Transformative Leadership is Humble and Meek

Next level leadership is unlocked not needing the rank, control or attention that presents itself in the charismatic, dynamic personalities that we sometime envision when thinking about great leaders. I believe, as I wrote yesterday, that the invitation I face as I hit the 50 year mark is one into a greater humility to maximize leadership possibilities.

If you would have asked me as a young armor officer what the picture of a great leader was, I would have told you George Patton. He was brash and audacious. His ability and tactics moved armies across continents as he seemingly willed soldiers to exceed their perceived abilities. He was a force of a leader.

While I still recognize him as a great military leader, the opportunity to transcend that level of leadership lies in less, not more. The willpower of George Patton is needed to push through the challenges, but the humility that Jim Collins found in “Level 5” leaders is the multiplier. Patton’s armies were only going to perform for as long as his willpower was applied to their apparent limitations. The humility of a leader is what will multiply the impact of their influence.

Jesus didn’t unleash the greatest movement in the history of man with the assertion of His will. He multiplied His Kingdom through the laying down of His life. His Kingdom is available by invitation; not compulsion.

Invitation is the mechanism that multiplies. Choice is evidence of love and love awakens passion. Passion transcends.

In our search for significance, we are invited into the continuation of His story. His story, however, is executed in His methods. We can’t mandate, legislate or insist on the acceptance of the values and beliefs of Jesus; we can invite others by our service, humility and sacrifice.

I can’t will myself into Level 5 leadership. I can only pray and die. In the death of my need to be noticed, celebrated, credited or any other form of elevation, I can pray that I am transformed internally. I can trust Jesus to take what I offer and transform it into His purpose and increasingly into His image.

This is different from I thought it was going to look like and I don’t have it figured out yet. I am on a journey of purpose and the destiny that is available in the Kingdom of God comes through the same tactics employed by the King Himself. Unlike Patton’s audacious persona, the Greatest Leader harnesses His strength with a meekness that empowers others. Then they are invited to do the same.

Easter Is Freedom and Life

It’s Easter weekend and churches everywhere are scurrying around to make things just right for the big crowds. Pastors prepare sermons meant to captivate the casual attendee with the hopes of an eternal impact. People show up this one weekend in an effort to check the box to be right with God somehow. The formula of Easter, however, can’t match or meet the fullness of Jesus.

Jesus started talking about Easter early on in His ministry and for the first time in John 3, when He said, “And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.”

He referenced a story from Numbers 21 where Moses was instructed by God to build a model of a snake on a pole because people were dying from their rebellion. God gave them life if and when they were able to lift their eyes off of their circumstances and look at the snake on the pole. Jesus would bring eternal life in a similar way; He would hang on a pole (a Cross) and if people would look to Him, they would have eternal life.

The snake on the pole, is what Moses brings and that is the law. Jesus, however fulfills the law for us with grace and truth. (John 1:17)

Many of us continue to operate out of the law even if we say we believe in Jesus. We think if we do the right things, we’ll get the right results and find the right favor. Our good intentions leave us staring at a snake on a pole instead of receiving the resurrection of Jesus to fulfill the law within us.

Easter is about the risen Christ who went to the Cross to pay the price of our rebellion. If we’ll receive the sacrifice of His offering, we won’t have to perform compared to the rules anymore. We get to receive His abundant life within us to be put on display through us. It will cost us everything, but it’s better than staring at a snake on a stick.

All Politics are Local

politicsPersonally, I don’t know anybody who is excited about any particular candidate for president. Support has been justified by stronger dislike for the alternatives than it has as an endorsement for a leader with a vision. “Yeah, but they are better than” is about the weakest support you can offer and it’s the catch phrase of this election.

Where that discussion takes place, it’s not uncommon to hear something like, “I can’t believe this is the best that we can do,” or “how did we get these candidates?” Unfortunately, we got them because they reflect us. All politics are local and local attitudes have bubbled up to the national level, leaving us with a reflection of our culture.

We have become an inflammatory, contrary culture of opposition. The idea of vision and principle based leadership is not even talked about. The reason for that is it reflects a culture that doesn’t value vision and principle based living. We aren’t nearly as interested in the perseverance of vision or the sacrifice of principles as we are the selfishness of comfort.

The new normal is outrageous polarization. The preferred alternative for discussion and even entertainment has become name calling, lying and grandstanding. Unless you agree, you are targeted for attacks as disqualified based on actual or perceived flaws in your character.

Unfortunately, the church is right in the center of this shift. Since at least the 1980’s, we have increasingly embraced the divide of “right” and “wrong” or “good” and “bad” as the basis for presentation of our beliefs. We yell just as loud, lobby just as passionately and dig in just as deep where we believe you have to agree with us to be right. The only difference is we typically try to invoke God as a validation for our imposition of ideas.

Attempting to impose beliefs on others is not Christianity. There is no grace in it. Jesus didn’t impose anything on us; He invited us by His sacrifice.

None of the national discord is going to change from the top down. When we allow Jesus to change our hearts, it will reflect towards the person next door or in the office across the hall. We won’t need them to vote like us because we’ll be more interested in them than we are ourselves by eliminating the requirement that they become like us to be validated. We’ll allow for disagreement from the peace of knowing His grace, not the knowledge that puffs up in attempts to codify what was intended to be relational.

The Cost and Choice of Intimacy

IMG_0462Posting this a little later in the day than I normally do as I am thinking, writing and living on Colorado time for a couple of weeks. We are away in the mountains to minister to couples through Q1 at Legacy Lodge and the lines between giving and receiving are blurred. There is so much to gain and grow in related to how I relate that I find myself in the middle of fresh pursuit of deeper knowing.

Julie and I didn’t have the easiest flow of communication over the months leading up to this time. Expectations weren’t met and intentions weren’t appreciated. We were assuming the worst of each other at times, even though we were openly talking about it and trying to re-set that faulty lens.

Intimacy is difficult and, for me at least, it’s not a default place where vulnerability comes at the cost of comfort. Intimacy won’t happen, for me at least, without intentional sacrifice of selfish insulation. Intimacy is, for me at least, an intentional choice of investment and depth.

Intimacy isn’t only vulnerable, it is absolutely sacrificial. It is absolute in its sacrifice because where there is intimacy there will be hurt. Intimacy costs the intentional sacrifice of emotional hurt because close proximity with another, any other, will bring hurt, disappointment, misunderstanding and other unpleasant emotions. These emotions can be managed or avoided by isolation and isolation can be maintained in a crowded room or marriage relationship.

Intentionally running into hurt requires the sacrifice of our soul that is otherwise self-protective. Without acknowledgment and attention to the emotions that come with exposure, we will eventually develop habits of avoidance and callousness of the very heart we are asked to share. Hurt is temporary when we submit to the Healer. Healing starts on the inside and it is a benefit of knowing God, whose very name includes the declaration of His healing.

I spent the first part of my life protecting myself from any real exposure and the result was easy, but shallow. Marriage doesn’t negate that possibility, it simply affords the opportunity and possibility of depth and living beyond the restriction of isolation. For me at least, I can only hope to walk in intimacy when I allow the Healer to tend to my soul. With His healing and restoration, I can wake up to die to me again.

Sacrificing Strength

sacrificeMy natural bent is towards action. I am inclined to go there once I see there. In the Strengthfinder’s assessment, my #2 strength is “activator” and my #1 is “strategic.” So, according to that assessment, I’ll be inclined to see “it” pretty well and then be about doing “it” pretty quickly. As I said a couple of days ago here, there are strengths as well as blind spots in that.

I’m working with a team and I’ll pull the team towards action. In the middle of that contribution, if the other members of the team aren’t equally engaged we will likely get going too fast. I’ll take us to a break neck speed and be totally comfortable. Others, though, will be blown away.

I have to listen and they have to speak. It’s the strength of the team but it’s only a strength if all parties operate in whatever strength they offer and allow for others, too. The concert of strengths is what maximizes the capacity of the team.

If the team is a concert but it’s made up of only a single instrument, there are limits to music that can be accurately or adequately interpreted. Music is designed for orchestration. Teams are meant to be blended and complimentary, not isolated and exclusive.

When every member of a team feels like their strengths have a place of value, the result will be sweet and attractive. When a single member is the single reason for a team, start the clock towards dysfunction and expect turnover. The gifts within the group will be looking for a place to be expressed and if your team won’t allow for it, they will find a place that will. “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.” (Proverbs 18:16)

Strategic activation is necessary for organizational dynamics, but so is learning and harmony and other gifts that might be sacrificed if not given room. It’s not easy for a strong gift to take a secondary place to another gift. The greatness of our design is that if we’ll sacrifice the strength of our gifts for the benefit of other gifts, we’ll actually become stronger in the whole than we were individually prior to that sacrifice.

5 Ways to Give it Away

Government-Dependence-Handouts-Public-Domain-300x300Internal focus yields the dissatisfaction of a life that is stagnant. The only way for life to flow through any one of us is for us to live external of ourselves. We have to choose to live beyond our immediate personal comfort or preferences. That requires sacrifice but that sacrifice pays the price for the reward of satisfaction. There is a depth of living available which is only accessible by giving things away.

The greatest things we can give away are eternal and the things that are eternal are faith, hope and love (1 Cor 13). Everything else fades away. Sometimes faith, hope and love come in the form of provision or relief from lack. They can come in the form of tangible expressions that we can only hope reveal a deeper realization of Who provided.

When we meet others at their point of need without dictating conditions for our offering, they are able to receive the very things that we know are eternal. If we want to teach them a lesson about faith but they are hungry and defeated, they likely won’t have ears to hear. If we want to lecture them on behaviors from a place of judgment they will likely defend themselves and there will be no exchange of love.

If God has done something eternal within you, a natural response is the desire to share it. At the same time, the thought of sharing can provoke fear as the inexplicable, invisible thing within you searches for expression. It’s so real, yet so elusive, how can it be captured, packaged and given away?

  1. Be available – Relationship facilitates impact. Being available to others in the natural, normal flow of life without an agenda is necessary for authentic relationship.
  2. Listen – Really pay attention. If, in the context of authentic relationship, they are reaching out to expose their burdens or ask of your story, you’ll have an opportunity for depth.
  3. Defer – Trust the Holy Spirit. He is the One that shines a light; not you. Allow God to minister to others through you without leaving Him behind and carrying only a philosophy of Him with you. He’s good at this and He’ll include you.
  4. Comfort – The Holy Spirit is the Comforter. Want to agree with Him in the lives of others? Meet them where they are with the simple comfort of “I’m sorry.” Comfort requires no solution or advice.
  5. Encourage – Give courage away. Call others into a better place. Nobody rejects encouragement.

If we will foster authentic relationships, pay attention to others, agree with the Holy Spirit in the moment, meet others where they are and encourage them there will be no shortage of possibilities. Those practical methods can produce transformation in lives and God wants to include you as He changes things.