Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The One Leadership Question You Can't Ignore

My Three Sons is a tv show I have been a fan of for years. It chronicles the adventures that a single father, Steve, encounters while raising two biological and one adopted son. In one particular episode, the oldest son Robbie is "going steady" with two girls. When Steve finds out, he confronts Robbie.

"How can you do this?" He asks.

"Easy, Dad. One's in high school and one's in college. They will never run into each other."

"No, Rob. I mean, how can you morally do this?"

How often do you hear that question asked? I'm afraid if it were voiced too many times, most of the entertainment on both the big and small screens would vanish. Reality shows would hold no value in the absence of immorality, while many prime time shows that thrive on sexual corruption would cease to exist.

While asking that question will kill silver screen entertainment in one swipe, it's a necessary proposal if you want to lead and be successful doing so. Who wants to follow someone they can't trust? At the heart of immorality is skepticism and suspicion, qualities that make for great entertainment, but poor leadership.

By the end of the thirty minute show, Rob found out you can't go steady with more than one girl and not get caught, just as in real life you can't juggle an unethical lifestyle without it eventually being exposed.

Are you willing to sacrifice everything with one deception? When you are tempted to engage in the slightest indiscretion, stop and ask, "How can I morally do this?" Not to brainstorm the mechanics of following through, but as a voice of reason to remember the end result. For the leader engaging in a corrupt enterprise, it will have a devastating ending. Are you prepared for that?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Take Me To Your Leader

Everyone follows someone; even leaders have their heroes. As one who has others counting on you, where do you get your inspiration from?

There is a song whose lyrics echo what strong leaders pray when they are seeking wisdom and favor.

Lead me Lord, I'll follow any where you open up the door,
let me know your wisdom, show me things I've never seen before.
Lord, I want to be your witness, you can take what's wrong and make it right.
Daystar shine down on me, let your love shine through me in the night.

When your desire is to follow Jesus, you're following the leader of all leaders, providing the perfect model to imitate. As you continue to emulate His example, His favor will be evident in your life. That is what you want. Your goal should be to get others to ask what the secret of your success is. And then you tell them.

Not in a preachy, condescending manner, but in the way one would brag about weight loss, or finding a steal-of-a-deal at the grocery store. Sharing about your hero should come as naturally as everyday conversation. If you can master that technique, you will be successful in leading others to Him. Of all leadership positions, can you really improve on that goal?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

It's OK to say "I don't Know."

I'm a bit of a control freak. I admit it and I own it. I also realize that I'm not alone. I have found that the more responsibility a person has, the greater their propensity to dominate situations. They weigh their decisions knowing, or at least speculating, that one wrong resolution could topple the pyramid of obligations.

As a Christian executive, don't you know that God is probably not pleased with our tendency to be controlling. "Be still and know that I am God" was not written by David just as a filler to his thick book of songs. It means something. It means that when we are tempted to claim responsibility for the outcome of a situation, especially one in which we are treading in new territory, we need to stop and know that He is God. He did not create any one person to have the ability to manage every situation that comes along. Even Solomon with his God given wisdom didn't know it all.

My four year old son is going through his independent stage. Many times, as I offer to help, he gets frustrated and says "No, Mom. I got this. I can do this." As much as it makes me smile, there are days when I wish he would trust me with the outcome and let me intervene.

I can just see God at times shaking his head saying, "Oh, Mary. My little independent one." And then other days, when I refuse to heed the red flags and continue into chaos, I imagine God shakes his finger passionately while asking "Why are you so stubborn?"

Here is the great truth. We don't have to know it all. We don't have to have all of the answers. It's OK to say "I don't know." It doesn't make us less of a person just as faking to know it all won't make us a greater person. We might as well call it the way it is. During those times when we are faced with impossible decisions, it might be best to close our office door and be still for a while. Better yet, hit the pavement and while walking, throw the situation back at God and relieve yourself of the burden.

Be still-don't wrestle with the problem.

and know that I am God-let God do the wrestling for you.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Become A Change Agent

If you are a man or woman of character, corporate America needs you. During the many years I spent working in the office environment, it was, at times, a hostile environment. Working closely with others provides a front row seat to observing their best and worst, sometimes in the same day. As a coworker, to be the peacemaker in the midst of adversity is a high calling, and one that only an individual with leadership skills can tackle.

As a Christian, it is our responsibility to impress others to make a decision to live their lives with integrity, character, and the knowledge that God is needed to be successful in every area. That can be challenging, though. Here is the situation succinctly stated by Paul in Romans.

People did not think it was important to have a true knowledge of God. So God left them and allowed them to have their own worthless thinking and to do the things they should not do. They are filled with every kind of sin, evil, selfishness and hatred. They are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, lying, and thinking the worst about each other. They gossip and say evil things about each other....They are rude and conceited and brag about themselves. They invent ways of doing evil...They are foolish, they do not keep their promises, and they show no kindness or mercy to others.(1) They know God's law says that those who live like this should die. But they themselves not only continue to do these evil things, they applaud others who do them.(2)
~Romans 1:28-32

(1) This passage clearly describes many situations, from the day to day interactions in a dysfunctional family to the office environment. Jealousy, lying, thinking the worst about each other, gossiping, being rude and conceited and bragging, breaking promises and showing no kindness or mercy. Paul never would have mentioned these things unless he knew they would become characteristics of an abnormal lifestyle. He mentions them in a worst-case-scenario presentation. Yet, walk into any corporation and you will see that starting at 7 AM, this is typical behavior. We have become complacent to the worst-case-scenario that Paul warned would come when people decided having "a true knowledge of God" would no longer be important.

Your mission as a Christian leader could not be made clearer; be a best-case-scenario employee. Be truthful, kind, not participating in listening or spreading gossip. Don't brag on yourself or take credit for work you didn't do. Keep your promises and instead of being self promoting, look for ways to advance others.

(2) Perhaps the greatest form of leadership is in knowing the right thing to do and then actually doing it. As Christians, we sometimes think doing what the majority does will cause us to blend in and God won't see our tiny indiscretion. Or, you may think that He will wink on it because, after all, others are doing it, too. By having this mindset, you sabotage the very opportunity God has given to you to make a difference and excel as a man or woman of influence. And, need I say it? Although the majority does "it", that does not make "it" right. God maintains a standard of right and wrong whether our society acknowledges it or not.

When your hostile work environment becomes normal and something you put up with-when any situation is tolerated instead of changed-you miss a vital role in provoking long term influence. It's tough being that one in a million, especially when it does not come natural to do the right thing. But that is the exact purpose in your existence wherever you go; be the one others notice for all the right reasons. Be the one to raise the standard, and watch the worst-case-scenario Paul spoke about turn into the best-case-scenario. Someone needs to do it. Are you up to the challenge?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Basin Theology

The difference between a leader who looks out for himself and one who puts others first can be seen in the last hours before Christ's crucifixion. Bruce Thielemann, former pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, says that this contrast was pointed out to him during a conversation with a member of his church.

"You preachers talk a lot about giving," he said, "but when you get right down to it, it all comes down to basin theology."

"Basin theology?" Thielemann asked. "What's that?"

"Remember what Pilate did when he had the chance to acquit Jesus?" he answered. "He called for a basin and washed his hands of the whole thing. But Jesus, the night before his death, called for a basin and proceeded to wash the feet of the disciples. It all comes down to basin theology: which one will you choose?"

~As appears in The 21 Most Powerful Minutes in a Leader's Day by John C. Maxwell