Hello? Any leaders out there?

Are leaders like superheroes?

Where Are All The Leaders?

I “feel” (and we know how dangerous it is to operate on feelings) that there are fewer leaders now than in days gone by. It may or may not be so. But it seems that is the case. Leaders must be a lot like superheroes. I wonder where all of them have gone as well.

Why does there seem to be so few leaders on the local, national and international stage? Are they really there and I just don’t see them? If they are there, why don’t I see them or recognize them?

One of the characteristics that define a leader is that they are growing and developing other leaders around them. It has been said, and I agree, I truly great leader is defined more by the number of other leaders they create than the number of followers that they create.

So, what is the point and the leadership principle here?

The leadership principle is this.

Are You Likable?

Is it better to be liked or respected?

Are You Likable

I want to be liked. I think that everyone wants to be liked. Do you want to be liked?

The question today is this: Do we need to be liked to be an effective leader?

I am going to speak from a male perspective today. If you are a female, read on. It may be insightful for you to further see how men think and process information. But I am speaking today from a male viewpoint.

What is that point of view?

There is something inside a man that longs for respect. And I think that many, if not most men would choose respect over love if they had to make such a choice. So, what do we do with that reality?

Anxieties vs. Aspirations

Help me focus on one more than the other!

Anxieties vs. Aspirations

Leaders inspire us as much as they lead us. Really great leaders inspire us by helping us to focus more on our aspirations and less upon our anxieties.

As I look around today and try to make some observations in the midst of an intense political season, one thing is clear. Most candidates (from both parties) are trying to tap into our anxieties much more than they are our trying to tap into our aspirations.

If they are correct, and we are an angry electorate, then we are the root of their methodology and approach. They are simply giving us what we want. We are full of anxiety and that anxiety has lead to frustration, which has led to anger. And they, in turn, are tapping into that deep seeded emotion.

If they are incorrect, and we are an electorate that still aspires to greatness, then they are completely misjudging the tenor and tone of the nation. They are pandering to a minority of voters and they will ultimately be rejected at the ballot box.

What is the leadership lesson in the midst of this political season?

The leadership lesson is this.

Are you THAT kind of leader?

Do you give leadership a bad name?

Are you THAT kind of leader?

We all know “that” kind of leader. And we have all experienced the pain of trying work follow and work with one like “that.” But, what is “that?”

Today I am talking about leaders who give leadership a bad name. Well, what do you mean by that? Isn’t leadership a noble thing? Absolutely it is a noble and worthy endeavor. And there are many examples of fine leaders and fine leadership. But knowing is not the same as doing or being.

Many years ago I was presented with a paradigm of leadership that resonated 35 years ago when I was a young man. And that paradigm still resonates today. It is the paradigm that suggests that the higher up in leadership you ascend, the less personal freedoms you have. The corporate world teaches us the opposite. And the culture of celebrity is even more brazen in the teaching and modeling of a paradigm where the richer or more powerful and famous I become, the more freedom I have to act like an absolute idiot at times and experience no repercussions.

Thankfully, leadership is not the same as celebrity! Thankfully, there are leaders out there who shun the mantle of the obnoxious and instead wear the cloak of a servant leader.

So, what kind of leader are you?

Is Bigger Always Better?

Or, is it quality over quantity?

Is Bigger Always Better?

I don’t have all of my thoughts completely together on this issue. But I am questioning in my own mind the drive of many organizations toward growth at all costs.

As I stated right off the bat, I don’t have all of my thoughts fully baked. Instead, I may have more questions than I have answers at this point. And I’ll get to those in a moment. But first, I have a few observations. Perhaps the best way for me to illustrate my thoughts is through a personal story.

I have attended church my whole life. I was practically raised in the church and attended every time the door was open. (I am thankful for that, by the way.) I grew up in a series of churches that rarely exceeded 200 in attendance on any given Sunday morning. Most of the churches that I have been fortunate enough to worship in have been under 100 in regular attendance. In fact, my ”favorite” church up to this point was right at 200 in regular attendance. It was my favorite for many reasons. I served on my first church board at that church. We went through a building program, a pastoral search and had many other real and exciting experiences in that church. We were part of a great group of young couples and we were heavily integrated into the life of the church through various avenues of involvement. We knew everybody. Everybody knew us.

By contrast, we had the opportunity to worship in one of the largest churches in the metropolitan Houston area. A church with the stated goal of getting larger through acquisition (my word, not theirs) of smaller churches, through satellite churches operating in theaters, and also through traditional growth and influx. I knew the pastor by name only. I think I knew his wife’s name. I didn’t know his children’s names. He didn’t know me. He didn’t know my children. He wouldn’t even have known I was a member if we ran into each other in the grocery store. If I was to have gotten sick, or been in the hospital, or had a family crisis I wouldn’t have had a clue who to call. The Bible study class that we attended right before we left had about 110 people who attended regularly.

This all sounds like I am complaining or whining and that is not my intent. I am just trying to illustrate a reality in the modern church. I then want to draw some leadership applications from those observations and experiences.

What is the leadership application in this story?

The leadership application is that leaders are not absolved of their basic duties as leaders after an organization reaches a certain size. And if they feel that they cannot be effective after reaching a certain size, decisions must be made that will determine if growth will remain healthy, or become too much weight for a leader to bear?

So, here are some questions that are in my head that will be challenging to leaders in small, medium, and large organizations alike:

Is bigger necessarily better? — It is hard not to hearken to the Siren’s call to get bigger and bigger and bigger.

How Important Are YOUR Results?

What should we be doing as followers?

How Important are YOUR Results?

It is easy to follow a “winner.” And it is easy to follow when everything is chugging along nicely and the organization is experiencing success, growth, profitability, everyone feels valued and appreciated by their leader.

So, what do we do when our leader isn’t leading us in a positive direction of if there are not positive and measurable results? That is a very different situation, isn’t it?

Who is at fault?

That is probably the first thing that jumps to most of our minds. (OK, maybe that is only in my mind.) And I suppose there is a time and there is a place for that kind of an assessment. But, what if we are in a crisis mode? Then that is not the time to be assigning blame. That is the time to rally around the leader, get things fixed, and get the ship turned around.

What is MY responsibility at this point?

How Important Are Results?

Should we actually expect something from our leaders?

How Important Are RESULTS?

Everyone knows that there are “unreasonable expectations.” But, are there “reasonable expectations” that we can have when it comes to our leaders?

I believe that there are reasonable expectations that we can have for our leaders. I believe that it is reasonable to expect honesty, integrity, diligence, dependability, and probably much more. But, I also believe that it is reasonable to expect some measure of results when it comes to our leaders or of those who would be leaders.

We live in a society that values effort as much as it values results. There exists a “moral equivalence” and an acceptance of just trying. “Just trying” is acceptable for a child who is up to bat at his first T-Ball game. Ultimately, in that environment, a 30% success rate over the span of an athlete’s career will land you in the Hall of Fame.

What can we expect?

What then, are the reasonable expectations when it comes to the performance or the results of our leaders? Can we expect any real tangible results? Or should we be satisfied that they are really trying their hardest to lead?

Let me say that I believe that it is reasonable to expect “something” from our leaders when it comes to results. It is altogether reasonable to expect them to either empower us to achieve or to actually spearhead an achievement through the power and influence of their leadership skills.

How do we make that a reality?

The Discomfort of Thought

Are your opinions well thought out?

Discomfort of Thought

Opinions are like belly buttons. Everybody has one. And some of them are a little funky.

I am sorry for those initial thoughts which you are now desperately trying not to visualize. However, my point is that we all have belly buttons and we all have opinions. But, when was the last time you really examined your belly button? When was the last time you really considered the basis of your opinions?

President John F. Kennedy, in a commencement address to the graduating class of 1962 at Yale University on June 11, 1962, said the following:

We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

This statement came following some opening humorous remarks to the Yale graduating class of 1962. Following a few opening barbs thrown at some of his political detractors, he began to discuss the importance fiscal policy and the role of government in the lives of our society.

If you have time to read the transcript of President Kennedy’s speech, I encourage you to do so. You can find it here. And, if you want to hear him deliver the speech in his own words, you can hear a recording here.

So, what is the leadership lesson from President Kennedy’s commencement address?

In order to learn a leadership lesson from this speech, you must first read a few more of the words that form the context of this one quote. And, please note, his speech was very fertile ground for great quotes. Kennedy said this just prior to the sentence that I pulled out of the 30-minute speech.

Listening To An Old Soundtrack

What “tune” is stuck in your head?

Listening to An Old Soundtrack

Every one of us has a soundtrack playing inside our head. It is a recording of the things that people have said to us over the years. For many of us, we remember what was said to us and just how it made us feel at the time. We remember it like it was yesterday. We seem to remember those events even though we long to forget them.

Many things that were said to us make us sad. Some of them make us mad. Many of them were hurtful at the time.

What does this have to do with leadership?

As a leader, it is important to remember the role that we play in our follower’s lives. In many teams or project situations, we find that we spend much more time with our workmates than we do with our families.

Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way!

All three may be viable options

Lead, Follow

We’re all familiar with the phrase, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way”. During my adult life, I’ve found myself doing all three at one time or another.

The “Lead” Part

By my very nature, I tend to want to lead. Sometimes that is truly because I have the passion and feel I also have the experience, knowledge, or skill to move things forward in a positive direction. It may also be because I see a void of leadership that I feel an obligation to fill that void. Other times, truth be told, it’s probably more of a self-centered desire for the adrenaline rush that comes from being in the middle of the action.

The “Follow” Part

The “follow” part often does not come as easily for me.