Big Picture

Growth Arcs

Growth arc
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I’m getting soft in my old age.

I tend to have a pretty intense personality. I’m not good at small talk, but if you want to talk shop, my wheels are turning pretty much all the time.

I love what I do. I remember having a conversation with my dad towards the end of my time working with him where he simply pointed out my heart wasn’t in farming. It wasn’t a criticizing conversation as much as a “this is what I see” moment. He shared that when he was my age, his focus was on farming and what he could do to help the farm succeed.

At the time, I was farming as a way to finance my being a bi-vocational minister. I don’t think I did a bad job farming, but my time on the tractor would often drift to dreaming about ministry, not the farming operation.

My heart is in ministry. My heart is in helping students (and adults) grow in their relationship with God. That’s what gets me up in the morning. That’s what excites me.

But I’m getting soft in my old age. I’m gaining more compassion. I’m displaying more sympathy for those who are different from me. I’m seeking to understand how someone thinks before I respond to them, instead of assuming I know.

And you know, I think I’m okay with that.

A balance still exists where I’m not making excuses for people. I still have expectations for students to reach. But maybe, just maybe, having a little more compassion and understanding toward those I serve just makes me better.

So, what about you? Do you need to soften a little? Or do you need to intensify a little? Take some time today to do a little self-reflection. Ask God to show you how you can grow. You might be surprised at the result.

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3 Questions

Powerful Leadership

Powerful Leadership
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To say I’m in a new season of personal leadership development would be an understatement.

I stumbled onto the three questions almost by accident, but at my last church was able to establish a culture of leadership and service that fit really well with the mindset of the three questions.

But, ironically, I’m really weak at answering the third question.

If you haven’t already, or even in a while, click here to read about the three questions. But, as a reminder, they are:

  1. What needs to be done (awareness)
  2. What can I do (willingness)
  3. Who can I get to help (leadership)

I’ve written about this before, but a great tension exists when you feel competent and capable of accomplishing something but want to empower people around you. I find the tension is even greater when it’s something I thoroughly enjoy doing.

I am constantly amazed, however, at how something I may be able to do competently, someone else can do excellently. So, when push comes to shove, if I’m not asking people around me to help, I’m saying that I’m satisfied with mediocrity. Unfortunately, more times than I would care to admit, I am.

Back to personal leadership development. I find myself living in the tension of what is and what could be. Mediocrity or excellence. But the excellence comes at a price–my ego. If I’m not willing to ask the third question, then my leadership stalls.

True leadership is not about elevating ourselves. True leadership is about equipping those we lead to elevate above us. I want to equip people (students and adults, in my context) to excel at what they do, even if it’s something I enjoy doing. I’m not here to run a one man show, although that seems to be what my actions often communicate.

The same is true for you. There are people around you who are ready to step up and serve, but you have to put forth the effort of inviting them to the table, of building the relationship to know what they’re willing to do, and of asking them to help. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Do the difficult work of equipping those around you to elevate above you, and watch your leadership influence increase.

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3 Questions, Incoherent Ramblings

That’s What We Do

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Monday night I attended a band concert for my oldest daughter. As I was sitting in a chair watching her band-mates leave in droves and wondering where she was, I realized what was happening through a conversation we had a week earlier.

“We show up early and stay late. That’s what we do.”

My sweet, servant minded pre-teen (I can’t help but think there’s going to be a slight “interruption” sooner rather than later) has been raised by parents who show up early and stay late. It’s been ingrained in her, unnaturally, because she’s been drug to events early and kept late for years.

Now, this isn’t intended to be a dad-brag. Instead, it’s a study of leadership osmosis. I find one of the ways I serve most effectively is by showing up early and staying late, and in spite of me never actually coming out and teaching my child this mindset, she learned it by virtue of being dragged to places.

So how do we teach students who don’t live under our roof the same mindset? By including them. Give them opportunities. Recognize when they see the bigger picture, and celebrate it. Invite them again. Help them see the need and help them see they can meet the need.

One method I use to help teenagers see the subtle shift is the three questions. If a student can begin to ask themselves “What’s the bigger picture? What needs to be done?”, then we begin to take steps to moving them into a realm of leveraging influence.

But it has to start somewhere. Let me say that again. It has to start somewhere. We have to have conversations with them to help them see the opportunity.

What are you doing to develop leaders around you? How are you developing them? What steps are you willing to take to develop them? What changes do you need to make?

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Check it Out

Thoughts and Actions

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Periodically I read a post from another blog and think to myself, “I don’t know if I could have said this any better.” That happened to me this morning.

Tim Elmore is a strong name in the field of developing student leaders. His company, Growing Leaders, is an incredible resource for people looking for a place to start developing student leaders. His Habitudes books are remarkably simple leadership lessons presented in a way most people can embrace.

This morning as I was perusing my emails, I saw a post that caught my eye. It is titled “The Benefits of Preparing Your Students to Think Like Leaders.” Naturally, it caught my eye. Here’s an excerpt:

What I love most about these students is they didn’t have a badge or a title. They weren’t necessarily student council members, team captains, or club presidents.  They were simply students who began to:
Think like leaders.
Act like leaders.
Instead of waiting for authorization or for a position, they acted on their desires to serve people and solve problems. The advantages of this mindset are spectacular.

Tim Elmore

These students thought like leaders AND acted like leaders before they ever got a title. The title doesn’t matter as much as the actions. Let me encourage you to click over and check out the rest of his post to read his well thought out words.

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Incoherent Ramblings, Leadership Journey

Leadership is Tough

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Leadership is tough. The constant battle that wages war between finding a groove and not being satisfied with where things are can take a toll over time.

Comfort versus progress provide the background for an ongoing tension.

That’s where vision and focus come into play. During seasons where comfort starts to settle into a situation, a clear vision helps me move forward.

Knowing what your target should be helps orient your aim at the end of the day. Having an idea of how to track your success and growth helps you not feel overwhelmed.

What’s your vision and focus for your current context? Do you have one? How are you measuring your successfulness? Ministers, is it attendance? Is it buy in? Is it something else?

As a leader, no one in the organization is as committed to the success and fruitfulness of your area as you are (or should be). Few people you lead lay their head down at night worrying about that little detail that has been rubbing you the wrong way all day.

You carry a burden for the success and growth of your ministry (or business). The burden, at times, feels feather light, while at other times it feels like a bag of bricks. That’s the burden of leadership. Your greatest test as a leader may not be your success as much as your endurance. If you can run the race and remain faithful, your impact over the years gains positive perspective. But you have to remain faithful where you are. You have to remain committed.

So, once again, what your vision and focus for your current context? What are you aiming for? Are you hitting it? Are there changes that need to be made? Are you willing to make the changes?

The reality is that leadership is tough, but you have an opportunity to take a stand and make the kind of difference you’re called to make. Hang in there, and keep expanding your leadership influence.

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