Next Level Leadership Needs No Insignia

The first leadership position that I remember was in the Boy Scouts. I remember organizing, planning, delegating and communicating to get a couple of dozen other young men from one place to the other. Those places included Italy, Austria and all over Germany (we lived in Germany for a few years when I was growing up).

At 18, I was promoted into a supervisor’s position as an assistant warehouse manager ahead of 30-somethings and candidates that had been to college. Later, I went to college and became the president of my fraternity, cadet commander of the school’s ROTC detachment, and a Resident Assistant. From there, I was commissioned as a second lieutenant and led soldiers as a tank platoon leader, eventually as a company commander. Along the way, I became a corporate manager with responsibility for subordinate supervisors and teams of employees.

There were other leadership experiences that have led me to where I am today. Almost 50, I have believed that I am well positioned to hit my stride. I have felt equipped, called and suited to lead in the places where I currently have responsibility. What I am finding as I hit the half-century mark is different from I had expected. Hitting stride is different from I thought.

The tactics, impact and ability to get things done as a leader shift. The shift is from control to influence. The direct cause and effect of my effort is no longer the plan. The shift I am being invited into, I believe, is into the next level of leadership. It’s what Jim Collins calls “Level 5” leadership. Level 5 leadership is described as a “paradoxical blend of humility and willpower.”

The “x” factor is in the humility. While I have battled pride over the years, the Lord has done a work. I am not the man who I was, by His grace. Yet, there is more. There is a depth of humility that calls out to my soul which holds the unlocking of the power of maximized leadership.

I don’t know exactly what it is or what it means, just yet. I am interested, but still a bit ignorant. The best picture I have so far is a picture of a military officer. A military officer is adorned with rank that is worn on their collar. I see the invitation being encapsulated in the taking off of the rank and laying it on the table. It doesn’t change the leader; it reflects their lack of a need for any adornment.

The best picture I have of who that person of authority looks like is Jesus.

The Universal Benefit of Calling Out Identity

I volunteered as a mentor in a youth prison for several years and worked with boys, ages 14-17, as they worked towards a greater chance once they were released. What I found was that they are normal people; regular kids. Obviously, they had problems but the problems they had are not as unfamiliar to most of us as we might initially believe.

We never asked them why they were in jail or what they had done. The things that they had done to get them into this situation did not define who they were and I didn’t want to reinforce it as their identity. They didn’t steal because they were blessed by God with gifting as a thief (in fact, they couldn’t have been too good at it since they were obviously caught). It was a manifestation of junk inside of them leading to an act of rebellion, greed, laziness, desperation, etc.

The gifts and abilities that these young men did have had been hijacked to be applied in negative ways with negative consequences. Some of these boys were quite accomplished as drug dealers or gang leaders While that is both illegal and wrong, there are some leadership, marketing, entrepreneurial and organizational skills that were evident in those endeavors. They weren’t drug dealers or gang leaders by their design, but they were quite possibly destined to be great business owners, salesmen or leaders with the proper nurturing and application of their abilities. Instead of dwelling on what got them into prison, we would call out those gifts which were evident in them to help them see themselves for who they were actually were.

With the simple power of an affirming word, we would call them who they actually were instead of labeling them with the twisted mis-application of their abilities. We would very directly compliment them on their strength, leadership, intellect, etc. How do you feel when you get a compliment? These guys liked it, too; they would literally change right in front of your eyes, pulling their shoulders back, looking up, smiling and even gaining clarity in their eyes and expressions.

Most of us know when we mess up and don’t actually need much of a reminder from those around us that love us. We will face the consequences of our mistakes willingly or otherwise but a word of encouragement will help us move beyond that failure and into the truth of who we really are much more than reminders of our failures.

This is true for boys in prison, teenagers in the suburbs, middle-aged professionals, employees, church people and any other types of people who make mistakes but need to know that mistake does not define them. Those boys aren’t that much different than most of the people reading this blog or the guy writing it.

Get Your Gifts Back

When we see areas of our lives that are clearly not what they are intended to be, sometimes the picture of what is intended is the exact opposite. In fact, the thing that tends to torment us or challenge us the most might be a gift within us which has been perfectly hijacked. In such cases, the best course of action is to step towards the gift even more than trying to stop doing the things that are off course.

When I was younger, I was particularly good at the banter. The sharp, sarcastic jousting that cuts at any weakness was an area of strength for me. When in a room where there was that kind of cutting and slashing, I was a force to be dealt with.

The effort to stay ahead of others to defend myself and attack them verbally is mentally tiring because it’s not God’s intention for the verbal ability He put within me. He gave me language and ability to speak life and encouragement, but instead I was speaking criticism and destruction. The gift that He wanted to use to call out greatness in others was doing the exact opposite. There was no rest in it because there was no eternity in it. The rest that accompanies our gifts is in our agreement with God’s purposes in our gifts and abilities.

Since then, I have seen time and time again where sarcastic and cynical wit is actually a prophetic gift. Prophecy, by definition of 1 Corinthians 14:3, is speaking encouragement, edification and comfort. The hijacking of the gift is discouragement, tearing down and discomfort. Look into the shadow of the gift to find the true intention of design.

The Kingdom is an invitation, not a prohibition. Jesus calls us to follow and be included, unleashing everything He has put in us for eternal purposes. The law tells us to stop doing bad things; Jesus calls us to do powerful things. When we see that there has been a hijacking of our giftedness, the invitation is to step into the power of our design. The hijacking will be corrected when we agree with the purpose of our destiny.

If you’ve allowed your tongue to be hijacked to speak discouragement and dishonor, change your mind. Turn into the purposes of honor and encouragement that God has put within you. If there are other areas that have been off track, what is the track they are intended? Once those areas are released in agreement with their design, the attempt to kill, steal and destroy will be defeated by the life, abundance and creation that sons and daughters are called into.

Don’t Just Go to Work; Carry the Kingdom with Passion and Purpose

When we are searching for our purpose, the first place to inventory is often our passions. The question we are asking is, “why am I here,” and that question requires context. The context is creation and creation is a product of the Creator. The same Creator that initiated the context, designed us for the context.

So how are you wired? What stirs you? What are your passions? These are breadcrumbs on the trail in the journey I touched on in last week’s article.

The passions that are stirred are indicators of design and the design is only legitimate for so long as it fits within the context. This is where it can get tricky, if you aren’t careful. The context is bigger than you, me or any individual. It’s not about us. The passions we uncover aren’t to be explored for the sole purpose of satisfaction, but they are actually indicators of equipping for service. Service within the framework of the context.

The context is the Kingdom of God. He is the Creator and He is the Designer. Everything starts with and comes back to Him. Every gift, ability, passion or purpose within us is designed by Him to be offered back to Him. The fact that the get to feel His pleasure in the pursuit of our purpose in the context of His Kingdom is a bonus.

The Kingdom extends beyond the institution of a church, into the society within which the church operates. The gatherings of “church” have to be considered in the context of the Kingdom. The passions and purposes of the church folks applied in context extends the reach of the church beyond the four walls of the church.

The marketplace needs the gifts of the church for any hope of light in the darkness. In other words, Christians walking in their purpose reach places that won’t be touched by a pastor as people who won’t be attending a church interact with the church in the context of the Kingdom.

The Kingdom is the invisible reality beyond the visible facts (Hebrews 11:3). When working among the world, don’t be satisfied with the visible facts but ask for eyes to see. Ask to see the invisible and reach beyond the tangible. What are the eternal needs in the temporal facts? The answers that God shows you will be in need of a Kingdom ambassador walking in their purpose, given permission by the gifts of their passion to bridge the gap between heaven and earth.

Our Identity is Not What We Do; We Are So Much More

When I was practicing criminal defense law, one of the things I had to get “in” me pretty quick was the client’s identity was not what they were accused of. Where they were guilty, the choices resulting in that verdict did not reflect the truth of their identity. There was a deeper truth of their design that I had to look for to best serve them. I wanted to see the real them without being distracted by the evidence of their hijacking.

What’s the second question that you ask or are asked after meeting someone for the first time? Usually, right after asking or being asked names, it’s “what do you do?” From there, as often or not, there is discussion regarding the ups and downs of the professions identified by the answers given. While there is certainly nothing “wrong” with this form of communicating, there are opportunities missed.

By allowing what we do to sidetrack conversations, we avoid who we are. We are not what we do. We do things that might or might not reflect deeper truths of our identity. The depth of our identity, and the identity of others, holds the depth of relationship. The depth of living is within the depth of relationship.

We are created to know and be known in authentic relationship but we all too often miss it by labels that come with occupations, positions or mistakes we’ve made. It’s important for its own sake, but the weight of its importance is multiplied when considering the opportunities missed. When we get stuck there about others, we often are getting stuck there about ourselves.

When we think we are “just a ________ , ” we miss the eternal purpose of our design. When we miss the eternal purpose of our design, we miss the eternal impact of our efforts. What we do, or don’t do, can have forever ramifications. The satisfaction that comes with that kind of impact can dictate our satisfaction as well as our passion. When designed for more, we are left dissatisfied with less.

You may or may not be spending your time living from the passions of your identity and consequently experiencing the satisfaction of your design. If you are, you know what I’m talking about and if you aren’t, you know that much more. The best time to make changes to your circumstances for the unlocking of the real you was possibly years ago. The second best time is today.

 

 

Working a Job, Chasing the American Dream or Passionately Living With Purpose?

When I first started practicing law, I was sitting in court waiting for my case to get called. I was sitting next to an attorney in his 60’s who had been practicing for over 30 years. As we waited, I asked him if he liked practicing law and he told me that he did. He said, “I do, because I only take the kinds of cases that I like to work on. I had to take divorce cases when I first got started but I didn’t like them and now I don’t have to take them anymore, so I don’t. I like it because I like the cases I take.”

We can do things that we aren’t passionate about for a season of necessity but the target should be alignment with the things that bring us pleasure in our calling. We should seek to find joy in the things that we do. We may not always get to do only what we want, but increasingly with age we are often afforded increasing opportunities to narrow the scope of our pursuits.

In our 20’s and even into our 30’s, we are figuring out what we like and don’t like as well as what we are good at as well as not so good at. The passions typically align with the competencies. Bobb Biehl says that we go through a process of refinement and focusing and transformation that positions us to hit our stride in our 50’s. He goes on to say that our decade of greatest success is actually our 60’s.

Could it be that the attorney I was talking with as we waited for our case was enjoying his greatest success? Is it possible that he had spent a couple of decades refining his passions and aligning his pursuits before hitting his stride and now enjoying the fruits of the process?

God asks for our firsts and our best. We offer Him what we value first and foremost, which requires consideration of what those specific things are for us. Self-assessment for the purpose of agreement with His design invites His anointing. The things that He has put in us come out through us as we offer back to Him the very things that He created in the first place.

What do you love? What brings you joy? Are you working a job, chasing the American Dream or aligning with His purposes for you as expressed through your passions to give back to Him the thing that He invested in you?