One of the things that fascinates me is listening to people talk about small towns. In Texas, we have our fair share of small towns. But here’s the tricky thing: not everyone shares the definition of a “small town.”
Don’t believe me, try it. If I were to walk up to people in my current town of 23,000 and ask if they think we are living in a small town, I think many would say yes.
If you ask me, my answer would be different. This is actually the second largest town I’ve ever lived in, and I grew up in a town of 500. And no, that’s not a typo–there are only two zeroes after that five.
So, which is right? Is 500 a small town, or is 23,000 a small town? Can they both be small towns? At 500 are you supposed to change it from town to village? Is 23,000 a small city? Is it a large town?
Here lies one of the biggest struggles I see in leadership time and again – a lack of shared definitions. We get in a room with a group of people and start talking about a subject, presuming agreement on basic terms, and realize (or sometimes don’t) we are talking apples and oranges.
Have you ever asked a group of people what “deep” means? Chances are in a group of five people, you’ll get six different answers (how’s that for deep?).
Or, how about the way you express emotions. I would say I’m more reserved and intense, but to some people that comes across as detached and angry. I have had times where I thought I was having a wonderful discussion with someone only to find out later our relationship was negatively affected because of our lack of shared definitions.
Learning to navigate the tricky waters of varied definitions provides a very difficult challenge for leadership. But until we get people on the same page, you will find very often the battles you face find their roots in this principle.
What struggles or battles are you facing because of a lack of shared definitions? What adjustments can you make to get on the same page moving forward? Are you willing to do it?
Have you ever seen The Matrix? You know, the Keanu Reeves movies from the late 90s and early 2000s where the world as we know it is all a computer program.
Over the course of the movie Neo (Reeves) discovers he’s been living a lie. Everything he thinks is real is only a computer generated illusion. Through a course of actions he “wakes up” in the real world–a place significantly more hopeless and destitute.
After “waking up”, Neo hacks back into the Matrix for some training. His clothes have changed, his hair has changed, even the ports that were present on his body are no longer there. This is called, if I remember correctly, his residual self image. It’s what he thinks he looks like, or what he chooses to look like.
We all have a similar problem. We have a residual self image we want others to see and believe about us. You have one. I have one.
As we seek to recognize leadership potential in students (or even adults), part of our task is to look past the residual self image a student projects, and discern what lies beneath.
It’s not cool to be a servant leader, but when you see that glimpse of humility, bells should be going off.
For me, those bells are a wonderful thing. I love seeing the potential in a student and learning to navigate the waters of what is currently and what could be in the future.
Are you looking past the residual self image of those around you? Are you starting to notice the potential? Do you know how to start developing that potential? (Click here to read the approach I take.)
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Ministry is difficult. One of the challenging parts of ministry is how to cope with the reality that our spiritual lives and our relationships are often intertwined.
As a minister, I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes when someone pushes away from church, I take it personally. I view it as a personal failure. I wonder if there’s a mistake I made in the relationship. Sometimes, I can point to something, sometimes I cannot.
So, how do you cope? How do you make that adjustment so you don’t take things personally? Honestly, I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know if I have any answers–I’m still pretty new to this. So I lean on the wisdom of other people.
Yesterday I read a post by Carey Nieuwhof that hit home, and I wanted to share it with you. Carey has a 30+ year history in ministry, is a podcaster, blogger, and pastor. He has an uncanny ability to tackle the tough issues in truthful ways, regularly challenging me.
So, as I read his post yesterday, I couldn’t wait to share it today. Here’s a snippet from his post “7 People You Can’t Afford to Keep in Leadership“:
And as someone (or several people exit), the discussion at the leadership table will end up with someone saying:
Look, we can’t afford to lose people.
Trust me, there’s always someone at the leadership table who thinks we can’t afford to lose anyone.
That’s simply not true.
There are a few kinds of people you can’t afford to keep.
In fact, sometimes the people you are most afraid of losing are the people you can’t afford to keep.
Here’s the strange paradox of leadership: some of the people you think you can’t afford to lose are the very people you can’t afford to keep.
So how do you know the difference?
I think you’ll be surprised by what follows, so give it a read!
Today I’m going to play off of Tuesday’s Check it Out that linked to this post.
I’ve written before that I spend a lot of time thinking through things. As I’ve started at a new church and am building new relationships, I find myself thinking about those new relationships a lot.
Over the years I’ve picked up a few ways to get to know students (and people) a little bit better, and there are a few things that I value pretty highly when it comes to discerning leadership potential.
Obviously, there are multiple traits I look for, pay attention to, and work toward when evaluating leadership potential, but these are three of the core ones. When I find someone willing to go the extra mile without credit, who has the ability to get serious when the situation calls for it, and who treats other people with respect, then I know I’ve found someone with incredible leadership potential.
I’ve always been enamored by people who could cook using cast iron pots and pans. For years they seemed to have been a mystery to me.
Then, starting in January, I began cooking my breakfast every morning using a cast iron pan. I learned how to prep the pan, how to cook in the pan, and how to clean the pan, and I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to using a non cast iron pan again.
The more I have used my new favorite cooking pan, the mystique and intrigue of cast iron has slowly faded away. What used to be a mystery has become a staple in my routine.
What fascinates me is the mystery was greater when I hadn’t tried cooking with cast iron. It was something “they” always used, not something I used. I would read about how to use it, but the best growth came through experience.
I’m probably moving in an obvious direction at this point, right?
Leadership is the same way. We can read about leadership. We can watch and admire what “they” do. But until we roll up our sleeves and start exercising leadership, theory is only theory.
Leadership is messy. Plans don’t go the way we want. We make mistakes. We pull the trigger too fast on some things, and not fast enough on other things. We look back and see what we could have done differently.
But at the end of the day, leadership only grows when it’s being used.
My success as a leader is not based on my most recent endeavor. My success as a leader is based on my ability and willingness to move forward in spite of or inspired by my most recent endeavor.
What decision are you holding off on because you’re afraid to move forward today? What’s your cast iron pan? What is the thing that intimidates you? Step up to the metaphorical stove and start cooking! You’ll be glad you did.
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