Archive for the ‘leaders’ Tag

Back to the Original   2 comments

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One of the realities that leaders have to accept is that not always is a group willing to be led.  This can be a very difficult reality for a leader to get their arms around.  However, if a leader tries to deny this, the leader will become frustrated and may even doubt her/his leadership abilities.  A leader is not a leader without people who are ready to follow the lead.  Sometimes you must guide a group with a gentle lead and other groups require much stronger leads but ultimately either approach is only successful to the point that the group is open to being led.

This is not a new concept in any way.  I think this is exactly the point that Jesus was trying to make over and over again.  He even told his disciples as he prepared to send them out:  “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”  (Matthew 10:14, NIV)  Jesus was a great leader but also realized that sometimes people do not desire to be led and there is nothing a leader can do at that point except to move to another group of people.

The other reality that a leader must accept that if a group does not wish to change, they may present an image of change but the minute the leader moves on, everything returns to the state in which they were prior to the leader’s arrival.  This also can be very disheartening because it can cause a leader to think their work was all in vain.  The image that comes to mind is that of a 1970’s toy called Stretch Armstrong.  This toy was made of a material which could stretch but as soon as you let go of it, everything would return back to its original form.  So a person could pull the toy’s arms or legs in all kinds of directions and create what appeared to be changes to the toy but as soon as you let go of those extremities, the toy returned to its original shape.

I think the lesson in these situations is to realize each of them can and probably will happen during your tenure as a leader.  However, do not let them discourage you.  Learn from each situation and determine if there was something you could have done differently to have a more lasting and clear impact on the group.  Sometimes the answer is that nothing different could have been done.  Also, remember that while the group as a whole may not have truly changed, there are individuals within the group who may have changed.


The Loch Ness Monster   1 comment

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This week there was a Google doodle regarding the Loch Ness monster.  You probably recall that there is a legend indicating that some sort of aquatic creature lives in a lake in Scotland.  There have been claims of photographs capturing images of this creature as it surfaces.  Despite years of stories and multiple attempts to locate and capture this creature, the Loch Ness monster appears to be elusive to even the greatest technologies of humanity. Yet the legend will not die.

The image of this elusive creature came into my mind this morning as I pondered some situations in a couple of the organizations in which I have involvement.  Much like the Loch Ness monster, these organizations have something which seems to live just below the surface but on occasion rears its head to breach the surface.  When this occurs, the seemingly tranquil waters are disturbed and there is great angst, fear, and disruption that transpires.  Many want to pass all of this off as legend but it is very real (maybe the key difference with the Loch Ness monster).

The cause of this underlying creature within organizations can be varied.  Some would attribute it to a need for certain individuals to acquire or maintain control and power.  Some would attribute it to greed.  Still others would say that what feeds the creature is a desire to shape the organization according to one’s own definitions.  Whatever has led to the existence of and on-going feeding of this creature in the organization, the results are always the same…. deterioration and eventual death of the organization.

Leaders in an organization which has been infected with such a creature need to work at removing it from the organization.  This can be as much of a challenge as the one presented to researchers who want to study the Loch Ness monster.  Finding the source and nurturing of the creature can be elusive.  Even if one is successful in capturing the creature, what to do with it is another quandary.  The work can be exhausting and achievement can be difficult.  Yet, it is vital that this occurs so that the inevitable death can be averted.

Soar Above It   Leave a comment

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Anyone who knows me, knows that I love bald eagles.  If you were to walk into my office, you would see bald eagles all over the office.  I have three rather larger prints that feature bald eagles in each one of them.  I also have a set of shelves that are full of bald eagle statues and pictures. As I was sitting in my office this morning, I was looking at the prints of the bald eagles.  I was admiring the majestic look of the eagles in each print.  I was noticing how they seemed to always be soaring above whatever else was in the print.  This lead me to think about how it is important for leaders (and people in general) to soar above much of what is occurring.

Now, I realize that the previous statement can give an impression of arrogance.  I am not intended to indicate that there is some superiority that a leader should try to communicate.  Instead, I believe there is some practicality here that I am wanting to share.  First, we all know that there can be times that day-to-day life can become rather messy and personalities can create gossip, conflict and controversy.  I believe that it is vitally important for leaders to soar above those items.  In order to be an effective leader, you need to be able to not get bogged down in messiness and negativity.  An organization is dependent upon its leadership to help lift it out of those situations.  If the leader gets embroiled in them, then it is impossible for her/him to guide the organization out of them.  So the leader needs to soar above.

Second, the perspective of an eagle above the landscape is much different from that of an animal walking along the landscape.  I believe leaders need to have a perspective of an eagle.  They need to be able to see a broader view.  They need to be able to spot pitfalls and dangers which cannot be seen on the ground.  They need to be able to guide the organization along the path which may only be visible if you are looking from above versus down low.  So the leader needs to soar above.

There are times that a leader needs to walk alongside.  There are times that a leader needs to sit and rest beside others.  There are times that leaders need to be close enough to listen and to hear.  But there are also times when the leader needs to soar above.

Posted September 30, 2014 by thoughtfulbeliever in Experiences, Leadership, Life, Organizations

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Ears to Hear   1 comment

English: Ear. Good for listening.

English: Ear. Good for listening. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I continue to learn the great importance of improving the skill of listening.  I think that this is a skill that almost every person needs to continue to improve upon.  I find that as a leader, the importance is magnified.  Either way, I am not sure that many people really make much of an effort to strengthen their ability to listen.

Let me be clear about how I understand what it means to have the skill of listening.  For me, it is more than just the ability to receive sounds and through those sounds identify the words that are being communicated.  Unless a person has some type of hearing impairment, this skill is one that a person obtains early in life and uses on a regular basis.  However, I find the skill of listening to include much more than this simple definition.  A person with strong listening skills will have the ability to hear what is being said beyond the words.  Some of the ideas being shared are found in what words are not used.  Listening requires a person to read the body language, the tone fluctuations, the changes in volume, the places where emphasis is added.  There is a bit of “reading between the lines” which becomes necessary. This type of listening skill requires much time and practice.  It is a skill that is not “just picked up.”  A person must truly make an effort to develop this skill and to practice it regularly.

There is another type of listening skill that I also must work on as a follower of Christ.  This skill involves using my spiritual ears.  In some ways, this skill development is even more difficult than the one I described above.  This skill requires spiritual growth.  If I am going to hear the words of the Lord, I must be using my spiritual ears to do so.  In order to have spiritual ears, I need to work at becoming mature in my faith so that my spirit can become more in tune with Christ’s Spirit.  The whole thing is a process and much like the physical listening skill development, it requires time, effort, and continual practice.

So my prayer this morning is, “Lord, give me ears to hear.”

More Than A Social Club   Leave a comment


Crowd (Photo credit: James Cridland)

Let me start by stating that there is nothing wrong with social clubs.  Social clubs exist for individuals to socialize with one another.  Usually these clubs are pretty homogeneous and that is part of the draw to the club, being with people like you.  However, if an organization exists for a purpose beyond socializing, then it should not try to act like a social club.  I am not sure that many organizations understand this truth.

I work with many different organizations.  One of the most frustrating aspect of working with an organization is when the organization has lost a grip regarding its purpose.  Members of the organization become distracted with situations and details that have little or no connection to the purpose of the organization.  This causes a variety of problems including draining of energy, allocations of resources, and conflicts.  When this happens, the purpose of the organization suffers tremendously.  In addition, people tend to get hurt, ignored, or frustrated in the process.

Organizations need to be clear about why they exist.  They need to regularly check to ensure that they are fulfilling the purpose for which they were created.  If the purpose has changed, then that needs to be clearly communicated and adjustments need to be made.  It will be natural for there to exist a social aspect of any organization.  A healthy organization is going to have deepening relationships among its members.  However, when the social aspect supplants the intended of purpose of the organization then there is an issue which must be overcome.


Tragedy   1 comment

Tear Drop

Tear Drop (Photo credit: Brave Heart)

Sometimes I think that life around us is so full of tragic events that we tend to become numb to them.  We see stories in the evening news, we read about murders and accidents, we are made aware of violence and unrest in nations around the world, we hear of devastating natural events.  I cannot recall a day in the last year that there has not been some form of tragedy that has been shown to me or told to me.  Recently, our community has been filled with tragedy.  We have seen the deaths of some very young people in our community.  Between accidents and suicides, there have been some young lives that have been cut too short.

So how do we deal with tragedy?  How do I deal with tragedy?  This is one challenge that causes me to be so extremely grateful for my faith and that which I believe.  My faith tells me that although I have a lot of questions and I struggle to find answers, there is someone who sees and understands completely.  My faith tells me that the life which I experience on this earth is not the only life that exists.  My faith tells me that there is hope even in the darkest of times.  I believe in the resurrection of those who believe in Christ.  I believe in the forgiveness of even the worst action.  I believe in life after an earthly life.  These are the elements of faith which allow me to trust in something greater than myself or anyone around me.

As a leader, the other question that comes to my mind is, how do I lead people through tragic situations?  This actually can seem more daunting to me than the previous questions that I listed above.  The important aspects to keep in mind are these:

  1. Remember that you are working with people.  The key here is to recognize each individual as a person.
  2. Remember that each person deals with tragedy in their own manner.  This means that there is no “cookie cutter” approach that works.
  3. Remember to listen.  Don’t make assumptions that you know how the person is feeling or thinking.  Let them tell you.
  4. Remember to help them list the positive memories they have or the little surprises that have occurred even in the midst of tragedy.
  5. Remember to be present.  You must be available even if you think they are not going to come to you.  This is not a waste of your time but is one of the most important uses of your time.
  6. Remember to provide hope.  Do not use lofty words or great philosophical truths but instead help them to engage in activity (life continues) and looking forward (life will continue into the future).

There is nothing easy about tragedy.  If it were easy, we wouldn’t call it tragedy.  There is nothing easy about being a leader at tragic times.  But we are not alone.  We can rely on our faith and our beliefs.  We can be present and walk together.


All Cylinders Firing   Leave a comment

Crankshaft (red), pistons (gray) in their cyli...

Crankshaft (red), pistons (gray) in their cylinders (blue), and flywheel (black) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I would be the first to tell you that I know very little about cars.  Most of my knowledge comes from something not working right on my car and a mechanic telling me what isn’t working.  I do know that cars have cylinders and I know that it is in these cylinders that gas and the spark from the spark plugs mix to create the energy for the pistons of the engine to work which then will drive the motor and therefore, the car.  So I know that if one of the spark plugs is not working or the gas isn’t getting in the cylinder or the cylinder has an issue, the car will not run efficiently or maybe at all.  (So ends my knowledge of the details)  As I leader, I believe that this image has value when thinking about the organization which I am working with.

First, today is one of those days when I feel like all my cylinders are not firing.  I really do not have a good explanation for this possibility.  I know that I feel physically tired which doesn’t make sense because I felt I slept well.  I also feel emotionally and spiritually tired which again does not make sense since this is my first week back after having a week and a half of vacation.  What I do know is that because of these feelings, I am not as effective as a leader.  I, therefore, know that I need to be very cautious today as I approach situations and people.  Hopefully this awareness will be beneficial.  I also know as a leader that a day or two of this issue is alright occasionally but if there is a sustained period, it needs to be dealt with or I and the organization could suffer.

Second, organizations can easily encounter times that all the cylinders are not firing.  The result of this situation is that the organization does not move forward very well and may even grind to a halt just like a car.  Naturally, this is not a result which anyone would like to happen.  So it is important to look at the causes of the organization’s cylinders not firing correctly.  Once the causes are identified, then a plan to correct the situation must be developed so the problem can be resolved and the organization can move forward again.  I am currently working with a few organizations that I believe may be suffering from this problem.

So my plan today is to try to get all my cylinders firing so that I can be an effective leader in the organizations which I just referenced.  If my cylinders have an issue, there is no way I can help to resolve the organization’s issues.  This is one time I can be a mechanic but it depends on the fixing of my situation first.