Is It Still Worth A Try?

Coming Back from Exile

Is It Still Worth A Try?

Is it still worth a try? I believe that it is still worth it. At least I think so. What is the “it” in this statement? The “it” is the desire to return from exile.

Two weeks ago I looked at the issue of Leadership in Exile. We discussed the fact that many leaders are self-exiled. And that they are such by their own choice based on their own experience or circumstance. And I concluded that article with some example of some leaders who were self-exiled and some examples of what they did during that period of their lives.

Why were you in “exile” in the first place?

It is worth a quick look back at some of the reasons some have been in exile.

  • Exhaustion — You got really tired. Have you gotten some rest?
  • Frustration — You got really frustrated with your situation. Has it changed at all?
  • Lack of Followship — You looked around and no one was following? Have you figured out why that was the case?
  • Lack of Support — You had no support from your leader. Is there new leadership above you? Or have they gotten better as a leader?
  • Viewed as a Threat — You were viewed as a threat to existing leadership or the status quo. Has the situation changed or has your leader gotten more confident in themselves or in your ability to lead without feeling threatened?

Is it time to return from exile?

If we have self-exiled, then we have the power to re-enter the leadership arena, right? The question we constantly ask ourselves serves as the title of this article — “Is it still worth a try?”

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Leadership in Exile

Where have all the leaders gone?

Leadership in Exile

If that title doesn’t grab your attention, then nothing will. Our political and social structure here in the U.S.A. provides little context for the concept of being an exile. The closest thing that many in our society or culture can come to the ethos of being an exile is the practice among some cultures where one is shunned under certain conditions. But, even that does not really comport with our modern sensibilities.

What do I mean by “Exile”?

So, what do I mean when I use the word “exile” in the context of leadership? To be clear, I am not using that word within the context of a forced departure or a violent takeover that leaves the deposed leader nowhere to go but into hiding in a barren land or to the relative safety of a benevolent benefactor. Instead, I think that I really should be using the term – “self-exile.” Because I believe that there are many leaders who have taken themselves “out of the game” when it comes to leadership. They have opted to, in a sense, go underground and not seek to be a visible or vocal leader. 

Why are they Self-Exiled?

Perhaps that is the greater question? Why are they choosing to vacate their responsibility or opportunity to lead? Consider the following as some reasons that leaders have self-exiled.

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Comparing Leaders of the Past and the Present

Should we even try to compare?

Comparing Leaders of the Past and the Present

One of the questions and conversations that arise from time to time in my circle of influence is about leaders today and leaders from the past. Recently, I had a conversation about leadership and the leadership crisis in our culture today. One of my hypotheses is that we are just one generation away from losing our society and our culture due to the lack of leadership skills today.

Some that I speak with on this topic are pessimistic. Some are optimistic. One of my friends opined on this topic and had a much more optimistic view. He felt that we are still several generations away. All I know for sure is that there is a distinct lack of leadership exhibited today. And it “seems” that there were better leaders and more leadership skills in the past.

And it seems that leaders of the past almost always seem more effective than those of today. Perhaps it is a perceptual bias: We long for what we don’t have and romanticize or mythologize what we used to have. But even taking this bias into consideration, many of today’s leaders don’t seem to measure up to our expectations.

Is There a Leadership Crisis?

According to a survey conducted by the Harvard Kennedy School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government several years ago, 68% of Americans believe that there is a “leadership crisis” in the country; and leaders in only four out of thirteen sectors polled inspire above average confidence. Those sectors were the military, the Supreme Court, non-profit organizations, and medical institutions. Leaders of the news media, Congress, and Wall Street receive the lowest scores. Who is surprised by this?

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7 Questions To Answer To Move Beyond Good Intentions

Does Effort = Performance?

7 Questions - v1

Are good intentions enough? At some point, it is reasonable to be evaluated based on our performance and not just our intentions.

So much of what is mainstream thought today seems to indicate that as long as you try really, really hard, then you have accomplished something. That may or may not be accurate. You have indeed expended effort. And maybe you have expended a lot of effort. But is effort the same thing as performance? Have you actually accomplished anything of value or significance?

Is effort alone enough when it comes to leadership?

Or, in other words, are good intentions enough? Or at some point, do our followers and the community around us have a right to expect some results?

I cross multiple worlds in my own personal experience. Much of my time is dominated by a secular environment where results are pretty important. So much so that compensation and career advancement are dependent upon identified and verified performance and value generated as the result of expected accomplishments. While the rest of my time is spent in a variety of volunteer, ministry, and non-profit endeavors.

Each world views this topic very differently. But does that necessarily need to be? Is it reasonable to have some measurable performance indicators outside of the business world that are not just appreciated because of their level of effort?

Regardless of whether you are a leader in a for profit or not for profit organization, we must have some understanding of, and answers to, the following questions:

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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?

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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.

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Leading in the Midst of Turmoil

Leading in the Midst of Turmoil

What should you do if you find yourself the leader in the midst of turmoil?

There are difficulties in life, in the home, in the workplace, yes, even in society. These difficulties stretch us, and bring out both the worst and best in each of us. In an era of social media, blogging and with the prevalence of cell phone cameras, it is quite easy to play “Monday morning quarterback” and pass judgment and heap praise on leaders whose faces and stories go “viral”. But what do you do when (not if) you come upon tumultuous times in your organization / city / etc.?

In this post I would like look at three crucial components of leading through a crisis.

The first aspect of crisis leadership is actually determined before you ever approach the turmoil. If you want to lead effectively in a crisis you must first lay a firm foundation of personal character development, strong interpersonal communications and healthy team dynamics. C.S. Lewis once said “If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly.  But the suddenness does not create the rats:  it only prevents them from hiding.” (Mere Christianity).  The same is true about leading in a crisis. The crisis will reveal the quality of the foundation that has been laid, but the crisis did not cause the leadership to be as it is. The reality is that in this world we will face difficulties, frustrations, disappointments, turmoil and crisis. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that these times will not come. Instead, let us now prepare ourselves and our teams for the inevitable. I have often found that if I am able to actually create environments (leadership development exercises) where my team has to face a manufactured “mini-crisis” it greater prepares them for the real thing when it comes. There are numerous ways to do this, but think of it as drills, role-play, training, and/or practice for facing what will come. There are some things only learned by actually going through them, but if we can prepare our character, develop our communication skills and develop our team’s effectiveness and productivity now, the trials to come may be more manageable.

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Insurmountable Circumstances – Part 2

Insurmountable - Part 2

In the first part of this series on Insurmountable Circumstances, I talked about the all-important aspects of preparing yourself, your mindset, your character, etc. After you have begun this process (since we never are fully “ready”) then you must take the time to gather the right personnel and equipment.

Aside from the inner drive to actually take on the imposing mountain in front of you, perhaps the next most important thing that is needed to climb and summit a mountain is the proper gear. Having the right supplies can make the difference between life and death, achieving or failing. You and I know that having the right equipment is important, however sometimes what makes the mountain in front of you seem insurmountable is because you know you just don’t have the stuff needed to get to the top. So how do you gather what is needed?

The truth is that no one of us has all the supplies needed in our back pocket. We must go to the appropriate stores, spend some money, take some time and procure the needed items. Similarly in the workplace and in our leadership efforts,

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Insurmountable Circumstances – Part 1

Rocky Mountains (1)

I am in the Rocky Mountains this week. As I gaze up at the beautiful snow-capped mountains I am also struck by the fact that the peaks are rugged, sheer, and without the appropriate means: insurmountable.

So what do you do when you come up against something that is insurmountable? As a leader what approach do you take when a goal seems impossible to achieve or an obstacle seems impossible to overcome?

I would like to offer a few practical insights to guide you when (not if!) you come up against a sheer and seemingly impassable “mountain”. I will deal with this in two blog posts and will address two things to help you ascend and conquer those mountains. The two primary things that will help you overcome will be 1. Preparing yourself and 2. Gathering the right team and the proper equipment.

So for this post let’s talk about the reality that to overcome insurmountable circumstances you must prepare yourself. 

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