In my life I have cheated numerous ways, numerous times. Most of the time I can justify my cheating and get on with my life with no shame nor guilt. In high school/college I had no qualms with cheating off my neighbors paper or plagiarizing a paper in order to get it done quicker, I would even keep old movie stubs and then go see a new movie and quickly show my “old” stub and sneak my way into movies and even to this day I still feel no guilt or shame. However, I am starting to see other ways I have been cheating that have greater ramifications on my life then just sneaking into a movie – I have been cheating my family, my friends and most importantly my God.

So how have I been cheating? Great question followed by a convicting and painful answer…time. I have allowed my time to dictate who gets it and not letting me dictate who gets my time. I have been cheating by giving too much time to myself and more specifically my job…my game playing…and even by the minute chores that need to get done around the house.

So are you a cheater? This Christmas/coming of the New Year will you devote quality time to what’s important or just rush through and wait for the good stuff? If you get vacation from your work you better have used it all up by the time next year roles around otherwise you have sinned against your family! Be true to the priorities of your leadership – God, family,______ and the list goes on. Is cheating wrong? Remember your family is the reflection of your cheating.

Oh-Merry Christmas!! 🙂

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As a leader, we always need to be sharpening our skills and reading books about leadership because they are a great way to do just that.  However, it is equally good to “change things up” and read books that are outside your “sphere-of-leadership” books.  One of my favorite authors, Mark Batterson, recently came out with his newest book called Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity. And, as I had received a copy of it, I was asked to write an honest review and share, with you,  what this book has to offer.

Mark Batterson has a unique way of talking to the heart of the issues and, more specifically, the heart of our Christian faith. I must preface, however, that my comments on this book are coming through the lens of reading his two previous books.

Unlike his first two books, Primal has a different outlook – in a good way. In the first two books, I felt there was a charge to really live-out your dreams and pursue God without limits. In Primal, it does the same thing, only simpler, cutting through all the excuses, defenses and justifications – he gets to the simplicity of Christianity. The whole book is an in-depth practical look into the Great Commandment, and how any Christian can worship God through their heart, soul, mind and strength.

The book shows incredible research, evidenced by many different stories, studies and surveys to relate our world with the primal world of God’s simplicity. A different “change of pace” from the previous books, but as Mark Batterson once said: “Change of pace + Change of place = Change of perspective.”

A classic movie followed by a small, yet pointed leadership lesson.  In ministry, life, family or work we all see someone who we want to be like, or something that we ultimately want to attain. It may not be a gold medal; but it is something – a reputation, a character trait, status among your peers or even a title of some kind.  We think, “If I could just arrive to this status or that reputation, I’ll be respected or I’ll be appreciated.” What happens is that our focus becomes our reality, and then that is all we expect to happen.

However, looking back at the movie clip, when John Candy said, “If you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it,” I thought, “I wonder if I am ‘enough’ now without the status/reputation/title that I don’t have”? It is a hard question because, unlike the movie, we don’t have a “finish line” to cross – to know if we are enough; rather, all we have is the timing and testing of everyday events, and God showing the kind of character we truly have.  Who you are is more important than what you do, or what you become, because what you do will ultimately be a reflection of who you are.

At the end of the day – who you listen to will determine who you become.  So, “Where do we go from here”? We ask ourselves the hard questions:

“What is it that you want more than anything?”

“What will you ‘give up’ in order to keep a BALANCED outlook?”

“Are you enough, now, without it?”

Over the course of Thanksgiving Weekend, I had the chance to watch some of the HBO series Band of Brothers. Not only does this series show the most amazing showmanship of courage and honor, but it also teaches us respect and leadership. Sadly, in the time we live in, the idea of honor/respect is, tragically, dissipating … dying.

Anyway, as I watched the series, there was a scene where 2nd Lt. Carwood Lipton was commenting on 1st Lieutenant Norman Dike – and his leadership.    (You see, 1st Lt. Norman Dike was in charge, someone, who was higher in rank, put him there to build his front-line experience.) The problem was, he was NEVER around; he would be gone for hours on end, and when a battle occurred, he would stay in his foxhole the entire time. (Hence his name “Foxhole Norman”).  Second Lt. Carwood Lipton said, “Lt. Dike wasn’t a bad leader because he made bad decisions, he was a bad leader because he made no decisions”.

As soon as I heard that – it struck me: there are now two leadership facets you have to battle. The first – being a leader who makes poor decisions constantly, but, because of your job position, you remain the leader. The second battle, is being a leader strictly by title, because there is nothing worse than trying to follow someone who makes NO decisions. That, my friend, is the scariest leader!

I would rather be a leader who made poor decisions – but learned from them, than a leader who made no decisions at all.  However, the question remains – “Are you a leader who will be able to think on his feet in the heat of the moment, or will you “freeze” and choose to do nothing?

Reflect back on the past events, peaks of your job, and evaluate yourself – “Did  you make good choices, poor choices, or no choices”.

As a leader it is easy to get swept away by future ideas and the BIG picture of it all and to get excited over the newest and coolest of toys/applications for our computers or ministries or other leader related toys. And in that time when we get caught up there is a moment that we forget to communicate with those who we are trying to lead.

With Thanksgiving and X-mas approaching so quickly it may be wise (if you haven’t already) to slow down a pinch and simply write down what you are thankful for with those you are leading. You can do it separately and/or collectively, but my encouragement is to do this so that you don’t get caught up in what’s to come rather than appreciating what’s already here.

So as you go through your Holiday(s) be sure to not forget those who helped you become who you are today. I try as best as possible to end my blogs with quotes, the reason being is whatever you just said someone else out there said it better and sure enough I found that quote:

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

At some point, most leaders start doing ministry out of habit and stop doing ministry out of imagination. They start repeating the past and stop creating the future. And most ministries stop taking the risks that got them to where they are. They start playing defense.

(Side note: the greater your leadership gifts – the greater the danger. You’re so good at what you do, that you can stop growing and maintain, instead of increase your measure of influence; but that will never help you reach your God-given potential. It’s so easy to become comfortable. It’s so easy to live in the past. It’s so easy to keep doing it the way it’s always been done.)

I’m not exactly sure how to say this, but the blessings of God are dangerous. They can lead toward pride and complacency. That is when the blessings of God backfire. So my question to you is, as you evaluate either your ministry, or your business, or the people you lead, “Are you setting the example or just reusing the same example with a new title?”  Are we thinking outside the box we have put ourselves in and making mistakes so that we can become better? No one has arrived; and no one should assume that the events, lesson plans and activities are the best they can be –  because there is ALWAYS a different, a better way of doing things.

“I would rather have my students drink from a running stream than a stagnant pool.”

– Howard Hendricks Teaching to Change Lives

The practice of being deceitful is one I don’t think we realize how often we do. There are times we make that conscious decision: we choose to be someone we are not. What is scary, however, is that when we become the person we desires others to see, we have stopped being the person God created us to be. As Christians we rant and throw around the terms like, “be real” or “be transparent” – which are all well and good; but shamelessly and openly sharing who you are is oftentimes too scary to think about – let alone be. I’m reminded of the movie Powder (1995), when during a conversation with a girl, he said this, about having an ideal conversation with someone,

“… And that there’s no need to hide, or lie. And that it’s possible to talk to someone without any lies, with no sarcasms, no deceptions, no exaggerations or any of the things that people use to confuse the truth.”

This is so well said. The bigger truth is: when did our fears become greater than joys; or more important yet, bigger than our God? A challenge for this week would be to identify the times when you see yourself putting on a façade, and take a small step to confront those fears with Scripture, or by making a choice – or both. The enemy wants nothing more than fearful and complacent followers of Christ.

Psalm 139:23-24: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

There are so many leadership lessons in this short clip. However, the one that sticks out the most to me is…respect. William Wallace had respect for the people and for his leaders (whether he agreed with them or not). And it made me think, “Do I have that sort of respect towards those around me and the people I work with?” Also, another attribute of leadership that I saw in this clip was the way William Wallace was able to lead his leaders above him and he did so with love and humility. He told his “to-be king” that he would follow him if he would just lead! Wow powerful.

So the question begs itself, “Do I give that same love and humility or am I after the look and prestige of it all?” I want my character to show more than my comfort, however, in reality my comfort slowly takes precedence if I don’t keep it in check. So how’s your leadership?

“Leadership cannot be taught. It can only be learned.”- Harold S. Geneen

As I have researched many books and websites about leadership, this quote is the summation of what the bottom line of leadership is. We can read all the things we want and go to all the conferences we want about leadership, but what we are taught can easily be forgotten or lost. We learn by applying; and in applying, we actually learn the leadership principle or practice.

Mark Sanborn is a great author and a man who certainly knows a lot about leadership. Here is an excerpt from “Lessons Leaders Need to Know”.

  1. The responsibility and service of leadership always outweigh the recognition and status.
  2. Responsibility is rewarding, but it isn’t about rewards
  3. Anyone can lead but not everyone should lead. If you don’t have your heart in it, you’ll be mediocre at best.
  4. Leadership doesn’t make a difference; leadership makes the difference, personally and organizationally.
  5. Anything the leader does that benefits only him, or herself, was done out of ambition; leadership done right benefits others as well.
  6. Consensus building is harder, but far more powerful, than control.
  7. Your impact will rarely be bigger than your vision.
  8. People draw big conclusions for little gestures and interactions.
  9. As John Maxwell says, “It shouldn’t be lonely at the top.” If it is, you’ve done something wrong getting to the top.

10.  I learned from the autobiography of John Ashcroft that, as a leader, more people will befriend you than be your friend. Understanding the difference is critical.

11.  The best way to gain cooperation is by asking, “How can I help you?”

12.  Leaders make time for what’s important.

 

Leadership is less about the words, or actions, of the leader and more about the character of the leader.

That’s the conclusion I’ve reached, after revisiting what the Bible has to say about leadership within the church. For example, we can look at a handful of passages and come to this “job description” for leaders:

  • Encourage others. (Romans 14:19)
  • Set an example with your speech, life and faith. (I Timothy 4:12)
  • Remain pure. (I Timothy 4:12)
  • Embrace humility and gentleness. (Ephesians 4:2)
  • Promote peace and unity. (Ephesians 4:3)
  • Avoid arguments and quarreling. (I Timothy 2:24)
  • Gently instruct others. (I Timothy 2:25)
  • Maintain emotional control. (Titus 2:6)
  • Demonstrate integrity in your actions and speech. (Titus 2:7-8)
  • Live your life above reproach. (I Timothy 3:2)

Do you have the character of a leader?