I would argue that we currently live in a society that is largely void of any real hope.  When I lived in Italy it was common to hear Italians express low hope for change within their country or their personal situation.  They would often comment that “the beautiful life” in Italy had vanished.  The world is certainly a more connected environment than ever before.  People are anxious over the world economic situation, over constant war and terrorism, over environmental issues, over issues of poverty and social justice.  Anxiety seems to be overwhelming hope.

Hope, according to the dictionary, is to cherish a desire with anticipation-with the expectation of obtainment.  Hope is always future oriented.  Hope looks into the future and longs for fulfillment.  Hope may be directed towards something very specific or towards a general desire for change.

The Bible has much to say about hope.  The Bible offers hope for now because of a hope-filled certain future.  Below are several biblical passages that speak to hope.

Psalm 42:11  God as the supreme object of our hope

Psalm 62:5-6  God as the source of our hope

Isaiah 40:28-30  Hope in an eternal God, One who created all that we see

Romans 5:1-5  Hope in seeing the glory of God because of His justification for us through Jesus Christ-Hope through godly character

Romans 12:9-12  Rejoice in hope

Romans 15:4  Hope through endurance and through knowledge of the Bible

Hebrews 6:18-20  Hold fast to the hope set before us

Hebrews 11:1  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for

1 John 3:1-3  Hope, as a child of God, in the certainty of becoming like Jesus

The seven most important words in the Bible, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  (found in Colossians 1:27 as often quoted by Dr. Bill Bright)

Movements & Organizational Boundaries

Yesterday I was sitting in some important meetings with a group of organizational leaders trying to determine how to best spawn movements.  A focus of our organization is to see thousands, if not millions, of micro movements around the world that are led by volunteers.  But we are an organization that has been around for over 60 years.  It is a significant challenge to structure existing organizations in such a way to actually be nimble enough to see this through.

Steve Addison characterizes movements that change the world as having five elements: white-hot faith/belief, commitment to a cause, contagious relationships, rapid mobilization, and adaptive methods.  I agree with Steve that any movement would have to possess these elements to truly be impactful-whether they are spiritual, political or social in nature.  But what role does organizational leadership play?

In my mind, organizational leadership will always play one of two possible roles regarding movements.  Either the organization will act with institutional controls that actually prevents true movements from happening or it will act as a channel to spur on movements and aids them in being highly effective.  Notice that the issue is not one of boundaries or a lack of boundaries.  But in the 1st instance boundaries are used to protect and prevent.  In the 2nd instance boundaries are used to direct and support.

True movements by their very nature are unpredictable, messy and alive.  They resist control and thrive best when their is vibrant, entreprenurial leadership and a common will.  Organizational leaders must keep the end in mind and resist the temptation to control rather than support and provide.

What are your thoughts?

How Not To Lead-5 Principles For Failure

No leader plans to fail in their leadership.  Yet, leaders do fail regularly and sometimes in such a way that they even forfeit their leadership position.  I am not talking about leaders who make noble efforts and fail in the pursuit of a worthy vision.  I am talking about errors of judgment and character that go unaddressed and lead to total leadership failure.  These types of errors are most often revealed in times of trial.  The consequences are not simply personal.  Leadership is always a leveraged proposition and affects many others.  Here are five ways to self destruct in a leadership role.

1. Act presumptuously when faced with a difficult situation.  To act with presumption is to overstep your bounds or take undue liberties.  This most often takes place when leaders feel great pressure to perform.  Presumption often flows from a sense of entitlement or self preservation.

2. Take control and usurp the role that was not meant for you.  When a leader is faced with a difficult situation, the temptation is to double down on control and wrongly step into the role entrusted to another.  It comes from the belief that you can do it better than the other person-and you must.  Failure is not an option so presumption moves toward over control to the point of over reaching.

3. Blame others and your circumstances when things go wrong.  You know a leader is on the path of self destruction when a pattern of blaming becomes apparent.  When leaders fail and blame everyone and everything but themselves you can be certain that you have a leader who is insecure and inauthentic.

4. Sanitize your wrong actions when they have been discovered.  When leaders are ultimately caught in wrong doing and they attempt to explain away their sins, you have a leadership platform in super erosion.  Followers can smell this and will follow grudgingly at best. This is where a leader’s character is clearly revealed.  A leader must always take responsibility personally and corporately.

5. Do not take seriously the authority over you.  Every leader is ultimately a person under authority.  How you treat or respect that authority will in some measure determine the longevity of your leadership life.  When you work around authority, disregard authority, or simply defy authority-you do so at your own leadership peril.

What would you add to my list?

By the way, all of the above principles come directly from the Bible.  You can look at them yourself and make some other observations by going to 1 Samuel 13 to read about King Saul.

5 for Leadership (8/6/12)

Here is 5 for Leadership for the 1st week of August.

Leadership and Courage This first post comes from Gwyn Teatro on her blog You’re Not The Boss of Me. Gwyn defines courage in the context of good leadership. She offers a great real life illustration of a CEO who either lacked the courage to truly investigate a problem or was simply ignorant of the problem. Gwyn closes with the principle that real courage is sometimes simply facing the truth.

The Outrageously Simple Visual Guide to Goal Setting Here is a great info graphic on goal setting in ten practical steps. Take a look.

Rembrandt and Leadership This is a guest post on the Great Leadership blog. The authors compare the life of the great Dutch painter to leadership. The points are very sailable as they talk about dealing with both success and failure-and the need for authenticity.

Graceful Leadership 101 This post is by Tanmay Vora and offers a pdf download of 101 ways to be a more graceful leader. This is a resource you can read and share with those you lead or those you are developing for leadership.

The Three R’s of Christian Engagement in the Culture Wars This final post is from Kevin DeYoung and offers three worthy points of how Christian leaders should act when taking on the moral issues of our day. This post holds some good principles in light of the Chick-fil-a controversy.

There are the 5 for this week. Lead well!

Why Greatness?

We are in the midst of the 2012 Olympics from London.  I love watching the Olympics.  The athletes and their feats are amazing and inspiring.  And every time these hallowed games roll around there is always the media discussion of greatness.  The chatter yesterday and today revolves around this question, “Is Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian of all time?”

What is greatness?  Merriam-Webster defines “greatness” by using other words such as largeness in size, remarkable in magnitude, and remarkable in skill.  There is no doubt that the exploits of athletes like Phelps and others competing in these games do appear larger than life.  Their skills are certainly remarkable in their magnitude.  I actually think there is something in all of us that longs for greatness.  As created beings we carry some of the attributes of our Creator.  Our longing for greatness is a reflection of his very nature.  But our longings are flawed.  They are flawed by our own inherent selfishness in search of significance.    So what is greatness really about?  Why should we ever seek to be great?

I believe the Bible speaks to this in a profound way.  There are many places in Scripture where we could find an answer, but I will highlight one verse that shows up early in the Biblical narrative.  Genesis 12 is about God choosing a man to enact His redemptive plan for the nations.  God had created mankind in Genesis 1 and 2 to be image bearers of His glory and stewards of His perfect creation.  But in Genesis 3 mankind chose a different course.  Sin entered the world and all of creation suffered the consequences.  The rest of the Bible is about God chasing relentlessly after people to draw them back into relationship with Himself.  In Genesis 12 Abram is given a covenant promise by God that he will somehow be used to enact this pursuit.  In the midst of this promise God also states that He will make Abram’s name great!  And that promise has come to pass.  Abraham (his name was changed by God later in Genesis) is revered by Christians, Muslims, and Jews.  Abraham’s name became large.  It became remarkable.  Abraham’s story lasts from Genesis 12-25 and is referenced in many more places within the biblical storyline.  But when God promised to make Abraham’s name great He also stated why He would make it great.

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

Do you see the “so that?”  That is a purpose statement.  The purpose of Abraham’s greatness is blessing.  He was to be a blessing to others.  Can I suggest that this is the same purpose for all greatness?  All greatness under God’s economy is for the purpose of blessing others.

When anyone acquires greatness it can only proceed in one of two directions.  Either it will move toward self aggrandizement or it will move toward selfless blessing of others.  Even secular people get this at times.  They recognize that their greatness is a “blessing” in some way and they turn it toward the benefit of others.

Ultimately, the way in which Abraham was to be a blessing was in the heritage of Jesus Christ.  In Jesus Christ we see God’s redemptive plan in fullness.  In Christ we have the ultimate blessing because He is the only sufficient sacrifice to correct our inherent selfishness.  For the Christ follower, greatness poured out in blessing to others should rightly point others to the ultimate blessing-Christ Himself.

Leader-do you aspire to greatness?  Why?  May what ever greatness you achieve be poured out in blessing to all within your sphere of influence.  Lead well!

My Top Posts for July

Here are the five most popular posts from my blog for the month of July.

6 Common Errors in Strategic Planning  In this post I attempt to uncover regular mistakes I see leaders and teams make in the strategic planing process-and offer some tips to correct.

Delegation vs Empowerment  This remains my most popular post month in and month out.  This is a critical leadership issue for the effective function of organizations and for the multiplication of leaders.

The Leader and Planning  This post was the first of a five part series on planning.    Here, I revealed the two primary purposes of team planning, stewardship and celebration, to lay a foundation for the planing environment.

3 Types of Leadership Decisions  Decisions are at the heart of effective leadership.  In this post I discuss the merits of directive, consultive and delegative decisions.

The Nature of Leadership Decisions  This post originally preceded the 3 Types of Leadership Decisions post.  In this post I lay out three diagnostic questions I believe every leader should answer before making a critical decision.

There are the five most popular for July.  Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and interact.  I hope you find these posts beneficial for the first time-or again.  Lead well!

6 Major Barriers to Finishing Well

As I have contemplated my own personal leadership over this past year-one aspect has stood out.  It is hard to finish well.  Think about it.  In almost any arena it is rare to see leaders who end their leadership lives with integrity and vibrancy. I am more convinced than ever that a leader will not finish well without great intentionality.  Part of that intentionality is understanding what could keep you from finishing well.  Below are six barriers to finishing well as identified by J. Robert Clinton.  Clinton is a Senior Professor of Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary and has done extensive research on leadership formation and development.  Below the list are two links for further reading from Clinton.  I highly recommend him to you.

1. Finances-their use and abuse.  Leaders, particularly those who have power positions and make important decisions concerning finances, tend to use practices which may encourage incorrect handling of finances and eventually wrong use.  A character trait of greed is often rooted deep and eventually will cause impropriety with regard to finances.

2. Power-its abuse.  With leadership comes power-and the tendency to abuse it.  Leaders who rise to the top in a hierarchal system tend to assume privileges with their perceived status.  Frequently, these privileges include the abuse of power.

3. Pride-which leads to downfall.  Pride which is inappropriate and self centered can lead to a leader’s downfall.  There is a dynamic tension that must be maintained.  We must have a healthy respect for ourselves and yet we must recognize that we have nothing that was not given us by God.

4. Sex-illicit relationships.  Illicit sexual relationships have been a major cause of downfall for leaders in every culture in every era.

5. Family-critical issues.  Problems between spouses or between parents and children-or even between siblings-can be a major source of a leader’s downfall.  This aspect is often ignored, but always carries greater consequences.

6. Plateauing.  Leaders who are competent tend to plateau.  Their very strength becomes a weakness.  When leaders plateau they stop developing.  This can lead to the slow erosion of leadership vibrancy and competency.

Which of Clinton’s six barriers caught your attention?  What are your thoughts?

The Making of a Leader, by J. Robert Clinton

Finishing Well Factors-Enhancements and Barriers, by J. Robert Clinton