Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Tag

Rudderless Ship   2 comments

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For those of you who are leaders, let me tell you how vitally important your role is in whatever organization that you lead.  There are many times leaders feel that they work goes unnoticed.  I would say that this does occur at times.  A leader can easily become discouraged when it appears that they are not able to make much of a difference.  So let me start this post by saying to you, do not feel you are not having a positive impact.  An organization without leadership is an organization which is bound to fail.

I have recently become acutely aware of this reality.  I am observing an organization which is currently without a central leader.  This organization is going through challenges which is somewhat normal when a leader is not present.  Whenever this occurs, there are a few ways the organization can go.  The key to the future success of the organization is which choice the members make.  Right choices will allow sustainability until a new leader is identified.  Wrong choices can easily spell doom for the organization.

One of the choices in responses could be that there is a division of leadership and people carry through on their commitments.  This choice can be successful in the interim.  The key to this choice is clear division of responsibilities, consistent communication, and trust.  Those who take on the various leadership roles must be given the freedom to exercise their judgment.  The members must be willing to follow a variety of leaders and honor their leadership in their specific areas.  The benefit to this approach is a sharing of responsibility and an effort to lighten the load.

Another choice which can be made is for one leader to emerge as a temporary leader until a more permanent leader is identified.  The benefit to this approach is that one person is guiding the organization and all members know who to turn to with suggestions, concerns, and problems.  The key to this choice is trust.  The members must trust that the temporary leader will use wisdom in her/his guidance.  The members must then follow that guidance.

A third choice of response would be for no defined leadership to be empowered but instead everyone does what he/she thinks is best.  This often leads to confusion, bickering and power-struggles.  In the vacuum of leadership, various individuals try to assume control and yet no one follows.  There is no one to work toward compromise.  Disagreements and resentful feelings become the order of the day.  Continued fracturing will lead to the ultimate demise of the organization.  The organization truly becomes a rudderless ship.

So leaders, realize what a very important role you play in an organization.  Members, think carefully about how you choose to respond when you are in a period without central leadership.


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.

Break the Mold   Leave a comment

One of the most difficult things for an organization to do if it has been in existence for a relatively long time is to break out of its patterns of behavior.  I encounter this on a fairly regular basis and I think it is due in large part to the fact that most people find it difficult to change their patterns of behavior unless they are forced to do so.  So it is only logical that if individuals struggle with this, organizations which consists of individuals would struggle to break the mold of their behaviors.

I have been working with a group which has a role in an upcoming event.  The group contains some very committed and knowledgeable individuals.  They have worked hard to prepare their portion of the event.  One of their charges is to introduce new ways of doing something that is at the core of the member’s reason for existing.  As I have worked with this group, I find that they consistently fall into the same modes of behavior and approaches each and every time the organization meets.  So I have pushed the envelope of their work for the next upcoming event.  The group has shown little resistance, which is not always the case in similar situations, and seems to have embraced some new approaches.  I am causing them to break the mold.

I am not advocating that a person should be running around and breaking molds every opportunity which exists.  Instead, I am advocating that people should be encouraged to break the mold when there is possibility for growth to occur; especially if you have a charge to introduce different ways and approaches to benefit individuals and organizations.  If an organization continues to do the same activity in the same way ad nauseam, then new discoveries will not occur.  Opportunities for growth can easily slip away.  Energy and enthusiasm may wane.

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So go ahead….. break the mold.  Who knows?  You may create a masterpiece in the process.

Creating Balance   Leave a comment

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One of the most difficult things to do in life is to create balance in your life.  Almost everyone carries so many different roles in life.  With a variety of roles comes many demands and many task lists.  Because of this, it is very easy to get out of balance.  A person can quickly let one area of their life take a large amount of their time, money, resources, physical energy, and spiritual energy.  Add to this the demands that others place on all of these personal aspects.  When imbalance occurs, all will suffer but most important, the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of the individual can suffer.

Therefore, it is important to work for balance in life.  Yes, there will be times when out of necessity a certain aspect of your life will demand and need more of you, however, you must return to balance as soon as possible.  So this leads me to think about what is necessary to maintain balance in life.  Here is my list:

  1. Create times for assessment – This would be taking deliberate time to look at your life and determine if it is in balance or in need of realignment.
  2. Identify a person who can give an outsider’s perspective – It is of great value to have someone who you trust and who will know you well.  This person should feel confident enough to come to you when they perceive imbalance and/or the effects of imbalance in your life.  You should trust her/him and be open to hearing from the person.
  3. Create times of retreat – When you are in the midst of the fray, it can be almost impossible to rebalance yourself.  So you need to make deliberate periods of time when you can escape the fray of life and regain that balance.  There are many different activities and locations that can be utilized for these times.  The one you choose is dependent on your interests, availability, and time.

Everyone operates much better in balance.  We also see this in nature.  So work this year on improving and maintaining balance in your life.  You will be much better for it and other people in your life will be as well.

Simple vs. Complex   Leave a comment

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I am sometimes amazed how individuals can make some situations so complex when they do not need to be.  It is true that when you are dealing with people who come to situations from different angles, there can be an increasing complexion which develops.  However, not all situations have to be that complicated.

I was part of a discussion recently that brought this to light for me.  The discussion centered around faith and what is expected of followers of Jesus Christ.  It became clear that way too often, we have a tendency to create a long list of expectations for believers.  However, when you study the whole of Scripture, it becomes very clear to me that there is only one choice that is demanded of followers of Christ…..  Choosing to believe in Jesus Christ.  All other choices and actions are in a response to what Jesus has done for us but does not have a bearing on whether we will spend eternity in the presence of God or in the absence of God.

While this discussion centered around faith, I think that the important lesson that was clear to me is applicable in almost every aspect of our lives.  We need to truly examine a situation and determine if it is really as complex as initially thought or is there a simple choice/decision that needs to be made which will handle the situation.  Leaders need to assist the groups that they led with reducing the complexity where possible and deal with the real issue at hand.

So the next time that I encounter something which I find to be very complex, I am going to strive to take a step back to determine if I am creating a complexity or if there may be just a simple aspect with which I need to deal.

Managing the Flood   Leave a comment

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I do not want to say this very loud, but I think spring might actually be arriving.  The temperatures (although very cool today) are beginning to climb and remain higher than they have been over the last three months.  With all this change in temperature comes the inevitable flooding of rivers from their banks.  For me, this imagery coincides with the flooding of needs that I am feeling as a leader. Just as it seems that the water of the rivers are a bit uncontrollable during this melting of winter, the various situations which are calling upon me as a leader seem uncontrollable.   However, I can learn from the rivers and the land around those rivers some valuable lessons that I can apply to my work as a leader.

First, this situation is not permanent.  As we continue to progress through the spring, the amount of snow and ice that is melting will diminish.  With the diminishing of the snow and ice, there will be less water filling the rivers and streams so their levels will decrease.  The timing of this will depend upon the amount of snow and ice upstream, the change in temperature rates, and the amount of additional precipitation which occurs.  However, from experience, we know that the river levels will decrease and the flooding of lands will end.  This can also be said in regards to the demands for attention and involvement in situations by me as a leader.  There are many situations that are placing a large demand upon my time and energy.  I can easily feel overwhelmed by all of this.  That being said, I know from experience that this will change and the demands will reduce.  I have no idea the exact timing of this reality and like the river levels, there are many variables that will impact the timing, however it is not a permanent situation and it will subside.

Second, there are some ways to reduce the impact.  During flood situations, people establish sandbag walls and other types of levees to keep the water from overcoming areas which they wish to preserve.  While it is true that these temporary attempts do not always work, they usually at least reduce the lasting impact that the flood waters may have on the area.  This is true in my situation as a leader.  I need to create barriers or boundaries to protect the important areas of my life.  In order to do this, I need to make very conscious decisions regarding the amount of time I devote to any given situation.  It does not mean that I ignore the situation or those involved, but I make clear decisions when I am going to respond and when I am going to dig into the situation.  Every situation seems like a crisis for the individuals that are directly impacted.  I must be sure that I evaluate each situation and access priorities.  I must make clear decisions regarding the amount and type of communication that is necessary.  In this time of emails and text messages contact is almost instantaneous, however, I can choose the timing and frequency of my reading these messages and my responses.  I need to determine what are the most effective means of dealing with each situation.  By creating boundaries, I ensure my mental well-being which will make me more useful for the individuals in each of the situations.  I can mitigate the impact of the flood.

My hope is that these lessons from nature will help me be a better and wiser leader.  If that is true, I will be able to provide stronger benefits to those who look to my leadership.

Boldly Going   Leave a comment

Photo courtesy of wikipedia

Photo courtesy of wikipedia

There are times in an organization when it is appropriate to take some bold steps.  In order to take those bold steps, a leader must be one to propose what those steps might be and then to work with others to move in that direction.  In a time when we clearly understand the great value of collaboration and a move away from hierarchy, it is very easy for leaders to adopt a view that any and all movement must be done in a “team-based” manner.  I think that this view creates an either/or scenario that I believe is unwarranted.  I find it much better to use a both/and approach.  Let me explain.

In the either/or scenario, the idea is a leader must either be dictatorial or must be passive and more of a facilitator.  If the leader wants to move the group forward in this scenario, then she/he must tell the group where it is going, how it is going to get there, and what the members must do as their required part.  The other side of this coin is that the leader calls the group together and then asks the question, “What should we do next?” and then sits backs and listens to the group.  The first option seems harsh and struggles to get “buy in” from the members especially if they are volunteers.  The second option often leads to a lot of wandering and usually a growing frustration on the part of the members.  So I find this approach unhelpful and even detrimental.

Side note:  This either/or approach seems to have dominated the thinking of most leaders and most organizations that I have witnessed or been a part of over the last twenty years.

With the both/and approach, the leader is directive in nature but encourages input and makes alterations based on input.  This approach lends itself to a leader casting a clear vision regarding the direction of the organization.  The leader must be strong in communicating this vision and even stronger in communicating the reasons for this vision.  Once the leader has cast a vision, then he/she seeks out and creates opportunities for discussions to occur.  Input is sought from a variety of sources within the organization.  Dialogue and discussion among members and the leadership occur so clarification and understanding may be established.  The leader takes into account the thoughts and perceptions shared by the members of the organization and makes adjustments to the vision when and  if they are warranted to make the vision stronger and acceptable by the majority of members.  This approach does not present a heavy-handed action of a leader but instead allows the leader to lead and the members to have confidence in that leadership.

So I encourage us to “boldly go where no others have gone.” I encourage leaders to cast clear visions and then truly listen.  I encourage members of organizations to seek leaders who take a both/and approach instead of the either/or approach.