Structure vs Creativity

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Last week I talked about leading from creativity and leading from structure, using the backdrop of two recent woodworking projects. Today, I want to reflect a little more.

I truly believe that effective leadership calls for both creativity and structure. There are times where being creative is the only way to move forward, and there are times where maximizing from the steps, mistakes and successes of others has already paved the way.

So, today, my question for you is simply: do you find yourself more naturally leading from creativity or from structure?

I wrestle with a heavy tendency to want to lead from a position of creativity. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I am a thinker. I joke that I spend about 90% of my time thinking about what I could do, and only 10% of the time actually doing it. The byproduct of that much thinking: creativity.

I fight against structure. I would much rather write my own Bible study, create my own logo, plan my own trip, or create a new wood working project than try to follow a blueprint written by someone else.

But, if we are going to be honest with each (and why wouldn’t we be honest?), my leaning to creativity is often times my greatest weakness. I suffer when I refuse to ever walk the path someone cleared before me.

Truthfully, I grow as a leader as I wrestle with this tension. Too much creativity, and my mistakes swallow me whole. Too much structure, and I get crushed under the weight.

So, which way do you naturally lean? How do you find balance between creating new and learning from the old? Please share your experiences!

Leading from Creativity

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Over the past 4 days I’ve completed two different projects, both of which have been furniture. The process I used to accomplish each one is quite different, however.

My first project was something I’m calling a “grill prep station”. It’s construction was very basic. I had two pallets, one of which I was able to cut in half and still keep each half uniform in build. I attached the half pallets to the full size pallet, added a couple 2×8 boards I had laying around, and found three or four more boards to complete the project.

I only cut one or two boards, but everything else was very much a “this might work here” progression. In the end, I love my prep station. There’s room for growth, and I can change things around without any remorse, because it wasn’t supposed to match a blueprint anyway.

The end result is a place for me to place plates, food, seasonings, drinks, and my bluetooth speaker, all while enjoying an evening grilling.

Some leadership experiences are like this: I’m going to make the most of what I have, get creative, and be proud of the end result.

We may find ourselves in an unorthodox situation, and leading requires out of the box thinking. This is natural and beneficial for a team.

Leaders who can see what I refer to as the Horizon of Possibility, look at the materials that have been given to them, and they create what they can dream. The materials may be physical, financial, or in terms of personnel, but the end result is something worthy of satisfaction.

We can all probably think of someone who, with extremely limited resources and personnel, made a drastic impact on the world. They didn’t follow a blueprint, but instead said “this might work” and gave it a shot.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, embrace the freedom that comes from not having to follow a blueprint. You can make a mistake, but that’s okay. Roll with the mistake and make it a strength!

But don’t let yourself become tied to this way of leading as the only way. On Thursday, we will look at the benefits of the other method of leading: following a plan.

 

3 Questions & Hurricane Harvey Relief

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Would you like to know a secret? The 3 Questions are not a new concept. They were birthed out of observation more than anything else. I simply put the thoughts into a process, which is far from revolutionary.

A contemporary example of how we can answer the three questions in real life is helping with Hurricane Harvey relief.

As the news stories and pictures and reports roll in about the devastation, how many people with boats have made the trip to help offer rescue? How many first responders have migrated to try to offer help?

All of these people, whether they realize it or not, are working the three questions: What needs to be done, What can I do, and Who can I get to help?

I know of churches who are asking that question today. For some, what they can do is limited by age, and for others their financial situations may prevent other solutions.

But ultimately, as they (and we) work through the 3 questions, let me offer a few suggestions:

  1. Don’t feel like you have to do everything. If you cannot make the trip, do not let that keep you from giving. Fight the mindset that says “If I can’t go, then what’s the point.”
  2. Find something you can do. Read reports, google search for needs. Give what is most beneficial, not what is simplest to give away.
  3. Equip those around you to participate. Find a way to include others in your plan. You might even try to brainstorm with them to see what you can do together.

In a time like this, leadership becomes key. But please don’t lead for the sake of saying you led, but instead lead with a purpose. Let your efforts have an end result of life change. Equip those around you who don’t know how to help.

Finally, and most importantly, pray for those who are suffering and recovering. The damage is incomprehensible, and some people will never fully recover from the devastation. Pray for those who have lost, pray for those who give of time and resources, and pray for the recovery in days ahead.

Ask Questions No One Else is Asking

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I tend to work better on a team. One of the reasons why is because I value being able to discuss a situation–it helps me process better.

Have you ever been in a planning meeting with a group of people about a project, asked a question, and watched as the expressions in the room turn to “why would you ask that?”

Over the past few years, I have found myself in that situation more than I can imagine, but for a good reason: I want to be able to say we thought about that scenario/outcome/solution/possibility.

Asking the question the group assumes has an agreed upon answer, on occasion, will provide some necessary insight and clarity.

For ministry, have we considered the impact this decision will mean for _____?

For business, what happens after we reach our goal of _____?

For entreprenuers, what happens after _____?

I can think of a few times where I have been glad to be the one to ask the silly question, because sometimes the silly question is the very question no one else is willing to ask.

Why are we doing this?

Do we still need this?

What do we hope to achieve or accomplish?

Are we ready for the possible fall out of this particular decision?

Learn to ask questions no one else is asking, and you will start to see your leadership influence shift. If people can count on you to bring value to the table, then they will count on you.

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A Lesson from a Busy Street

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Yesterday, after making a hospital visit, I sat in my suburban and watched as a student driver tried to parallel park two spots in front of me. (If it had been the spot directly in front of me, I may not have been as patient.)

The car pulled up, waited for a while, then slowly started backing up. Every passing car on the busy street caused greater hesitation, and I could sense the anxiety of the driver from where I sat.

The car ever so slowly inched into the parking spot, except the driver had turned too much and was almost perpendicular with the curb instead of parallel. After waiting for a moment, the car pulled forward and moved on like nothing had happened.

The driving instructor in that car could very likely parallel park with the best. All he would have to do is get out, and switch sides with the driver. But that’s not why the instructor rides in the car. The instructor guides the driver.

Often times, leading others unfolds in a similar way. We ride with them as they attempt something that seems completely foreign and unnatural. We talk them through the strategy, the thought process, and the mechanics. Then, in the moment of truth, they over correct and cannot pull it off. So, we move forward with them, taking the opportunity to help them learn from the experience.

More than likely, we are asking someone else to accomplish something we could accomplish on our own, and often times more efficiently. But if we buy into leadership development as a calling and a responsibility, then very rarely does anyone benefit from our sitting in the driver’s seat.

Instead, if you want to help others grow as leaders, learn to ride in the instructor’s seat. Instruct, guide, advise, but avoid kicking them out of the car because you can do better.

So, do you buy into leadership development as something you are called to do? Are you capable of letting go to see someone develop? Are you willing to let go?

Click here to see how I’m training student leaders to expand their leadership influence.

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