Posts

Hope is a powerful thing.

 “It is the belief that the future will be better than the present, along with the belief that you have the power to make it so.”

-Dr. Shane Lopez, Gallup

Building hope is essential for these times of complexity and change. It helps people see a way forward when facing uncertainty. It helps people face the future with courage and confidence. It is what people look for in their leaders. 

Looking for Hope

You know better than I can describe that we are living in a time when people are looking for hope in every aspect of their lives. Whether it is their workplace or in their schools so much has changed and seems to continue to change. Everything from vaccines to supply chains have people looking for something or someone they can depend upon for hope. 

So, how do you build hope? How do you guide people toward a tomorrow that looks better than today?

People usually move toward what you hold before them. Are you holding a grim and gloomy vision of what lies ahead or are you creating a sense of direction toward exciting possibilities? 

Hope-Filled Living

I know it is tough to build hope when you, as the leader, are not feeling hopeful. Let me suggest that you become aware of who God created you to be. Who you are is how you lead. You are a child of God, uniquely gifted with strengths and abilities for this time. When you are true to who you are, people feel cared for and feel a sense of stability. When people sense the compassion you have for them, your leadership will instill trust. Be authentic, vulnerable, and courageous. Become a model for people to follow. Your hope-filled living shapes your hope-filled leadership.

The Beloved Community

Then become aware of the people entrusted to your care. They, too, are children of God. Each of them is a beloved child, uniquely gifted with strengths and abilities. As a leader, you have the opportunity to discover and develop their potential as you move into the future together. Remember, people need to feel a sense of stability. They want to be able to say, “I fit into that hopeful future.” Because you are helping them live into who they were created to be, they will trust your leadership and will sense the compassion you have for them. They will step up and out to move toward the positive future you are holding before them. 

Hope: Connecting Voice and Touch

Max Dupree, in his book Leadership Jazz, tells the story of his granddaughter Zoe. She was born prematurely and weighed one pound and seven ounces. She was so tiny that his wedding ring fit over her arm. In addition to being born prematurely, Zoe’s biological father abandoned her mother a month before she was born

The first time Max suited up in protective gear to visit Zoe in her isolate in the neonatal unit of the hospital, she had two IVs in her arms, one in her navel, and a feeding tube and a breathing tube in her mouth. A wise and caring nurse named Ruth gave Max his instructions. 

She said, “For the next several months, you will be the surrogate father. I want you to come to her every day. While you are here, I would like you to rub her arms and her legs with the tip of your finger. While you are caressing her, you should tell her over and over how much you love her because she needs to connect your voice with your touch.” 

DuPree writes, “Ruth was doing exactly the right thing for Zoe and without realizing it, she was giving me the perfect description of the work of a leader. At the core of being a leader is the ability to always connect one’s voice with one’s touch.” 

DuPree understood the leader’s voice to be an expression of one’s beliefs and the leader’s touch as an expression of competence and resolve. Using DuPree’s description, I want you to think of leading with hope as bringing “who you are” together with “your relationships.” Think of it this way:

Your Voice: Who you are

1.      You are a child of God

2.      You are uniquely gifted with strengths and abilities

3.      You are a leader created to lead at this time

4.      You are learning about and adapting to the changing situations and circumstances

5.      You have something special to offer to life and leadership

6.      As a child of God, who you are is how you lead

Your Touch: Your relationships

1.      You live and work with people who are children of God

2.      You live and work with people who are uniquely gifted with strengths and abilities

3.      You have the opportunity and responsibility to help people discover their potential and to help mentor, coach, lead people into living their potential

4.      You are assisting them to learn about and to adapt to the changing world around them

5.      You are learning how each person entrusted to your care helps you become more who God created you to be

6.      You model trust and compassion in your interactions

Leading with hope means you are learning about yourself, and the people entrusted to your care, and at the same time, you are adapting to the needs and ideas of the people around you. You are learning when to step up to lead and when to step aside to be a follower.

The Leader You Were Created to Be

So, as you step into this new year, here are three questions to reflect upon. Your reflection will assist you in becoming the leader you were created to be.

  1. What are you good at doing?
  2. What brings you joy when you are doing it? Whether at work or at play, what brings you joy?
  3. How are you helping others discover their joy? How are you celebrating their joy?

I recently read this quote, “If, as a leader, you are not creating hope and helping people see the way forward, chances are, no one else is either.” You were created to build hope and lead during this time. Hope is a powerful thing and you, as a leader, have the opportunity to lead like no other time in history.

The time is now to lead with hope. Remember, who you are is how you lead.

If I could give one quality gift to you as a leader, I would give you the gift of gratitude. If I could have God do anything for you, I would ask that God make you a grateful person. Gratitude is the fundamental value of the Christian faith. It has the potential to change the world, as much as impact your relationships. 

Over my 45+ years of ministry, I have never known a person who was grateful who was at the same time bitter, hurtful, mean, or vengeful. If you are a grateful person, you will lead with gratitude. Who you are is how you lead.

Recognizing Potential

Leading with gratitude means recognizing and developing the potential of the people entrusted to your care. It means you give people your time. You listen to them, discover their gifts, strengths, and passion. You encourage them and give them opportunities to become more who they are created to be. 

Leading with gratitude means you become more generous with people. Because you have developed an attitude of generosity, you begin to believe that everyone wants to perform well and will grow more into who they can be with your care and encouragement. This kind of leadership nurtures humility, brings out the best in people, and creates an atmosphere of trust, compassion, stability, and hope. 

To be a truly effective leader, you must know how to lead with gratitude. 

Cultivate Gratitude

Gratitude is something you cultivate. It is a foundational building block to who you are as a person. It is so foundational that you might think it is too simplistic or basic to be included as a leadership trait. You might also think that expressing gratitude is obvious, but let me say again, gratitude is something you cultivate as you practice it. The more you practice it, the more you adapt to feeling and expressing it. Developing a practice of gratitude allows you to become the leader for this time and place.

Develop a Gratitude Practice

The question is “where do you start to develop a practice of gratitude?” Well, I am convinced where you start makes a difference. So, start with the grace of God. The words “grace” and “gratitude” have the same root in Greek. In other words, if there is no awareness of the grace of God, there is no gratitude. And there is no gratitude without an awareness of the grace of God. 

Luke 17 and Gratitude

In the Gospel according to Luke, there is a story of grace that illustrates the foundation of gratitude. It is the story of ten Lepers healed of their leprosy. (Luke 17:11-19). Leprosy was a physical condition that had broad implications. It was an incurable disease that separated people from one another. It was a living death. Individuals afflicted with leprosy were required, by the prevailing religion, to stay outside the boundaries of the community. 

They were physically, as well as socially, isolated from family, friends, temple, and all that gave meaning and purpose to their lives. Individuals with leprosy had no quality relationships outside of the leper community. Their only means of living was to beg for handouts. Not only were they isolated, but they also had the responsibility of announcing their condition to everyone who came close. In other words, because of their condition, they were marginalized, ostracized, and humiliated. 

In the story, as Jesus walks by, it is not clear whether they were begging or if they had confidence in Jesus’ power to cleanse them. But as Jesus passed, they cried out, “Jesus, master, have mercy on us.” Although they did nothing to be afflicted with leprosy, they have no rights to which they can appeal. Healing is not owed to them. 

Jesus gave them the direction to “Go show yourselves to the priest.” The priest was one who could announce that each of them was cleansed of leprosy. What is interesting here is Jesus gave each of them what was needed for healing and wholeness. His direction was an act of grace. 

They followed his direction. Their action of going to show themselves to the priest was their response. On their way, they were healed of their leprosy. They did not first simply believe and then go to the priest. They followed the direction of Jesus. As they followed his direction, they discovered they had been restored to health. Each of them received the same direction, the same grace, and were given hope of a new life.

Each of the ten lepers did what Jesus told them to do. They all received grace. There was no requirement to return. Yet, in a completely spontaneous expression of gratitude, one returned giving thanks and praising God. 

Reconnect What is Broken

In this story, leprosy is a symbol of our condition before God. We are broken people, disconnected from God, one another, and ourselves. As much as you want to and try to, you do not have the capacity within yourself to reconnect what is broken. Your hope is in your experience of God’s grace. You respond to your experience by living as you were created to live. It is your response to God’s grace that equips you to lead with gratitude. 

Become aware of God’s Grace

So, how do you lead with gratitude? Become aware of God’s grace in your life. 

Each day this week, make time to think about being grateful. 

Inspiration

Take note of the people who inspired you. 

  • What did you see that made you smile or take notice of their actions?

Keep in mind that no person or experience is insignificant. From the person who started a friendly conversation to the laughter of children, they are all part of what makes you who you are. The small joys are just as valuable as all the others. 

Ease of Life

Think about what makes your life easier.

  • The water in the shower? 
  • Car? 
  • Umbrella? 
  • Cellphone? 
  • A warm coat? 

The list goes on. What are you grateful for at this moment?

Past Relationships

Consider past relationships. 

  • Upon whose shoulders are you standing? 
  • What did the person do to make life better for you? 
  • Why are you better off for having known that person? 

Give thanks for the toughest relationship of the day. 

You will come to experience sincere gratitude, even for difficult people, by looking for the good in your encounters with them. 

You

Add to your gratitude list something you are grateful for about yourself. 

Although this might feel uncomfortable, take note of what happens when you begin paying attention to what makes you feel good about yourself. 

You might even ask yourself why this practice of gratitude makes you feel so uncomfortable. Self-awareness is a gift of grace. 

Why not return to give thanks for who you are and for what God has provided to you as a leader?   

Gratitude and Grace

Keep in mind that there is no gratitude without an awareness of grace. In the story, ten experienced God’s grace. Ten returned from the world in which they had been isolated. Ten had new lives. 

When I was a senior in high school, songwriter and singer, Andre Crouch wrote and recorded a song titled “My Tribute.” The words were as follows: 

How can I say thanks for the things You have done for me?

Things so undeserved yet You gave to prove Your love for me.

The voices of a million angels could not express my gratitude.

All that I am and ever hope to be, I owe it all to Thee.

To God be the glory. To God be the glory. To God be the glory.

For the things He has done.

So, how can you say thanks? Be the one who returns living your life in thanksgiving. Become the person you are created to be and lead with gratitude. Who you are is how you lead.

E

Gratitude has the potential to impact the people around you as well as reshape the world. As a leader, it is essential that gratitude becomes an integral part of your life. It is such an important characteristic that your leadership depends upon it. Effective leadership starts with gratitude. Who you are is how you lead. 

Cultivate Gratitude

Of all the leadership characteristics named, discussed, and implemented, gratitude is the easiest to forget and to dismiss. Too often it is seen as something extra and unnecessary. It is for that very reason, gratitude must be cultivated and practiced. You might think that you will automatically feel gratitude when you have reached a particular position, or accomplished a specific objective, or made the right decision that helps reach a difficult goal. The assumption is that gratitude is a mysterious force that shows up when you succeed or when you feel all’s right with the world. 

The reality is gratitude does not appear at the moment things are unfolding perfectly. It is not magically bestowed on some and not on others based upon whether you are successful or not. It is not dependent on what is happening around you. Gratitude is something you cultivate. It is a foundational building block to who you are as a person. It is so foundational that you might think it is too simplistic or basic to be included as a leadership trait. You might also think that expressing gratitude is obvious, but let me say again, gratitude is something you cultivate as you practice it. 

Gratitude Brings Perspective

When you have every excuse to focus on what is not going right, gratitude allows you to see things from a new perspective. The more you practice it, the more you adapt to feeling and expressing it. Developing a practice of gratitude allows you to become the leader for this time and place. 

As a leader, gratitude impacts the people around you. So, to become more the leader needed for this time, develop a practice of gratitude. Here are four benefits to gratitude. 

Four Benefits of Gratitude 

Gratitude helps you appreciate where you are and what you are doing. 

Think about a time when you felt like you were in an unfamiliar place. Whether geographically or relationally, you felt uncomfortable and unsure of yourself. Maybe you were in a new place surrounded by people you didn’t know. Maybe you were responsible for some unpopular decision. Or maybe you just wanted people to be happy with you and you could not control their perceptions or reactions. Whatever the situation, you just didn’t feel good about being there. 

As you reflect upon that time, what are your thoughts and feelings? What makes you uncomfortable or unsure of yourself? What about that experience can help you be a more effective leader? 

Now, take a moment to give God thanks for the experience. It might not be easy. You might not want to. But giving thanks will help you put the experience into perspective. It will help you focus more upon the leader you are created to be. 

If you are spending your time wishing you were somewhere other than where you are, doing something other than what you are doing, you are creating anxiety for yourself and for the people around you that is unnecessary besides being unhealthy. 

You don’t have to like where you are. You don’t have to like what you are doing. But if you are grateful for the places you find yourself and for the opportunities presented to you, you will be able to lead into and through the challenges you face. The truth is, even in the midst of the unfamiliar and unknown, you can always find things for which you are grateful.

O God, put me where you want and help me be content. If I can’t be content, make me faithful. Thank you for being with me wherever I am and with whatever I am doing. Amen

Gratitude helps you love your neighbor. 

Think about the people in your life you like being around. What do they do that draws you to them? Do they help you feel good about yourself? Do they offer you affirmation and support?

Now think about a time that you, as a leader, gave someone praise and affirmation? How did it make you feel? How did the person respond to you?

Gratitude is infectious. 

It celebrates the goodness of God found in the people you encounter. Gratitude helps to build and repair relationships. It draws people in, encourages them to engage, and models for them the practice of gratitude.

So, let’s go one step farther. Who are the people you try to avoid; the people that drain you of positive energy, who are combative, and disagreeable? 

As you think about each person, what are you learning about yourself? What is it that makes you feel good about some people and causes you to avoid others? How does your relationship with each person help you be a more effective leader? 

Now, take a moment to give God thanks for each person who has come to mind. It will not be easy. You might feel that you have tried to get some of these people out of your life altogether. But giving thanks will help you put those relationships into perspective. You might even begin to love others as God in Christ has loved you. It is that perspective that will help you become the leader you are created to be. 

Whether it is a feel-good experience or an experience you want to avoid, expressing your gratitude helps make you become more aware of the gifts people offer in and through each encounter. The truth is each person contributes to your effectiveness as a leader. 

O God, make me aware of the people around me today. As I give you thanks for each person I meet, make me a blessing to someone, somewhere today. Amen.

Gratitude improves your health. 

Like the muscles in your body, you can develop an attitude of gratitude. Research has shown that practicing gratitude creates a less critical and more compassionate relationship with others and a less punishing and more affirming relationship with yourself. When you practice gratitude, you become more emotionally healthy and are less likely to experience depression and anxiety. 

Dr. Robert A. Emmons, from the University of California in Davis, studied the impact of gratitude on physical health, psychological well-being, and relationships with others. What he found was that gratitude helps develop stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and improve sleep patterns. 

He found that persons who practice gratitude are more alert and have a healthy self-awareness. They experience deeper joy, greater happiness, and are more hopeful than those who do not practice gratitude. He also found that gratitude helped people be more generous and compassionate and as well as more forgiving. The people who practiced gratitude were less lonely and isolated. The truth is gratitude is a healthy practice of an effective leader. 

O God, I am grateful for the ways you are shaping my life in and through the people around me. Give me eyes to see how you come through each of them to help me become who you created me to be. Amen 

Gratitude makes you less fearful and more courageous. 

As a human being, you simply cannot listen to the voices of gratitude and fear at the same time. Your attention is either on one or the other. 

The times I struggle with gratitude the most are when I do not see my place in the bigger picture. When I am in the muddy and murky waters of fear, disappointment, and scarcity, I usually don’t see the opportunities and possibilities around me. But one the other hand, when I focus on gratitude, I am more optimistic, cooperative, and energized. 

Think about a particular challenge you are facing. Get the situation and/or the person clearly in your mind. Focus on the challenge. 

Now, with the situation or person in mind, name five things about the situation or the person for which you are grateful. Place these five things in your heart and mind. Now, what has happened to your fear? 

You simply cannot listen to the voices of gratitude and fear at the same time. Your attention will either be on one or the other. As a healthy human being and more specifically as an effective leader, it is your choice to make. 

Most of the effective leaders I know, practice gratitude on a regular basis. When you consciously practice gratitude, in all situations and circumstances, you become a better leader, you model for the people around you, and you are a happier person.

O God, your perfect love casts out my fears. I give thanks for the situations and circumstances in which I am leading, and for the people through whom you reveal your love. Help me be so aware of your presence that all I say and do will bring you glory and work for the good of the people you have given me to love and serve. Amen. 

Effective Leadership Starts with Gratitude

Who you are is how you lead. How can you become a more effective leader? Become a person of gratitude. It is time to take the next step. 

Your Next Steps

Over the next 5 days, make time each day to think about being grateful. 

Take note of the people who inspired you. What did you see that made you smile or to take notice of their actions?

Keep in mind that no person or experience is insignificant. From the person who started a friendly conversation to the laughter of children, they are all part of what makes you who you are. The small joys are just as valuable as all the others. 

S

Think about what makes your life easier? The alarm that reminds you to get up each morning? The water in the shower? Car? Umbrella? Cellphone? The list goes on. For what are you grateful at this moment? 

S

Consider past relationships. Upon whose shoulders are you standing? What did the person do to make life better for you? Why are you better off for having known that person? 

Give thanks for the toughest relationship of the day. On my best days, I have come to experience sincere gratitude, even for difficult people, by looking for the good in my encounter with them.

S

Add to your gratitude list something you are grateful for about yourself. This might feel uncomfortable. Most of the time you quickly focus upon things you do not like about yourself. When you practice gratitude, you can alter that negative cycle. What would happen if you, instead of focusing upon your flaws, would pay attention to what makes you most proud of yourself? 

Remember, who you are is how you lead. Effective leadership starts with gratitude.  

O God, I give you thanks for my friends and colleagues who, through their gratitude, are helping me become more who you created me to be. I am grateful. Amen.

Leading is challenging. It demands your full attention and involves your best decision-making. At any given time, it takes energy and stamina to interact with people and it takes patience and compassion to care for them. To lead effectively, you not only have to care for the people around you, but you have to care for yourself. 

Yet, it has been my experience that when work piles up and time is short, self-care is the first thing to go. I understand that putting work ahead of self-care usually comes from a good place. 

Self Care

You want to do as much good as possible, so you put forth your best effort. The problem comes when you constantly put pressing priorities ahead of your wellbeing. For most leaders, when you do not care for yourself, you cannot expect others to care for you. 

When you do not care for yourself, you become tired, stressed, and angry. And over time you develop habits that lead to relational difficulties and health problems. You not only suffer your own poor health, but you contribute to the poor health of the people entrusted to your care. It has been my experience that managing your health is a key component of being an effective leader. 

Putting Yourself First

Think of it this way. Every time you fly, you hear the standard pre-flight announcements. One of those announcements is the Oxygen Mask Rule: “Should the cabin lose pressure; oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.” 

I confess that as a leader in a helping profession, it seems strange that I would put myself before others. What could possibly be wrong with helping others first? 

In the case of the airplane, oxygen masks are deployed in situations where the oxygen level has dropped dangerously low. Without your oxygen mask, you will lose consciousness. If putting on your mask is not your first priority, you will likely not be able to help anyone. 

Your Self-Care as a Leader

It is the same with your self-care as a leader. It is natural that you want to be helpful. It is who you are. You devote energy to confronting the challenges, maintaining relationships, and finding solutions. It is all in a day’s work. But in many cases, your involvement comes at the expense of your own physical, emotional, and mental health. 

Now, I am not saying you should not get involved. You are the leader. 

What I am saying is, you have to manage your health just as you manage your leadership skills. 

Burnout

When your involvement leaves little time for anything else, you experience burnout. I know that burnout is a negative term, and we do not like using negative terms. So, let me say it another way. When your involvement leaves little time for anything else, you experience exhaustion, frustration, and anger, along with feeling ineffective, helpless, or hopeless. You experience burnout. 

Caring for yourself is essential in avoiding burnout. Your self-care is key to your physical, emotional, and mental health. It requires intentional planning. If you do not make self-care part of your leadership, you will not be able to care for others.

Your Health as Leader

So, what contributes to your health as a leader? If you look at yourself as a whole person, there are four areas that need your attention: physical health, emotional health, mental health, and spiritual health. These areas are so interrelated that a deficiency in one will affect the well-being of the others.

Physical Health

Let’s look first at physical health. 

Being physically healthy is essential for effective and courageous leadership. Your physical health depends upon good nutrition, physical exercise, and rest. While regular activity is essential, allowing your body to rest is just as important. While getting enough rest is critical, good eating habits are just as important. Another way to say it is, when you are tired, you are more likely to eat unhealthy food and to exercise less. 

So, eat a well-balanced diet. Engage in regular physical activity.

If you are not going to the gym to work out, engage in walking, biking, or swimming. Get at least 7 hours of sleep in a quiet, dark environment. Turn the television, as well as computers and iPhones off. Remember, you are responsible for your own well-being.

Your effectiveness as a leader depends upon it. 

Emotional Health

Now, let’s look at emotional Health: Having a healthy awareness of your emotions is essential for effective and courageous leadership. Your emotions help you to seek out meaningful experiences, avoid danger and embarrassment. Just as they can be a helpful source of information, they can also be misleading. It is important to know and understand your emotions. 

Learn to recognize and acknowledge what triggers your anger and what pushes you to disengage in group interaction. Name what you are feeling. Give yourself permission to feel it. This will help you become more responsive as opposed to reactive to the people around you and the situation you are in. 

Whether it is a feeling in the pit of your stomach or an increased heart rate, you can keep your cool and stay engaged. When you find yourself emotionally out of balance, try one of the following activities:  take a walk in fresh air, use positive self-talk, eat healthy food, listen to music that makes you happy, spend time with someone you enjoy. You are responsible for your own well-being. Your effectiveness as a leader depends upon it. 

Mental Health

What about mental health? Being mentally healthy is essential for effective and courageous leadership. It affects how you think, feel, and act as you cope with life. It also helps determine how you manage stress, relate to others, and make decisions. In other words, life is hard. As a leader, you are constantly confronted with challenges, distractions, and obstacles. 

When you are not in a good place with your thoughts and emotions, you tend to make up what you do not know. Imagine that you have received some critical feedback. The conclusions you draw about the feedback and the person giving it to you depend upon your mental healthiness. You begin to tell yourself stories. You might tell yourself that you are a failure or that you feel ashamed or hopeless. You might feel anger and become defensive and reactive. 

On the other hand, you might tell yourself that you have an opportunity to improve. You might feel grateful for the experience and for the person who is helping you become the leader you are created to be. The conclusions you draw will influence how you feel and how you respond. 

You run into trouble when you treat your thoughts as facts without checking the truth of your facts. Your thoughts influence how you feel and how you act. So do not turn pressure into stress. Start telling yourself a different story that is based on truth. Keep yourself mentally alert. You are responsible for your own well-being.

Your effectiveness as a leader depends upon it. 

Spiritual Health

Finally, let’s look at spiritual health. Being spiritually healthy is essential for effective and courageous leadership. When you are spiritually healthy, you are deepening your understanding of meaning and purpose, you feel more connected to God, and to the people around you. You have more clarity when it comes to making everyday decisions, and your actions become more consistent with your beliefs and values. 

So, develop a pattern of spiritual practice. On a daily basis, at the same time each day, read scripture for the purpose of transformation. Reflect upon what you are reading. What is it saying to you? How does it inform your living and your relationships? Then respond by putting into action what you have read. At the end of the day, return to the scripture. How did you experience the scripture throughout the day? With whom did you interact? For whom or what are you grateful? A pattern of spiritual practice will make a difference in who you are and how you lead. 

Develop a pattern of meditation. By periodically stepping away to reflect, you are better able to recognize and acknowledge your deepest potential. You not only become more aware of the choices you are making but aware of how those choices shape who you are and affect the people around you. By intentionally cultivating a sense of self, you are becoming more who you are created to be. 

Your Health as A Leader

Your healthiness as a leader requires care and attention, not only for your physical body but for your mind and spirit as well. The benefits of spiritual well-being are numerous, from being more compassionate in your relationships to living into a deeper sense of inner peace. Being spiritually healthy not only makes you feel better but helps you be better. You are responsible for your own well-being. Your effectiveness as a leader depends upon it. 

Keep in mind that these areas are so interrelated that a lack of attention in one area affects the well-being of the other areas. You might consider yourself healthy spiritually, but if you have not developed healthy eating habits, or suffer from a lack of sleep and rest, you are out of balance. Your emotional and mental well-being is dependent upon your spiritual healthiness as well as your physical healthiness. I am sure you get the point. 

Make Time for You

This week, make time for a self-care health check. What area needs your immediate attention? What will you do to improve your self-care? You are responsible for your own well-being. Your effectiveness as a leader depends upon. 

Know of my prayers for you as you seek to be a healthy leader.

If you decide you can put your self-care off a little while longer, just remember, who you are is how you lead.

Who you are is how you lead. 

And how you lead reveals why you lead. 

I know that sounds obvious, but if you are not clear on why you lead the people entrusted to your care then those people will be unclear as well. If you are unclear, you will create unexpected problems for yourself. 

Remembering

Over the past week, we have commemorated the 20 anniversary of 9/11.  Out of the stories we have heard, there is one story that stands out to me. It is the story of Father Mychal Judge, the first recorded death at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001.  Among his responsibilities was to serve as a chaplain to several battalions of the New York Fire Department. 

As I understand it, he died as he lived. He rushed into the North Tower with firefighters. When commanders gave orders to evacuate the building, he refused to abandon the hundreds of firefighters still trapped inside. 

It is recorded that he said, “My work here is not finished.” Other priests came to Grand Zero, but Father Mychal was the only priest to enter the World Trade Center that day. He offered absolution, prayers, and the Last Rites in the lobby as death rained all around him. He died that day as the result of blunt force trauma. After his death, his fellow firefighters carried him out in an image described by one reporter as “the definition of authentic American patriotism and humble service.” 

At his funeral, thousands of people showed up, describing how Father Mychal had helped them during their time of need. There were stories of medical care, clothing, housing, food, hope, and a future. He was known to have compassion for HIV/AIDS patients during a time when many were treated like lepers. It was reported that people thought of Mychal as a special friend, that is because he was. 

These words were spoken about him, “This morning we come to bury Myke Judge’s body, but not his spirit. We come to bury his voice, but not his message. We come to bury his hands, but not his good works. We come to bury his heart, but not his love…”  “In the next weeks, we’re going to have name after name of people being brought out of that rubble. And Mychal is going to be on the other side of death to greet them.”  

Your Why

In my opinion, Mychal Judge knew his “why”, his purpose in life. He lived his purpose and the people entrusted to his care experienced his compassion and care in simple but profound ways. 

By now you might be wondering what the story of Mychal Judge has to do with leadership. What more would any of us want in a human being? His courageous actions were seen and reported as “the definition of authentic American patriotism and humble service.” I have no doubt about it. We need more people like Mychal Judge. My question is, was American patriotism and humble service his purpose for living? 

I’ll answer my question by saying, “No.” They were the results of his purpose. Mychal Judge was created for the time he lived and served. God’s call upon his life was to share the love, the agape, of God, with the people he met in the situations and circumstances he found himself. He was an example of “…we love because God first loved us.” 

Why Do You Lead?

So, why do you lead the way you do? Let me give you some of the reasons leaders lead and you decide if any of these fit you. Do you lead because you like…

  • being in a position of authority and power?
  • being set apart from other people?
  • pointing out and fixing mistakes?
  • the reward from good work? 

Do you lead because you…

  • feel good about helping others?
  • can’t see yourself doing anything other than what you are doing?
  • had an experience that you are trying to relive? 

I am sure there are times one or more of these reasons crosses your mind, but I am equally sure none of them are the reasons you lead as you do.   

You Are God’s Beloved

Who you are is how you lead and how you lead reveals why you lead. So, let me remind you: 

You are beloved daughters and sons of God. You have been created to live and serve during this time in history. God’s call upon your life is to share the love, the agape, of God, with the people you meet in the situations and circumstances you find yourself in. You are an example of “…we love because God first loved us.” 

Take time this week to reflect upon why you lead the way you do. What one thing will you do to share the love of God with the people entrusted to your care? How will you be an example of God’s love this week?   

Final Reminders

Let me remind you that Karen Cook, Sara Thomas, and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

This week, check out LeaderCast. Sara Thomas and I have a conversation with Lizzy Ortiz regarding her leadership and ministry, We Are One Body in Christ. Listen to Episode 195 here. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

Who you are is how you lead.

Leading through the COVID pandemic has been exhausting and emotionally draining. It seems that no matter what you say or how you lead, someone is unhappy and feels the need to make it known. Whether it be with wearing a mask or being vaccinated, it has been difficult to stay the course and be focused in the midst of the continual pushback. 

Leadership has become more of a burden than an opportunity when you add a divisive political climate, racial unrest, and uncertainty of the church to the pandemic. It has become difficult to lead with confidence and courage when you feel the ground is moving and you don’t have a firm place to stand. 

The Complexity of Humanity

I get it. When I was in my early teens, a very important person in the community, a church member, was arrested on drug charges. His arrest was part of the headlines of the local newspaper. 

The Sunday after his arrest, I was sitting with my grandmother in the sanctuary before worship. I listened as she and her friends discussed the man arrested. I heard two different reactions to the event. 

One person said “I simply don’t believe it. He and his family have been a part of this church for years. He has served in Viet Nam and become a leader in the community. I think this is a mistake. He is a good man.”  Another person said, “I wasn’t surprised at all when I read the paper yesterday. I never have trusted him. There is something about him that has always made me suspicious.” 

I remember being confused by the differing reactions. I know now that I was learning how complex the human decision-making process can be. Obviously, there was more involved than just an objective response to facts.  

Assumptions

Before the man was ever accused of anything, people had already formed certain impressions of him. Those assumptions explained why one person could look at the situation and say, “I don’t believe it; there must be a mistake,” while another person could look at the same set of facts and say “I’m not surprised at all. I never have trusted him.” 

Assumptions are important when it comes to how we deal with the facts in the world around us.  We human beings are not purely rational, objective creatures.  We see the world through our assumptions. That is why I say, “it matters where you start.” 

You are influenced by your assumptions about God and your assumptions about the people entrusted to your care. It is not simply about what God does or does not do, but whether your starting point is one of trust or mistrust. Your assumptions make all the difference in your leadership. 

Where You Begin Matters

If our assumptions are so influential in shaping our decision-making, how do we go about forming our assumptions?  According to the scripture, this is the place where our trouble begins.  We human beings do not take the task of assumption building seriously enough. The question is, do we base our assumptions on solid evidence or arbitrary hearsay? 

Genesis 3

In the third chapter of Genesis, we get a description of how the first mistrust of God came to exist.  It is an example of careless, irrational assumption building. Out of the joy of God’s own aliveness, God decided to create the world.  There were no ulterior motives. God was not trying to get something for himself. Rather God was trying to give something of himself. God wanted to widen the circle of joy.

To set this into motion, God proceeded to show the man and the woman how things were meant to work. They were free to eat from all the trees of the Garden except one, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The fruit of the tree was poisonous to their systems. It was placed there to serve a religious reason rather than a nutritional one. God saw that the whole mechanism looked good. 

Asking Questions

Then out of nowhere, a snake moved into the picture and began to ask questions.  He asked the woman, “Did God put you in this beautiful place and then prohibit you from eating this fruit?” She responded quickly to the gross overstatement, “Oh no, we can eat everything in the garden except that tree in the center. God said it would be poisonous to us.” 

The snake shook his head and said, “The old scoundrel is threatened by you. God knows that if you eat the fruit, you will be just like God. You were created to build up God’s own ego. Holding you down builds God up. If you know what is good for you, you will call God’s bluff. You will eat the fruit and take over this place.” 

Carelessness 

The accusation of the snake put creation in a totally different perspective. Up to this point, there was no indication that suspicion of any kind had entered the minds of the man and woman. More importantly, there was not one shred of evidence for such an attitude of distrust. Nothing God had done would have given the humans reason to believe the serpent’s accusations. 

Without checking things out or going to the source and trying to get to the bottom of the situation, the first man and woman carelessly bought into the unfounded suspicion raised by the snake. For no good reason, they embraced the rumor and began to act as if it contained the truth about God.  That incredible carelessness has had devastating results. 

A New Perspective

So, imagine that I am sick, and I am caring for myself with old prescriptions. I get sicker and sicker until I call my trusted primary care physician. Suppose she comes by my house to check out my illness. I show her the medicine I have been taking, and she says, “This is the worst possible stuff for your problem.  Put it away and start taking this prescription. In a matter of hours, you will start feeling better.” And she writes out a prescription. 

Mistrust

When my trusted physician leaves, suppose a plumber who has been working to unclog my sink comes out and says, “I overheard that conversation. Did that doctor tell you to quit taking your old medicine and start taking some of this new stuff?  Those doctors.  The problem is your old medicine was paid for and there is no profit in it for her. The only reason she is giving you this new prescription is to make a little money on the side.  You can’t trust doctors these days. If you know what is good for you, you will stick with the medicine you have and forget all about that new prescription.” 

Now, what would you think of me if I bought into that kind of mistrust?  You would say I was crazy to take the word of a plumber over the word of my physician when it comes to medicine.  

Yet, according to Genesis, this is exactly what our forebears did back in the beginning.  They took the word of a snake over the word of their Creator when it came to interpreting life.  They uncritically accepted a negative image of God that had no basis in fact and began to build their assumptions with mistrust. Thinking the world was a conspiracy rather than a creation and God a foe rather than a father, the humans proceeded to take life apart and put it together in ways that did not work.  They drank the poison and got sick, just as they had been warned, and all of creation proceeded to degenerate into chaos. 

Careless or Care Full?

That is how God’s bad reputation got started.  With a flimsy accusation and some careless assumptions, centered in mistrust. 

Now, how has God responded to this carelessness? Did God get defensive and strike back in anger? No. According to the scripture, God’s response was, “God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). 

Jesus Sets Things Right

John Killinger put it this way, “Jesus is God’s way of getting rid of a bad reputation.” Overall the confusion and suspicion that has been generated by the conspiracy theories, God sent Jesus so that people could see what God looked like. In other words, in Jesus, you can see and experience that God believes in you. The question is, “Can you trust a God like that?” Is the one Jesus portraying a sadist, trying to hold people down and dehumanize them, or a joyful Creator who all along has had nothing but good in mind? 

Jesus is God’s attempt to set right what has gone wrong. This is why Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (II Corinthians 5:19). Jesus is God’s way of reaching all the way down to our assumption level and showing us that, from the Garden until today, we have been mistaken about who God is and what God wants to do with us. 

It Matters Where You Start

You are leading in a time of mistrust and suspicion. In a time when some people want to take the word of social media over the fact of science. When others want to create anxiety over a healthy vaccine yet put their lives in jeopardy with a horse dewormer. You are leading in a time of inconsistencies when people say they have a right to make decisions about their own bodies by not wearing masks yet want to take that same right away from women when it comes to their own bodies. How do you lead courageously in the midst of such mistrust, suspicion, and confusion? 

It matters where you start. As you know, going toe-to-toe, arguing your point does not work, much less bring peace. So where to you start? Start by taking the action of God seriously enough to build your assumptions upon it. Allow the image of Jesus to penetrate down to the level of your assumptions, and love the people, regardless of their point of view, the way you have been loved. 

My Assumptions

  • Based upon this action of God, my assumptions are:
  •  You are a beloved daughter and son of God. God has chosen you, given you a name, and loved you from the beginning.
  • You have been called a lead in this time in history.  God created you to live and lead in this time.
  • You have been gifted to face the cynicism and conspiracies of today. It is never easy to stand up and speak when the vote is going the other way, but you are not alone. God is with you, for you, and works for your good. 

God believes in you. 

Because who you are is how you lead, what one thing will you do this week to show the people entrusted to your care that God believes in them? Remember, it matters where you start.  Why not start with the fact that they are beloved children of God and gifted for love and service for this very time in history?

Reminders

Let me remind you that Karen Cook, Sara Thomas, and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

This week, check out LeaderCast. Sara Thomas and I have a conversation about Leadership as Service. Listen to Episode 194 here. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

Who you are is how you lead.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a notebook & pen in my hand. A neighbor growing up worked for a paper manufacturer and the scraps of paper he shared with us provided endless hours of joy with my childhood friends. 

Suffice it to say, writing and journaling weave in and out of my life like threads woven on your favorite blanket. 

But, recently, I confess, I’ve felt scattered. My notebook was filled with plenty of “to-do lists.” It even was close by like an adult security blanket. 

But something was off.

Feeling Scattered

Usually, when my feet hit the floor to start the day, I give God thanks for another day and look at my calendar for the day and week ahead.

Then, I’m off and running.  When I noticed the scatteredness I was feeling, I started asking questions.

Let me be clear. The scatteredness I was feeling was bothering me, not hindering anyone else. I was tending to my responsibilities and the people in my life. And, to poke a little fun, I have Achiever as #2 on my CliftonStrengths. Not getting things done can lead to panic and deep frustration in my soul. This wasn’t panic level unsettledness. 

When I’m not checking something off a list, I’m not being productive. (Welcome to the mind & heart of someone with Achiever talent!) The people who love me, warts and all, know that when I’m not productive, I’m not happy. As an aside, I’ve learned, the hard way, that rest can be one of the most productive things I can do. 

Something Was Off

But, having said all of that, something was off. 

I wondered, “Was I not getting enough sleep?” “Was I not eating well? Not setting good boundaries? 

No.

No.

No. 

What was off? 

For a few days, I simply practiced curiosity about what wasn’t “feeling right.” 

And then an unsolicited email from a coaching colleague landed in my inbox and I knew what that unsettled feeling was all about. Unintentionally, she helped me see what was happening. 

I’d not been using my journal or reflecting on my days with intentionality. In the midst of all the busyness, the one tool I use to process, reflect, and integrate what I’m learning about myself, others, and leadership was set aside in the busyness of daily life.

In the midst of personal and professional responsibilities, I had unintentionally set aside a key resource in my life. I returned to the email and recognized something I see happen with other leaders, too.

Busyness was crowding out space in my life to process all the input that was happening every day.

What, then, was needed?

Breathing Room

Busyness doesn’t lead to breathing room. Breathing room is the necessary pause in life that every leader needs to process the noise, input, and meetings we’re experiencing. 

That unsettled feeling I was experiencing was simply a whole lot of “input” in my life swirling in my soul without a place to land. 

In order to make meaning out of life, we need breathing space to foster growth. You might be thinking, isn’t that the rhythm God of God’s creation, too?

It sure is. We call that weekly breathing room Sabbath.

Daily, however, that breathing room happens for me with exercise, hobbies, and journaling. What I had not realized were the benefits a simple journaling practice brings into life and leadership.

“There is well over 35 years of scientific research that proves there are many benefits that can be gained through writing about your thoughts and feelings: lowered blood pressure, improved immune functioning, reduced stress, greater confidence, more clarity for decision making, healing emotional wounds, improving personal relationships, cultivating resilience and making meaning out of life events are among the many proven benefits of expressive writing.” L. Monk. 

Who knew that simple paper and pen could offer us so many benefits? It’s certainly helped me identify why I was feeling unsettled. Here are three ways leaders can benefit from journaling. It’s a simple, unexpected leadership tool that you can use to navigate life.

3 Ways Leaders Can Benefit from Journaling

First, journaling can help you focus and increase intentionality

Use your journal to reflect on how you engage your time and energy toward your values, priorities, and relationships. Exploring your thoughts and feelings about your goals, values, and relationships will help you make adjustments and recognize gaps. If you choose to reflect at the end of the day, here are three simple questions you can respond to:

  • What was awesome about today?
  • What would I change about today?
  • What have I learned and how will I use this going forward?

Second, journaling can boost your confidence.

Before you say, “Really, Sara?” here’s the thing. The process of untangling your thoughts on paper about a specific situation can help gain clarity which leads to confidence. 

Consider a situation where you’d like to be more confident. Here are a few suggested prompts to help you deepen your confidence.

  • What do I trust about myself?
  • What feels like a risk here?
  • If I were to let go of X belief, what might be possible?
  • How do my values inform my approach to this situation?

Finally, journaling can help leaders stop ruminating and build resilience.

Go back to the busyness of life I mentioned at the top of this article. When we ruminate on things, it leads to indecision. If we’re seeking to maintain a growth mindset, ruminating won’t do that! It will hinder growth and confidence. So while I’d like to simply say “stop it!” I know all too well it’s not always that simple. 

But, in the midst of our busyness, if we don’t stop and do something with our thoughts and feelings, our ruminating can lead to anxiety. And we’ve all experienced plenty of that in the past 18 months. We don’t need to pile on anxiety from daily life.

You might even be thinking right now about a challenge, conflict, or perceived slight that won’t stop cycling through your mind. Let’s try a different approach that will only cost you 15-30 minutes of your day. Grab a pen and paper and write about it.

Instead of offering your best as a leader, ruminating leaders can erode trust with our teams and impede your own health. Here’s why: your indecision, inaction, and avoidance lead to stress. And we all know what stress does. 

So what do you say? How about starting with a piece of paper and pen? Here are a few prompts to help you get started.

  • What is going well? What created this? What role did I play?
  • What’s challenging for me right now? What contributed to this? What’s my role in that?
  • What strengths can I honor and draw on in my daily life? How?

One Unexpected Leadership Tool

At the end of the day, a regular practice of journaling can help you as a leader stay grounded in who God created you to be and guide you towards being the courageous leader God wants you to be.

If you see me with a notebook in hand, it might have less to do with keeping track of what needs to get done and more to do with weaving the threads of life, leadership, and learning into a beautiful tapestry only God can create. 

Maybe today you’ll give yourself the gift of breathing room.  Grab a pen and paper and respond to one of the journal prompts above. It will be one step in remembering, “who you are is how you lead.” 

PS – Every week, the podcast offers two or more questions for you to integrate what you’re learning into your practice of leadership. We call it Write it Down/Talk it Out. Check out this week’s episode and questions here.

How are you doing this week?  I genuinely want to know. I care about you and your ministry. To say the least, you have been through a lot over the past eighteen months. I don’t need to rehash all the events, but I do want to commend you on your leadership and to take an inventory of how you are doing. 

Becoming Who God Created You to Be

Over the years I have had some good district superintendents. Those who I considered the best were the superintendents who came alongside me and assisted me in becoming the leader God created me to be. 

So, I’m wondering how I best serve you as your district superintendent.  Some of you know that I ask a lot of questions. Most of my questions are either out of curiosity or for clarity. I can honestly say that with each question, I am seeking ways to assist you in becoming the best leader you can be.   

Reflecting on Ministry

With that in mind, I am curious about how you are doing in this season of your ministry. You have just lived through a time like no other time in history. There have been concerns over what is coming next, grief over what once was, and anxiety about what to do now. You have learned new ways of doing some things and better ways to do others.

So, I have some questions, mostly out of curiosity, to help take an honest look at what you have accomplished so you might step into your next season of ministry with courage and effectiveness. 

Let’s consider the impact you have had on the people entrusted to your care.  Whether family, friends, neighbors, church members, or colleagues, let’s look at how you have made a difference in their lives. 

1. Reflect upon some things you have accomplished over the past eighteen months. 

Be honest and generous with yourself. What challenges did you have to overcome? What did you learn that can be useful now or be used in the future?    

It is okay to feel good about it. Be kind to yourself and take notice of some of the small things you have accomplished. 

Did you learn to cook something you haven’t cooked before, start a new exercise routine, or pick up a new hobby? Maybe it was keeping your children fed and clothed as you navigated the chaos of becoming an at-home teacher. Or, may it was when you set boundaries, either with work or in your personal life, you accomplished something significant.   

Get one or two of those accomplishments in mind. 

Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, “O God, thank you for giving me the strength and courage to endure through difficult and uncertain times. Amen.” 

2. Reflect upon times you shared or experienced love over the past eighteen months. 

When were you vulnerable and empathetic? 

Where did you take people seriously when you felt it was difficult to do? 

When did you listen to and make a place for people with whom you disagreed? 

Whether it was with family, friends, church members, or strangers, where did you provide a caring and safe place for people to become who God had created them to be? 

 Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, 

“O God, thank you for loving people through me, and thank you for loving me through those same people. Amen”  

3. Reflect upon times when you experienced joy. 

What made you stop to remember God’s goodness and to give God thanks? 

What was taking place when you realized your interaction with people was a response of gratitude for God’s grace? 

When did you feel at one with God and the people around you?  

Think about a time when you laughed so hard you cried, a time you were amazed by God’s presence, and/or a moment you keep close. Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind.  

Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer,

“O God, thank you for the deep joy you have planted in my heart. Help me be so joyful that the people around me experience your joy in and through me. Amen.”  

4. Reflect upon the moments you gave someone the benefit of your doubt. 

How did you show God’s love and kindness to people whether they deserved it or not? When did you say to yourself, “I know he is doing the best he can?” Or “How can I help her take the next step?”  

Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, 

“O God, thank you for caring for people in and through me. Help me to be open to receive your kindness and goodness through them.  Amen.” 

5. Reflect upon the situations where you experienced courage. 

What risks did you take? When did you have to be vulnerable? What empowered you to make decisions and lead through difficult situations? Who were the people that came alongside you to encourage you?  

Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, 

“O God, thank you for giving me the strengths and skills to lead with courage. By your grace, give me the courage to assist others to live and lead courageously. Amen.”  

You’re Doing Great!

As a leader, you have accomplished more than you have given yourself credit for accomplishing. You have been gifted to lead at this time in history. People are looking to you to be the leader they can trust, a leader of compassion, a leader who is stable, and a leader who offers genuine hope. 

At the moment, we are in the middle of a mess. But because you have taken the time to reflect upon what God has done in and through you, you are more able to step up and out to lead with courage and grace. You have been created and gifted to lead at this time in history. So, how are you doing? 

Your Next Step

This week, call, text, email a trusted friend or colleague, and tell them something you have accomplished over the past eighteen months. Give them the opportunity to celebrate with you. At your best, you cannot be who God created you to be alone.  Remember, it is okay to feel good, so celebrate.

If you don’t have someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing, then call, text, or email me.  It would be my pleasure to celebrate your accomplishments. 

I am grateful for you and your leadership. You have accomplished much. Now is the time to stop and catch your breath before stepping back into the mess.  

Just remember, who you are is how you lead. Stay focused upon the God who has gifted you. Continue to be who God has created you to be. You have already made a significant difference. Just imagine what God will do in and through your leadership today and tomorrow. 

A Prayer for You

O God, thank you for my friends and colleagues. Thank you for the ways you have enriched my life in and through them.  By your grace, embrace them through me so we can be the leaders you need us to be at this time in history. I offer them to you in the name of Jesus. Amen 

Final Reminder

This week, check out LeaderCast. Sara Thomas and I are discussing what to do when you are living in times of uncertainty. Sometimes uncertainty looks like doubt. At other times, it looks like the need to learn a new skill. And still, at other times, it is wrapped up in decision fatigue or endless options that overwhelm you. Tune in and listen to Episode 190: What to Do When You Don’t Know What To Do. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past Episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

Do your heart race and your muscles tense when you hear the word “accountability”? 

Does being accountable bring the image of someone looking over your shoulder keeping you in line when you miss a step or make a mistake? 

For some people, it means having assistance in keeping on the right path or doing the right things. For others, it means taking responsibility for their personal growth and being persons of integrity. As a leader, in addition to those things, it means taking responsibility for your decisions and for the decisions of the people entrusted to your care.

An Accountable Leader

As easy as it is to discuss accountability partners and accountability groups, which are good and necessary for personal growth and development, it is not always comfortable to be an accountable leader.   

What does being an accountable leader mean? 

Well, it means being responsible for decisions made, actions taken, and assignments completed.  As a leader, it is important that you hold those with whom you are working accountable for their work. But it is just as important for you to be held accountable for your leadership. Thomas Paine wrote, “Anyone holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”

Accountable leadership:

  • Builds trust – The most important result of trust is the development of relationships
  • Inspires confidence – When relationships are healthy, accountability provides the people with whom you are working the opportunity to grow in skills and confidence. Accountability is not to be used for controlling behavior.
  • Creates hope – When people are growing together, they are excited about moving toward a common goal together. Moving toward a common goal creates hope for the future. 

Four Characteristics of Accountable Leaders

With that in mind, let’s consider what it might mean for you to be an accountable leader. To be an accountable leader means:

1. You are a person of hope. 

You are leading the people entrusted to your care to the destination of trust, compassion, stability, and hope.

  • Focus on your purpose. Where are you going? It is necessary that you know the mission, the purpose, or the goal toward which you are leading the people. Your focus on the purpose will help you keep on the path when difficulties arise. 
  • Know and name your current reality. Where are you now? What is your context? It is necessary that you have a clear understanding of your starting point. If you don’t know where you are, how can you get to where you are going? As simple as it seems, it matters where you start. The more you know about the context, the more clearly you can focus upon your purpose. As important as it is to know the current reality, it is equally important to name the current reality for the people with whom you are working. Remember, clear is kind. If you are fuzzy about your context, you will have difficulty reaching your goal or achieving your purpose. 
  • Provide clarity on how you achieve your goal. Work with your people to develop the specific steps or actions you need to make it from where you are to where you want to be. What obstacles are in the way? What do you need to do to avoid or to address the obstacles?
  • Again, clear is kind. Be clear when answering questions. If you don’t know the answer, either work with your people to discover the answer or connect with someone who does know the answer. As the leader you are navigating the obstacles, so everyone arrives at the destination.
  • Meet the challenge of where you are going and make it a possibility. You know where you are, where you are going, and you are navigating the obstacles.  So, as you go, hold the purpose out in front, assist people to take the necessary steps to get there.  Provide manageable steps and celebrate each step when accomplished. 
  • Develop checkpoints, or places to check your progress, along the way. Hold yourself and your people accountable for meeting each step. At each checkpoint review and evaluate.  Keep the purpose, the goal, in front of you. Celebrate each step that gets you closer to your goal. Ask yourself and the people with whom you are working what has gone well, what have they learned, and what needs to improve to move forward. 

2. You are not afraid to be vulnerable

To be a person of hope, who leads toward the goal, you must risk trusting the people with whom you work. You must own up to your commitments and promises and answer to the decisions you have made. In other words, not throwing anyone under the bus.

On one hand, establish clear goals. Be vulnerable. When the goals are fuzzy, admit you have created confusion. Take responsibility for the frustration your fuzziness creates. Remember, it is difficult to be accountable when you don’t know what you are being accountable for.

On the other hand, be honest and constructive when you know that people you are depending upon are having difficulty moving toward your goal. If you know where you are, where you are going, and the steps to get there, be vulnerable enough to risk holding people accountable to their part of the work.

3. You ask for help when it is needed

Even though you are diligent in creating a clear path, there will be bumps along the way. Don’t ignore the obstacles by pushing through.  If you are not clear on how to proceed, ask for help.

So, don’t let your pride get in the way. It is okay to ask for help before you a situation a crisis. Jim Collins, in his book From Good To Great, says that Level 5 leaders put the team’s vision and goals above their own needs. Asking for help does not mean you are not accountable. In fact, it shows just the opposite. It shows you committed to the people you are leading as well as to the goal to which you are leading them. 

4. You provide honest and constructive feedback 

Believe it or not, this aspect of accountable leadership is often the most difficult. To get to where you are going means you must provide others the opportunity to be responsible in reaching your goal. The best way to do this is through honest and constructive feedback. Feedback allows the people with whom you are working to know how they are doing. Everyone wants to know the truth. Confirming with them that their work is hitting the mark is helpful. Helping someone see where they are falling short of expectations is also helpful. Honest feedback builds trust.

Constructive feedback provides for improvement.  This is one place keeping your focus upon the purpose is necessary. Provide feedback along the way in light of your goal. It should be a continuous process. It is while you are navigating the obstacles that people need to know what needs to be adjusted or when to pivot. When you provide honest and constructive feedback, you empower the people with whom you are working.  In fact, you are allowing everyone to be accountable. 

Your Next Step

I’m not convinced you need an accountability partner or accountability group to become a courageous and effective leader. But I am convinced you need someone who you trust to give you honest and constructive feedback regarding your leadership.  I know you resist it. So do I. But to become the leader needed in today’s world, you and I must be courageous enough to risk becoming who God has created us to be. 

What one step will you take to grow in your leadership this week? If you want to be held accountable, let me know what step you are taking. Remember, who you are is how you lead. 

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Jessica Moffatt joins us in discussing Accountability and Courageous Leadership. If you have not been a LeaderCast listener, you want to start with this one. Check out Episode 173 of LeaderCast. This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. Again, who you are is how you lead.  

If you could have one leadership quality, that would remain constant throughout your everyday life and work, what would it be?

As you know, there are many qualities that are necessary for effective leadership. The list is long: trust, compassion, vulnerability, authenticity, integrity, stability, hope, accountability, just to name a few. But there is one leadership quality that lies at the heart of effective leadership. That one quality is self-reflection.

As a Jesus follower, reflection upon the scripture, everyday life, and current events is a given. Being a person of reflection is who we are. So, why do we find it so difficult and painful?

Begin with Your Purpose

As a leader you know that everything begins with your purpose. Why do you do what you do? Related to your purpose, you then decide what you are going to do to fulfill your purpose and then you plan on how you are going to make it all come about. When you don’t take time to reflect regularly upon who you are and why you do what you do, you continually run the risk of either “blowing in the wind” without direction or bumping into tensions and failures that could have been avoided.   

The Power of Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is a humbling, yet powerful skill that helps you improve who you are as a person as well as your effectiveness as a leader. It is a practice that assists you in taking an honest look at yourself: your strengths, your weaknesses, and areas for improvement. It allows you the time and space to decide how you want to live and work in the days, weeks, months, even years ahead. It is not easy to admit you could have done something better, but it is in your own self-reflection that you can decide how you will live and lead differently from this moment forward.

To say it another way, self-reflection is taking time to think, contemplate, examine and review yourself as part of increasing your self-awareness.

An Illustration

Permit me to use a personal illustration. This week I am celebrating my 67th birthday. Over the years, I have developed the practice of reflecting upon my life and work as my birthday approaches. I believe God has created me to make a difference in the places I live, work, and associate with people. This past week, during my time of reflection, I asked myself, “Am I giving myself in the ways God has created me to give?”

In reflection of the scriptures, the stories of Holy Week were fresh in my mind. Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Simon Peter denying that he knew Jesus. Judas betraying Jesus and feeling guilty. Pilate washing his hands of responsibility. The soldiers and the crowd taunted Jesus and cried out for his death. Jesus hanging on a cross, crucified.  

Thinking about current events, I reflected upon the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The 53rd anniversary of his assassination was on Easter Sunday. I reflected on the life of George Floyd and upon the life of the police officer who is on trial for killing him. I reflected upon the multiple mass shooting events over the past two weeks, the acts of violence toward Asian Americans, the continued politicization of wearing masks in the midst of the COVID pandemic, and the children and teenagers being detained at the border.  

Pausing at a Question

More than once, I caught myself thinking, “Would I have treated Jesus the way the people treated Jesus in these stories? I caught myself being judgmental and blaming others for the current misjustice and treatment of people in our culture.   

So, I confess, I have basically kept my faith private. I have a lot of knowledge about Jesus and his radical message of love. I have an abundance of information about the current events in the world in which I live, but I express my faith in safe and sterile ways. To put it another way, I do a lot of talking but not a lot of walking regarding my faith as a Jesus follower. 

Another Look at the Cross

So, I took another look at Luke’s story of Jesus on the cross. In Luke 24:34, Jesus prays, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” This prayer was in keeping with the character and life of Jesus. He was praying for forgiveness for those who were violating him because they did not know what they were doing. In Luke, the primary problem is ignorance. “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” They have killed the Lord of glory in ignorance.

Forgiven for Ignorance?

I know it seems strange that anyone would have to be forgiven for ignorance. We usually don’t put forgiveness and ignorance together. But when you think of the different kinds of ignorance that move and motivate people, the ignorance that closes their eyes when they have every opportunity to see the truth, our hope is “Father, forgive them…”

When I think about it, evil could be called intentional ignorance. When we refuse to listen or to understand. When we remain silent and do nothing. When we turn our backs and say, “Well, it is terrible, but it is not my problem.” That is intentional ignorance.

The crowds walked by Jesus on the cross, their only words were insults, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us.” Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” It sounds like Jesus forgave them for their ignorance. Could that work for us?

Father, Forgive Us…

When we are filled with prejudice and we target and kill innocent people because of cultural differences or the color of their skin… “Father, forgive us, we are being intentionally ignorant.”

When we use our power, position, or privilege as harassment, to keep others in their place… “Father, forgive us, we are being intentionally ignorant.”

When we know that women are paid less for the same work, not promoted with the same skills, overlooked for being different…” Father, forgive us, we are being intentionally ignorant.”

When children and adults, bystanders, are killed by gun violence in schools, in parks, in clubs, in churches… “Father, forgive us, we are being intentionally ignorant.”

When medications are not available or too expensive because our health care is inadequate…” Father, forgive us, we are being intentionally ignorant.”

When any one of us remains silent when we know we should speak up and step out… “Father, forgive us, we are being intentionally ignorant.”

Can we be forgiven for our ignorance? “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

The Love of God

These words were spoken by a person whose only weapon was the love of God. Whose only crime was being different. Who raised suspicion because he challenged the systems of hatred, prejudice, and bigotry. Yet, in the midst of being put to death for extending love, even to his enemies, he called upon God to forgive the ignorance of his abusers and accusers. 

I have made peace with the fact that I may not see the full result of any ministry I have been graced to participate in. But I understand that I honor God by offering myself in living this way.  I don’t want to deny it or work against it.  I don’t want to turn away from the work God has for me to do. 

So, I am, again, committing myself to hold back evil, in all the forms it presents itself. I am committing to repair systems and structures, especially the church that has helped make me who I am. And I commit to be a healing agent for people who are broken and suffering. I am committing myself to be about the business of peacemaking. I will constantly be about the work of disrupting the façade of peace so the authentic peace of Christ can take root and grow. 

Please pray with me and for me as I grow into this stage of my life and ministry. Pray that I am who God intends for me to be at this point and time in history. Pray that I will make the difference God has created me to make.

Now, what about you? 

Self-reflection is not spending hours contemplating your navel. It is focusing upon what and who you value and deciding on what you are going to do about it.  It is not some intellectual exercise.  It is about being self-aware and becoming more who God created you to be. 

Four Questions for Self-Reflection

Here are four questions to ask yourself and to reflect upon:

  1. Am I being true to myself? It is easy to lose sight of what you value and why you are doing what you are doing. Your identity can become quickly lost in the paperwork, meetings, preparation, care, etc. These are all good and necessary aspects of being a leader. This question helps realign yourself with what’s going on around you. 
  2. Am I allowing the things I can’t control to stress me out? It is tough not to worry about the things of which you are responsible. Environments, factors and conditions outside your control all affect the eventual outcome of what you are trying to do. Live in the grace given in the moment. There will be grace for what you face tomorrow. So, place your energy on what you can influence. In other words, don’t use up so much mental energy in focusing on what we can’t influence. 
  3. Do I make time for those closest to me? What you do is important. But so are the people closest to you. They are your inspiration and your constant reminders of what you value most. By making time for those closest to you, you keep yourself in touch with everything that truly matters. 
  4. Am I achieving the goals I have set for myself? When you don’t know where you are going you usually end up there. This is one of the biggest shortcomings of leadership, you get so caught up in activity, which might be good, but it is not taking you where you want to go. Stopping and changing direction is not a sign of failure.  On the contrary, it is a sign of courageous leadership, no matter how far you’ve travelled in the other direction.

Remember

Your leadership starts with you. So, what one thing will you do this week that will help you reflect upon your life and work. What one step will you take to become more the leader God has created you to be?

Remember, who you are is how you lead. 

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, we talk about Accountability. If your eyes just rolled or your heart rate started to speed up, join us as we reframe accountability as a way to grow, succeed, and innovate in life, leadership and the local church. Check out Episode 172 of LeaderCast. This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. Remember, who you are is how you lead.