Leadership Archive, 2019
12/27 On Shepherding the Poor:
Temporary poverty can have transformational benefits, like humility, deep appreciation for the non-material happinesses in life, relational development and interdependence, pinpointing and changing poor money habits, and so on. Chronic or inveterate poverty is not, however, the Lord's ultimate ideal for His people or anyone. Deuteronomy 15:4,5 (NIV) say: "...there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow..."
Many individuals, though, for whatever reason, will become poor or start life poor. A few verses later, the Lord acknowledges this realistically (v11 NKJV), "For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.'"
In reading verse 11 one might too quickly assume "opening your hand wide" only means humanitarian benevolence. For spiritual leaders, I challenge you to read more depth into this scripture. Opening the hand wide, for spiritual leaders, also means giving the poor comprehensive economic shepherding and financial responsibility-building. Here are two of the most important economic empowerment points in Scripture. The following is not exhaustive.
Depth identity. Chronic or inveterate poverty is not a mere lack of cash or mere arithmetics. Poverty that persists over many seasons (or generations) is the fruit of a deeper identity that produces a financial personality that produces poverty-enabling behaviors. If we are to shepherd people economically we will have to redig and relay their deepest assumptions and approaches to themselves, others, life, and their Maker.
Calling discovery. Moses wrote that God gives His people "power to get wealth" (Deu 8:18 NKJV). The Hebrew word here for "power" is koach, and in this context it more specifically means "ability or strength." Thus, in everyday vernacular, God gave us signature strengths or abilities or powers through which we can generate personal economy. Each person has something(s) or can do something(s) that, when well-developed, can be valuable enough to create personal economy. We shepherds have to help those in our care to better discern their koach, develop it, or make other adjustments to accommodate its presence and growth.
Chronic or inveterate poverty makes a person feel and live like everyday is their last stand. Being in this survival frame too long hogs the body's, brain's, and soul's resources, setting the precursors to major health problems and leaving little or no vigor for personal design discovery, intellectual development, creative contemplation and strategizing, and overall life development. Most importantly, it tempts a person to wonder about the nature and engagement of the Father in their poverty. As spiritual leaders ministering in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can answer those wonderings about the Father and reveal Him, first, by mobilizing humanitarian care for them in the short-term, and second, by dignifying their human value with comprehensive economic shepherding and transformation for the long-term.
12/6 On Supernatural Power:
The early church grew exponentially for simple reasons: devotion to anointed teaching, felt and sincere relational warmth, an intense prayer movement, unusual generosity, Luke tells us in Acts 2:42-47. It was upon these unfakeable cornerstones that the Lord manifested baffling supernatural power, causing insiders and outsiders alike to be "filled with awe at the many wonders and signs" (v43 NIV). Lest you think it was only the divinely-sanctioned, Scripture-writing apostles manifesting this power, not much later Luke diaries a prayer meeting in which the group collectively cried out, "...enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus" (4:29,30).
Because, in many western churches, ministries, and groups, the aforementioned cornerstones exist only at subeffectual levels (or not at all)--especially the house of prayer--there is a noticeable lack of this supernatural power. To fill vacuous structures where the reality-changing power of Heaven should be, we have turned our eyes and efforts to marketing, group-building gambits, emotional pressure and guilting, more food than we could ever imagine, spectacle and luxury, spiritual pep rally, even a Medieval-style, quasi-sociopathic money-for-miracles cute little trick.
This lack of raw spiritual power is not because the Holy Spirit is saving it for the evangelistic frontiers in underground Iran or the Amazon bush (as if He would run out), or because He took a power nap after the book of Revelation was completed or the New Testament canon was finalized (as if Truth hamstrung Spirit). Neither of these is articulated in Scripture. This lack of power falls flush on our strangely persistent disobedience to being a house of prayer, which includes fasting and the derivative sanctifications that come from these. Of all the fundamental designations Jesus could have given to the church, He quotes a prophecy that foretold we would be a house of prayer (Mt 21:13, Isa 56:7). We would never need to beg or trick or guilt people in coming to the ekklesia if a baffling power they have never seen or felt shatters the reality they have been living in, introducing to them a meta-reality that has already been programmed into their hearts (Ecc 3:11).
11/20 On Industrial Age vs Information Age Leadership:
The Industrial Revolution depended on command-n-control leadership, on largely unilateral, top-down communication and decision-making structures. Work below the executive level was repetitive and predictable, revolving around mass production, less or not at all on creativity or tactics.
The Information Age thrust a different type of leadership to the foreground, leadership forced to be creative, inclusive, collaborative, delegative, exceedingly tactical. The technologizing and interconnecting of the world has forced leaders to become genuinely collegial, genuinely team-oriented.
In the Industrial Age, only (or mainly) the owners and executives had the educational sophistication and means of production to make organizational decisions. In the Information Age, the lowest worker on the flowchart might have knowledge and know-how equal to or greater than the decision-making top tier. Why? How? The near-ubiquitous availability of information.
The Information Age has undermined traditional learning institutions and created alternate pathways to knowledge and know-how on just about any subject imaginable. In this free-for-all and free-to-all information environment, decision-makers are increasingly forced to be true team players. What if someone down the chain knows more than them? Is more creative and tactical? Has a better eye for opportunities and threats? The Industrial Age not only isolated the means of production, but also higher knowledge and know-how. The Information Age shattered the latter.
Aware of all this, some executives have established bottom-up mechanisms whereby even the janitor or mail sorter can communicate knowledge and know-how up the chain. I am not referring to a mere Suggestions Box or occasional survey, but meaningful mechanisms and patient dialogue that consistently extract the mindpower of the entire workforce. In today's reality you will not get far being a transactional, command-n-control leader. You are not running a 1920's factory and you are not a Roman caesar. You are functioning in a reality where a few, several, or many people in the group might have the keys to fruitfulness and good success.
11/8 On The Human Cathexis for a King:
The word cathexis refers to an emotional and mental fixation on an idea, person, or object. Humans have a cathexis, a visceral and recurring craving, for a king. Modern sophisticated minds, however, will use lexica far more beautified or sublimated than "king". The deeper cathexis is the same, though: humans crave a reality definer, a decisive actor, an obvious leader, a protector, a creator and maintainer of group identity. That de facto king might be a strong spouse (like Jezebel to Ahab), family ruler (like the pater familias), an influential leader in a certain field (like Stephen Hawking or a politician or a closely followed Christian leader), even a friend or associate or ward with kingly qualities (like Joseph or Absalom). However a person vocabs those they look up to and follow, God's Word says the deeper force at work is the instinct and cathexis for a king.
The Word describes this concept with an illustrative roundabout. It says, often, humans are sheep without a shepherd, wandering and wanting exactly that (Num 27:17, 1Ki 22:17, 2Chr 18:16, Ps 49:14, Isa 13:14, Eze 34:5,6, Zec 10:2, Mt 9:36, Mk 6:34). Notice, then, how the Lord uses the term shepherd to illustrate king (2Sam 5:2, Isa 44:28, Jer 23:4,5, Eze 37:24). They are very different jobs on paper, but function on an identical emotional-social algorithm. A verse that captures this algorithm is Psalm 49:13,14 (AMP): This is the fate of those who are foolishly confident, and of those after them who approve [and are influenced by] their words...Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol...Death will be their shepherd...
See the social dynamic (and shepherdly language) in this verse: a kingish actor and communicator listened to and followed by sheep looking for a shepherd/king. Because said person is not healthy and godly these sheep will be shepherded, poetically speaking, by Sheol and Death. We could call this person a shepherd, king, consul, caesar, president, pastor, husband, wife, friend, coworker, lover, prophet, teacher, professor, expert, coach, mentor, influencer, or whatever else, but the simple algorithm at work is a God-given hunger for a king. Those who do not understand this hunger and rightly respond to it end up letting Sheol and Death shepherd them.
If we follow this theological roundabout full circle we arrive at the end-truth that our Maker has designed this hunger in every person. Our God-given desire for a king, for a shepherd, is a desire for Jesus, the King of kings, the Shepherd King. When that cathexis is not satisfied daily and ongoingly through a direct experience with Him, we try to fill it with the next best thing: a human (with at least some) kingly qualities. Hence the perpetual human tragedy of listening to people we shouldn't, getting close to people we shouldn't, falling in love with people we shouldn't, giving money to people we shouldn't, following leaders we shouldn't. We are not in a state of mind or state of heart to set up kings in our life or group or organization unless we are first enjoying a daily, ongoing experience with the kingship of Jesus. When we are not living and moving and having our being in Him, Hosea 8:4 happens (NIV): They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval. With their silver and gold they make idols for themselves to their own destruction.
10/27 On Peter the Devil & Judas My Friend:
Jesus called Peter, His close friend and leading disciple, the devil (Mt 16:23). He called Judas, His betrayer and the one who jumpstarted His suffering, a friend (26:50). Peter the devil and Judas my friend? These paradoxical, counterintuitive designations tell us crucial things about leadership and leadership development.
Peter pandered to Jesus' feelings and earthly interests, asserting vehemently that He would not (could not) suffer and die. This was, however, Jesus' ultimate purpose, to offer Himself as a lamb unblemished for the sins of humanity. Peter, in a spasm of seeming loyalty, either lacked the spiritual insight to understand this or lashed out in denial at the idea that his Messiah could suffer and die. Whatever Peter's deeper issue was, at that moment he spoke oppositionally to Jesus' purpose.
Leadership development point: recognize when loved ones or colleagues are asserting truth claims or offering opinions that oppose your God-given purpose. Even the Peters in our life can be temporary devils.
Judas the traitor, in a remarkable irony, facilitated Jesus' purpose. What maturity and perfection of thought for Jesus to recognize this and call Judas a destiny friend. Similarly, God will use surface critics, persecutors, even toxic enemies, to accomplish His greatest transformational works in us. Critical weaknesses like character dark spots, social blindspots, or tactical foolishness get exposed and addressed and transformed into strengths and power points. The Peters in our life typically do not point these out, or they do and we do not take them seriously, and so God raises up a Judas to do what Peter could not. Before you counterattack with tribal emotion and recoil in hate, rise into Jesus' maturity of thought and recognize Judas' importance to you. Something in you needs to die. Something in you needs to develop.
10/15 On Shepherding Motives, Attuned Ministry:
Political scientists have researched three main motives that drive a person's political convictions: interests (my family, my job, my money, my identity, etc.), ideals (worldview, ideology), and institutions (established structures). While this explains political motive nicely, it also explains, to a certain extent, how people function in general, especially in congregations or churches.
Some people connect with a church because it benefits their immediate personal interests. Some do so from a sense of Biblical worldview or ideals, i.e., that Christians are supposed to worship, fellowship, and learn together in Christ-centered gatherings. Some do so from a sense of commitment to or safeguarding status quo institutions, of which organized Christianity is certainly one in the western world.
Leaving aside right-wrong or inferior-superior valuations for the moment, how can congregational leaders be proactive and creative towards the mosaic of motives that walk through that door?
The perennial starting point is to unilaterally love, befriend, and truly get to know those who come to church. This may seem like common sense, but congregational leaders get sidetracked and bogged down by their own motives for coming to church, and even more, for being leaders. This complicates the giving of unilateral conscientiousness from leader to visitor/attender/member.
The purpose of what I call "depth hospitality" is to better understand the heart of the person connecting to the church, because, ultimately, shepherding that individual fruitfully will be largely determined by their motives. While we can never know someone's heart the way the Lord does, we can certainly know enough to interact with them in ways that are strategic. People often leave churches, or worse, create a mess, because their truer, deeper motive for coming was never adequately touched. There is, often, a motive-ministry mismatch.
This does not mean congregations should pander to visitors/attenders/members--absolutely not. This only means congregational shepherding must be attuned, deep, and custom-fitted as much as possible. This places the first mover locus onto us leaders. We must search our own hearts! Do we have the objectivity and leadership maturity to love unilaterally, without forced or passive-aggressive agendas? Do we have the patience to take the extra time, the extra step, even the extra mile, to reach a person's actual motives, and therefore, the hope of a more fruitful ministry to them?
9/27 On "Letting Your Hair Grow":
Judges 5:2 has one of the most intriguing phrases in all of Scripture. The original Hebrew idiom is difficult to import into the English language, hence the variable attempts. The NASB renders our phrase of interest as "That the leaders led in Israel..." The NKJV renders it, "When leaders lead in Israel..." The JPS Tanakh 1917, "When men let grow their hair in Israel..." Young's Literal Translation, "For freeing freemen in Israel..."
Though these renderings seem discordant, they are not. They are pointing in the same direction albeit with different linguistic strategies.
In the ancient world slaves often had their heads shaved. Once freed, some continued to keep their heads shaved out of mere habit or being emotionally stuck in that slave identity. The JPS Tanakh 1917 and YLT try to capture these historical ideas by rendering the phrase "When men let grow their hair in Israel..." and "For freeing freemen in Israel..." The NASB and NKJV try to capture the larger point of the Hebrew idiom, which is, Deborah's celebration of the disappointingly few men who rose to the challenge of fighting Jabin, tyrant of Canaan and Israel (Judges 4).
If we piece together all the translational attempts like a puzzle, we get a nice idea of what Deborah is saying in context: when men let their hair grow (they grow out of the humiliating habits of slavery) and freemen actualize their freedom (their emotions and actions catch up with reality) they have the strength to lead and fight. In Hebrew all this can be captured in one idiomatic phrase. In English we do not have a direct parallel.
Deborah opened her song with this line of celebration because so few men rose up to throw off Jabin. She is celebrating, as our saying goes, "a few good men". The rest of her song elaborates on that opening line.
Until Deborah rose to judicial power, village life ceased in Israel (5:7). People avoided the main roadways out of fear (v6). No one rose up to fight back and change this situation, and so she lamented that among 40,000 men there was not a single weapon! Not a single shield or spear (v8). Suddenly she shifts to praising God for the few who did rise to the occasion (v9-15), while chastising those who did not (v15-17,23). Finally she celebrates Jael, the woman who drove a tent spike through Sisera's skull to finalize the victory over Jabin's tyranny (v24-27).
This story, in Deborah's context, is about male weakness and female strength. It is also about the sad reality that, even though Israel was many years removed from Egyptian slavery, there were still many people with slavery habits and identity.
This gives us tremendous truths about personal development and leading others. It tells us leadership strength can be found in women just as much as, and sometimes more than, men. It tells us that people, including we ourselves, cannot be mobilized for bold action if they/we are not internally free from past realities. It tells us that we, as leaders, must be equally attentive to the personal development of those in our sphere just as much as organizational objectives.
What about you, leader friend? Are you still metaphorically shaving your head, or letting it grow? You are a freeman, but are you free? Are you among the 40,000 in which Deborah saw not a single weapon of war?
9/13 On Translating Vision & Values into Organizational Architecture:
Vision and values are the fire, the instinct, the want-to of leadership. Vision and values, however, must be translated into a commensurate organizational architecture to be fruitful. Many well-meaning leaders are filled with an inspiring vision and well-defined values, but inferior practical mechanisms that optimize those qualities in a reality that runs on time, space, matter, and money, not vision and values. Their fruitfulness is almost always limited and meager, often deflating. Even fruit-bearing plants need an environmental architecture that works with and for their seed. Harvest potential is just that and nothing more, harvest potential.
Everything in your organization has to work with and for your vision and values. If an element, activity, department, expenditure, or tradition does not enable the fire, it must be shed. In some settings that shedding can be instant or quick, in others it may need to be phased. Regardless of which way best fits your variables, do it. It is draining tangible and intangible resources away from the truest, purest fire.
Everyone in your organization has to work with and for the vision and values (the macro, culture-wide ones). Occasionally people must be shed too. You can do this in a way that is respectful and humane, but do not hang on to irrelevant human resources because of emotional immaturity and hyper-compassion. This is not group therapy or a high school posse. This is a stoic organization with a specific identity burning from a specific vision and specific values.
Finally, organizational simplicity and mobility is a leader's friend. More doing does not equal more fruitful. An attractive vision and values, funneled through helpful, simple, and mobile mechanisms, carried out with good strategy and technique, leads to more fruit.
8/30 On Originalism:
The Lord asked insecure Moses, "What is in your hand?" (Ex 4:2). Elisha asked the indebted widow, "What is in your house?" (2Ki 4:2).
Many leaders fail, or stagnate at mediocrity, not because they do not have this or that, but because they do not perceive what is in their own hand and in their own house. They do not perceive, much less use and emphasize, their originalist design and signature instincts. They try too hard to be and do what they think will be accepted, all the while dumbing down what makes them original and visceral, and therefore stand out and emanate influence, and therefore draw people to them, and therefore bear fruit.
This lack of self-awareness and authentic self-presentation has been, and continues to be, the perennial glass ceiling of many leaders. They are excessively in tune to the approval/disapproval gestures coming from their environment, essentially viewing themselves as the TV and the people as the remote control. This is not truest leadership. Truest leadership catches fire from self-awareness of one's deepest propellants and expressing boldly, "This is where I want to go myself, this is where I am going, come if you want."
Of course this does not negate leading with an emollient (conscientiousness, sensitivity). However, what some leaders call "sensitivity" is actually propriety anxiety or anxiety for approval or fear of standing out or fear of pioneering (which almost always requires a period of walking alone). Instead of being someone else's TV, I ask you: What is in your hand? What is in your house?
8/12 On Designing the Mentorship Construct:
The mentor-apprentice relationship exists on a gradational spectrum. At the minimal gradients there is only occasional and mostly unstructured conversation, observation, and perhaps some joint activity. At the maximal gradients there is significant and recurring conversation, observation, joint activity, and depending on the field, a sharing of personal lives. Whether he/she realizes it or not, the maximal gradients require the mentor design a mentorship construct that fits the apprentice. It requires the mentor design a subworld in which the apprentice can develop quickly and with less roadblocks, and, in which the mentor tailors his/her knowledge and skills to the dispositions and learning nuances of the apprentice.
Ironically, video game design can help with designing the mentorship construct. Game designers use a few philosophic first principles in designing the subworld of the game.
The precept of complexity says the gameworld should be multidimensional and challenging so as to stimulate a visceral interest in the player. To accommodate the fact that individuals have varying tolerance-thresholds for the complex, game designers include playing options like Beginner-Intermediate-Advanced, or, increasingly complex levels with the earliest levels being simpler and easier. In designing the mentorship construct, be sure your apprentice is given a Goldilocks zone of complexity to manage. This translates into logistics like work requirements, schedules, type and number of assignments, planned conversations, etc., i.e., managing the overall apprenticeship world he/she is in.
The precept of cognitive load says the gameworld should demand intellectuality, or various forms of thinking. This differs from complexity in that complexity pertains to the game elements directly, while cognitive load pertains to general intellectual ability like critical thinking, perceptual thinking, speed of perception, conceptualization, synthesis, and so on. In the mentorship construct, perhaps the greatest impartation you will make is to their global intelligence that generalizes to every other area of their life. Be sure your apprentice is given a Goldilocks zone of cognitive load, according to what they can handle. Some of that will pertain directly to the mentorship material, some should transcend it with larger applications.
The precept of input vs outcome says the gamer should get a sense of accomplishment and gratification (outcome) commensurate to their level of investment (input). This is why the rewards or powers become more and more sensational as the gamer successfully completes each stage or level. In the mentorship construct, the one and only reward cannot be that ultimate carrot, like a PhD or a job promotion or a national championship. Little victories and phased successes must be rewarded accordingly. Sure the mama carrot can be there, but apprentices need to be refilled and will be refilled with fresh zeal if there is a trail of baby carrots along the way.
7/25 On Reason & Sentiment in Consensus-Building:
Notice, in the Acts 15 incident, how Peter and Paul generated consensus differently, albeit complementarily. Peter used reason, appealing to the listener's intellect with doctrinal and logical salvos (v7-11). Barnabas and Paul used sentiment, appealing to the listener's heart and need for experience by "declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles" (v12 NKJV). Together, the two approaches appealed to the total soul and epistemological tendency of each individual in the group.
Many leaders fail to build consensus in their group because they use only one epistemological dimension, either reason only or sentiment only. Furthermore, they tend to use the dimension that they themselves incline towards. Your group is motley, therefore, your appeals must be motley and dialect-driven. If you, as an individual, cannot operate in multiple epistemological dialects, use other leaders who speak those other dialects. Plural, diverse leadership is ideal anyway. If this is not possible in your group or organization, then you will have to stretch forth and grow into new aspects of social skill, appeal, and consensus-building.
6/30 On Seven Eyes, Perceptual & Perspective Objectivity:
Salience bias...a lopsidedness towards what is obvious, front, and center, to the detriment of what is subtle or peripheral. Attribution bias, and its next of kin, correspondence bias...a lopsidedness to quickly categorize another person's behavior as internally or ontologically motivated (who they really are) versus socially motivated (how the social situation profoundly compelled them). Availability bias...a lopsidedness towards "proof" that is more accessible or fresher in the mind, though possibly inaccurate or incomplete. Confirmation bias...a lopsidedness towards information that favors or seems to favor one's belief, to the neglect of information that contradicts, questions, or undermines that belief. Optimism bias...a lopsidedness towards unrealistic positivity, such as believing only or mainly positive things will happen to me (but not necessarily to everyone else), or, that things will certainly, undoubtedly be better in the future. Anchoring bias...a lopsidedness towards one dominant piece of information, an "anchor", in the thinking or decision-making process, often (but not always) the first or earliest experience with the subject matter at hand.
These and other heuristics are merely diverse forms of tunnel vision, cute-like-gremlins mental schemes to block out more complete, comprehensive realities. Without perceptual and perspective objectivity leadership becomes imbalanced, at best, sinister and malicious, at worst. At risk of overstating this truth, we might say there is no leadership without objectivity, only personal or parochial interests.
In Revelation 5:6, John sees "a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain...He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth."
In this scene, the sevenfold Holy Spirit is metaphorically manifested on Jesus as seven horns and seven eyes. Of interest to us are the seven eyes, which metaphor Jesus' truly complete perception and perspective. In leadership, if our self-awareness is too low, our mental heuristics will narrow our vision to one eye or two eyes or even half an eye! Our perception and perspective will not be thorough, but lopsided, shortcut, and lazy, leading to suboptimal or unfruitful leadership behaviors.
It takes more energy to be seven-eyed, yes. It takes more contemplation to be seven-eyed, yes. It takes patient prayer. It takes listening like an owl. It takes reading like a Fahrenheit 451 resistor. Your brain wants simplicity and efficiency, so overcome that brain with intentional habits and intentional leadership, starting with waging war on your heuristics and striving for seven eyes at all times.
6/17 On Creating a Colony Scent:
Cats do not recognize each other by sight or sound or even experience the way humans do, they depend on scent. 200 million scent receptors to be exact (to humans' 5 million). Through allogrooming, rubbing, and gentle headbutting, cats create a discernible (to them) "colony scent" that establishes a social group of safe, meaningful (to them) coexistence.
Leaders, mainly those who lead groups in the caregiving realm, must create a colony scent within the group. Cats do this by rubbing their cheeks on things and on each other, cheeks where they have powerful scent glands. For a group of people to rub cheeks--express vulnerability, honesty, and closeness--the leader has to be the courageous initiating cat and do it first (and regularly). This does not mean he/she should share things that are superfluously sensitive or undermining to the leadership dynamic. However, he/she must share enough unvarnished humanity to leave a scent and mark the group emotionally. People, in general, know this kind of scent. Their heart knows it. In time, as they feel safe, they too will rub cheeks with one another and with the leader, creating a distinct colony scent that only becomes more pronounced, more familiar, and consequently, more healing, with time.
Amazingly, in Hosea 11:4, God says He loves in this profoundly catlike way. Hosea 11:4 says (NIV, underline mine), "I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek..."
Before we mark others with our vulnerability, honesty, and closeness, the Lord wants to mark us first with His. We love because He first loved us (1Jn 4:19). The healing, lifechanging experience of being lifted to the Father's cheek becomes the experiential and emotional precedent by which we can share a similar experience with others. While intelligence and facts are critical to successful leadership, they do not create a colony scent. Rubbing cheeks does.
6/7 On The End of History Bias:
The end of history illusion is a psychological, self-directed bias in which a person imagines they are in their final form, that they will not change anymore in any significant way. Knowingly or unknowingly, they believe they have reached a final self or cruising altitude or "end" of their developmental trajectory as a person.
Why would someone, especially a leader of others, drift into this illusion? For some it is pride in the level of development they have attained. For some it is fear, for they realize the cost of the previous changes and cringe to imagine further ones. For some it is a love and appreciation for the level they have attained, and genuinely cannot envision new developments. For some it is a cathexis for finality or closure, they cannot handle open-ended realities like lifelong transformation and perpetual growth; they need metrics and finish lines. Whatever the reason or cluster of reasons, the end of history illusion is what causes many leaders to fade into irrelevance.
Most societies are constantly changing, sometimes with baffling speed and uncontrollable spasms. The world's body of knowledge refreshes in a disruptive, significant way every five to seven years, by some research estimates. Though basic human nature is fairly constant, our defense mechanisms and coping techniques are ever-changing with increasing cleverness, especially with new technologies to "help" us. If you, as a leader, have drifted into an end of history bias, shake that viper off you into the fire of perpetual transformation. I can assure you friend, you are the only history you think has stopped.
Pinpoint and address why the end of history bias is a draw for you. Read new material in fields of study outside your norm. Stretch forth your intellectual and lexical range. Look for new parallels or synchronicities among disparate realms or episodes. Experiment courageously with creative new modules and techniques, even if some fail and flop; some will work beautifully and open a new realm. Resist turning a few experiences into a blanket theory of everything; a few experiences are just that, a few experiences, and a theory of everything is just that, a theory of everything. Have the humility to adapt and change again. And again. And again.
5/26 On Plato's Academy vs Aristotle's Lyceum:
The best leaders diversify their teaching modules and techniques. While we might prefer this mode or that, the skilled leader discerns the listener and context so as to teach in a way that is calibrated, yet somehow still faithful to his/her greatest didactic strengths. There is, therefore, no competition between Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Peripatetic Lyceum.
Plato's college looked and felt like a modern university, classroomish and exclusive. Aristotle's college looked and felt more like an organized movement; teaching was done while walking throughout the Lyceum's cloister (hence the term, peripatetic), and it was open to the general public. What do we perceive from this? There are times when a classroomish exclusivity is best, like Jesus on the Mount of Olives with only His twelve disciples. There are also times when a public openness, felt casualness, and sense of macro movement is best, like Jesus speaking publicly from place to place as crowds followed and listened.
Resist the narrow one-dimensionality of personal strengths or preferences in teaching and communicating. Calibrate them to the disposition of the listener or context. Some respond mightily to sitting and listening in Plato's classroom or the Mount of Olives with an exclusive group of kindred learners. Some respond mightily to peripatetics, i.e., "walking and learning", changing scenery, listening in motion, listening as I go, and absorbing the movement at a macro level.
5/16 On Escapism & Megalothymia:
Paul, an apostle writing to one of his pastors, said, "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2Ti 1:7, Young's Literal Translation). Though this scripture is often extrapolated and applied ubiquitously, the native context in which it was written was between two leaders. Our first reading of this text, then, should be with leadership eyes. Paul's final phrase, a sound mind, is our focus for the moment.
The Greek word for this phrase is sophronismos. It is ultimately derived from two root words, sozo, which means "to save, heal, make whole," and phren, which means "the midriff, diaphragm, or core (literally), the heart or mind (figuratively)." Thus, in more thorough Greek, Paul is getting at a healed, whole, healthy core.
The apostle is telling his leader-apprentice, Timothy, and every leader reading his words, that our inner core must be well to be a spiritually, emotionally, and socially healthy leader. Remember Jim Jones? His inner core was not well. David Koresh? Warren Jeffs? King Saul? Absalom? Diotrephes? Their inner core was not well. Too many leaders and leaders-to-be are broken inside, without a sound mind, without a midriff or core that is whole. What makes a broken leader menacing, at best, sinister, at worst, is how they manipulate the leadership apparatus to cope with that brokenness. Their leadership is not a legitimate, well-intended social configuration, but a medicating mechanism to keep pain suppressed (escapism) and a compensating mechanism to get as far away from that pain as possible (megalothymia). Leading to medicate and compensate turns followers into transactional pawns, effectively diminishing, if not eliminating, their preciousness as valuable creatures made in the image of God.
And so Paul says to his apostolic apprentice: do not be darkly inspired by fear, but actionate towards a sound mind, an interior world that is whole. Practically, that means facing, and continuing to face, your personhood above and before your leadership. Pinpoint and dismantle medicating and compensating tricks, especially escapism and megalothymia. Process and heal the pain and self-image problems driving those mechanisms.
5/4 On Spiritual Aristocracy, Pseudo-Mediation:
Few things smell more putrid than ego-driven, attention-loving, bullyish leadership, how much more so from spiritual leadership in the born-again community! These "spiritual aristocracy" types de-emphasize, sometimes ignore entirely, the priesthood of the individual believer, that New Covenant privilege granting direct personal access to the very presence of God. In more practical language, they do not emphasize you seeking, perceiving, and learning the Lord for yourself through His Word, rather, they cast themselves, usually subtly, in a mediatorial role between you and the Lord.
Before the First Coming, the God-to-humanity and humanity-to-God mediatorial function was administered and foreshadowed by the Old Testament ministerial anointings, namely the prophets, priests, judges, and kings. The Lord Jesus fulfilled these foreshadows, becoming the perfect and final "one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus" (1Ti 2:5). There is no other mediator. Jesus' perfection and fulfillment of the mediatorial role tore the preventative veil alienating the common believer from the very presence of God, now granting direct personal access to Him, that we might seek, perceive, and learn Him for ourselves by coming boldly and freely to the throne of grace (Heb 4:16).
The New Covenant priesthood of the individual believer does not negate the mandate and need for helpful relationships within the born-again community. We learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ, and, we learn from good leaders and those ahead of us spiritually (Eph 4:11-16). The seesaw must remain balanced: learn from the Lord directly and learn from others in the born-again community. We in leadership must wage a good warfare against our lower selves, self-monitoring and never tolerating ungodly leadership ways (1Co 11:31). Do not de-emphasize the individual believer's priesthood, emphasize and nurture it. Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but with sober realism (Ro 12:3).
4/23 On Mixed, Unpredictable Legacy:
We cannot always predict, much less control, how proteges, successors, and later-comers will use the philosophies and concepts we articulated. This is true in any domain of leadership.
When Nietzsche wrote of the ubermensch, "the blonde beast", and the will to power, did he have in mind proto-Nazism? This will forever be debated, for who knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of that man within him, especially when that man seems inconsistent in his writings. We do, however, know very well Hitler co-opted Nietzsche's thoughts (among other thinkers) and functionalized them into what became a Eurasian conquest, World War II, and the Holocaust.
When Aristotle poured into Alexander the Great, could he have known that his student would dash like a winged-leopard across Eurasia to the Indus River, conquering, plundering, and establishing a supraregional culture that would become the fundament of western civilization and eventually the United States?
Mixed, unpredictable legacy, always a possibility. What can a leader do, especially a thought leader? Articulate implications and applications--right and wrong, superior and inferior--as thoroughly as philosophies and concepts. This extra pragmatic step is not a cure-all, but some individuals will take heed, souls vulnerable to running in the wrong direction with powerful information, but nonetheless receptive to guidance.
4/14 On Apostolic Suffering & Apostolic Power:
Authentic apostolic leaders possess a special grace to sustain unusual suffering to accomplish sweeping or groundbreaking kingdom initiatives (Ac 8:1, 1Co 4:9-13, 2Co 1:8-10, 7:5, 11:23-33). The New Testament writers never shrink back from presenting this unsavory truth.
Because apostolic initiatives are often broad and/or groundbreaking, they provoke highly exalted and deeply entrenched powers, both human and spiritual. Occasionally provoked are violent spirits (Ac 16:16-24, 17:5-8, 21:27-36, 1Co 15:32), political spirits (how often do we see the original apostles arrested or imprisoned?), and most certainly religious spirits (2Co 11:3-5,13-15, 1Jn 4:1-6, Gal 1:8). But this forceful resistance is not the end of the matter. Apostolic suffering leads to unique apostolic power, manifested by the Spirit to meet and defeat the challenge. Isaiah rightly said (Isa 59:19 NKJV), "When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him." The final outcome is the uprooting of deeply entrenched darknesses and the installation of some kingdom reality in that location or system.
4/6 On Time Frame Transformation:
Leaders in the realm of personal transformation will inevitably have to address a person's chronoception. Chronoception means "time perception". It can refer to our relationship with time, how we orient ourselves on the past-present-future spectrum of reality. It determines the time frame our psyche lives in.
They might not realize it, they might even deny it, but a person's life is driven largely by their deeper relationship with time. Their time orientation is like a centrifuge that spins their emotions, thoughts, behaviors, choices, relationships, finances, leadership, ministry, theology, etc. into cycle after cycle after cycle after cycle. In shepherding people towards personal change, we often must discern and apply transformational measures that redevelop the time frame in which they subsist internally.
A past chronoception is a time orientation that consciously or subconsciously fixates on former realities. When we say a person is "stuck in the past" we are saying their psyche subsists in a previous time frame. A present chronoception is a time orientation that consciously or subconsciously fixates on right-now realities. One indicator of this orientation is an elevated urgency and tunnel-vision about immediate responsibilities, needs, and wants. A future chronoception is a time orientation that consciously or subconsciously fixates on potential or yet-to-come realities. One indicator that a person is stuck in a future place called There is they tend to be dreamy, wishful, impractically idealistic, and negligent in the right-now.
To experience transformation, they will have to become a person who was, is, and is to come. They will need to grow into a comprehensive relationship with time, not stuck and subsisting in any one time frame, but moving freely into what was, what is, or what is to come as life necessitates. Regarding what was, I must process, heal, and learn from my past and have an increasingly enlightened relationship with it. Regarding what is to come, I must seek the Lord daily for personal vision, vision that illuminates my thoughtlife and inspires me to teleological action-plans in the present. Regarding what is, God orders our present steps teleologically, according to His ultimate purposes for our life. Thus, while it is necessary to attend to immediate responsibilities, needs, and (some) wants in the here and now, we cannot tunnel-vision into them and neglect teleological actions that are now creating what is to come.
3/26 On Leadership Ceilings:
Like any other attribute or activity, a leader can hit a frustrating ceiling in his/her development and influence. Often, pride and avoiding risk are two reasons for the ceiling.
A leader stops growing, as a person and as a social specialist, when his/her pride blocks new (or overlooked) information requisite to new growth and influence. Perhaps it is a book or wisdom from an author you would not normally read. Perhaps it is a dialogue or friendship with a person you would not normally engage. Perhaps you take coaching and counseling too personal, as a self-esteem statement instead of a learning opportunity. Pride--the most fundamental and sinister of all sins in which all other sins are rooted and pampered as "not that bad"--keeps a leader underwhelming and limited, with only patches or short stretches of impressive leadership effect. Your pride is crippling you more than you perceive. Proverbs 9:7-9 (NIV) was written for you: Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse. Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you. Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.
A leader stops growing, as a person and as a social specialist, if he/she avoids risk. To clarify, a leader cannot and should not constantly be taking risks; there are times to simply settle in and establish go-tos or simply build what already is. However, when moments of risk come, often in the form of opportunity to seize or threat to avert, the leader cannot cower down into fear and excessive safety. The so-called "turnaround artist" or gamer or closer or maverick or phenom usually becomes that through daring unorthodoxy, gutsy changes in direction, breaking out of personal tendencies, ignoring norms, creative madness, ruse, bluff, and all manner of strategic audacity.
3/14 On Clausewitzian Transformation:
The Clausewitzian philosophy of warfare says to, one, identify the enemy's center of gravity, and two, achieve mass at that decisive point and destroy or commandeer. This strategic concept is relevant and transferable to leaders who work in domains of individual transformation, like counseling, pastoring, life coaching, addiction, etc.
Pinpointing a person's transformational gravity centers, and achieving destructive or constructive mass exactly there, is central to helping someone change. Too often personal change projects are cosmetic redesigns, focusing on behavior modification or creating new habits or suppressing deeper monsters. This is akin to winning side skirmishes on the expendable flanks of an army, while leaving central command and supply lines untouched. Personal transformation, if it is to be genuine and permanent, must be jarring and ontological. In the truest sense of the word it must be transformation. A person's deeper centers of gravity--like identity cornerstones, childhood experiences, unresolved hurts, deep fears, inveterate attitudes, status injuries, settled-into-concrete unhealthy relationships, etc.--must be pinpointed, processed, healed, redesigned, or if need be, unsparingly demolished.
Leaders who work in this domain must be, to a large degree, Clausewitzian. Certainly there will be times for subtlety and noninvasive tactics, however, these are more effective when working with a person or group longterm, for they require more time to take effect. Most of us, however, work with others in shorter spans of time, say, a few months to a few years. The transient and community-less nature of today's world contributes to this greatly, further mandating that we do not waste moments trying to be liked, being too noninvasive, being afraid to go for the transformational jugular and see more dramatic results.
3/5 On The Deceptive Limit of Technology:
Do not believe the subtle, tantalizing suggestion that technology has changed basic human nature or can replace human-to-human leadership. Some technologies are exciting and sense-driven enhancers, while others are utilitarian assistants. These are nice augments or simplifiers, but their limits are deceptive. When the sensory effect wears off, then what? When operational or tactical or creative or conscientious decisions must be made, then what? Leadership has, is, and always will be a human endeavor. Technology merely gives exponentially greater agency to unchanging human needs, appetites, and mechanisms.
2/21 On Leadership Legitimacy, The Follower's Psyche:
The question of legitimacy is the background music of all leadership. What legitimizes a leader? Why is one person perceived and embraced as a leader, but not another? What known or unknown criteria enable the leadership mechanism? (NOTE: Forced or non-consensual leadership is not in purview here.)
The on-the-ground reality is, leadership is just as much in the psyche of the follower as it is in the attribute and skill palette of the leader. One does not diminish the importance of the other, however, the "landing pad" in the follower's psyche is often underappreciated and certainly understated.
Every individual brings values and needs to every social interaction. Knowingly and unknowingly, the individual is drawn to figures (persons), niches, and situations with potential to satisfy those values and needs. Once a figure crosses a subjective consent threshold in the follower's mind, the leadership mechanism actuates. That consent threshold might be low (i.e., needier or less discerning individuals) or it might be high (i.e., more independent or judicious individuals) or something in-between.
In the same way, then, that many leaders view their followers as extensions of themselves or "selfobjects", many followers view their leaders as selfobjects just the same. At healthy minimalist levels, we could call this compatibility or symbiosis. At unhealthy levels, we could call this narcissistic leadership and narcissistic followship; the obsessive self-extension is going both ways. Thus, in the final analysis, leadership legitimacy, whether healthy or unhealthy, to a significant degree, is determined by the follower and his/her own internal matrix. This is why people tend to follow an on-the-ground de facto leader, who is more compatible psychologically, over a leader appointed by fiat, dynasty, or structural procedure, who tries to lead by policy or projects or objectives or tradition alone.
Powerful leaders tune into and tunnel into the heart of followers (or would-be followers), and if he/she shares their values, leads them toward the greater reality they both envision. What makes this relationship pure or dangerous is the degree of self-extension being exchanged (symbiosis or solipsism?), the methods used by the leader, and the virtue or legality of said greater reality.
2/13 On The Limits, Locus Classicus of Genius:
Nineteenth century Prussian general and chancellor, Leo von Caprivi, once said, "If you have to depend on a genius to run your state, the odds are against you in the long run."
What insight and foresight. While pioneering or innovative geniuses are crucial to the progress of any sphere or organization, especially at certain junctures, there are limits to that genius. Longterm success and sustainability depend not on an endless succession of geniuses, but in the ability of the occasional genius to design an operation that any lesser intelligence could sustain. This, perhaps, might be the truest locus classicus of a rare leadership IQ.
2/4 On Transformation vs Containment:
The most instinctive, talented leaders are immanent transformationalists. It is stressful, even unnatural, for them to leave things as they are or effectuate only modest changes. Thorough or at-large transformation is not always possible, though, and when it is, sometimes it can only be done in degrees or gradations or at the pace of a melting glacier. Leaders, especially instinctive transformationalists, must find peace with limited transformation mixed with containment if this is the only possible ceiling.
The Cold War taught us this lesson. A transformational war with the Soviet Union and her fief-states was wholly impossible. World War III, a nuclear armageddon, and mutual destruction were certain. The only realistic policy was the long game of glacial-melting transformation mixed with the encirclement and containment of Soviet Communism's frontier.
Thorough or at-large transformation is not always possible, at least in the short term. Learn to perceive inveterate entities, settings, or individuals. If you must be the leader therein, shift into a glacial-melting transformationalism mixed with a containment of the dysfunctional elements. If you do this well you just might preside over that glacier melting or collapsing one day. If not, you will at the very least have a calibrated realpolitik going forward.
1/25 On Introducing New:
People almost always choose what is available, understood, and minimally confirmed over what is not. Therefore, when introducing new directions or modules or elements, include as much as possible what is familiar to them. Sometimes this will be more doable, sometimes this will be less doable. Be conscientious of the fact that most people are not remarkably courageous or viscous. They tend to be fearful, survival-driven, and emotion-driven, which means they will camp out firmly at a meager stream of water and resist venturing out to a promise of rushing rivers, large lakes, and treasure-filled oceans.
This does not mean they are all utterly immovable. Some, inspired by a good-enough ratio of what is familiar versus what is adventurous, will follow you incrementally into the new. You must be keen, though, to not let your passion rush the pace. Similarly, you must be keen to not let the slowest movers drag down the pace. Pace is almost entirely a function of intuition (for born-again leaders, a function of Spirit-illumined intuition). Sense or perceive what the pace should be at any given time. This week it might lunge forward in big transformational strides, but then slow to a calmer, one-inch-at-a-time pace for awhile. If you create a sufficient familiar/adventurous ratio and calibrate the pace well, often enough consensus can be built to retain the group's cohesion as it migrates into the new.
1/17 On Cooking Recipes, Cooking Ability:
Too much of any one ingredient, or the application of an ingredient at the wrong time, ruins the meal. Learn leadership from cooking recipes: multiple ingredients, in the right measures, at the right times.
Without continual self-monitoring and introspection, we drift unknowingly into our preferred personality tendencies, towards extremes, polarities, and one-dimensionality. The strong type drifts into bossy and pushy. The docile type drifts into enabling. The worker type drifts into a beast of burden. The intellectual type drifts into superfluous or irrelevant information. And so on. Too much of any one ingredient, or the application of an ingredient at the wrong time, ruins the meal.
Diminish extreme, polar, or one-dimensional leadership. Function slower, concentrate on the immediate moment, stay out of autopilot. Intuit what ingredient is best from juncture to juncture. Address your own deeper emotions or extreme tastes that make the meal undesirable for most people. Leaders are continually "cooking something" and "preparing meals" for those around them, regardless of what type of leader you are. If nobody, or curiously few people, like what you cook, check your recipe and cooking ability. Make sure you are using multiple ingredients, in the right measures, at the right times.
1/10 On Action vs Ideation:
When developing action-plans, teams work best. Applicational brainstorming by multiple brains is usually exceedingly productive. Ideation or conceptualization, on the other hand, works best in one mind during the incubation period. This is why the most prolific creatives gravitate to profound seclusion, forced introversion, even a healthy bit of madness, to create in ways that stay one step ahead of the environment and its variables.
1/1 On Succession:
Moses dies, Joshua is the successor. How could Joshua ever continue the work of Moses? He couldn't, he wouldn't, he shouldn't. The Lord said to Joshua (Jsh 1:5), "I will be with you as I was with Moses." Notice He did not say, "I will do with you as I did with Moses". No, He said, "I will be with you as I was with Moses". The simplicity of the Lord's verb choice--will be versus will do--tells us the Anointing would companionate and collaborate with Joshua's unique personhood, liberating him to look within, not backwards or sideways, for the properties of his leadership.
In Moses' leadership, the instrumentality of the Anointing was his staff; and Joshua saw that instrument do astounding things. Doubtless he would feel an unhealthy pull to that staff, or a replacement staff, had the Lord not said to him that the Anointing's instrumentality in his leadership would be the sword. Joshua would lead the military conquest of the promise land, stated in Hebrew idiom as "going out and coming in before the people" (Num 27:17,21). The same idiom is used of David and his military campaigns (1Samuel 18:13,16; see in Young's Literal Translation or the NKJV).
With a lucid sense of unique personhood, and an anointed instrumentality fitted to him, Joshua could apply leadership assertively without flinching. And, as we know from history and endless anecdotes, it is not different or unique or new leaders that people tend to resist, but insecure and feckless ones that are not clear, coherent, confident, and competent regarding the staff or sword they carry.
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