Diversity of Leaders

Humanity is wonderfully diverse, and not just in the obvious racial and ethnic ways. Humanity is diverse is the way we each approach life and live out purpose and meaning. This is an incredible and beautiful thing.

Leadership is the same way. Leaders are quite diverse. Yet, often we read leadership books or attend seminars and it comes across as one-size-fits-all kind of thing. It is not.

Some leaders make us think, some lead us to new places, some motivate us to do more, some instill purpose, some teach us, some inspire us, some create, some bring growth, all add value.

Some types of leaders are…

  • …pioneers – those that lead the way into new and uncharted territory
  • …pilots – those that help us get from here to there
  • …visionaries – those that see what others don’t
  • …creators – those that make new things and new ways of doing
  • …managers – those that help teams accomplish stated goals
  • …coaches – those that help teams and individuals do more
  • …teachers – those that show how and lead to betterment
  • …connectors – those that bring people together to create synergy
  • …motivators – those that rally people to a cause and create movement

Over the next few weeks, I am going to write out a series of posts exploring these 9 types of leaders more in depth.

One of the things that would make a huge and positive impact on our society would be to celebrate the wonderful diversity that exists in life and this includes among leaders. Unity does not mean conformity or likeness. Unity means agreement in purpose. The best unity is when we come together with others and share ideas and each uses their unique insight and perspective to make the whole better.

In the dark

It’s been an interesting week around the office here for one simple reason… the power has gone out twice.

The first time was related to a problem on a pole down the street. I don’t know what caused it, but it took out power for several homes and businesses here near the church including stoplights on at least four intersections. That was on Tuesday morning. The second one happened Wednesday afternoon due to a problem with a supply line into the building. This required the power company to dig a hole in our parking lot to fix.

Both times the outage occurred, I was working in my office when suddenly everything went dark. I have no windows in my office and work on a laptop. The glowing laptop screen was the only thing that kept me from being left in full darkness.

While, I was able to keep working from the battery on my laptop, I didn’t have internet connection, so I left to go home where I would have power and internet. As I was driving down the street, I saw people from other offices and businesses in the area outside trying to see what was going on.

When the power goes out, productivity screeches to a halt. We live in a connected world fueled by electricity. without a strong flowing connection, we are stuck. We are lost.

Spiritually, it’s the same way. If we aren’t connected to our source of power, we are stuck. We are lost. Our connection to God is vital to everything in our life.

Like a battery powered device, we seem to be fine on our own, disconnected for some time. Eventually, the battery runs down and connection to a source of power is needed to continue.

Without constant power from our Source, our Creator, we cannot function the way we were created. Without ongoing connection with God, we are in the dark. We are lost.

This isn’t just about being productive for God. This is about being connected with God and living the fullness of life and relationship that He desires and created us to live.

Maintain your connection with your Source and discover the joy and energy that comes only from Him.

3 Ways to Never Fail

Fear of failure is a major fear among people. In fact, Psychology Today claims that most of us experience it.* This seems especially true among leaders and managers.

Now fear of failure doesn’t rank as high as fear of public speaking on its own, but isn’t that part of that fear? The fear that we are going to completely make a fool of ourself in front of a group of people in an epic fail moment.

Society puts a high value on success, or at least perceived success. As such, nobody likes to fail at anything. Those moments we do fail, our pride gets damaged, we are embarrassed, we try to deflect, hide, or simply ignore the fail.

Failure is not fun. Whether it is a test in school all the way to a relationship or business, failing is miserable.

So here are three surefire ways to never ever fail…

  1. Always follow someone else. Only do those things which others are doing or have done and proven effective. Whether in our personal lives or our professions, if we stick to time-tested proven strategies and formulas, we will not fail. We will continue to experience the results and success of those who have gone before. If something doesn’t work, followers are rarely if ever blamed or have to shoulder the responsibility. Leaders, front-runners are the ones who bear the weight and responsibility of failure. Followers just do what is in front of them to do. Even in leadership, if we follow others, we don’t bear the same burden as the ones out front forging the way forward.
  2. Never ask “why?” When we ask why something is done a certain way or why it is done at all, we are stepping into a realm of potential innovation and risk. This is a formula for possible failure. To avoid failure, we must maintain the status quo. Yes, innovation brings new and exciting ways to do things. Innovation leads to convenience and better, more effective solutions. But, along the way to a working and sustainable electric light bulb was thousands of failures. And, Thomas Edison wasn’t the only one to try and fail. In fact, many others had tried and failed enough that they gave up in defeat. When we ask “why?”we are opening up to the possibility that what is being done or how it is being done might not be best and the better way might have to come from us.
  3. Stay where you are and keep to what you know. It’s a big scary world out there full of risk and opportunities to fail. The more you attempt to expand your thinking and your understanding, the more you open yourself up to exploration. Exploration leads to risk and often involves failure. Venturing out from where you are is risky. You might fail.

Of course each of these is really the same thing – avoiding risk. That is the only truly sure-fire way to never fail. Any time you take any chance there is the possibility of failure, whether it is something relatively small in the grand scheme of life or it is potentially earth-shaking.

This fear of failure keeps so many people from stepping out and doing something significant, something different, something new. Too many times in life opportunities are missed and advancements not realized due to someone letting this fear paralyze them

This is a real fear…

Atychiphobia – the abnormal, unwarranted, and persistent fear of failure.**

Like all fears, it is mostly about our mind convincing us that the risk isn’t worth the reward. That the consequences outweigh the rewards of going for it.

Failure is not really what we should fear. We should fear the regret of not trying. It is worse.

If we take the approach that every failure is a chance to learn and find a new way, a better way, then failure becomes less of a burden. Back to Thomas Edison. He is quoted as saying that he made up to 10,000 attempts at the lightbulb. Actually, he never said that.*** The exact number doesn’t matter, and is not known as he didn’t keep an accurate track. What matters is that he spent ten years and went through failure after failure before he achieved his goal. He didn’t view all those experiments as failures. He saw them as one step closer to success.

Imagine if he and the others gave up and said it was impossible after a year of trying. Imagine if they let the fear of failure keep them from even trying. You wouldn’t be reading this the way you are. The LED technology that is lighting the screen on your device is only possible because Edison found a way to make an incandescent bulb work and over the next 100 years it evolved into other forms of lighting.

Risk is a part of life. There was an element of risk involved in you standing up out of bed this morning. If you drove any where in a car today, you took part in a very risky endeavor.

I have also learned that the only way to experience new and wonderful, to see new horizons and new heights is to take risks. To do that we have to push past the fear of failure.

 

Footnotes

 

Stubborn or Steadfast

We have all heard various statistics bantered about regarding the length of time pastors remain in one position. I’ve heard everything from the average is 18 months to 4 years. Of course, the length is affected by the definitions and scope applied to any study that produces these statistics. I’ve also heard the study that 1500+ ministers leave the ministry every month. Truth be told, I tend to be a bit dubious of the full unbiased accuracy of these type statistics.

Whenever these statistics come up, there is the usual head scratching and statements of lament along with touting an exception or two of someone who stayed one place for decades.

The problem with all of this is that we too often focus on the empirical numbers and human reasoning. Like with too many things in life, we don’t factor in the Will of God or His sovereignty in our conversations and editorials on this subject.

There are definitely those who simply quit or take the “easy” way out of a situation and move when it gets difficult. There will always be selfishness and human frailties among ministers. After all, ministers are human, so the sin nature is very much a factor.

That said I think we get off track and sometimes raise stubbornness to a level equal with steadfastness. There is a difference. Stubbornness is often rooted in selfishness and/or human will. Steadfastness, however, is based on obedience to God’s Word and direction.

As a pastor, as leaders we are called to obedience. Actually, as followers of Christ we are called to obedience.

John 14:15 (NIV) “If you love me, keep [obey] my commands.”

If God directs someone to plant themselves in a ministry position for 40 or more years, then it would be disobedient for them to leave any sooner. Likewise, if God has someone in a place for a season of 2 years and they stay 4 to beat the average out of stubbornness, they are equally disobedient.

It’s not about how we compare to statistics or averages. It’s whether or not we are being true to God and His calling and direction.

The person who stays 30 years is no better than the one who leaves after 3 if they are each obedient to God’s individual plan for them.

We have to be careful to not take human reasoning and apply it to the things of God.

I have generally taken on the posture that I am where I am for life until God tells me otherwise. I am neither looking to leave at a certain point nor stubbornly determined to stay until one. I hope to be steadfastly obedient to the One who designed the plan and made the path.

Let’s not get caught up in how we line up compared to others.

Paul the apostle travelled from place to place, rarely staying in one place more than two years, often only several months. James on the other hand, remained in Jerusalem and was the leader of the church there for more than 20 years until he was stoned to death in 69 AD. Neither one more obedient or more Godly than the other when it comes to timeline. They were each serving their role obediently before God.

That is what each of us is to do: serve obediently before God. Whether for a short season or decades, the time doesn’t matter, it is the obedience that matters.

Let’s be steadfast, true to the path God has set before each of us.

“Longevity isn’t the point of leadership, obedience is.” – Scott Wilson, Senior Pastor, The Oaks Fellowship, Red Oak, Texas

 

 

 

 

 

photo credit: asinus via photopin (license)

Two words that kill a marriage

ArgueCoupleI have sat with many couples in crisis. My own marriage experienced a crisis several years ago. There have been successful healing of relationships and some that didn’t make it. Through these experiences some patterns have emerged. From those patterns I have found two words that are powerfully destructive between a husband and wife when used in disagreement and frustration.

There are many cruel things we can say to one another. Lots of names we can call another person that are hurtful. When couples say these things and call each other names, it hurts, and it can be difficult to overcome. However, these two words are so destructive because of what they indicate in the one saying them as much as what they do to the one hearing them.

The two words are – ALWAYS and NEVER.

Now, there is a flipside. These two words do have a positive aspect as well that can be restorative and healthy. I’ll get to that in a moment.

When said from one to another in an argument these words tear down so much. When one spouse looks at the other and says, “You always (fill in the blank),” or “You never (fill in the blank),” what they are really saying is that the other spouse doesn’t measure up. It is a statement of harsh accusation.

Not just accusation, but it also communicates that the one speaking has no belief that the other person can change. It is an accusation without hope which is judgment. It is the same thing as the judge declaring the verdict. A final decision.

When the speaker keeps saying “always” and “never” over and over they not only are removing hope from the other, they are removing their own hope as well. The more we speak something, the more we believe it.

Not only do these words demean, accuse, and destroy hope, they aren’t true. I have yet to find a situation where one spouse always does something or never does. These two words are lies. I know when the speaker says them, they feel true, but they rarely are if ever.

As I am working through issues with couples, one of the first ground rules we set is that the words “never” and “always” are off-limits. At least, they are off-limits in arguments or discussions about behavior and feelings.

The flip side of these two words that can restore and be healthy happens when the couple stops fighting against one another and starts fighting on the same side for the marriage. Then these words have value in statements such as:

  • We will work to never mistrust one another’s motive again.
  • We will always strive toward understanding of the other.
  • We will try to never sweep things under the rug and not deal with issues immediately and respectfully.
  • We will endeavor always consider the other before self.
  • We will never call each other names, degrade, demean, of insult one another.

You get the idea.

“Always” and “never” will kill a marriage as long as the couple finds themselves on opposite sides of the table in opposition. “Always” and “never” can bring health and resolve when the couple finds themselves on the same side of the table working together to fight for the marriage.

The Blood Moon

(Picture was taken by my wife's cousin Brittany Elise Jones.)
(Picture was taken by my wife’s cousin Brittany Elise Jones.)

As is well known, Sunday night we experienced a blood moon. It was also a Super Moon and the fourth and last in a series of eclipses called the lunar tetrad dating back to April 2014.

Because this series of events coincides over the two years with several Jewish festivals, some have used this as an indication of the fulfillment of prophecy from the Biblical text that now is the that large global events will take place. Those on both ends of the spectrum are making comments the past several days about the validity or falseness of it all.

There has been much hype about this blood moon. Some of it humorous, some of it cautious, some of it hysteria, and some just wonder and awe over the coolness of the event.

I personally didn’t get to see it as I was in an airplane at the time with the wrong vantage point. I did get to see the Super Moon after we landed and it was impressive.

As a pastor and having grown up in the pentecostal tradition, I have heard my entire life about the “End Times” and over and over heard one person or another predict the coming apocalypse. Again, this time, there have been those using these events to make predictions about what is coming next. Of course, as Social Media is prone to do, the hype and tone of these predictions reached a level that wasn’t what the original authors/speakers actually said or intended overall. Although as one man once said:

“You’ll never go broke predicting the apocalypse.” – Professor Gary Shogren

One thing was prevalent, people using the passages in Joel 2:31 and Revelation 6:12 in calling this the blood moon and a sign of the end according to Biblical prophecy.

Now, I have no idea what is going to happen next or when. This week could be hugely significant in history. The tribulation could start this afternoon. Or, it could be nothing this week or next or for the next 100 years or more. It’s not my place to know. It’s my place to share the love and reality of Jesus with as many people as I can while I can.

That said, it is good to study scripture and be aware of what is happening. It builds our faith when we see truth lived out.

On this blood moon thing, I just find it hard to believe that what prophecy was referring to was a predictable astronomical event that lasted for a short time one night. In fact, in looking at all that is prophesied in scripture, I don’t believe much of it will be able to be able to be explained naturally. This “blood moon” was cool and is rare, but it is not unheard of in history. These happen with some regularity. Truth is, every lunar eclipse has a red tint to it. It is a fact of how light, shadows, and reflections work and appear through our atmosphere. Besides, this “blood moon” wasn’t even visible in the Middle East. All of Biblical prophecy is centered on Israel. Why would this event all of sudden be shifted around the globe to the US and not involve Israel at all? [Correction: see below]

Consider, also the author of Revelation in particular. One of the three closest disciples to Jesus, John was also the last living disciple as far as we know. He was a fisherman by trade: a good one from all evidence. As a fisherman, he was well acquainted with lunar and other astronomical events.

In fact, the Hebrew calendar is lunar based. The Jewish culture throughout history has used the sun and moon to mark major events. They were not alone in this. I have toured Incan, Mayan, and Native American ruins and each of these civilizations used stars, the sun, and the moon to mark time with tremendous accuracy. For instance, the entire city of Machu Picchu in Peru is built in such a way to maximize sun and moon events.

The reality is, ancient cultures knew the moon and stars and sun patterns better than we do in many ways.

I highlight this for a simple reason, a reddish moon for a short time one night (or even four over two years) would not be significant enough for John to say the “whole moon turned to blood.” Whatever John saw in his vision in Revelation 6 was significant and very much NOT natural.

I am in no way making prophecies or judgment on those who do. I don’t know. I don’t know when or what will happen.

I do know I trust God. I do know that there are people who need to hear the truth of His love right now. I do know that God does know and He has a vastly better perspective of it all than I do.

So, if the stock market tanks today, World War 3 breaks out tomorrow, the stars fall out of the sky tonight, or nothing huge happens for some time, I will keep my eyes focused on Jesus, my hands to the task, and my hope secure.

_______________________________________

Correction: I have found out since posting this that the “blood moon” was visible in Israel in the very early morning hours on Monday. My original information came from a National Geographic article that stated the eclipse would not be visible in that part of the world. The article was obviously incorrect. My apologies for the incorrect information. This does not change any of the rest of the substance in my article. Thank you for your understanding. – Shane

3 Fatal Flaws of Leadership

There are three things that I have seen bring down more than one leader over the years. All leaders have flaws. All leaders have weaknesses. Not all flaws or weaknesses are fatal to leadership. These three, however, are always destructive.

1. Refusal to learn from others

Ever heard the expression, “some people just gotta learn the hard way”? Yeah, not such a good idea in leadership. In fact, it is just down right not smart to insist on learning everything based on personal experience.

I don’t have to eat a ghost pepper to know it is hot. I can learn from the experience of others who have. A whole light of pain can be avoided in life and leadership by learning from others.

For the leader, the refusal to learn from others will cause unnecessary pain, mistakes, heartache, and failure. This stubbornness will negatively affect the leader, the leader’s family, and the organization/group he/she is leading.

There is so much wisdom, knowledge, understanding, experience, and insight to be gained from others. Don’t just look for the gurus and big name authors to learn from either. There is much to learn from those right around you. Every person we come in contact with has a perspective that we don’t. It is truly possible to learn something from everyone.

I had a colleague once that was extremely intelligent. He had vast knowledge in many things, but especially in the areas of audio/visual technology. Yet, time and again, I would watch him ask questions of people about pieces of equipment or processes that he already knew how to use. He would keep asking questions until he found something he didn’t already know.

This man knew and lived one of the great secrets to leadership, never stop learning. As much as we can learn from others, the better. In fact, the more you can learn from the blood, sweat, and tears of others, the more you can accomplish. This is because you can build on their knowledge and experience instead of taking the time to attain those things on your own.

2. Not having integrity

Yes, character matters in leadership. A person without good strong character and integrity will never be a great leader no matter how much talent or ability they have.

There are so many things that will come against a leader to attempt to bring them down. So many opportunities to take advantage of the position; chances to abuse power and authority. A leader without integrity will eventually cause everything around them to crumble because they can’t handle the pressure.

The word “integrity” actually means strength, resolve.

A leader must be above reproach. Leaders need to be honest and trustworthy. They should follow through on what they say and finish what they start. People count on leaders, so a leader needs to be reliable.

Of course, integrity only really played out when the leader thinks no one is watching. What we do, how we think when it seems we could get away with anything is where the depth of our integrity and character are shown. It’s not what happens under the bright lights that is most important, it is what takes place behind the scenes, in the shadows.

There is such an abundance of examples of leaders and organizations that have failed due to a breakdown in integrity with the leader. It often starts small, cutting corners here and there, little white lies, fudging numbers a bit, stretching the truth, and so on. These “small” things really aren’t so small after all.

3. Insecurity

This may be the big one.

Countless leaders have been derailed by their own insecurity. I could say pride also because they are two sides of the same coin. The same results occur in the one too filled with pride to ask for help and the one too insecure to let any one be involved.

Insecurity in a leader will cause them to push others away and keep them at arms length. It will cause an air of uncertainty and fear in others as the leaders continually has the need to put people in their place and remind them of the leader’s position.

Left unchecked, insecurity leads to paranoia, fear, isolation, and delusion.

Ironically, the very thing an insecure leader fears comes true because of their insecurity. They end up alone and having failed in their leadership. By trying to demand loyalty, the insecure leader is actually creating an environment of disloyalty. By continually exerting one’s authority in leadership out of insecurity, the leader plants seeds of rebellion.

What the insecure leader is craving (loyalty, affirmation, validation, success, value) can be reached best by confidently affirming, valuing, raising up, and cheering on those around him/her. The most confident leaders are the ones who achieve the most. They are also the ones who give more of their leadership away to others to grow.

 

Great leaders are constantly learning, have strong integrity, and lead with confidence.