Category Archives: Mentoring

Leadership Is Like A Marathon: Part 1-Preparation

Today I am beginning a five part series on how leadership and running a marathon share several of the same principles. To date, I have run ten marathons. That does not make me an expert. But it does give me enough experience to suggest some parallels worth considering. Over the next five days we will look at Preparation, The Start, The Proper Perspective, Hitting The Wall, and Making It To The Finish Line. Today I will focus on the Preparation stage.

Preparation is everything in desiring to complete a marathon. You can’t just wish your way to the finish line. You have to engage in a routine that will prepare your body and mind for the whole 26.2 miles. Most marathon trainings are between 16 and 18 weeks in length and include speed work, cross training, and distance running. One regimen alone will not ensure a good race. Let me say quickly too that equipment matters-a lot. It’s critical that you purchase running shoes to match your body and running style. It’s important that you wear the right clothing on race day. And you have to train your mind for both the known and the unexpected to make it to the end. Consistent running requires some learned skills. It helps greatly to know what a good stride looks like so that you can run efficiently and effectively.

Some people are more gifted runners. They are better overall athletes. I once stood at the starting line with a 72 year old man who was running his 54th marathon. That simply takes a certain kind of body to endure all those miles for so many years. But even the most gifted must train well to tap all of the potential that is within them.

The greatest temptation in marathon training is to cut corners. The truly gifted are the most susceptible. Early on you will want to run only three days a week or shorten your long runs by a few miles. Your legs are going to hurt. The key is faithfulness. You need to follow a designed training program that values balance and your experience level. It helps to do those once a week long runs with a friend. A 16 mile training run can get pretty boring by week nine.

As a leader it helps to know who you are. An assessment of your gifts, abilities and natural leadership acumen can be helpful in having your maximum impact. In leading, you mainly learn by doing with feedback. There are no shortcuts in leadership preparation. Again, the naturally gifted leader will be tempted to short circuit the process. Learning to be a good leader requires preparation. Look for opportunities to lead. It is best if the initial opportunities are small in nature and scope. This is where you see if others also believe you can lead. If people are recognizing your leadership abilities then determine to design a plan. Read a lot, ask for regular feedback, seek out a mentor, and be wary of proclaimed success. Expect to fail. You can learn far more from your failures than your successes. Create your own emerging leader cohort. Like marathon training it makes sense to learn to lead in community with others. Take advantage of formal leadership training-take advantage of informal leadership trying. Actually, you are never fully prepared for the next leadership setting or situation. Leadership preparation is a lifelong process. You need to take a marathon perspective on leading. Again, faithfulness is the key. Stay faithful to the leadership responsibilities you have now. Don’t always be looking to the next opportunity. Faithfulness will help to build character and character is what will help you make it to the end. There are no short cuts to character. Every marathon I have ever ran ultimately took it’s toll on some would be finishers. We all know of spiritual leaders who did not finish well.

The Apostle Paul communicated a powerful perspective when he compared the Christian life to running in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

5 for Leadership

Here is this week’s 5! This week I have linked something old and something new. I love going back to trusted thought leaders, but also like finding fresh perspective. Hope you find something that challenges or refreshes you.

7 Most Powerful Lessons From Life & Leadership I saw the link for this post on Twitter and really liked the brief, yet significant lessons, that Chery Gegelman portrayed on the Lead Change Group blog. What are you learning so far in your life and leadership?

6 Habits of True Strategic Thinkers This is an article out of Inc Magazine and written by Paul Shoemaker. Paul makes the statement, ” . . . adaptive strategic leaders . . . do six things well.” That should lure you into his insights. I really like the clarity and conciseness of this article-take a look.

5 Steps To Becoming More Interesting-and A Better Leader This is from Mike Myatt. I have referenced Mike a few times before and I always gain from his perspective. In this post, Mike offers up solid principles to being a leader who truly attracts followers.

Work Life Lead: Cross Generational Respect More and more I am working with leaders that are younger than me. Obviously, one reason is that I am getting older-but another reason is that more and more Millennials are taking on leadership roles. This is a good post on engaging in cross generational leadership. This comes from Dr. Ed Brenegar and I found it on the Weekly Leader.

10 Good Reasons to Get A Mentor This post is from Rajesh Setty-who is new to me. I like the practicality of this list. It makes sense and is motivating towards seeking out someone a step or two ahead on the journey. See what you think of his list.

Is Jesus Enough Here is is bonus from Tim Stevens on his blog Leading Smart. This is a very brief, but compelling post. Leaders often get caught up in finding other centers for the core of their identity. Tim highlights some thoughts from Brian Bloye on whether Jesus is enough-regardless of what happens in your leadership life. This is worth some reflection.

There are the five for this week. Thanks for taking a look.

Augustine and Leadership Development Over Distance

Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, left a clear legacy of leaders in his wake.  As I have mentioned before, I recently read a good book called Augustine as Mentor: A Model for Preparing Spiritual Leaders by Edward Smither.  In this book Smither lays out a five fold approach that Augustine used to actively mentor and raise up leaders around him.  As I have reflected more on this paradigm it struck me that this may actually be a credible way to do leadership development over distance.  In today’s world there is a lot of distance mentoring that must take place.  Consider this ancient approach as a possible paradigm for today.

1. The Monastery Augustine’s monastery in Hippo was well known.  In that location he brought together hundreds of men for the purpose of developing community.  In this communal setting the men engaged in common work, prayer, meals, Bible study, and intentional discussion.  I think clearly the emphasis was on community.  If you have leaders under you that you are trying to influence there is a need for community to be created among them and with them.  I think this can be done a number of ways.  But I would suggest that as often as possible it should include regular gatherings centered around some of these exact same components.  We often just do retreats that are content focused.  Do some common work, pray, study, debate, eat.  Create some common experiences that take your leaders into a shared life together.

2. Letters Augustine wrote a lot of letters.  He wrote to his confidants and his critics.  He also often wrote to those he was mentoring.  The point here is personal communication.  I think we can tap into different forms that are available to us today: email, Facebook, etc.  But on the heels of creating community for all we also need to consider how we will personally communicate with those we lead so that we can minister to them in their own life context.

3. Books Augustine also wrote many books.  He wrote often on theological topics that would then later frame the intentional discussions.  Often his theological writing revolved around the hot topics of the day: Manichaeism or Pelagianism.  Today’s version for this type of engagement might be the blog.  Do you have a regular blog you write where you express your convictions on a variety of topics to stay engaged and nurture the next generation of leaders?  A blog can serve the same purpose in leading and developing those emerging leaders around you.  It can frame the healthy discussions for your next visit or next retreat.

4. Church Councils Augustine engaged those he mentored in true decision making processes.  The church councils of his day were serious business.  Often they could last for months or even years.  But they consisted of serious engagement about real issues that needed clear decisions and communication.  Today you can engage those you are developing in real decision making.  Let them wrestle with some of the problems you are confronting.  Give them a real platform to engage and contribute.  I think this actually can be done together in a real physical setting or virtually.  But posit a real problem question and let them engage.

5. Personal Visits Augustine would travel to those who had left the monastery to minister elsewhere.  He saw it as truly profitable to be in their ministry context to serve them and further develop them.  We too need to occasionally be in the ministry context of those we are trying to mentor and develop. We can’t always expect them to come to us-and then be able to truly understand what they face on a daily basis.

In summary:  When mentoring or developing others over distance include these five elements:  create true community, address their personal needs through thoughtful writing, address common needs and challenge their thinking through an ongoing blog, involve them in some serious decision making that will impact the mission, and visit them in their own setting for better understanding and unique application.

8 Components for a Mentoring Environment

I am currently reading a book entitled Augustine as Mentor: A Model for Preparing Spiritual Leaders by Edward L. Smither.  Smither is an Associate Professor of Church History at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.  He is from the UK and did his doctoral dissertation on Augustine of Hippo.

I believe his intent was to borrow from the ancients in both discovering and offering a mentoring model for today.  While it does read a bit heavy on the academic side I have found it quite stimulating in thinking through leadership development for today.  I thought I would wet your appetite for reading Smither by listing his observations on the eight components of a mentoring environment from the early part of church history.  I would encourage you to pick up the book and give it a read-I listed the link below from Amazon and I have it on my Kindle. I think you will find there are some very worthy principles for application to today.

1. The Group-mentoring in early church history happened in community within the context of a group.  This tapped into the relational element and the real needs of leaders.

2. The Mentor as Disciple-the mentor himself always posed himself as a fellow learner.  The mentor had not arrived-he was still a disciple.

3. Selection-in every mentoring context there was always a point of selection where a mentor called a person or a group of people to join him.

4. The Mentor-Disciple Relationship-in every context the mentor called the disciples into a caring personal relationship marked by discipline and grace.

5. Sound Teaching-the mentor laid a strong foundation of sound doctrine from the Bible.  This also served to protect the disciples from false doctrine.

6. Modeling and Involving in Ministry-a mentor made sure that a disciple was able to demonstrate faithfulness and skill in the work of ministry.  This came about through observing the mentor and through personal involvement on the part of the disciple.

7. Releasing to Ministry-releasing a leader towards greater responsibility flowed naturally from increased involvement.

8. Resourcing Leaders-even after a disciple was released with authority and responsibility-the mentor would still make himself available for encouragement, resources, and practical advice.

Augustine as Mentor: A Model for Preparing Spiritual Leaders