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Four leadership traits that helps you lead better

Four lessons from the last five years on the leadership

Intents vs Impact

Probably this has been the most constant lesson during these last years. The conscious intent to do good, to undoubtedly help others, to adequately develop them does not necessarily reward you with the desired impact. I used to naturally think that if my motives were rational, then I am doing well.
Later I understood that wasn’t enough; I started to assess myself, how my help, my behavior, my words were affecting the ones I lead.

The challenge is that you can’t measure everything in leadership. It is hard to get helpful feedback on honor and shame cultures. Especially when feedback has the negative connotation of being caught or of doing something wrong. To carefully close the gap between intent and impact, building a culture of immediate feedback is needed. There are countless cases in a conversation with leaders when the reality described by their intent does not mirror the reality described by those led by them. Were they out of touch with reality? Probably so. I think they were judging the situation from the optics of intent. Good intentions are not enough. In order to properly judge the situation, you will have to look at it from the lens of impact.

Data vs Intuition

What is more important? What should weigh more in a decision?

Leaders naturally tend to weigh things in terms of importance. I tend to go with a gut feeling like my primary tendency but I have also come to appreciate the unique contribution of the data. Data provides a snapshot of the reality seen by tangible results. Things that we can measure. Data often tell a trend and it might miss the story behind the number. The intuition which looks for the story, context, and perspective, comes in handy. This is not a matter of either-or. You have a great chance to make a better decision when you employ both data and intuition. Wisdom consists of knowing the difference between the unique contribution each one of them bring to the decision-making process.

Loving critics

Criticism and leadership are almost symbiotic. Critique, at the right amount, is both gratifying and humbling.
A loving critic is one who demonstrates the most honorable intentions for you personally and the best intent for the greater good. At the same time maintaining a constructively critical eye on what you do and how you do it. He does not criticize for the sake of opposition but for the sake of accomplishing the mission.

This kind of critic challenges our thinking, our decision processes and holds us above the level of mediocrity. This kind of critic helps us refine and strengthen our convictions toward doing the mission better. This is very constructive and this is a rare kind of critic.

The other kind of critic, which is most common is selfish, painful, unjust, and even evil.

Author Lawrenz Witt in his book “Spiritual Influence” names five things why followers criticize: 1) They are looking for someone to trust; 2)They want to be superior.;3)They are seeking the truth; 4)They don’t have anything else to do.;5) Their expectations and needs haven’t been met.
Some of them are genuine quests for the leaders’ trustworthiness. Number one and three would qualify as a loving critic type of attitude.

Wise leaders are always aware that people’s reactions, in general, are usually based on their personal interests.

Leadership Anxiety

Leadership is among professions that bear a lot of stress and anxiety. In Christian ministry when we are called to serve others holistically it is easy to carry others’ burdens like yours more than you should.
So how do move forward in fulfilling the mission with people whose burdens are a mission in itself? When is the moment to lend a hand, to care, to stop and when is it time to move forward? And how can leaders manage this tension?

Pastor and leadership development author Steve Cuss in his highly rated book “Managing Leadership Anxiety” introduces us to the skill of differentiation.
He employs two effective expressions to generate the point.

The first differentiation most powerfully comes into play when you lead a group of people where they do not want to go, but must go.
In the second, he brings a balance between care and moving forward: Differentiation is the courage to lead people to a difficult place while still being deeply connected.

He illustrates the point from an example from Jesus dealing with his disciples.

Jesus was able to be connected to them in their grief without their anxiety infecting him. Thus, they had a spiritual experience that they may not have had if Jesus had rushed in and said, “Guys, it’s me! Jesus, the one you’re talking about.” Sometimes God has a growing opportunity for someone that an anxious leader shortchanges by trying to carry it for them. Jesus’ capacity to walk alongside rather than carrying, to listen rather than fix the folks on the way to Emmaus is stunning to me. Steve Cuss

Which lesson speaks to your leadership journey the most? What are some of your own leadership learnings that you benefited from?

In-between

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives – Annie Dillard.

Waiting for a different future . Waiting in line, waiting for the bus, waiting for the morning coffee to come, waiting in the traffic, waiting for an important call, waiting to get an exam, waiting for its result.

In this social media age we do not want to wait , we want to get these things done here and now.

As Goins emphasizes, life happens right in between, right in between what we have just started and not finished yet.

Every waiting moment, provides an opportunity to slow down and listen to the voices we sometimes miss as we are on the go.

Often our social media can tell our lives better than our personal experiences. Instead of enjoying our morning “i macchiato”, we sipp it fast without taking time to let its flavor sink in. Instead of enjoying our city, we have hurried to catch our bus. Instead of quietly enjoying the peaceful view of the sunset, we hurry to capture it in a picture, put it on internet with the corresponding description.

The irony is that in our anxiety toward not missing out, we are missing the most meaningful moments of life.

Waiting to get a degree, waiting to find a life companion, waiting for the firstborn, waiting for that first promotion is not a time wasted. Jeff puts it wonderfully into words: All our waiting moments shouldn’t be considered a hindrance: waiting is the journey itself.

My friend, slow down, think about those moments that slipped through your fingers. Just stop and enjoy those in between moments, the moments of waiting. Yes, there is life even there.

“And as we embrace the wait , we learn to appreciate the delays and postponements that teach us some things in life are worth waiting for.”. Jeff Goins

reflection from reading Jeff Goins book “The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing”

August 17, 2013

Books 2020

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“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” – Mortimer J. Adler

I started to read  over 40 books this past year. Finished reading 30 of them. As the quote above states, it is not in the number or even in going through all pages but how many of them really made an impact. Looking back I see that the unusual year  2020 had an impact on my reading also. No traveling, homebound, and in a major life transition as a family provided me with more space to contemplate and process my thoughts. I was drawn to books that deal with anxiety and inner self.

Book preferences are very subjective so I give my suggestions very loosely.

Below are the books  (in a random list) that stirred my thinking the most. I give a short snapshot of my impression from reading them and a score out of 10.

 

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers       

Book of the year. 10/10.  Dane Ortlund in 22 short chapters beautifully presents God`s heart for humankind.  The very words used in the bible (Matthew 11:29) to describe God’s heart are;  gentle and lowly. On one hand, we break his heart with our disobedience and the very rebellious nature of ours qualifies us to be a subject of his Gentle and Lowly heart. It is in His nature. Rarely have I read something that felt rebuked and encouraged at the same time. Inspired by Puritan’s writings and the bible Ortlund helped me see Jesus`s heart for me with a new set of eyes.

The message of this book is that we tend to project our natural expectations about who God is onto him instead of fighting to let the Bible surprise us into what God himself says.

His saving of us is not cool and calculating. It is a matter of yearning—not yearning for the Facebook you, the you that you project to everyone around you. Not the you that you wish you were. Yearning for the real you. The you underneath everything you present to others.  Dane Ortlund

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

Most intriguing  8/10.   It was a fresh air on my diet as the author makes a case for the important roles of generalists in a hyper-specialized culture.  It resonated the most with me in chapter 5 when he stresses the importance of Analogical thinking in problem-solving.

Chapter 5 on Thinking Outside Experience,” explores the importance of analogies as a tool for problem-solving: “Analogical thinking takes the new and makes it familiar, or takes the familiar and puts it in a new light, and allows humans to reason through problems they have never seen in unfamiliar contexts.

 

Seven Men and Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness

Most inspiring. 10/10Eric Metaxas brings in a masterful collection of short accounts on the lives of 14 extraordinary people. Among them George Washington, William Wilberforce, and Mother Teresa which the author fails to mention her origin as Albanian.  All lived life under many hardships but persevered giving themself sacrificially to a greater cause. Read this book and discover the secret of their greatness.

 

 

The Motive

Hits the point: 9/10 Classic Lencioni. Short to the point delivered by a fable. He says probably this is his most important book. Why you are in leadership after all? What is your motive will impact everything you do and how you do it.

Shay was still angry but shrugged nonchalantly as if to say, it’s not that big of a deal. “So, what am I wrong about?” “You’re not going to want to hear this, but I have to tell you anyway.” Liam paused before finishing. “You might be working hard, but you’re not doing it for the company.” “What the hell does that mean?” Shay wanted to know. Knowing that his adversary might punch him for what he was about to say, Liam responded. “You’re doing it for yourself.” Pat Lencioni

Managing Leadership Anxiety

Eye-opening-reassuring:  9/10  A great book on understanding the play in our minds and those around us. How we deal with our anxiety, the impact others have on us, and vice versa.  Highly recommend for leaders in ministry and business.

Whether your tendency is toward isolationism (“No one understands”) or exceptionalism (“No one can do it like me”), the danger is the same: the need to feel like you are “the only one.” There is something deeply satisfying in believing the old song, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows but Jesus.” It is some version of “God and me are the only ones who get it,” except it is very rarely true. While every leader does face a true moment of standing alone, most of the time we have more company than we care to admit. We don’t want to admit it because we find comfort in self-pity. Isolationism is a deadly form of anxiety mostly because it is very rarely true, but we self-isolate to prop up the myth. (pp. 53-54). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Originals

Inspiring 9/10 How having many ideas and at the same time fulfill the demand of getting things done, or getting something done. I often feel the tension and the book makes a point of not just having an out of box ide abut even implementing it  against the odds

“Many people fail to achieve originality because they generate a few ideas and then obsess about refining them to perfection.” Adam M. Grant,

 

 

Dangerous Prayers

Most challenging: 10/10 Craig Groeschel urges his readers to start trusting God in midst of their fears, comfort saving, and adversity. His call to obey God`s Word taking from psalm 139 is to have an authentic relationship with God, allowing Him to search our ways, thoughts actions, to allow him to mold us (through breaking), and then to follow through on His call to use us. Many of us are not ready to do such kind of prayer; Because we love too much ourselves and want to avoid suffering, failing to trust Him.

When you start to pray like “search me, break me, send me,” you may experience valleys. Attacks. Trials. Pain. Hardship. Discouragement. Even heartbreak. But there will also be the joy of faith, the marvel of miracles, the relief of surrender, and the pleasure of pleasing God. It’s time to stop praying safe. It’s time to start talking, really talking—and really listening—to God. It’s time for dangerous prayers.  ( Craig Groeschel)

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

Counter culture:9/10 “Hurry is violence on the soul.” Says the author.

It is being said that the currency of the 21st century is our attention. This book has something to say about living fully and simply in the present.

 

 

 

Lead: 12 Gospel Principles for Leadership in the Church

Classic, A must-read for any church leader:10/10.  I like this book because it is has a great balance of showing the truth (which is very sad to hear on many leadership failures) with the encouragement that we can be restored. He stresses the importance of a healthy community in church leadership when we are in for each other whether in our weaknesses or our strength.

Some of my favorite chapters are:

  • Limits: Every leader is limited in their energy, time, gifts, and talents. It is important to recognize this to lead well.
  • Balance: Leadership must mutually recognize that balance is needed to fulfill the various callings God gives to us.
  • Character: A healthy leadership community understands that character is more important than anything.Service: Leaders are called to serve God’s people, not domineer over them.
  • Candor: A leadership community focused on the gospel will be approachable and have the courage to love honestly.
  • Identity: Where leadership gets its identity from is where they will lead.
  • Longevity: There can be no longevity without a gospel community of leaders.
Check this short explanation series on Gospel coalition        on the 12 principles

God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life

Best daily devotional: 10/10.

 

I will read it again. Enough said about it

 

 

Relational Leadership

Well researched   9/10

Leadership is not a role, not an assigned position, is a relationship: Relationships that make a difference. Walter Wright

 

 

Get Out of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts

Vulnerable  9/10    The author is open about her flaws, brings in research, personal anecdotes, and Scripture. All in a great balance. I read this with my wife. Reviews from readers are over ten thousand.

What gets most of us in trouble isn’t even real fears. We worry about things that may never happen. In fact, research shows that “97 percent of what you worry over is not much more than a fearful mind punishing you with exaggerations and misperceptions.” 

 

 

Four loves 

Classic:  10/10. You would not get wrong with anything with Cs Lewis.  I hold him as my Intellectual.

In this short book eloquently  (I heard the audiobook) Lewis explains 4 kinds of love drawings from the wealth of greek language in describing love: Storge: Affection Love Phileo: Friendship Love Eros: Romantic Love. Agape: Divine Love. 

The chapter on Phileo the most intriguing for me he tackles some of the following themes

Friendship and Modernity; Secret Homosexuality?; Contrasting the friendship and the love affair; Companionship/Clubbableness; the matrix of friendship; making new friends; Phileo and Eros intertwined; Benefits for the society; Benefits for the individual; Growing in Friendship’s Appreciative Love; Can men and women ever be friends?; 

There are 4 lectures around 30 min each read by Cs Lewis himself. The only book narrated by him.

 

Which one you would like to add to your  2021 list?

Share with us the most impactful book from your 2020 read.

Ten lessons from 10 years of leadership

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Experience teaches nothing, but evaluated experience teaches everything ~ John C. Maxwell

This is my reflection on the last ten years, although to be true to my experience some lessons trace back from the high school days.

1. You are never ready

My grandfather used to say, “Nobody in the family can understand what the head of the house bears for the family unless they are in his shoes.” The same applies to leadership. No matter how much close you are to a leader or how much you share the burden with him, you are never ready. Times change, the challenges are new. You change too. This is a good thing because you realize you don’t deserve it, so you start with humility. You will need it.

2. Admit your shortcomings.

Self-awareness and personal development is a steady practice for me. Lately, however, I have found myself in the self-examination mode more and more often. Admitting your weaknesses is liberating and, at the same time, it makes you less vulnerable to criticism. It is a growing experience. Also, it helps you connect with people. People admire your gifts, but they connect with you in your weakness. I hope you will not remain in the diagnosed phase but will do something about it.

3. Act out of obedience, not feelings.

Leadership is stressful at times. Depending on the area of your leadership, stress may be a reality most of the time. The tension between dealing with your emotions and making the right decision will be a constant struggle. The value system of the leader is very important. I am learning to co-exist with hurt feelings in order to pay the benefit of the greater good.

4. Leaders are rare; most people are counselors and managers.

There are many theories that try to deal with the difference between a leader and a manager. My radical approach is: “A leader is a person worth dying for.” I would always put integrity before competency.

5. You don`t decide on people’s lives; they decide for themselves.

This sounds counterintuitive, as leaders lead people. What I mean is that no matter how great the leader’s influence on people’s lives, followers decide for themselves. They do have a choice. You don’t have the final word in their lives. This is comforting but at the same time it can be taken as abusive. There’s a fine line between caring, manipulating, or even controlling people entrusted to you. The alignment the leader brings toward the vision and mission might be resisted or misread, because the perception is that you are in the business of “running” people’s dreams. What you’re actually doing is helping them find their passion and dream.

6. You don`t know what you don`t know

This is not a code word. Often times you might sincerely be blinded and missing something that could either hinder or help your leadership. For example, when I ask other leaders what they think their blind spot is, some say: ”This is a trick question because if it is a blind spot you don’t see it and, as a result, you don`t know on your own what you cannot see.” This should not discourage you. What you should do, is to make the decision to allow trusted friends to help you in that area.

7. The hardest person to lead is you

I didn’t believe this at first. However, the greater influence you have, the more you need to deal with your ego. Rene Brown said it better – you need to check your ego at the door. Another question I have started to ask myself lately is, “Would I follow me?”

8. Your family and inner circle pay a price

They are the first to experience the real you, the one behind the scenes. They have to bear your bursts of anger and stress and your weak sides. At the same time, they have to be the first to support and cheer for you. They will have your presence, but not always the best of you.

9. When you change roles, you start over

In his book “Five levels of leadership”, John Maxwell makes the point that each time you change roles you start with the position of leadership. You just have a title, you need to work with relationships, leading people to results, and developing them. Leading a small group of people where I have multiple connections with the people I serve, I took some steps for granted. I did learn the lesson, though with some pain. It’s the same as in soccer – if you change your position in the field, the way you passed the ball or the person you passed it to needs to be adjusted. The goal is the same, though the way you play changes. You need to reposition yourself in the new environment.

10. You need God more than ever

My context of leadership is that of a faith-based organization. I could have named the tenth lesson “God is your best friend”. My example in life is Jesus of Nazareth, and this gives more hope and perspective for the long run, more than any other earthy relationship.

Change requires time- still learning …
Post  September 26 2018