dearly loved people to be free from the chains of addiction. I can fast and pray for them. I can provide Scriptural tools to help them transform their thinking patterns. I can even provide a safe, accepting environment for them to stay. Will that be enough? No. The decision to be sober is ultimately up to them.

God has called us into a partnership to reach out to the world with His love. However, it requires a positive response from others to become transformed disciples of Christ. That’s part of the mystery of free will–God giving all human beings the choice to accept Christ, to worship Him, to honor Him with their lives.

We will encounter a great deal of discouragement and burn out if we set unrealistic goals for the people we lead. We aren’t big enough to make people choose God’s will for their lives. God is big enough, but He never violates their choices. Set appropriate goals for yourself, ones that are completely within your control. Identify appropriate desires for others. Then direct your prayers accordingly. Goals for self; desires for others.

Next week we will take a look at the concept: “Responsible to others” versus “responsible for others.”

Do you struggle with setting inappropriate goals?

If so, identify some people for whom you have set unrealistic goals.

Reframe those goals in terms of desires. What effect will that have on your relationships?

Ask the Lord for wisdom in setting goals and desires.