Leadership Archive, 2018
12/17 On Classroom Idiosyncrasies:
How are some teachers able to get great results, with student after student, group after group, season after season? One answer is, they perceive and calibrate to classroom idiosyncrasies. This does not necessarily refer to the physical environment (a literal classroom, sports field, etc.), but to the dynamic variables each new student or group possesses. Would you coach an Under-14 boy's basketball team in the same way as an Under-14 girl's team? A class where two-thirds of the students are natural leaders versus a class with only one natural leader? A mentee who is knowledgeable about the material versus a mentee who has never heard the material, ever, not even once?
Discerning classroom idiosyncrasies will determine if your learners hear their dialect when you speak. If they do, they will be much more inspirable, or at least crack the door for you to win them over. Being a phenomenal teacher does not mean photocopying someone successful or thinking there is only one approach; phenomenal teachers are extraordinarily diverse. However, regardless of what a teacher's baseline philosophy or go-to methods might be, on some level they have learned to perceive and calibrate to unavoidable classroom realities.
12/10 On Nudity in Leadership:
The days of aloof, transactional organizational leadership are largely over. The command-n-control structures of the Industrial Revolution and ancient monarchies have given way to leader-follower relationships that are more conscientious, personalized, dialogue-driven, and altogether more "naked". Nudity in leadership means felt transparency, nurtured dialogue channels, and simply more expressed humanity. Excessively "covered" leaders that cast themselves as mysterious Supermen or aloof petit-dictators might win exceptional productivity in the short run, but revolution in the long run.
11/30 On Values vs Methods:
Many leaders fail because they fail to distinguish values from methods. With much thought and energy they design methods, that, if they do not work well enough, they are slow to abandon or modify. They have confused methods with values, the exoskeleton with the vital organs. Many promising leaders have faded into irrelevance by not updating their systems and techniques alongside changing variables on the ground.
Values are your Aristotelian first principles, the innermost philosophical drivers of your leadership or organization. Though these can change, they tend to be far more stable and enduring than methods. Methods are nothing more than systems and techniques that serve as vectors for your values. Some methods need time to drop roots and bear fruits, however, we have to be honest when a system or technique genuinely does not fit the variables. While our values or first principles rarely change, methodology is a continual game of strategic wisdom with the leadership environment and its changing variables. In other words, think like a Lamborghini, not an 18-wheeler.
11/19 On The Improvement Loop:
Set regular periods of measurement, feedback, and procedural adaptation. This neverending improvement loop is critical to making sure the work in progress is a work making progress. John the Revelator was told to measure the temple and its worshipers (Rev 11:1), but to not measure the outer courts (v2). Not everything needs to be measured, but the cornerstones of your organizational culture certainly need to be.
People like (need) to know how they are doing; it touches their infrastructure of self-esteem and self-efficacy. Notable progress must be celebrated, but notable lack of progress must be approached conscientiously and in team terms, yet still candidly.
In your leadership sphere, discern when you are dealing with the true present tense version of a person, or, a past tense version living out unhealed pain or some other unresolved crisis. When the past tense version shows itself, "catch it" in the moment and address it. If you let it go unaddressed and unworked on, it will show itself in the most sensitive or embarrassing moments when lucid, present tense heads are critical.
11/6 On "Catching" Past Versions of People:
10/22 On Conquering vs Ruling:
Alexander the Great taught us, tragically and by non-example, that there is a staggering difference between conquering and ruling. The former is accomplished with daring qualities like tactical nuance, shock and awe, timing, innovation, versatility, risk, and so on. The latter is accomplished with more steadfast qualities, like conscientiousness, situational composure, patience, social skill, building, consensus-building, philosophical wisdom, practical wisdom, and so on.
There are leaders who are savvy conquerors, but poor rulers. These types gain territory quickly and easily, only to lose it or abdicate it in a short space of time. On the other hand, there are leaders who are poor conquerors, but apt rulers. These types often rule tiny territories for lengthy periods, but never or rarely enlarge as they could. As a leader, you will never know the exhilaration of hundred-fold harvests and fruitfulness unless you develop the ability to both conquer and rule.
This is what Paul meant when he said "more than conquerors". We are to occupy, manage, develop, and govern whatever we conquer. Jesus said, "Occupy till I come" (Lk 19:13 KJV)--assuming both conquest and apt management of whatever we conquer with Him.
10/12 On Migrating Concepts:
When teaching Scripture, be attentive and thorough with concepts that migrate. For example, sabbath means this and that in pre-Mosaic Genesis, yet its meaning evolves in the Mosaic Law, evolves yet again in the New Covenant, will evolve yet again in the Millennium, and will evolve into its conceptual completion in the eternal state. The concept is a perpetual, eternal sign (Exodus 31:16,17), however, it is a concept that migrates into fresh meanings and applications as the divine program unfolds.
Scripture has many concepts that migrate. As a teacher of that Word, learn to study concepts systematically and chronologically. Trace them from their first appearances in the earliest scriptures all the way to their final appearances in the latest scriptures. Notice their migration into fresh meanings and applications. What is continued, what is discarded, and what is added regarding that concept? The words/concepts of the Lord are "spirit and life" (John 6:63); they grow, develop, and reach an ultimate form like all living organisms.
9/29 On Schemas & Archetypes:
Even good and decent leaders can have uneradicated, subconscious schemas about people. These schemas or archetypes nudge them to bias, arbitrarily favoring some and arbitrarily cold-shouldering others. A leader's influence, or formation of the best team possible, begins with unrelenting self-awareness and eradication of these deeper schemas. What if you favor the lesser talent, your preferred archetype, and cold-shoulder the "different" one who could shatter your organization's ceiling with frontier creativity? Demolish your archetypes of people and give each individual a genuine chance.
9/17 On Narrative Keenness:
Develop your narrative perception and acumen. One way to do this is by parsing three concepts: (1) story, (2) plot, and (3) narrative. A story is an account or retelling of an event. It answers the basic question, "What happened?" A plot or storyline is how the story is told to convey a specific effect, landscape, or feeling (suspense, empathy, wonder, chaos, etc.). There are many ways to tell the same story. The plot is the segue or bridge into the narrative. A narrative is the ultimate message or philosophy, the third and deepest layer of how people communicate reality.
If you want to create transformation at the essence of a thing, you must perceive and regenerate the deepest, truest narrative driving that thing. Beware of pseudo-narratives and red herring narratives that are not the deepest and truest.
9/5 On False Emergencies:
A discerning leader is watchful against false emergencies. Some individuals, having overwhelming need in an area, will create false emergencies or dramatic scenarios to draw in a leader or person with resources to meet that need. Do not think "resources" means money only. An emotionally starving person might dramatize to draw in a whole, dauntless one. An ambitious person might dramatize to draw in a well-connected one. And so on and so on. When these alleged exigencies and dramas arise, probe the situation. Ask rinding questions. Get to the actuality. If a response is truly warranted, distribute that response among others as much as possible. Learn to sniff out false or exaggerated dramas.
8/8 On Voice & Vocabulary:
A voice and a vocabulary are not the same thing, nor are they sufficient by themselves. Your voice is that visceral, supernatural zeal for a particular field or issue. This pulsates organically from the truest nerve centers of your personality. Your vocabulary is the grammatical and polemical strategies you use to give coherence and persuasiveness to that zeal. Voice alone is little more than emotional idealism. Vocabulary alone is little more than stale intellectualism. Uncover your voice, perfect your vocabulary, and present a coherent, persuasive zeal.
7/16 On Leading Human Nature:
One cannot be a phenomenal leader without a sophisticated understanding of, and painful realism towards, the cornerstones of human nature. People are creatures of inherent deficit, driven by neverending needs and agendas rising from those needs. Very, very few have the metacognition and sustained discipline to live above these for a greater, later outcome. Leading human nature, the typical 97%, means you must shepherd or navigate people's humanity with the same sophistication and pragmatism that you give to the organization's vision and processes. Devote one day a week, at least half the day, to studying human nature and interpersonal wisdom. You will be flabbergasted at what you learn, what you are doing right/wrong, how you are sabotaging this or that, how the environment and culture can be reconfigured, etc.
7/9 On Difficult Decisions:
Some leaders seem strong and competent, at first or for a time, until a truly difficult decision appears before them. Suddenly they become vaseline or watered-down or hot-potato the decision to someone else. A deeper weakness emerges. On the other hand, some leaders seem ineffectual or underwhelming, at first or for a time, until a truly difficult decision appears before them. Suddenly they turn into steel before your eyes. A deeper potency and cogency emerges.
Masterful leaders come alive in opportunities to reshape reality, which usually come disguised as difficult decisions. They do not fear pushing the button or jumping off--and even if they do, they ignore it--to bridge that intimidating gulf between the ideal and the real. Leaders, be certain of this: your loftiest visions and dreams will not come with easy choices that any unremarkable person could make. It will come to you in the unnerving, seemingly cruel fault lines wedged between spheres of reality.
6/26 On Dialogue Trees:
Some leaders are not multipotential conversationalists, especially those with a transactional bent or shaky socially or bogged down with to-dos. In leadership there is no such thing as "meaningless chatter". Every branch and twig of a dialogue tree can hold fruit, so get good at chitchat and peripheral conversations. These build flow and trust, strengthening the connection from twig to branch to trunk to root. A fun or mundane conversation today can lay a runway for a serious and consequential one tomorrow.
6/13 On Chronoception:
A leader must have a balanced and thorough relationship with past, present, and future. A past chronoception (time perception, time orientation) fixates on former realities and experiences; it is unable to fully perceive what is or what could be. A present chronoception fixates on right-now realities and responsibilities; it is unable to fully perceive the meaning and utility of what was or the subtleties of what could be. A future chronoception fixates on potential realities and visions; it is unable to fully perceive the meaning and utility of what was or the need for strategy and industriousness with what is.
To redeem the full spectrum of time, you will have to be a leader who was and is and is to come, a leader with a balanced, thorough, dexterous relationship with past, present, and future. Your chronoception must be trinitarian, synchronizing all three dimensions into a unified forward movement.
6/2 On A Culture of Healthy Risk:
As unnerving as it might sound, leaders must encourage and design a culture of healthy risk in their sphere. Those who orbit you must feel free enough to try the unusual, to venture beyond the false ceiling of known reality and import a new possibility. That may sound like inspirational fluffery to fearful or controlling leaders, but it is the only operational frame in history's greatest proprietors, pioneers, and prophets. If you want your sphere to do what eye has not seen and ear has not heard, a spirit of adventure must be the understood way of life in that sphere. Today that might mean a subtle nuance of creativity that only keen eyes will notice, tomorrow it might mean full-blown iconoclasm. Whatever it means for you and your sphere, pushing into the next realm of true discovery and creation will require a culture of risk.
5/23 On Endless Utilitarian Calculus:
If you do not remain aggressively panoramic and proactive, your leadership will degrade into one utilitarian calculus after another, leaving little time or energy for your actual ideological or grand vision. To be clear, reactivity is an occasional part of leadership. Unexpected or uncontrollable opportunities and threats burst into existence, forcing spontaneity and unscripted tactics. The opportunity is simply that opportune, or the threat is simply that threatening.
If, however, our leadership is an endless trench warfare of one utilitarian calculus after another, we will eventually find ourselves at a stalemate, shooting unproductively across no-man's-land and barely moving an inch toward the grand vision. Read into opportunities and ask, "Is this wise and fitting to our master plan?" Read into threats and ask, "Is this a house fire or ankle fire?"
5/16 On Organizational Growth:
Growth in a church or organization is a blessing and challenge. The creeping eventuality is the fragmentation of once-cohesive departments into overly autonomous units. Overautonomy disconnects the departments from the visional, strategical, and cultural center (the apex leaders), and also disconnects them from one another. There are ways to counteract this, some intuitive (improvisation, situation-specific creativity) and some non-intuitive (structural, cultural).
A non-intuitive tactic is to bind the apex leaders and department leaders, and possibly unofficial influencers, into a tight(er) team. Strengthen and deepen the neural connections from the brain to the nervous system. The apostle Paul was phenomenal at nervous system techniques.
Similarly, the nervous system must have stronger and deeper connections to the brain. Department leaders and unofficial influencers must have some degree of voice in the vision, strategy, and culture of the organization. After all, they are the boots on the ground interfacing with actuality and insular variables.
5/10 On Lies:
Sooner or later every leader will be lied to by a team member or someone in the followship. A lie misrepresents facts or reality on one level, but tells a deeper truth on another level. It is that level, the deeper one, that invites a more profound attention and treatment. Did they lie because they fear you too much? Because they are desperate to keep this job to pay medical bills? Because they feel unequipped to deal with certain facts or realities? Because they harbor a dark disposition that will continue to deceive and exploit? Lying is serious sin and should be addressed as such, but realize people lie for diversiform reasons. Some of those reasons are treatable and transformable, provided they are growth-oriented and you are redemption-oriented.
5/3 On Allies & Human Resources:
Many promising leaders forfeit higher levels of influence because they do not manage existing alliances and human resources well and creatively, or, they alienate potential allies and human resources. People are a mixed bag and relationships are rarely ideal, so resist the hypersensitivity and perfectionism that often characterize low-level and mid-level leaders. Take what is offered and adapt it to your vision and construct.
4/26 On Mirror-Hunger & Ideal-Hunger:
Do you see the group or individuals you lead as real and felt extensions of yourself, as your Mini-Me? Do you invest superfluous happiness in their success, and superfluous sorrow in their failure or struggle? We should care sincerely and invest our hearts in our leadership cause, but we cannot overinvest and try to create a Mini-Me. Beware this "hunger for a mirror" to reaffirm your self-esteem or medicate broken places inside you.
Adding to the temptation, some or many of your followers "hunger for an ideal", propping you up as a transcendent figure or exemplar of whatever they feel they lack (power, beauty, intelligence, privilege, etc.). When ideal-hunger and mirror-hunger meet unmitigated, dangerous movements form and hubris-nemesis leaders emerge. You cannot control people's ideal-hunger, but you can control and be sanctified of your mirror-hunger. Keep cleansing and maturing your internal world, and maintain clear limits of what your followers can expect of you.
4/19 On Resultant vs Emergent Phenomena:
As a leader, from time to time, you will have to figure out what is resultant versus what is emergent in your sphere. Resultant phenomena are outcomes that rise or "result" from the constituent parts of what you are doing or not doing. Emergent phenomena are outcomes that appear or "emerge" independently of what you are doing or not doing. Why is this distinction so critical? Resultant phenomena assign responsibility to your system or process, and therefore, the solutions are also found therein. Emergent phenomena are outcomes with an independent or standalone quality, more or less beyond your control, and therefore the solutions are found in a deeper prayer dependence on the Holy Spirit and frontier ideating by multiple creativists.
4/10 On Leadership Motives:
The issue of motive is perhaps the most important in leadership. Why do you want to be out front? Why do you want decision-making power? Ministerially, when I probe motives, the programmed responses are all the right Sunday School answers. You would think everyone was the virgin Mary. But motives are rarely 100% noble and rarely 100% solipsistic. Our motives are a multiplex of percentages, determined by spiritual maturity, emotional wholeness, understanding of leadership, and other factors. We must commit and submit to daily, lifelong transformation in Christ, getting our noble motives out of the 30th and 40th percentiles (which implies quite a bit of solipsism and unhealthy leadership modes) and into the 80th and 90th percentiles, where the Lord can trust us with greater stewardships of authority and reconfiguring power.
3/29 On Needs & Frames in Leadership Teams:
All leadership teams are a simmering cauldron of needs and frames. How the apex leader ropes in, puts vocabulary to, and functionalizes these dynamics toward an end-goal will determine most outcomes. Learn to lead, therefore, on dual, imbricating tracks. Perceive and conscientiously shepherd the distinct need-frame of each member; do not bayonet-charge into transactional goalmania. Then, imbricate that need-frame into a compatible organizational activity and role. Not perceiving, embracing, or including their need-frame in your leader calculus and behavior is your sword of Damocles.
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