Today’s Decisions. Tomorrow’s Direction.

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Have you ever done something you never thought you would do?

For me, it’s running. I used to think people who ran 5K races were crazy. Now, I’m one of the crazies. I’ve run 5Ks (including one during a vacation), 5 mile races, 10Ks and even a half marathon.

Every time I’ve trained for and completed a race, I can look back and see decisions I made along the way that helped me achieve the goal. The most obvious was simply the choice to spend time running instead of doing something else.

Our leadership principle today is a simple one: Today’s decisions. Tomorrow’s direction.

The decisions we make today affect where we will end up tomorrow. For leadership, the implication is rather simple: are you making decisions today that will make you a better leader tomorrow?

Are you reading leadership blogs (like this one), books, and articles? Are you listening to leadership podcasts that will stretch your understanding of what it means to lead? Are you surrounding yourself with people who will help you grow as a leader?

What have you set up in your routine each day that will help you expand your leadership influence? It may be as simple as sending an encouraging text each day, or clicking over to Amazon to find a good book on leadership. Or, maybe it’s adopting the three questions and trying to answer them each day.

Remember: Today’s decisions. Tomorrow’s direction.

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 Structure

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On Tuesday I wrote about Leading from Creativity. You can check it out here.

Over the past week I’ve completed two woodworking projects. The first one, as I wrote about on Tuesday, developed from a place of creativity. The second one, however, had a blueprint.

Now, I’m not one who usually likes to follow someone else’s plans, but I knew I wanted a bar stool for our new house and had no clue where to start. So I found a site where someone had already gone through the process and laid out their steps, and my goal was to simply follow what they did.

I followed the process, making a few adjustments (read:mistakes) here and there. The end result was something I could be very proud of: something that looks like a real piece of furniture!

Leadership can be the same way sometimes. We don’t always have to blaze a new trail, leading from creativity. There are plenty of times in leadership when we can benefit from the leadership and experience of those who have gone before us.

This may mean reading books or blogs (like this one!) and putting into practice what you learn. Or maybe you learn better by listening to podcasts, or sitting down over meals.

Ultimately, learning from the experiences of those who have walked the path of leadership before you helps you navigate the path of leadership more efficiently.

How are you making the most of the structure around you? Are you reading books regularly? Are you meeting with mentors consistently? Are you gleaning from the wisdom and experiences of others? Find a way today to benefit from the hard work someone else has put into their own experience and you’ll be a better leader because of it.

 

 

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.