Toughest Leadership Role, Ever!

Some Thoughts on an Unheralded Leader

Toughest Leadership Role, Ever!

Consider something for just a moment as we prepare for Christmas this week. Can you imagine a more difficult leadership role than being the earthly father of Jesus Christ? I cannot!

My goal is not to make this article an overtly spiritual one. However, given the Christmas Season and my thoughts at this time of year, some observations and some leadership lessons are unavoidable.

Just who was this man Joseph, the husband of Mary and the adoptive father of Jesus?

We really don’t know a whole lot about him other than what we read in the few places he is mentioned in the New Testament. Traditional Christian narrative and theology state that God chose Joseph to be the earthly father of Jesus. We can read in the Gospel of Matthew, that Joseph was a righteous man. His actions toward Mary, his betrothed wife (fiancé), revealed a great deal about his character. It demonstrates that he was a patient, kind, understanding, and sensitive man. When Mary told Joseph she was pregnant, he had every right to feel disgraced and humiliated. He knew the child was not his.

He had “rights”. Our rights have always been an important thing to us as individuals. Joseph not only had the right to divorce Mary but under Jewish law, she could be put to death.

Joseph’s initial reaction was to break the engagement. This was the culturally and religiously appropriate thing for a righteous man like Joseph to do. However, consistent with his character, he treated Mary with extreme kindness. He did not want to cause her further shame, so he decided to do what needed to be done quietly.

But that is not what happened. Instead, Scripture tells us that God sent an angel to Joseph. It may even have been the same angel that visited Mary to bring her the news that she was going to give birth to Our Lord. This angel verified the same story that Mary had told Joseph and reassured him that his marriage to Mary was still God’s will. In fact, it had been the divine plan all along. It is important not to lose sight of that fact. So, Joseph willingly did as the angel told him, in spite of the public humiliation he would face. Perhaps it was this quality that made him God’s choice for Jesus’ earthly father.

Beyond this and the story of the one time that Jesus was left behind following a pilgrimage to the Temple, the Bible does not reveal much detail about Joseph’s role as a father to Jesus Christ. However, we do know from Matthew 1, that Joseph was an excellent earthly example of integrity and righteousness. We know that Joseph trained Jesus in a very necessary trade of the times — carpentry. It was not glamorous. But, probably no one ever described Joseph in those terms.

Joseph is last mentioned in the Bible when Jesus was 12 years old and they made that annual visit to the Temple in Jerusalem. So really, all we know from written evidence is that Joseph passed on the carpentry trade to Jesus and that he raised him in the Jewish traditions and spiritual observances of the Law.

So, what is the Leadership Lesson here?

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Thinkers are Revolutionary Leaders

Revolutionary Thinking - Blog Graphics

Tomorrow is not “The Fourth of July.”  That is a date on a calendar.  It is not the name of the National Holiday that we celebrate tomorrow.  The name of the holiday that we celebrate tomorrow is Independence Day.  It is the day that we celebrate the declaration of our independence from England.

Today I wish to focus on that word – Independence.

Most organizations are looking for people (and leaders) who can think independently and have the necessary leadership qualities to help act upon those thoughts and make their organization successful.

A Leadership Definition

Many people have different definitions for leadership.  Some have boiled it down to just one word – “Influence.”  But in general, leadership is the ability of one person to gain agreement, support, and active participation to accomplish a task or a goal. Perhaps it is at the most basic level an ability to get people to follow you. Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte, Jack Welch, Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, and Jesus Christ are all leaders in their own unique ways. Some would not be necessarily considered positive leaders.  Nor would we want to emulate their actions.

  • Julius Caesar ushered in the Roman Empire at the cost of the Roman Republic.
  • Abraham Lincoln held the fledgling United States together after the secession of the southern states and the Civil War.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte used his creative military strategies and personal charisma to create and rule a great empire.
  • Jack Welch took over the reigns at General Electric and during his tenure there, the company’s value rose 4,000%.
  • Steve Jobs used his intelligence and passion for computers to “revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.”
  • Michael Jordan became one of the greatest basketball leaders and players of all time because of his desire to continually improve, work hard, and take over in tough situations late in the game.
  • Joe Montana holds Super Bowl career records for most passes without an interception (122 in 4 games) and he has the all-time highest quarterback rating of 127.8.
  • And then there is Jesus Christ.  And, well, if you don’t get Him being on the list, then nothing I can say will change that.

Leadership Skills

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books on leadership. And there are thousands, or maybe even hundreds of thousands of blogs, just like this one,  dedicated to leadership. Many of these books and blogs identify similar traits, attributes, or skills that comprise a good leader. Here are a few of the most common:

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The Big Let Down

Big Let Down - Aftermath

It has been 2 days since Christmas. And you can go ahead and admit it. You are feeling a little let down after all of the excitement, aren’t you? The presents are all unwrapped. There may still be a big mess. But the fun part is over.

Well, maybe that is part of the problem. The fun part (the party or the kids ripping presents open) is over and there is nothing left but the cleaning up of the mess from Christmas morning. We all feel that “big let down” right about now.

That feeling is normal. We all feel it sooner or later throughout the Holiday season. It comes sooner and more pronounced for some than for others. But there is always a little bit of disappointment around about now.

Everyone likes decorating the tree. We can’t wait to get the tree and get it decorated and begin enjoying the Christmas season. But no one wants to put the tree away and pack away all of the ornaments and lights for next year. That is such a let down.

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The Myth of the Perfect Christmas

Merry Christmas

It is not a perfect Christmas for us this year. Some of my family are not here.  But it is still a “Merry” one. It is still one that is full of joy and wonder and amazement that God chose to come to earth in the form of man and dwell among us.

It would be nice to say “Merry Christmas” and be completely oblivious to the world around us. But that would mean that you and I are truly oblivious creatures. The fact is, more of us are hurting and broken at Christmas than are healthy and whole.

I am here to tell you that it is okay. It is okay with me and it is okay with Jesus. In fact, your brokenness is exactly why Jesus came. Your brokenness is the dirty, filthy stable. Your brokenness is a manger made for feeding animals, not for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But Jesus came anyway. He came and He stayed with us and He cried IN our brokenness, WITH us. Because Jesus is “Emmanuel, God with us.”

And He will come to you anew and afresh if you will let him.

But to do that we have to put away this notion of a perfectly decorated tree, perfectly lighted houses, perfectly wrapped presents, perfectly planned meals and perfectly pretty family and friends to share it with.  Jesus didn’t come for any of that. And actually, it’s quite the opposite.

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Happy Thanksgiving 2014

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.

Thanksgiving 2014

You all know by now how much I love a good quote.  And this one is from the final Thanksgiving Proclamation of President John F. Kennedy.

But what does this one mean?

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