Tag Archives: leadership

The Power of Silence.

Snark Meter

   One of the greatest responsibilities leaders have is to keep their mouths closed.

   Whether you’ve asked for it or not, as a leader—a boss, business owner, ministry leader, politician, teacher, parent or grandparent—people are watching you and listening to you. And they believe what you say (or what they thought you said). When the wrong thing is said, whether unintentionally or on purpose, the nuclear fallout can poison the atmosphere and disparaging impressions are inevitable. Here are a couple of too common scenarios:

   Scenario #1—The Offhand Comment

   Leader (scrolling through text messages): “Looks like Melinda’s going to be late again.”

   Listener: “Melinda Tardy?”

   Leader: “Yeah, she’s never on time. I usually tell her to come a half hour before a meeting actually starts.”

   Listener: “Really? Huh…”

   While that comment is not technically libelous, it hardly leaves a favorable impression of Melinda. The listener can’t help speculating as to why she’s always late: Is she deliberately insensitive to others? Oblivious to the inconvenience she causes? Too particular about her appearance? Can’t tell time? Thanks to human nature, speculations rarely favor the offender.

   Scenario #2—The “Innocent” Gossip

    Leader: “Let’s all pray for Larry and Maeve this week. They’re having some issues at home.”

   Listener A: “What kind of issues? You know—just so we can pray more effectively…”

   Leader: “Well, Larry is out of work again and the financial stress is putting a strain on their marriage.”

   Listener B: “More details would definitely help us to pray…”

   While this scenario is obviously a little exaggerated (I would hope), the point is this: Once a leader even hints that gossip is okay, others will take that permission and run with it. No doubt after the little prayer meeting, Larry and Maeve’s private problems jingled phones all up and down the prayer chain.

   As leaders, we must beware what we start.

   What leaders have to recognize is that our comments, speculations, and judgments are not forgotten by those who hear them—whether we remember them in five minutes or not. And they leave an impression—often a lasting impression.

   Sadly, I can’t tell you the numbers of times over the years that I’ve heard someone in some leadership capacity make a careless or negative comment about someone’s mistake or struggle or fault and, whether I wanted it to or not, it influenced my view of that person.

   “Well,” (you might say), “that’s very immature of you.” Not really. What would be immature would be to repeat the tidbit or to treat the person differently as a result of what I’ve heard. But let’s face it—if we hear something about a person’s bad behavior, weakness or error in judgment—especially if we hear it from someone in authority—we’re going to view that person a different light. The shift in our view may be large or small but it’s there. And it could be any change in thinking from a retraction of trust or respect for the target person to a feeling of pity. (And who likes that?) In more unfortunate situations, careless comments to others by a leader can inspire feelings of jealousy, superiority or even dislike.

   Who does not remember, at one time or another, our wide-eyed, unconditional acquiescence to some respected person’s opinion—no questions asked? If dad, in a moment of frustration, refers to grandma as controlling, then to us she is—even if she’s not. If a coach remarks to a player that “not everyone is cut out to play soccer” (or football or basketball), then forever we’ll believe that Johnny just doesn’t have what it takes—and never will. Poor him.   

   Careless words.

   In the Bible, James talks of the critical importance of controlling one’s tongue. “We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire…” (3:3-6a, NLT).

   Our words, especially those of people in leadership, can steer opinions, viewpoints, biases, and prejudices; words can start fires—rumors, lies, conflicts, and divisions. And in the end, the tongue’s poison can destroy families, churches, work places, communities—even entire nations.

   Is all of that worth the satisfaction of one snarky or careless comment?

   Do leaders get frustrated? Sometimes. And if we need to talk about it, we must be most on guard. Who’s listening? Who’s impressionable? Whether through immaturity or malice, who’s likely to misinterpret?

   As people, we must guard our words and as leaders, even more so; if we do not, everything we’ve tried to build, everyone we’ve tried to encourage—even people’s priceless reputations—can blow up in a micro-second. And let’s not forget one more thing: our own trustworthiness is on the line. After all, if we’ll talk about one person, why wouldn’t that put everyone else on notice that we’d talk about them as well?

   Jesus said we’ll be accountable for every idle word we speak. And no wonder.

                                                                               

 

 

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The Key to Leadership

Leadership Key   Once there was a woman who displeased her husband so he simply divorced her. In this case, the man was a king and his wife was a queen but that doesn’t matter; the husband could have been a farmer—or a physician or a factory worker or a finance administrator—or anything else… but I digress. The reason the king divorced his wife was that he had made a request of her but his wife had refused the request. And in those days, refusing a king was simply not done.

   None of that, however, is the point of the story. The point is why the woman refused to obey the king. Unfortunately, we’ll never know why because the king never bothered to find out. Or, if he did, it didn’t matter to him—which is, in our little story, not a minor detail by any stretch.

   By now, you’ve probably guessed the story: the king is Xerxes, the queen is Vashti, and the story is told in the biblical Book of Esther. But the core of it is an old story that continues to unfold everywhere, all the time.

   King Xerxes “requested” that Queen Vashti appear before him and all of his drunken officials so that Xerxes could show off the queen’s beauty, but the queen declined the offer. Suddenly, the party was over. At best, a great breach of protocol had occurred and, at worst, a serious crime had been committed. Perhaps even a Class A felony.

   So, beside himself, the king insisted his counselors tell him what to do. They immediately defaulted to “if she gets away with such blatant disrespect, then none of our own wives will respect us either. Away with her!” And so, away she went.

   Point? Not once (that we’re told) did the king nor any of his officials ever think to ask the queen whether there might’ve been any valid reason why she had refused to appear before the king’s assembly. However, through the centuries, there has been a great deal of speculation. And that’s because Vashti had to have had a very good reason for disobeying the king; people who did that were generally executed—which probably rules out simple defiance. And so, theories abound…

   Reason #1: Queen Vashti was ordered to appear before her own servants. This particular reason is not speculation. The Bible reports that Vashti was being ordered to appear at a party which the king was hosting for his servants and officials. (He’d already hosted a party for the governors and nobles.) It was on the seventh day of this party that he sent for the queen because “he wanted all the men to gaze on her beauty…” (Es. 1:11). Imagine, a queen being ordered to appear before the servants of her household so that they could, essentially, ogle her. That would certainly be a valid reason she might be reluctant to appear.

   Reason #2: King Xerxes wanted Queen Vashti to appear before the men sans clothing. (He did, however, order that she wear her royal crown.) Now while those proposing this theory can offer no definitive proof that Vashti was expected to appear unclothed, it is worth noting that women in those days were certainly considered of less value than a good war horse. Thus it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that if the king’s sole goal was to impress his officials and servants with his queen’s beauty, they should view all of it. However, in a culture where women were veiled for modesty, imagine what a scandal this would be. Sadly, in the king’s drunken state, he probably didn’t think of that. No wonder Queen Vashti refused to show— and especially before her own servants.

   Reason #3: Vashti could have been, for a variety of cultural reasons, considered “unclean” on that particular day. And we’ll leave it at that.

   Remember, Vashti knew—everyone knew—that to defy an order from the king could well mean death. That being the case, my guess is that whatever she was being asked to do, she must have considered worse than death. To appear under any of the above circumstances most probably would have resulted in a humiliation and degradation from which the queen would never have recovered. To be remembered as the queen who was forced to appear before servants and possibly without clothes (or worse) would truly have been a fate more terrible than death. But we’ll never know because Xerxes never bothered to ask why his wife would rather risk death than obey his command.

   The king lacked understanding.

   Xerxes cared more about his pride and reputation than about his own wife’s concerns. Nevertheless, after sobering up, indications are that he regretted his irrevocable decision to send her away.

   Perhaps he finally understood the facts.

   As leaders, whether in our homes, businesses, government or any other authoritative position, we need to understand the facts of any given situation and the effects of our verdicts upon others before making those decisions. That’s just good leadership. And although one would think that should go without saying, sadly it does not.

   In several places in his letters, Paul admonishes husbands, fathers, and slave owners [by extension, employers], not simply not to mistreat wives, children or slaves [employees], but to treat them with understanding (Eph. 5:21-6:4; Col. 3:18-21). And this principle holds true for anyone, including women.

   Understanding. It’s the key to wisdom, insight, revelation, discernment, and discretion. Without understanding, leaders cannot attain any of those.

   Think about that.

   Simply put—get the facts. The truth is that if those in authority treat others with understanding, then there will be much less need to demand respect and obedience. There is a time and place to deal with overt rebellion but not as an automatic default. Yes, chronic offenders, in-your-face law-breakers, criminals, and terrorists certainly demand swift and meaningful consequences, but in dealing with our families, our employees, and our constituents, fact-based understanding is the better part of wisdom.

   Understanding is the difference between a tyrant and a great leader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Walk Alone

Policeman with BB Team

   What is leadership? In a nutshell, it’s the ability and the willingness to walk alone – whether anyone goes with you or not. Leadership is courageous; it’s the will to go where others fear to go – regardless of the consequences. Leadership is visionary; it’s the ability to perceive or imagine a trail that no one else yet sees or even believes in. Leadership is honorable; it’s the determination to stand for what’s right in the midst of temptation, compromise, and corruption.

   True leadership is rare.

   Alas, however, not everyone who possesses the persuasive ability to attract followers uses those skills for noble purposes. Many times over the years I’ve had to pull aside a strong-willed, classroom trouble-maker and inform him that he has leadership skills – which means he has a choice. Either he can use his leadership abilities to lead others down the wrong path or he can influence them to do right.

   One who has leadership skills and yet is afraid of his followers is dangerous. He or she will always do whatever is necessary to please those followers without regard for whether what pleases them is right or wrong.

   True leaders, on the other hand, don’t worry about whether or not they have followers; real leaders naturally attract followers.

What real leaders are truly concerned about is their own faithfulness to their followers even when that faithfulness is not popular with – yes, those followers.

   Are you a parent? Have you ever had to say “no” when everything inside of you wants to say “yes”? Have you ever had to deny yourself or watch your own behavior for the sake of your children? Then you’re a leader.

   Are you an employer? Have you ever had to roll up your sleeves and set the example of hard work and commitment to your employees hoping that they’ll one day make that same commitment to your business? Have you ever had to sacrifice yourself in terms of hours, energy and even pay so that they’ll benefit? Then you’re a leader.

   Are you an employee? Have you ever had to take a stand among your colleagues and co-workers for what you won’t do: gossip around the microwave, “borrow” office supplies, fudge a timesheet or expense voucher? Then you’re a leader.

   Are you a teacher? Have you ever had to require students to do the hard work that they just don’t want to do? Memorizing math facts when the calculator is just “easier”, rewriting a paper even though it’s not necessarily fun, studying for a test rather than simply cheating on it? Then you’re a leader.

   Are you a student? Have you ever had to stand up to a bully for your own sake or that of another when everyone else just stands by and cheers on Goliath? Have you ever taken a stand to behave in a classroom when others think it’s funny to disrupt the class? Then you’re a leader.

   If your decisions are not guided by fear of what others think, then you’re a leader.

   If your sole concern is not what’s best for you but what’s best for everyone, then you’re a leader.

   If you’ve ever had to look into the wind to cast a vision for the sake of the greater good – regardless of what’s visible to the greater masses, then you’re a leader.

   If you’ve ever had to walk alone for the sake of what’s right, then you’re a leader – even if no one’s ever told you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Are You??

Frustrated teacher  Let’s say there are five different teachers (or business owners or nurses or pastors or – pick a profession). And let’s say they have five different kinds of personalities.  So let’s take a peek at what they might be like . . .

   Teacher #1: This teacher has a very black-and-white personality. There is right and there is wrong. There might be gray but not very often. It’s not that she’s mean; she simply sees everything in terms of rules and fairness. The bottom line is justice for all.

   Teacher: “So Johnny, tell me why your homework is not done.”

   Student:  “I forgot.”

   Teacher:  “That’s a zero.”

   Student: “But that’s not fair! I should get another chance!”

   Teacher: “Johnny, this is the third time you didn’t do your homework. Would it be fair to give you another chance when everyone else did their homework?”

   Student: “You shouldn’t give me a zero!”

   Teacher: “I’m not giving you a zero; you earned a zero. Explain how I can give you points for something you didn’t do.”

   Johnny couldn’t explain it so Johnny got a zero.

   Teacher #2: This teacher sees people in terms of resources and of getting the job done for the good of all. The bottom line is – well, the bottom line.

   Teacher: “So Johnny, tell me why your homework is not done.”

   Student: “I forgot.”

   Teacher: “You’re not learning anything if you never do your homework.”

   Student: “It has too much reading! I hate reading!”

   Teacher: “How are you going to pass your final if you can’t read the material?”

   Student: “Don’t care!”

   Teacher calls across the room: “Lindsey, you’re good at reading. I’m sending this boy over to you. Partner read with him.”

   Johnny passed his final. Barely.

   Teacher #3: This teacher sees all people as fallible and believes in second chances. And third chances. And fourth chances . . .

   Teacher: “So Johnny, tell me why your homework is not done.”

   Student: “I forgot.”

   Teacher: “Why? Is something going on at home?”

   Student: “I dunno.”

   Teacher: “There must be a reason.”

   Student: “I hate reading!”

   Teacher: “Do you want to come in after school for help?”

   Student: “No, I’ll do it tonight, but will you take points off?”

   Teacher: “As long as you try, I’ll give you credit. But I expect to see something tomorrow.”

   The teacher didn’t see anything the next day. Or the next day. But she still believes.

   Teacher #4: This teacher is a “just the facts” kind of person. It’s her responsibility to teach, and it’s a student’s responsibility to learn. That’s all.

   Teacher: “So Johnny, tell me why your homework is not done.”

   Student: “I forgot.”

   Teacher: “Why? Are you having trouble with it?” 

   Student: “I hate reading! It’s hard!”

   Teacher: “Then let’s see what we can do. Pull up a chair.”

   Student: “But I don’t like reading.”

   Teacher: “You will once you can do it. Now read that paragraph. Let’s figure out the problem.”

   Student: “I don’t want to.”

   Teacher: “Not going to force you. Is that your final answer?”

   Student: “I’m not doing it.”

   Teacher: “Fine. I will be calling your father. Take a seat.”

   The teacher informed Johnny’s dad of the problem and suggested Johnny practice reading at home. The ball is now in their court.

Teacher #5: This teacher believes that, with enough financial resources, any student can succeed. She believes school districts are responsible to provide those supplies if parents cannot or will not supply them.

   Teacher: “So Johnny, tell me why your homework is not done.”

   Student: “I forgot.”

   Teacher: “Where’s your book?”

   Student: “I lost it.”

   Teacher: “Where’s your notebook and pencil?”

   Student: “I lost them.”

   Teacher: “Here’s another notebook and pencil. Here’s a book to take with you – just remember to put a cover on it.”

   Student: “We don’t have any.”

   Teacher: “Here’s one. Now sit and read.”

   Student: “I forgot breakfast, too.”

   Teacher: “You didn’t have any breakfast?”

   Student: “No.”

   Teacher: “Okay, you can have a cereal bar, but you have to read the book.”

Student: “What book?”

   These five women have all had the same education and training. Nevertheless, they operate very differently as teachers. This is because each one has a different personality type (as listed in Romans 12:6-8) which colors how each perceives the world and responds to it.

   The first teacher has what the Bible calls the prophet personality. In God’s big picture, the prophet-type is the person wired to keep order by informing and enforcing the rules and laws in any given culture, organization or family. These individuals often operate as the law enforcement or judicial branches of businesses or families.

   The second teacher has the administrator personality. This person is a natural-born leader geared toward casting vision for the bottom-line goal of any organization: success and/or profit. The leader also has a natural ability to pinpoint the strengths of individuals and to use them for the common good. CEO’s, coaches, and politicians often have this personality type.

   The third teacher is the mercy person and a natural cheerleader. This personality believes in the inherent goodness of every person and that, given enough chances, anyone can succeed. They simply need encouragement. While every organization needs its encouragers, sometimes this personality sees accountability as “unloving” and so can tend toward enabling. Often the mercy person and the prophet-type do not get along.

   The fourth teacher is a natural-born teacher. (Here “teacher” is a personality type, not a profession.) The teacher personality is primarily interested in imparting information and the application of it. This personality is rather neutral; students may choose to learn or not – that’s not the teacher’s business. Imparting knowledge is. Every organization needs trainers, but don’t expect a babysitter-type.

   The fifth teacher has the “giver” personality. These are the people in God’s economy who fund other enterprises and are supernaturally generous. If taken to the extreme, these people will “give away the farm.” In the natural, they are often investors and philanthropists.

   Every person on the planet has one of these personality types coloring his perceptions, motivations and actions, and every organization needs a combination of these personalities in order to succeed. As people seeking our destinies, we need to understand which personality type we have as well as its particular strengths and weaknesses. We also need to work with the other personality types to ensure the success of our endeavors.

   After all, success is a team sport.