#190: The Most Important Overlooked Quality of Leadership

When I was a young lad in my first managerial assignment most of the senior business leaders I was exposed to were World War II veterans. They exhibited a command and control style of leadership.

Humble, Humility, Leadership

Many of my peers had been officers during the Vietnam war. They were also command and control leaders.

Their careers were advancing so I decided to emulate them and adopt this same strong command and control style of leadership. I expected my “troops” to follow my orders without question.

The driving force of my leadership style was very selfish. I wanted to make myself look good to my bosses regardless of the effect on those who reported to me. I was proud, arrogant, and more than a little cocky about my accomplishments.

When I became a Christian, I started reading the Scripture. I noted a lot of God’s Word that seemed to suggest my style of leadership did not comport with God’s design.

I noted a recurring theme in the Scripture that I realized was lacking in my own leadership style; humility!

In the world’s view, being brash and arrogant was a sign of a strong leader. But in God’s view, a strong leader was a humble, selfless leader.

I decided to turn away from the world’s view of a strong leader in favor of becoming the kind of humble leader God wanted me to be.

There are many verses in the Bible that speak to being a leader. Here are seven that focus on how we, as leaders, should treat those who God gives us to shepherd:

  1. Be sincerely devoted to those you lead

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10 ESV).

  1. Regard others as more important than myself

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 NASB).

  1. Do not take advantage of others, but serve one another in love

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13 NASB).

  1. Be self-sacrificing and lead by example

“If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14 NASB).

  1. Be willing to work with everyone—high or low

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Romans 12:16 NIV).

  1. Do not dominate others, but submit to and serve one another

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21 NIV).

  1. Be humble and submit to those in authority

“Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5 NIV).

The command and control style of leadership has become less prevalent as the concept of servant leadership has become more popular. And for that I am glad.

As Christian leaders, we must emulate the Great Shepherd and lead with humility. It may still be the most overlooked quality of a leader but in God’s economy, it is the most important!

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As always, questions and comments are welcome. Are you growing into the kind of leader God intends you to be? If so, what are you doing that is helpful?

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Category: Personal Development | Leader Qualifications

#160: Six Leadership Lessons from a Woman of Valor, Conviction, and Faith

Leadership Lessons from the Lesser Known

We can learn much from studying the lesser known leaders in the Bible. One of the most unusual and certainly lesser known is Deborah.

Deborah Leader

There was a period of time between the leadership of Moses and Joshua, and the appointment of Saul as King of the Israelites when the Israelites were led by a series of judges. Deborah was the fourth judge over the Israelites.

We know very little about Deborah; where she came from or how she came to power. When we meet her in Judges 4 she is described as a prophetess and judge over the people of Israel. In those days, a prophet or prophetess was someone who delivered God’s messages to the people. As a judge, the people of Israel came to her to settle disputes. Deborah was the spiritual and civil leader of the entire nation of Israel!

As our story unfolds, the people of Israel had been brutally oppressed for 20 years by Jabin, king of Canaan.

Deborah called for her military commander, a man named Barak, and told him to assemble his army. Deborah gave him specific instructions from God to gather 10,000 men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them to Mount Tabor (pictured above) where they would attack the Canaanites.

Barak conditioned his response saying he would go, but only if Deborah would go with him.

Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, heard about Barak’s army gathered at Mount Tabor. Sisera gathered his army which included 900 chariots in a nearby valley.

Deborah ordered Barak to attack saying, this is the day the Lord has given him into your hands. Barak attacked with his army, and God went before him. God caused a great rainstorm that effectively immobilized Sisera’s chariots, throwing the entire army into a state of confusion.

Barak’s army attacked and pursued the fleeing Canaanites until not a man was left standing.

Six Important Leadership Lessons from Deborah

Deborah was a woman of faith. God had selected her among all the men and women of Israel to be His prophet and judge, and she was faithful in her response to His call.

Lesson for us. God raises up men and women of faith to fulfill specific needs at specific times. God calls men and women from all walks of life, and whom God calls, God equips!

Deborah responded to God’s call to arms. As unlikely as it may have seemed when God told her to assemble an army and attack the powerful Canaanites, Deborah responded by ordering Barak to prepare for battle.

Lesson for us. As Christians, we must remain faithful and respond positively to God’s call. It is one thing to hear God’s call, it is quite another to say yes to God despite our own fears and doubts.

Deborah remained steadfast in the face of her reluctant commander. Perhaps wanting to be sure this was a message from God, Barak wanted Deborah to accompany him. Deborah remained steadfast following the Lord’s instructions and encouraging Barak.

Lesson for us. When responding to God’s call, we must remain resolute in the face of the naysayers. There will always be those who are reluctant to follow God’s leading, but we must not allow them to deter us from following His call.

Deborah acted on God’s timing. Deborah ordered Barak to attack, saying “this is the day.”

Lesson for us. We must take action on God’s timing. This is a tough one for many of us. We either tend to act ahead of God’s leading, or procrastinate, and not go when He says, “GO.”

Deborah trusted God. God had promised victory and that He would go before the Israelite army. Deborah ordered the attack trusting in the promise of God.

Lesson for us. We must act on God’s calling trusting He will do exactly as He has promised.

Deborah gave praise to God. When the battle was concluded Deborah and Barak sang a song of praise and thanksgiving to God for giving them victory over their oppressors (Judges 5).

Lesson for us. Where God leads, God equips and provides. Let’s not forget to give praise and thanks to God for His grace in our lives!

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Which of these leadership lessons do you tend to struggle with the most?

 

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Category: Personal Development | Leader Qualifications

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#136: Was Ebed-melech a Courageous or Foolish Leader?

Lessons from the Lesser Known

I love studying characters in the Bible. I think each story God tells us is there to teach us something important.

Jeremiah Ebed-melech Leader

I especially love studying the most obscure characters of the Bible, the ones who are mentioned almost in passing, because I figure if they were important enough for God to call them out by name in His book, I should pay attention.

I discovered one such character as I was studying the book of Jeremiah. His name was Ebed-melech. The Bible describes him as a Cushite (some translations say Ethiopian) eunuch, who served King Zedekiah of Judah. Cush was the son of Ham the grandson of Noah. The Cushites settled in the land of ancient Ethiopia.

Ebed-melech name means “Servant of the King.” Being a Cushite means that he was a gentile serving in the court of Zedekiah, King of Judah.

Jeremiah had been prophesying for years that Babylon would conquer Judah including the capital of Jerusalem. King Zedekiah, his officials, and other prophets didn’t believe Jeremiah. Several of the officials called for Jeremiah to be arrested and executed for treason. Zedekiah was more concerned with the opinions of his advisors than the judgment of God that Jeremiah and prophesied, so he turned Jeremiah over to them. They took Jeremiah and lowered him with ropes into a deep cistern that was full of mud at the bottom. They no doubt hoped if he died there, they would not be directly responsible for his death.

This is where Ebed-melech enters into the story. Remember, Ebed-melech is a gentile servant of a Jewish king. When he heard what happened to Jeremiah he went to King Zedekiah and told Zedekiah what these officials had done was evil, because Jeremiah would surely die if left in the cistern.

Zedekiah ordered Ebed-melech to take 30 men and rescue Jeremiah from the cistern before he died. Ebed-melech took 30 men, got some old rags and some ropes and went to the cistern. He had Jeremiah put the rags around his armpits to protect him from the ropes, and hauled Jeremiah out of the cistern.

What is especially noteworthy about Ebed-melech and his actions?

1) He was courageous. He did not allow his status as a servant to keep him from approaching the king to plead for Jeremiah’s life. What’s more, he accused Judah’s ranking officials, friends of the king, of being wicked, evil men.

2) He was more righteous than his masters. He knew killing an innocent man was wrong and said so, whereas the city officials were perfectly content to conspire to bring about the death of someone they didn’t like.

3) He was thoughtful and considerate. He could have hauled Jeremiah out of the cistern with just the ropes, but he was thoughtful and considerate in giving Jeremiah some rags to protect himself from the ropes as he was lifted out.

4) He trusted in the Lord. Even though a gentile, Ebed-melech trusted in the Lord (Jeremiah 39:18). What a contrast to the Lord’s people of Judah, who had rejected God!

I love the story of Ebed-melech because here is this Gentile servant who had the courage to confront a king and his officials with their treachery. Any one of them could have had him killed, but he stood up to them, trusting in the Lord.

He became the Old Testament version of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) as he carefully lifted Jeremiah out of the cistern, restoring him to life. The Lord used Ebed-melech in a mighty way. He was aptly named “Servant of the King.”

You Can Tell You’re Not a Godly Leader If:

1) If you’re not willing to stand up for what is right and call out evil when you see it, you’re not a Godly leader.

2) If you’re not willing to stand against the majority, you’re not a Godly leader.

3) If you’re not willing to protect the oppressed and the innocent, you’re not a Godly leader.

4) If you’re more worried about man’s opinion than being righteous before the Lord, you’re not a Godly leader.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. What do you think of Ebed-melech’s actions compared to King Zedekiah? Which one was a Godly leader?

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Category: Personal Development | Leader Qualifications

#074: Our Leadership Crisis is a Self-Inflicted Wound

Last week I suggested there is a correlation between poor leadership that is driven by a preponderance of man’s wisdom, and a lack of God’s wisdom. This week I learned about the American Bible Society 2014 report on the Bible in America that goes a long way toward confirming that thesis.

Crisis leadership

Some of their findings include:

  1. There has been a significant drop in the percentage of people who view the Bible as sacred in just three years: 2011 = 86%, 2014 = 79%.
  2. Bible ownership remains strong but readership remains weak: 88% of households own a Bible, but only 37% of Americans read their Bible once a week or more.
  3. Millennials (ages 18-29) are leading the shift toward skepticism: 19% of Millennials believe no literature is sacred (46% more than the population as a whole); 35% of Millennials agree the Bible contains everything a person needs to know about a meaningful life (43% less than the population as a whole), 39% of Millennials never read the Bible (50% more than the population as a whole).
  4. The study suggests across a broad range of questions that Elders (age 68+) hold the Bible in highest regard as sacred, they believe that it represents the inspired word of God, and they read it more than any other age group. Boomers (ages 49 – 68) are slightly lower than Elders across most measures, Busters (ages 30-48) are lower than Boomers, and Millennials are lower still in almost every measure. The trend here is what is most disconcerting to me: every successive generation since the Elders has less and less regard for the Word of God, and see it and God, as less and less important in their lives.

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#071: Lessons on Leadership — Part 2

Last month we began our look at leadership characteristics taken from the profiles of leaders in the Bible. All of the examples we looked at came from the pen of Solomon recorded in the book of Proverbs. This month we continue with an examination of 29 additional Biblical leadership characteristics.

Leadership, Leader

Accept correction. As imperfect vessels, we are all subject to the errors common to man. Regardless of how perfect you consider yourself there will be times when someone will have a better idea than you, or perhaps even catch you doing something wrong. Anyone who is truly successful will tell you that part of their success is due to their willingness to accept correction from others. (Prov. 13:18).

Accept instruction. Every heavy-weight boxing champion in the world has a trainer. Every professional golfer has a teaching pro they go to when they need help with their game. Every professional football, baseball and tennis player, no matter how great, improves their skill sets by using coaches. Leaders in business should be no different from professional athletes; we should never think that we have learned so much that we can’t learn from others.
(Prov. 10:8, Prov. 13:13, Prov. 19:20).

Wisdom. No doubt about it, wisdom is a critical characteristic for all leaders. But wisdom is not one of those things you can buy at the corner drugstore. Wisdom is elusive. Some people have it, some people don’t. According to Solomon, wisdom is more precious than jewels. The good news is that no one has a corner on the world’s supply of wisdom. It is attainable with a life focused on God. (Prov. 3:13-18).

Timing. Man’s timing is often not the same as God’s timing. As fast as the world is changing we keep going faster and faster trying to keep up. Remember the bumper sticker that read, “The hurrieder I go the behinder I get!” Sometimes we rush to get things done, and we fail because it isn’t God’s timing. On the other end of the spectrum, there may be things God has been trying to get you to do and you’ve been procrastinating. Maybe you think you don’t have the skills or the resources, but remember that where God leads He will provide. Sometimes the best answer is to step out in faith. (Prov. 3:1).

Avoid hot-tempered people. OK, truth time. How many of you like to associate with people who get angry all the time? Raise your hands. No one? The greatest risk of being around these kinds of people is that you will become just like them, and then no one will want to be around you either! (Prov. 22:23-24).

Set priorities. Given all I learned from my grandfather at his farm, I have a special affinity for proverbs that have their roots in farming. What good is a house if you have no crop in the ground to harvest? In Solomon’s day, there were no supermarkets. If you didn’t grow it, you didn’t eat. So they made sure to plant seed, tend crops, and harvest before they worried about building their house. We have so many opportunities in our lives, we have so many options of things to do. But many of these “fun to do’s,” or “nice to have’s” won’t help us accomplish what is really important to us. A good leader knows how to set and maintain priorities to stay focused on the work at hand. (Prov. 24:27).

Experience yields wisdom. The experiences of a righteous man or woman can provide much wisdom for those who are younger. A good leader knows better than to ignore the counsel of wise elders. Solomon recognized the wealth of experience gained by living a righteous life. (Prov. 16:31).

Never stop learning. Churchill’s shortest speech was, “Never, never, never give up.” He was right, but today you could also add, “Never, never, never quit learning.” (Prov. 18:15, Prov. 23:12).

Seek counsel from others. No one knows everything about every situation. A good leader seeks out the counsel of others before making important decisions. (Prov. 15:22).

Build others up. Whoever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” hasn’t been living on this planet for long. Words do hurt. Ask anyone for an example of something said to them that hurt them when they were young. I’ll bet they can recall it instantly and provide details of the situation 10-40 years later. Leaders know that a key to developing strong, independent employees lies in building them up with words of encouragement.
(Prov. 12:18, Prov. 16:24).

Create a team. No one working in isolation will develop skills as well as a person working in a group. That includes leaders. People will rise to the standards that are held by their peers. By building one, you can effectively build the skills of the group. (Prov. 27:17).

Motivate with compassion. I get so sick at heart when I hear about managers who think it is leadership to award “boot” trophies and other similar negative awards for their employees. Threats, even if veiled, may motivate an employee to improve performance in the short run, but they do nothing to build the strength of character of the employee that will sustain them over time. (Prov. 16:21, 23).

Avoid jealousy. You know you shouldn’t worry about keeping up with the Jones’s at home, but what about the Smith’s at work? No strong leader has time to be jealous about the progress someone else is making in their career. Strong leaders focus on what is important in their jobs and encourage employees to do the same. Jealousy serves no other purpose than to build you up by tearing someone else down. (Prov. 27:4).

Avoid easy solutions. A quick easy solution may be just that but beware the long-term consequences. Sometimes expedient solutions become the most expensive. Do you stuff more grease into a worn-out bearing and hope for the best, or do you shut the machine down to repair it properly? (Prov. 20:17)

Pick your battles. There are times to do battle. There are times to stand your ground unyielding. But make sure that the situation really calls for battle, and make sure that the decision is reached with the benefit of a cool head. (Prov. 29:11).

Have faith. The greatest attribute for a leader is to have faith. God does not lead where He does not provide. He will give you the strength and the wisdom to fulfill any task He asks you if you will maintain your faith in Him.
(Prov. 3:3-6).

Control your emotions. Don’t you just love bosses that yell at you when you make a mistake? My favorite is the boss who not only yells at you but does it in front of others! Strong leaders know that the best decisions are made by cool, rationally thinking minds. Set an example as a leader, don’t tolerate destructive tempers in your group, and you will be amazed at the improvement in your decision-making process. (Prov. 15:1, Prov. 15:18).

Choose friends with care. Sad to say but most anyone who has any business experience at all can tell you a story about someone they knew and trusted as a friend who turned out to be a back-stabbing traitor. Sometimes these folks are hard to spot, but the Bible tells us to be cautious in our friendships because the wicked people will eventually show themselves for what they are. (Prov. 12:26, Prov. 14:7).

Choose advisors carefully. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, became king, ignored the advice of his father’s wise counselors in favor of the advice of his young friends. He put such a heavy burden on the Israelites that they tried to stone him. Eventually, the Israelites rebelled and appointed Jeroboam king (I Kings 12). (Prov. 12:5, Prov. 19:20, Prov. 20:18).

Listen to advisors. Once you choose advisors, a wise leader listens to their advice. This doesn’t mean you always take it, any advisor can be wrong, but at least you listen and consider carefully their words. (Prov. 1:8, Prov. 11:14).

Strive for excellence. Lots of people are mediocre or good at their work, but none of them will be standouts in their professions or great leaders. A good leader knows the value of excellent work and models it in the work he or she does, and in the standards they hold up for their employees. (Prov. 22:29).

Listen for Understanding. Listening is an altogether undeveloped art form. It seems most of us are so interested in talking that we don’t listen to the people we should. Practice the art of being quiet long enough to really listen to others. (Prov. 18:13).

Lead people’s strengths. God gives every one of us gifts and talents. A good leader develops people by utilizing their gifts in their work. People who are doing work that they have a passion for will work longer hours, more productively, with more loyalty than anyone else. (Prov. 22:6).

Maintain your standards. In today’s economy, there is a lot of pressure to reduce costs, to cut corners, to give a job only partial effort. Sometimes it takes great courage to stay the course and insist on high standards rather than following those who compromise. (Prov. 25:26).

Don’t overestimate your own importance. Get a small bowl and fill it with water. Now stick your finger in the bowl and then take it out. See the hole? As important as you may be at work if you quit or get fired tomorrow they will find someone to take your place. The Bible is filled with example after example of leaders who relied on God and accomplished great things. Then they started thinking they had done it all on their own and they didn’t need other people or God. Their downfall or death was the usual next step. (Prov. 3:7).

Don’t be envious of others. Solomon had tremendous wealth yet with all his money he found no satisfaction outside his relationship with God. Don’t let envy for what someone else has, drive your decisions about what is needed in your organization. (Prov. 14:30, Prov. 23:17, Prov. 24.1).

Don’t dwell in the past. While it is important to learn from past mistakes it is more important to learn to move on. No one ever became a great leader by wallowing in the discouragement of a past failure. Rather, the strong leader learns whatever he or she can from every situation and then applies the learning to the future. (Isaiah 43:18).

Reward loyalty. Few things in business are as important as loyal employees. I don’t mean just the ones that work for one company their whole lives. Loyalty is important regardless of whether the employee is a lifetime employee or a consultant for a week. Strong leaders recognize loyalty and find ways to reward it. Strong leaders never, ever shoot the messenger, they thank them for having the courage to bring even bad news. (Prov. 25:13).

Respect others. There are many standards of respect to be seen around the world. In some cultures, it is acceptable to spit on someone in the heat of negotiating a deal. In other cultures, a loud burp at the end of a meal is a compliment to the chef. Whatever the signs of respect important in your culture, be respectful of employees, peers, bosses, and customers. (Lev. 19:32).

One Final Thought

The lessons on leadership in this issue point out some of the complexities of the leader’s job: beware advisors, yet listen to advisors; be strong and demand high standards, yet be compassionate. Yikes! There are no easy answers!

Perhaps this is why it is so hard to find really good leaders. We tend to do only certain things very well, and when they work for us we repeat the action. So we develop into people who are demanding yet compassionless, strong and decisive yet unable to listen to others.

Leadership has always been a two-sided coin, with any given characteristic either a strength or a weakness depending on how it is applied in a given situation. This is where true leaders display excellence. They know when and how to apply themselves in any given situation. If these are things you want in your life then focus your business on God. Only He can provide you with the insight and guidance to lead you through any situation.

Bonus Whitepaper

Lessons on Leadership–Part 2 is also available in the form of a bonus whitepaper. The bonus whitepaper includes all the scripture verses, some great quotes about leadership, some meeting notes to help you run a meeting with your team, and a summary of the Leadership Lessons. You can download it here:

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome.  Which of these leadership characteristics do you value the most? Are there any that you struggle with?

Category: Personal Development | Leader Qualifications

#069: Two Kinds of Bosses You Don’t Want to Work For!

I consider myself to be truly fortunate in that during my career that has spanned 40+ years (so far) I have only had two bosses that I considered being ‘bad.’ The grand total amount of time I worked for these two was about 4 years, less than 10% of my working career. Yet, both left me confused, discouraged and stressed out.

Bad Boss

The two bad bosses I worked for had some striking outward differences, yet inwardly had some interesting similarities.

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#067: 28 Lessons on Leadership

Someone once said, “If you want to know if you’re a leader, turn around and see if anyone’s following you.” This may be a simplistic statement, but it is nonetheless an accurate test. Many managers think of themselves as leaders because they have leadership positions. But position does not a leader make; followers make a leader.

Leader

A friend once asked me, “Do you think certain people are born leaders or can leadership be taught?” As I pondered the question thinking about some of the great leaders in world history, I came to the conclusion that leadership can only be taught. Leaders are made, not born. There has never been a newspaper headline that announced, “A 7-lb. 14-oz. leader was born today at St. Luke’s hospital.”

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#059: The Single Most Important Qualification for Leadership

Of all the possible qualifications for leadership, and there are many, there is one that is, without a doubt, the single most important qualification for leadership. I learned the hard way, not having this one qualification is an absolute deal breaker when assessing future leaders in your organization.

Leader, Leadership

On several occasions during my career my wife Barbara would meet someone that I work with, and later advise me not to trust that person. On a few occasions, my assessment of the individual aligned with hers; neither of us felt I should trust that person. Sadly, there were a few occasions when I thought I knew the person well enough to make a more informed opinion than my wife. I trusted someone who ended up not being trustworthy.

The difference between Barb and me in our assessment of people is that she has the ability to meet someone, and look deep into their hearts. I, on the other hand, tend to be swayed in my judgment, by external factors—how they look, how they carry themselves, their charisma. I am trying to become more like Barb, looking at someone’s heart as the most important qualification for leadership. It turns out Barb’s intuition for assessing potential leaders is quite Biblical.

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