So much has been said about the dreadful state of affairs in Ferguson, MO that it’s a temptation to ignore the whole thing. One always hates to simply add to the ground noise. Furthermore, if I just let others write what they want and stay out of it, I stay clear of the controversy. I certainly don't need the kind of controversy which writing about Ferguson can generate, especially the accusations which I know are almost certain to come. On the other hand, I do feel that there are some things that I'm not hearing said, things which I believe need to be said by somebody. So… acknowledging the aforementioned risks, I am somewhat reluctantly wading in.
I hope I can somehow manage to deal with the leadership issues involved, and steer around the jagged rocks of racial conflict. That sounds a bit naive even to me even as I write it. Passions are enflamed now from coast to coast and hearing reasonable thought on Ferguson from any direction seems impossible. Here's the limited question I want to deal with. Are there any leadership lessons to be learned from this mess which could prove useful in other less riot-happy environs? I believe there are and here are three.
I cannot urge you strongly enough to read the following Thanksgiving week edition of The Leader's Notebook. I do not offer this to you because I have written a masterpiece. In fact, I did not write it, save for this brief introduction. Indeed, it may be that you have, at some time in the past, already read this particular offering. If so, I urge you to read it again. Slowly. Thoughtfully. Let the profound spiritual truth of these three paragraphs bathe your spirit. Look carefully at the clean, economical language and consider how much thought and prayer went into its creation. A great leader, perhaps America's greatest leader and perhaps one of world history's greatest men, wrote it. It is worth reading aloud to your family around feast table.
Regard its humility, genuine gratitude and deep faith. The particular leader who wrote this knew God, believed all nations owe Him gratitude and enjoined his nation's people to be faithful in that duty. God grant us such leaders again. The author of this proclamation was President George Washington. He issued the following on Oct. 3, 1789. Happy Thanksgiving. God save the Republic.
The power of servant leadership lies not in position but in motive. The CEO of a massive corporation, holding great responsibility, may “wash his employees’ feet” by seeking their benefit in business. There is no conflict between a well-managed business making a profit for its stockholders and one making a good life for its employees. There is no room for exploitation in Jesus’ model of servant leadership.
The servant leader is still in authority even as Jesus was when He washed the disciples’ feet. No one in the room doubted
I waited a week to comment on the mid-term elections because I wanted the emotional dust to settle a bit. The election was a tidal wave which swept in a Republican Senate, an increase in the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, stunning Republican gubernatorial victories in some surprising states and huge Republican gains in many state houses. Republican. Republican. Republican. Why? Of course, some of it, perhaps much of it was political. Perhaps the Republicans ran better candidates who ran better campaigns than their Democrat opponents. Perhaps the Republican ground game was more effective than the Democrats. In other words, maybe the Republicans just got out the vote and the Democrats failed to. Many in America did not vote. Maybe those non-voters were Democrats.
Let me be clear. I am a Republican and I was pleased beyond words with all those results. Having said that, however, I hasten to add this post is not about the politics in the election but the leadership behind the story. In other words, whether one cheers the results of the election or grieves over them, the question remains, are there clear and presiding leadership lessons in the election which transcends partisanship?
Last week I spoke at a fundraiser in Arizona, at which I met a physician from South Texas. He shared with me one of the most inspiring stories I have ever heard. It seems that a young man passed away in a small town near where the doctor lived. The entire town, indeed many in that region state, honored him as a hero. A hero? He had not held a paying job in thirty years. He was not a sports star or a performer or even a religious leader. He was never elected to office, never made a speech that the doctor knew of and certainly never wrote a book. He was in fact a quadriplegic who lived the bulk of his years bedridden. He could speak and move the tips of his fingers on one hand. That's all. Why then a hero? Why the admiration and honor?
On The Leader's Notebook this week I am featuring a guest post. I may not do this often but every now and again, I may find something (or someone) I want to introduce to the Notebook's readers.
This week's guest is not only a business/leadership/marketing/management expert; he is also a personal friend and former colleague. Dr. Steve Greene has extensive experience in business and in business education. Dr. Greene was the dean of the college of business at ORU while I was the president of that university. Before his highly successful years at ORU, he provided excellent leadership at a multi-million dollar television company and a major restaurant chain. Today he is a blogger, publisher, speaker and a business consultant with an extensive clientele. Dr. Greene is also a member of the Board of Directors of Global Servants Inc.
Words that Matter
Guest blog by Dr. Steve Greene
My closet refuses to stay organized. Where's that tie hiding?
It's all about the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Loosely defined, the law holds that all matter moves toward disorganization.
The process of entropy is what we see in the science of life. Stuff falls apart. Organizations decline. Empires fall. Closets become a mess.
Policy, Politics and Public Relations
Case study I:
A large Baptist church in the Southern USA faced a major crisis. The parents of a third grader came to the leadership of the church with the suspicion that the children's minister had molested their child on church property. They did not have solid proof and were not litigation-minded. They wanted help and they wanted to protect other children. After they left the room the church board and the pastor decided to wait until after the Christmas party (three weeks hence) to deal with it. They asked the parents not to go public, allowed the suspected molester to remain in place, and tried to "keep it quiet."
Of course, it did not stay quiet. The parents were outraged. The state ruled that the church's failure to report was criminal and a horrible civil-criminal case ensued.
A Cautionary Tale of Internal Culture Collapse and Product Deterioration
Every organization, every church, business, company, restaurant and college has an internal culture. Some of these cultures are more distinctive, more readily discernible than others, but there is always a culture and sooner or later that culture will "show up" on the outside, in the way business gets done. The fully integrated, well-aligned organization knows and protects its culture. That culture can become so valued, so clearly articulated, first inwardly and then outwardly, that its "voice" becomes the major marketing instrument of the organization.
A case in point might well be the United States Marines. "The Few, The Proud, The Marines" has been perhaps its most enduring modern marketing slogan, but that expression of the Marine Corps culture did not begin in a creativity
It is one thing to find success. It is quite another to handle it. Success has ruined at least as many as failure has. The athlete who thinks he is above the law, the starlet who flaunts her body and her addictions in public, and the arrogant CEO who parades his triumphs on talk shows have all forgotten how to stay successful. The key to that is modesty.
Most modern Americans understand the word modesty to have reference only to one’s manner of dress, and even then it is mostly used with regard to
Jebus was an impregnable fortress city, the fortified garrison capital of a warrior nation. The soldiers within its walls were not blind and lame, but even if they had been, they could have kept David out. They had a water supply, the high ground, fortifications; time was on their side, not favoring the Israelis living outside in tents.
It is notable that in both the Chronicles version of the fall of Jebus and in Samuel’s account, the significant word is nevertheless. (2 Sam. 5:7, 1 Chron. 11:5)
There are some wonderful lessons for life and leadership in David’s conquest of Jebus. The first is a word to every believer. With every new opportunity will come both change and challenge. David knew it. Hebron was acceptable for a while, but he foresaw the day when change would come. David waited on the divine moment and welcomed the change. He neither hurried nor hated it.
Recently, in a car service on the way to the Atlanta Airport, I found myself with a remarkably talkative driver named Carlisle. Evidently he fancied himself something of a tour guide and social commentator as well as a shuttle driver. Always impressed by folks who add the little extras, I turned off my cell phone and listened. He was jolly, knowledgeable and something of an asphalt philosopher.
"This street here that we on now is named Metropolitan Parkway. That's the new name. It didn't used to be named that. It used to be named Stewart Avenue and it was one of the worst places in Atlanta. Drugs, prostitution, crime; you name it, it was on Stewart Avenue."
A man on an airplane told me his organization was considering hiring on a "brand consultant." This interested me since branding and brand recovery is something I teach on at the National Institute of Christian Leadership. As we talked further, however, I realized that he had several words very confused: brand, logo and tag line. Since that conversation I have come to realize that many folks, even in some sophisticated businesses, suffer considerable confusion in this area. What my friend actually was hiring was a "logo design expert." It was not my job to define terms without being asked and our snippet of a conversation certainly did not afford us the time. What I couldn't help wondering was if the company he was consulting with was confused. Surely the consultants will clarify the terms in the course of the contract. For the purpose of today's Notebook: some brief definitions are in order.
Fear of formal education has long existed on the part of some in the Christian world. Unfortunately this has gained and maintained traction because of well-documented "failures of mission" at some major, and shall we say famous, institutions. Their retreat from the values and original purposes that brought them into being have been the subject of broad research and commentary. No one can deny that schools such as Harvard and Yale have drifted far from the dock where they were once moored. Liberals call this drift "maturity." The rest of us see ever so clearly that it is the extinguishing of the lamp lit there at the start.
The Harvard story and many others like it have not made it easy to advocate for higher education, and continuing education, especially in the ministry. Likewise, some in the Christian world, having seen what happened in such schools, have assumed an adversarial posture with ministerial education as a whole. In a culture where education is revered, ministers can marginalize themselves by their lack. I heard someone say recently that, "Letters after your name don't make you any smarter or more anointed." True. Oh, so true.
On the other hand those very letters may open doors. There may be entire populations that prove unreachable by ministers without formal education. Cosmopolitan congregations have a right to expect the pastor to know the difference
I believe in Israel. It's not just that I'm pro-Israel, which I am. I believe in Israel as a modern historical miracle of the first order. For two thousand years the entire world had written Israel off as a once and never again ancient kingdom. Israel, they thought, had been swallowed up forever by bigger and better nations and had been left on the cutting room floor of history. Persia, Egypt, Rome and Turkey as well as every other ancient empire devoured the biblical homeland of the Jewish people like bread. The Crusaders tried to make Jerusalem into a European capital with a Christian king. Saladin made it a Muslim city, and the Ottoman Empire claimed Judea as a conquered possession.
Every great conqueror from Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan to Napoleon Bonaparte and even General Allenby felt some unexplainable lust to conquer Jerusalem and what had once been Israel. Why? What is the irresistible attraction that compels mighty nations and empires to ache to plant their flag in tiny Israel, especially in Jerusalem?
This week marks the first year of The Leader's Notebook. That means I've posted 52 blogs on a variety of topics from current events to leadership to management to religion. A fraternity (or sorority) of 300-500 regular readers has developed and I am honored that they read so consistently.
Thank you to all those readers. I hope you will stay with me for year number two and PLEASE tell you friends in the real world and in twitter-sphere about The Leader's Notebook.
I thought I would write this anniversary blog on some jolly idea that would brighten every reader's day. Then I read a press release that rocked my day. Hoping it was not correct, or, more likely, that I had simply misunderstood its implications, I was reluctant to play Chicken Little without confirmation and clarification.
Today's Notebook is a plea really, more than a commentary. I am asking someone to tell me that what I'm about to write is not really happening. I'm pleading for exactly that.
A relatively quiet news item caught my eye and after reading it I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Literally. The further I read the more concerned I became. I have not heard one main line newscaster or pundit sound an alarm. Perhaps they are and I'm just not hearing them. Maybe there are sober-minded folks in the media and in politics who are screaming bloody murder and I'm just not in the right place at the right time to hear them. I certainly hope so.
The redemptive grace of loyalty is so powerful that it can literally fill any situation with healing and miraculous blessings. Any force that powerful, however, cannot be violated without dire consequences. There are few virtues in the kingdom more honored by God that loyalty. Absalom’s doom was sealed by his disloyalty to David, but David’s loyalty to an unworthy Saul confirmed his destiny for the throne.
In the household of Naaman, a Syrian general, there lived a young Jewish slave girl. She had been captured by a Syrian raiding party. Stolen from her family, alone in a foreign land, she served as a personal slave to Naaman’s wife, hardly a circumstance to inspire loyalty. Even the most outwardly obedient slave might murder his master mentally. Yet
Two very different events happened on July 31, forty years apart: the first in 1941 and the second in 1981. How strange to me that I was not yet born when the first of these events occurred and I was a married man well into my thirties at the time of the second. The first one seems like ancient history played out by diabolical figures in some kind of horrific and far-fetched movie. The second I remember well as a major news item of my young adult life.
The "huge" and massively-reported event of July 31, 1981 is, by comparison with the 1941 historical moment, so flimsy as to be meaningless. The two events seen in juxtaposition make clear in a quite startling way the difference between famous and important. One event was a secret meeting unknown at the time to any but the attendees. The other was televised, radio-ized, written about, and argued over by talking heads within minutes of its conclusion.
Ok, I want some interaction on this blog. Maybe help is a better word. I'm formulating a list of outrageous theological statements, or statements that at least sound outrageous at first glance. I have come up with a burgeoning list but I want more. Today's Notebook is a tease, or perhaps a plea. Today I will briefly discuss just a few of the outrageous truths on my list in an attempt to prime the pump of public participation. A dear friend of mine, whose day-to-day thoughts are pretty outrageous, has contributed already. What I'm requesting is that you read these and add some truths of your own. I may cobble them together into a small book. I may use them in teaching. I may just amuse myself and some of my more outrageous friends.
The idea is this. Make statements that are right but do not sound right, or may not sound right until they are explained. The more outrageous they sound the better. The thing is, though, they have to be true. Anybody can think up outrageous theological nonsense. The question is, can you think up outrageous sounding truth? Here are a few sample "outrageous truths." Read these and then let me see your contributions. How outrageous are you?
At a diverse variety of organizations, across a span of about forty-five years, I experienced leadership at many levels. Nearly twenty years of that time was spent as a CEO, leading organizations with a combined total of about a thousand employees and combined annual budgets of nearly $200M. Throughout that time I was constantly trying to understand better what my real job was. I know that sounds awful. Am I saying that I never knew what I was doing in those positions? Absolutely not.
I am saying I have dedicated myself to trying to understand and teach the various roles of the senior leader. Not the formal duties written out and filed somewhere and pretty much taken for granted. I don't mean specified duties such as
An interest in physics, of all things, is one of the lesser eccentricities of my life. Let me be clear. I am not saying I understand physics. I am simply interested in some aspects of it in the same way I am drawn to opera, which I am, and which is yet another somewhat embarrassing admission. I am certainly no opera aficionado. It's just something that appeals for reasons I cannot fully explain. Often in a language I cannot understand with absolutely unsingable music, opera is a fascinating display of complex staging, antique-sounding music and bizarre costumes all passionately over-done, way over the top, in a way that somehow intrigues me. You just haven't lived until you seen “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” Valkyries? Oh, yeah!
Physics has become something like that to me. It is in a language I do not speak. I grant you that. But when I hear it spoken, I am drawn to it. Go figure. This is a late in life aberration. I certainly do not cherish happy memories of the