Arrow Leadership

I have made mention in the past two years of this program, which I just completed.  During our final residential, a videographer was assigned to interview our class and create a promotional piece from the footage.

Here is what he gathered on a program that I cannot recommend strongly enough.

A Week on a Tiny Island

arrow logoOver the past two years, I have been part of the Arrow Leadership program. Briefly put, the program has involved a class of 23 people, under the age of 41, who are employed in non-profit organizations. I have nothing but the highest praise for the program–first-rate in all its work.  If you are the least bit intrigued, contact me; I would happily share more!

Barnabas-from-Above-288x288I type this post from my local airport, awaiting my flight toward Vancouver. Every six months back to September 2011, our class has gathered at the Vancouver airport, where we have been bussed and boated to beautiful Barnabas on Keats Island.  The location and hospitality leave nothing to be desired, and a powerful sense of community has been created over three separate weeks spent there together. Today marks the start of our forth and final residential.

So for good reason, I will break briefly from regular blogging. A week from now, the Canadian prairies will welcome me home, and at that point, I will meet you right back here for further Wandering & Wondering.

For today, may this Irish blessing be indicative of what God is doing in your life on this fine day:

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Leading toward a Difference

Some new household rhythms have recently created a podcast-listening habit for this fellow.  One of my early finds has been the Andy Stanley Leadership podcast.  After two episodes (about 20 minutes each), I can only say, “Wow! Thank you, Andy.”

Concise, intelligent, well-balanced, insightful, and more.

I confess to possessing a measured cynicism toward anyone claiming to be an expert on leadership. That may be a result of having witnessed leadership styles that I have no desire to imitate; it may be a result of having witnessed leadership styles that I have no hope of imitating.  Whether excess of caution or shortage of confidence, it is never the wise move to shut one’s ears or close one’s mind.  Two brief podcasts have re-ignited my fire of desire to learn and grow.

Am I the leader I wish I was? Not today.

Have I maxed out my potential? Not a chance.

Will I take a step today to move from here toward there? I had better.

What might that step be? For this moment, keeping Andy’s podcast on my regular rotation is one easy move to make.

Here are some of the take-home chunks from a recent listen, entitled, “Making a Difference”  It began with talk of American politics and the polarizing force they often seem to exert among Christians in that country. I wondered if this podcast would be largely irrelevant to this Canadian.

And then the gems on leadership started flowing:

“It is more important to make a difference than to make a point.”

There is a weak form of leadership that is easily entered; it revolves around making a point rather than making a difference.  It is rooted in the desire to be right, and it typically revolves around words rather than actions.  To be sure, there are times when a point must be made.  But toward what end?  That answer better be “toward making a difference”, or we’re just playing games in our God-given roles.

“A leader should never risk his/her ability to make a difference by making an unnecessary point.”

Influence is too slowly gained and too quickly lost to make every issue a “go to the wall” item.  Some things matter greatly; others matter hardly at all.  The unwise leader can be sucked into making a statement about a second-rate issue (often at the prodding of critics OR those hoping a leader will agree with THEM) that goes on to undercut his/her from the big-ticket items he/she dreamed of impacting in the first place.

The churches in which I’ve grown up have often spoken of “majoring in the majors and minoring in the minors”.  This language displayed our awareness of this dynamic, but much of our history has betrayed our unawareness of just how much influence can be lost when we fail to live out this advice.

Organizationally or individually, influence is maximized (and guarded) when we release the desire to pound on unnecessary points.

“Don’t fear guilt by association.”

We cannot influence people that we refuse to associate with.  Whatever issue or movement I desire to move forward will be minimized if my ultimate objective is to guard my reputation.  Sprite may have overstated it in their “Image is Nothing” campaign some years back; however, the wise leader must be driven by forces far greater than image.  The difference he/she desires to make will determine the bridges that need building and the relationships that require cultivating, and within our fragmented world, bridge-building is a messy work, demanding feet to be planted in unfamiliar, sometimes downright uncomfortable, settings.

Jesus knew this, and his critics served him regular helpings of guilt by association.  Yet Jesus remained aware and convicted of the need for fences to come down and lines to be crossed, and leaders will be the first doers of such tasks.  But not leaders who are afraid of guilt by association.

“Influence is a stewardship.”

The responsible leader asks, “Why have I been given influence?” Surely, it isn’t to protect my number of church members or constituents.  At some point, the leader is required to risk his/her credibility for a purpose greater than maintaining that credibility.  Every competent leader will move from a state of less (say, influence, power) toward a state of more (say, influence, power).  It is sign of fear when the “days of more” are lived out in a protective manner, where that role of say, influence, and power is guarded rather than leveraged.

It may take wisdom and discernment to identify the cause or issue upon which one will stake everything.  Or it may be quite clear, as the reason one entered leadership in the first place.  Regardless, every leader needs to be governed by an awareness that we do not gather influence and build trust for our own sakes or satisfaction.  How does God expect you to steward it?  That’s a money question there.

“Don’t attempt to police the behaviour of people who don’t believe what you believe, to begin with.”

While this point may tie most fully into a discussion of how Christians should or shouldn’t attempt to wield political power in the shaping of their nations, it quickly transfers to discussions of how churches (even those with no deep political desires) carry and execute their desires to shape society as well.

Attempting to guilt people into behaviours based upon assumptions that are ours but not theirs–how do you see that working out? Yet Christian history is filled with examples of God’s people compromising their influence in this fashion.  If we’re feeling fired up about morality and purity, Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 5:12 would guide us well:

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?

How many sermons have you heard on that passage?  For some reason, those within religious circles feel a strong temptation to take their evaluative skills outside the loop.  Paul’s advice?  Stay at home.  If people of faith took the policing of their own lives and their own communities as first priorities, we might be surprised to realize the weight of influence that could be had in our larger contexts as well.

And all that came from a twenty-minute podcast.  Again, I say, “Well done, Andy.  Thanks for sharing.”

YOUR TURN: Which point particularly resonates with your leadership journey?  Which idea do you “amen” or wish you’d discovered earlier?

Comment below, and become part of the conversation.

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Tony Campolo

Last week, our city was blessed to host Tony Campolo and Steve Bell, who led (in partnership with World  Vision) an evening of worship and conversation on the topic of poverty.

In typical “Tony fashion”, Campolo pulled no punches on a vast array of topics.  The following morning, Tony and Steve led a smaller forum for church leaders, and Tony was in fine form again!

If you’d like to hear his lesson from the morning leadership session, it can be had right here: Campolo Regina Leadership Forum.

Feel free to direct other “Campolo fans” this way, if you feel they’d be impacted by the message as well.

Real Leaders Don’t Do Powerpoint

That’s the title of a book I grabbed at the library several weeks back.  It was basically about communication and leadership.  It was interesting enough to start, but not enough to finish.

But there were some beauties for quotes within it.  Here are some that resonated with me:

  • Doc Pomus–the legendary songwriter who created ‘A Teenager in Love,’ ‘Suspicion,’ and ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’–was once asked how to write a hit song.  He answered, ‘Find the shortest distance between your insides and a pencil.’
  • Antoine de Saint-Exupery, aviator and author, said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather the wood, divide the work, and give orders.  Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
  • “When a brave person takes a stand,” the Reverend Billy Graham said, “the spines of others are also stiffened.
  • “‘Safety first’ has been the motto of the human race for half a million years,” wrote turn-of-the-century journalist Herbert N. Casson, “but it has never been the motto of leaders.  Leaders must face danger.  They must take the risk and blame, and the brunt of the storm.”
  • Bill Gates’ commencement speech at Harvard: “Humanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries–but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce iniquity.”
  • Randy Pausch, professor of computer science, giving the professor’s last lecture: “Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things.”
  • Winston Churchill put it this way: “When you an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever.  Use a pile driver.  Hit the point once.  Then come back and hit it again.  Then hit it a third time–a tremendous whack.”
  • Mark Twain, much admired in his day for his speaking as well as for his writing, observed that “it takes three weeks to prepare a good ad-lib speech.”