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“Whiteboard” Leadership

The original post on this topic was published in 2005.  I have been brought back to these principles again and again.  So here it is in a new, updated version.

This is a picture of me looking out over the Colorado landscape from Montgomery Pass, which is part of the Poudre Canyon. There was about a 40 mile an hour wind right in my face. This was taken in July of 2005 when I was faced with some critical decisions–the biggest of which was where would my family and I serve in ministry for the next season of our lives.

I was 49 at the time and was finding change more and more difficult. Yet a friend of mine, Eric Swanson, counseled me that a leader occasionally needs a new “whiteboard” in their life. He stressed that we must go back to simple. Leaders by their leadership acts rightfully take things that are in some state of chaos or simplicity and bring clarity and growth, leading to greater complexity. But after a season a leader needs to go back to simple. This allows for fresh faith and fresh learning-and I am convinced that a leader’s longevity is in large measure tied to his or her ability to remain a learner.

This conversation started me down a path of trying to refine my thinking about faith. What is faith at it’s core? We know from the book of Hebrews that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” But earlier in the book I believe we have faith at it’s core being put on display. In Hebrews chapter three the writer quotes Psalm 95–“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” The writer makes this quote because he is warning his original audience to be very careful that they don’t fall prey to “an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” You see these Hebrew believers were under some amount of persecution from Rome and their great tendency was to run to “safety.” Safety was probably being defined as running back to Judaism. The Jewish faith was a recognized and sanctioned religion under the Roman government-it was “safe”-but Christianity was not sanctioned and was not “safe.” I believe the overall theme of Hebrews is this, “There is no better, nor safer, place than Jesus Himself.” Safety is not being defined as the absence of trouble–it is in Jesus himself, our Great High Priest. But what is the writer pointing to in Psalm 95? Psalm 95 is an invitation to worship tied to a warning. The warning at the end of the Psalm ties back to a historical incident in Exodus 17. The end of Psalm 95 is ominous-it speaks of a generation not entering into God’s rest. If you go back to Exodus 17 you find an episode in the life of the Israelites (remember the original audience of Hebrews-Jewish believers) where they were complaining and grumbling about life in the wilderness after being liberated from Egypt. Their ultimate complaint was, “Is the Lord among us or not?” And it is here that I think we get to the essence of faith. More and more I am seeing active faith as the belief in the absolute goodness and presence of God. That is what the Israelites were ultimately questioning–is God really good? Is God really present in our current circumstances? Our ability to exercise faith on a daily basis and in every circumstance is based on these same aspects of God’s character. So in every situation I must fall back on the absolute goodness and presence of God to move forward. And I can ultimately avoid a hard heart if I regularly trust in the absolute goodness and presence of God in my life.

Back to the picture and our decision. The decision before us was whether to move our family to the country of Italy to trust God for the university students of that nation. I could see several reasons why this was stupid–my age, the possible negative impact on my children, our parents ages, my inexperience in cross cultural ministry, etc. But there was a divine restlessness that my wife and I sensed-God was nudging us toward change-and the opportunity before us was certainly a clean whiteboard that would require fresh learning and fresh faith. And with fresh faith applied there are fresh vistas on God, life and ministry. Thus the picture. This picture has become somewhat of a metaphor for me and for how I want to finish my life. The journey to Montgomery Pass was not easy. But the vista was incredible! What I could see from there was unmatched from anything I could see at the trailhead.  At the trail head there were only trees and a narrow path that led somewhere. But on top was grand beauty, crisp air, a feeling of exhilaration, and a great sense of accomplishment and purpose. Fresh faith takes us there in life too-because ultimately it takes us to the person of Christ. He is exhilarating-it is he who provides purpose-he breathes fresh life into us-he is supremely beautiful. He is absolutely good and he is intimately present.

We spent five years in Italy and it has been one year since we returned to the U.S.  And I would not change a thing.  I am still learning from my time in Italy as a leader and as a follower of Christ.  I am still learning about faith.  The clean whiteboard was worth it.  I am in a new season that is requiring fresh learning and fresh faith.  I know the view will be worth it this time too.

Where do you need fresh faith and fresh learning?  Where do you need a new vista?  What will be your new “whiteboard?”

My Top Posts for April

Here are the top five most popular posts from my blog in April:

1. Delegation vs Empowerment  I distinguish the difference between these two concepts and argue the need of greater empowerment in raising up more leaders.

2. 5 for Leadership-April 12th  I highlight Tim Milburn, Angela Maiers, Bill Flint, Tim Sacket, and Michael McKinney in some quality posts on leadership.

3. The Posture of a Spiritual Leader  This post takes a look at some critical principles out of John 8 on how a spiritual leader should view themselves.

4. What Is Fairness  I explore the concept of “fairness” and contrast it to the principle of “justice”in our society today.

5. Principled Leadership  In this post I make the case for not getting caught up in all of the leadership or ministry fads-but rather looking for the timeless principles behind a strategy or innovation.

I hope these will be of benefit to you.

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.

LQW: Is Everyone a Leader?

Here is the 2nd installment of “Leadership Question of the Week.” I have been asked many times if I believe that anyone can become a leader? I see organizations that seem to live out this philosophy-that all who will, can become leaders. I have sat under teaching that clearly stated that only certain ones are suited or chosen to be leaders. Some will refer to leadership as a unique spiritual gift. What do you think? Comment below and add to the conversation.

LQW: How important is regular “think time” for a leader?

Here is the 2nd installment of the LQW (Leadership Question of the Week).  I recently spent three days on a personal retreat just to rest and recalibrate my leadership life.  I find I need weekly think time and periodic retreats to recharge.  What do you think?  How important is this leadership discipline and how do you approach it?  Please comment and add to the learning.

5 for Leadership

Here is a new lineup of “5 for Leadership.”  These are five blog posts that I have found helpful and interesting on the topic of leadership this week.  See what you think.

Video: The Marshmallow Challenge  This one comes from Ken Cochrum and his blog On Leading Well.  Ken provides a good set up regarding a rapid learning approach versus a strategic planning the way we have always done it.  The video is well worth the watch and this is a blog you should regularly follow.

Churchill for Pastors: Five Leadership Lessons  I found this on the Gospel Coalition Blog written by Collin Hansen.  He offers some great insight on Churchill and five historical points worth considering for your own leadership.

When Leadership is Form Over Substance  This is another good offering by Mike Myatt.  Mike sets up his post with this line, “In today’s post I’ll share some thoughts about how to spot leaders who shouldn’t be…”  Take a look and offer Mike some feedback.

Insulate Yourself . . .  If you have not already seen this, it is a quick read from Seth Godin.  There are 13 quick witticisms that are very practical in helping you lead more effectively-some may surprise you.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption  I am highlighting a post and a book in this last one.  I am currently reading this book and can’t put it down.  So take a look at Carolyn McCulley’s post about this book and take a look at other posts on her blog.  The book has some great leadership lessons and Carolyn’s blog has some great insight on a number of topics.

There are the “5” for this week.  Enjoy.

5 for Leadership

Here is the latest 5 for Leadership offering.  A couple of these are resources that will lead you to more resources.  There is one interview and also one historical piece.  I hope you will be inspired by something listed below-lead well!

20 Leadership Books You Might Not Have Read-This is a must read.  Mike Myatt highlights some great books to inform your leadership.  I have posted some similar lists on my blog-but Mike makes some worthy additions.  Take a look and follow through.

The Leadership Blog Interview: Tim Elmore-This is an interview with Tim Elmore, the founder and president of Growing Leaders, a non-profit organization created to help develop emerging leaders.  This is good interview that brings out some great leadership principles.  And it allows you to get to know Tim better.  There is also a good book list within the interview.

How to Instill Purpose-This comes from John Baldoni and is quite insightful about organizational purpose.  John has done some extensive research on this topic.  Here he summarizes some of his findings with four critical points for organizational success related to purpose.

Greatness Cannot Be Locked Up-This comes from John Maxwell, renowned leadership thinker and author.  Maxwell reflects on a trip to South Africa and the life of Nelson Mandela.  This is a good read on a historical leader and some principles we can apply to our leadership lives.

6 Podcasts to Inspire and Shape Christian Leadership-I found this on the CBN website.  This post shares both some Christian resources and some secular ones.  But I was impressed with the list and wanted to offer them to you.  Click some of the links and see what you think.  I especially like the Harvard Business Review podcasts.

There you have it for this week-I hope you enjoy and benefit from this week’s offerings.