The Glory of Shutting Up

Somewhere along the way, we have largely embraced a cultural value and belief that we need to be heard. We need to have a voice to proclaim our perspective. We need to be afforded a seat at the table to weigh in on whatever subject we deem ourselves interested and opinionated.

It’s not true. We don’t need to be heard. Often times, it’s actually to our advantage to not be heard. The position of no position is peaceful compared to the contentious places of preference.

In Matthew 16, Jesus begins to teach His guys this lesson. He begins to teach them the Kingdom. Verse 21 says that Jesus “began to show” His disciples that He “must” suffer, be killed and be raised.

Peter actually starts to argue with Him. Peter needed to be heard, with what most of us would have concluded to be a noble position, but we would see in the reaction of Jesus that it was anything but noble. Peter said that he wouldn’t allow Jesus to suffer and be killed and Jesus shut him down; actually called him Satan.

Jesus tells Peter that his perspective is wrong; he’s looking at things from man’s perspective, not God’s perspective. Jesus goes on to say that to follow Him, we must deny ourselves, which actually means to forget about ourselves. It means to not focus on us or the opinions we foster within us. Those opinions don’t need to be heard.

We are invited to die to the preferences of our soul (vs. 25-26) just like Jesus was. We get to not have an opinion. We get to enjoy the benefits of sacrifice, if we will reject the apparent satisfaction of being heard or considered or preferred. If we’ll allow ourselves to lose, we will win.

Glory comes on the other side of crucifixion. Where we willingly allow ourselves not to matter and deny our desire to advance the preferences of our soul, the glory of God can come through us. Where we will sacrifice our mind, will and emotions, His Spirit will be put on display through us.

Jesus didn’t come to provide a history lesson or abstract idea; He came to unleash His Kingdom and His plan for multiplication of that Kingdom is us. We are invited to follow Him in His ways; the ways of His Kingdom. Not our ways and our need to be heard. His ways are better, but they come at the cost of our preferences.

Understanding Others Starts with Understanding Self

I was on a video conference call with people from the other side of the world last week. People who have become friends from time that we have gotten to spend together and now work we are getting to do together. People of different cultures and countries with a common goal. Even seeing them on video and interacting in that way stirred warm feelings of friendship and appreciation for them.

As we finished our meeting, someone asked me to close our meeting with prayer. As I started to pray, the Lord stirred the story of the Tower of Babel and I prayed in agreement. In that story from Genesis 11, people were building a tower to reach the heavens. God decided to confuse their common language to prevent their understanding and stop them from accomplishing their task.

Where we can gain common understanding, we can reach heaven and heaven will reach us. Where we can break through the common and preferred way we know things to understand them from a foreign perspective, we’ll gain insight into the Kingdom of God. When we are willing to be uncomfortable and hold our preferences loosely, we can gain the eternal alternative.

Ephesians 2:22 says that God, on the cornerstone of Christ, is building His household to house His Spirit. The household is people in relationship, not institutions, buildings or programs. Where we seek common understanding relationally, we have the capacity to house the very Spirit of God among us.

When stones are arranged relationally to build a structure, they require shaping. The shaping incorporates hammers, chisels and saws. There is abrasive effort to take a stone and alter it in such a way that it can fit with other stones unto a greater purpose than any of the single stones will serve alone. We require the same shaping.

We can reach the heavens as part of the household of God. Where we seek and depend on common understanding, we come closer to heaven and invite heaven closer to earth. That understanding comes at the expense of our preferences and sacrifice of the selfishness of our soul. If we will allow the shaping, our individual purpose will be multiplied in relational agreement with others who are being shaped, as well.

We won’t really understand them until we understand us. Until we are honest about our faults and insecurities, we won’t have any true strength. Our faults will be a fault in the structure until they are recognized and compensated for by the offsetting strengths of the others. We’ll know their strengths compared to our weaknesses if we are willing to admit our weaknesses first.

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast and Leaders for Lunch

Peter Drucker is credited with saying, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” That quote indicates his conviction that strategy is good, but culture dictates capacity and outcomes.

Last week, I wrote about how supervision of results is relatively easy. Strategic duplication of those results is more difficult. Cultural change to multiply impact requires the discipline and determination to forego control. That type of multiplication requires release.

Release of others to carry the vision and culture as multipliers means that they are likely going to do things different than how you might. It’s the cost of multiplication. The reward of tending to culture is the satisfaction of knowing that you didn’t have to matter directly but got the privilege of being a part of a multiplying impact towards a common vision.

Some leaders, however, won’t possess the security or emotional intelligence to be unnecessary. They won’t want things to happen around them indirectly, but they need to be in control directly. They may never know the deeper satisfaction of multiplication beyond themselves.

Culture change will only be attractive compared to tactics and strategy when leaders are willing to get out-of-the-way. When it isn’t about the individual, the group can flourish. Until then, the capacity of the organization is directly tied to the limitations of an individual’s insecurity.

Freedom is rooted in identity. A by-product or fruit of freedom is security. Where there is an assurance of identity, there will be a security that overcomes temptations of control. The capacity of the organization will be tied to the soul of its leader as the insecure leader won’t empower and entrust others. Without release, the culture will be and remain stagnant yet predictable.

The cost of release includes the messiness of mistakes. The security of a leaders allows for mistakes to be opportunities, not definitions. They won’t define others by their mistakes nor accept the whispers of definition related to their own worth when the results are less than excellent.

Being quiet when you know the answer is more difficult than being right. Yet, stepping back is the only way that others have space to step up. Ultimately, them stepping up or not is what defines the leader; not the skill of that leader being applied directly to a task.

A friend of mine with a doctorate degree in leadership still refers to himself as a student of leadership. He never stops developing. He is open to his flaws and needs for learning and growth. He is an excellent leader because he doesn’t consider himself a leader of note. We’re never done; there is always more. The price of leadership is vulnerability and vulnerability requires the security of not needing to be perfect. Imperfect leaders breed a multiplying culture as others are allowed to grow in their imperfections, too.

Multiplying Impact and Results By Developing Culture

I was reading a post-game interview with a major college coach who has been in his current position for two years. His team was coming off of a big, program defining win. There was a particular play where a team rallied with extraordinary effort around the ball carrier.

The play had come on 3rd and 19 and there was about a 10 yard pass; well short of the first down. The receiver pushed and pulled, with the help of his teammates, another 7 yards or so and set up 4th and short. Ultimately, the team went for it on 4th down and converted the first down.

The call – the strategy and tactics – only produced about 1/2 of what was required. It was the unity of agreement towards a goal that pushed the situation to favorable. The coach had done all that he could do and he was left to simply watch as the team took matters into their own hands beyond the result of the strategy and tactic.

Immediately following the play, the coach reportedly said, “That’s a culture play right there.” The culture was changing. He inherited a program with limited success and he was trying to get them to achieve more. He was going about it by attempting to change the culture. If the culture changes, the norms change. If the norms change, people agree related to how and what to do. They already know why; it’s cultural. They agree with the why and are unified towards the what.

Culture multiplies leadership. Culture is the multiplier because it extends beyond the direct control of the leader. The leader doesn’t have to direct the specifics, but can trust that hearts are aligned towards a common goal and the extra effort, creativity and perseverance is a produce of agreement. Skills, talents, abilities and creativity are released to multiply. All the leader is left to do, at times, is watch as the team results exceeds the strategy or tactics employed.

When the leader doesn’t have to be present but the vision is “caught” in the culture, there can be exponential momentum. Ultimately, it is the test of truly outstanding leadership; how do they perform in your absence? Additionally, how do they perform in your absence when faced with unexpected challenges? Can they adapt collectively and push through the variables that weren’t planned for?

Strategy and tactics are easy by comparison. Culture is the hard, slower process of agreement towards a common goal. It’s the “why” becoming so inherent in the language and consciousness of an organization that the leader’s immediate presence isn’t necessary. It’s also the only true multiplier of the three.

How to Win Without Trying

After 51 years, I’m starting to get it. The fire that has burned is best used when restrained and tended in order to prevent unintended casualties even where the goal is achieved. When I am able to not take the bait and step into a fight that doesn’t have to be fought, the peace and position are far superior to the aftermath of a contentious outcome (even a victory).

Less is more, even when less is elusive. Maybe especially when less is elusive. When we can throttle back and allow for ourselves to be subject to the adverse interests of others in a manner which is non-inflammatory, we gain the superior position. In other words, when we will concede the superior place, we inherit it.

Jesus most often referred to Himself as “Son of Man.” He could have called Himself a number of things, including “Son of God” or “King of Kings,” but instead He chose “Son of Man.” He chose the lower position from which He would serve and not be served. The result was a legitimacy that was never really in question. It was a superiority which couldn’t have been threatened, anyway.

Trust is essential to this posture and trust is built through relational experience. The way to the lesser position is by reliance on a  Source greater than ourselves. It’s a trust that exceeds our personal ability and a willingness to allow for the outcomes that may contradict our desires.

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

What has already been entrusted is the fuel for what convinces. Experience in trust breeds confidence in trust. What little has been offered is fuel for the potential of more.

In effect: I trust that God is able to take what I have trusted and make it more. I have been convinced and am being convinced. God has called to me and I have been persuaded; now He is continually persuading me as I continually trust step by step and grow in Him. We believe in part and then are convinced in that part to trust for the next part.

Being convinced allows for the security and peace that facilitates the apparently lesser position. It affords the freedom of knowing victory without having to try to win.

Being OK When You Find Yourself in the Wrong Place

My wife got to take an incredible trip to Germany and France recently. One evening, we were going to dinner with my sister and her husband who live in Germany, along with some of their friends. I was driving one of the cars to a restaurant in Heidelberg. We got a little turned around and were trying to find the restaurant.

Along the way, I made a few mistakes. First, I drove across a bridge that was a footpath. People all over the bridge had to make way for this rogue car. Then, I drove through a restaurant’s outdoor seating, prompting my sister to say, “you’re about to hit the waitress.” Finally, I found myself in a designated bus lane with no way out other than to follow the bus in front of me.

While sitting at a red light while in the bus lane with my window down, we noticed a German man staring me down. He was obviously taking exception with my choice of lanes and rightfully so. He was staring intently at this crazy driver who was either rebellious, chaotic, confused or some combination. As we noticed him glaring at me, I instinctively put my hands up in a surrendered posture and said simply, “I’m in the wrong place.” At that simple declaration, his grimace turned to a bit of a smile and he turned and walked away.

While I didn’t want to be in the wrong lane or threaten the wait staff with my wayward choices driven by my confusion, I wasn’t offended or threatened when the man confronted me with a look. I knew I was in the wrong place and he knew that I was in the wrong place. I knew that I wasn’t a bus and this was a mistake. I was going to get back in the car lane as soon as I could. That response of confession and surrender disarmed any accusations he was formulating.

When we know who we are, we know when we are out of our lane and the temporary time in a place we don’t belong won’t threaten our identity. We won’t react to threats or accusations when we are grounded in the security of the Truth of our identity. We’ll be secure in our confession and change our mind. No need to fight; you know I’m not a bus and I know that I’m not a bus.

Identity breeds security and security fosters emotional maturity. When we are affirmed in who we are by the One who made us, we can know peace in our mistakes as well as our victories because neither define us.