#239: The Woman Who Overcame Evil with Good

Leadership Lessons from the Lesser Known

On more than one occasion during my teenage years my mother, all 100-lbs of her, would have to step between my hot-headed father and me until cooler heads prevailed. Mom was always the level-headed, even-tempered one in our family.

Abigail

My mother’s actions that brought about peace in the family remind me of the Biblical account of Abigail recorded in 1 Samuel 25. There is much we can learn about leadership from mom and Abigail.

A Tense Confrontation

We are introduced to Abigail after a nasty confrontation between David’s men and her foolish husband, Nabal.

David and his army of 600 men had spent the year patrolling the area of Israel around where Nabal lived. They had protected Nabal’s servants, his sheep, and his crops. During harvest time, David sent 10-men off to Nabal to ask for an offering to help feed his men.

Nabal disrespected David’s men and arrogantly questioned their integrity as he refused their request and sent them away empty-handed.

David was furious when he learned of Nabal’s insults. He strapped on his sword, gathered his men, and headed off to kill all of Nabal’s household.

In the meantime, some of Nabal’s servants ran off to tell Abigail how Nabal had mistreated David’s men.

Abigail’s Wise Response

Without telling her husband, Abigail gathered up 200 loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five butchered sheep, a bushel of roasted grain, 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. She headed off with her servants to meet David.

When Abigail saw David, she knelt at his feet and took responsibility for her husband’s foolishness. She asked David to accept her gifts and forgive them for the offense.

Abigail went on to praise David, saying the Lord would give him victory in his battles and he would not have remorse over shedding Nabal’s blood needlessly.

Abigail’s Leadership Lessons

There are many leadership lessons we can take away from Abigail’s interaction with David. Here are my top five:

1) Discernment. Abigail demonstrated discernment. She realized her husband had insulted David’s men and this had the potential to cause a drastic reaction from David.

Leadership Lesson. Effective leaders need a keen sense of discernment. Solomon prayed to God to give him discernment to lead the people (1 Kings 3:9). We should do the same!

2) Immediate Action. Abigail responded immediately when the news reached her. She assembled her offering to David and set out to meet him.

Leadership Lesson. There’s a time for thinking, and there is a time for action. When a crisis looms, leaders need to take immediate action. Many times in the Bible we see leaders praying for God’s guidance then taking action!

3) Humble Nature. When Abigail met David, she got off her donkey and humbled herself by kneeling before him.

Leadership Lesson. People in tense situations tend to go on the offensive to defend their positions. A leader who is humble will diffuse most situations.

4) Soft Answer. Abigail understood the power of Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” She asked David to accept her offering, and took responsibility for her husband’s bad behavior.

Leadership Lesson. The buck stops with you, the leader. Emotional responses are diffused when you take responsibility for the situation.

5) Wise Counsel. Abigail counseled David not to take harsh action against Nabal that he would regret later. She assured him the Lord would give him victory over his enemies and he would do great things for the people of Israel if he did not shed blood needlessly.

Leadership Lesson. Once tempers have cooled, people are more open to accepting wise counsel. Leaders, take this opportunity to give counsel that builds your people and strengthens your organization.

Not every crisis can be averted, but strong leaders practice these five leadership lessons. Rate yourself on your effectiveness in each area and pick one to work on over the next month.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Which of these five leadership lessons is most important to you? Why??

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Category: Relationships | Healthy Alliances

#238: What Does It Take to be a Godly Leader or Follower?

Every leader I know deals with challenges to their leadership just about every day. These challenges come from the world around us, our own fleshly temptations, and the devil who would love to take us down!

Leader Follower

With so many forces coming against as leaders, it begs the question, “What does it take to be a Godly leader, or for that matter, a Godly follower?

The Apostle Peter warned of these very dangers in 1 Peter 5. Although Peter was addressing his fellow elders in the church, his warnings are equally valid for us as leaders in the workplace.

Be Shepherds

Peter began by admonishing leaders to be like shepherds caring for God’s flock. Being a shepherd doesn’t mean much to most of us in the business world, but it was perfectly clear to the people Peter was addressing. They all knew what the responsibilities of a shepherd entailed.

According to Psalm 23, there are five primary responsibilities of a shepherd,

1) to lead (Psalms 23:2),

2) to provide spiritual guidance and feeding (Psalm 23:3),

3) to offer comfort (Psalm 23:4),

4) to strengthen (Psalm 23:4), and

5) to correct (Psalm 23:5).

Based on the command to be a shepherd, leaders have a lot of big responsibilities! We are to lead, and that means we are out front making decisions based on what is best for the flock. We are to be spiritual leaders that feed the flock. We are to offer comfort when and where needed, and we are to strengthen the flock. And finally, when necessary we to are correct the flock.

Right Attitude

Next, Peter said leaders must have the right attitude about leading. We should lead, he said, not because we have to but because we are eager to serve the flock. We should not seek to lead for money or to have power over others.

Peter’s admonition about Christian leaders having the right attitude stands in stark contrast to the secular worldview in which leaders seek the position for the monetary rewards and for the power that comes with leadership.

Christians are to stand apart as leaders by having the attitude of a shepherd caring for their flock.

Be an Example

Third, Peter said Christian leaders are to be an example to those we lead. The example for a Christian leader is Jesus Christ, the chief shepherd. Just as Jesus is an example for Christian leaders, Christian leaders are to be an example to their flocks.

Advice for Everyone

Peter closed out his letter with instructions for everyone, leaders, and followers.

1) Be submissive to your leaders. Peter’s point about being submissive to leaders is directed to followers, but it’s important to note that everyone follows a leader. Everyone has a boss, and everyone is ultimately accountable to God.

2) Be humble toward one another. Both leaders and followers need to be humble toward one another, because as Peter reminds them, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 3:34).

3) Be Self-controlled and alert. Every Christian needs to be self-controlled in their own behavior. We also need to recognize that the devil is real, like a roaring lion seeking to devour those who stand for Christ. Therefore, we must remain on alert and resist the temptations of the devil.

4) Cast your cares on God. Peter reminds both leaders and followers to cast all our cares on God because He cares for us. Whatever trials, tribulations, or suffering we endure in this world are nothing compared to God’s grace and mercy.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you struggled with any of the five elements of being a shepherd leader? Have you been a follower under a leader who was a poor example?

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Category: Relationships | Servant Leadership

 

#205: The Disastrous Effect of One Bad Apple on Your Organization

Out behind the farmhouse was the root cellar grandpa built for grandma. It was big enough to store all the delicate fruits and vegetables that needed protection from the searing sun of eastern Washington.

Apple Attitude

In the back of the cellar was a barrel of Washington Delicious apples. Grandma used to pick apples at nearby farms and store the apples in the root cellar. She would inspect every apple as she placed it in the barrel because, as she told me, one bad apple would cause all the rest of the apples in the barrel to rot. Thus, the wisdom of the saying, “One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.”

It turns out the same thing is true for organizations. One bad apple, one person with a bad attitude, can have a disastrous effect on your organization!

How to Recognize the Bad Attitude Apple

Most of us past the age of four can identify someone with a bad attitude. They are easy to spot because their attitude is displayed through their words and actions. They are negative, critical, grumpy, impatient, arrogant, self-centered, and on and on.

In an organization, these are the people who complain about everything. They spread gossip. They talk about others behind their backs. And when the bad attitude is severe enough, they will even undermine the authority of the leadership.

I’ve seen it play out in large and small companies, work teams, non-profit organizations, and even in church groups. No organization is exempt from the decay brought on by the bad attitude apple.

What Causes the Bad Attitude?

It is important for us as leaders to understand what causes a bad attitude. The Bible says our actions reflect the condition of our heart.

“For as he thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7).

Solomon taught the actions of a man reflected his heart.

“As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man” (Proverbs 27:9).

In other words, a bad heart causes a bad attitude. As a leader, there is very little you can do to affect change in someone else’s heart.

What to do About a Bad Attitude Apple

If you’ve ever struggled with a bad attitude yourself, you know someone else can’t force you to change how you feel. That change must come from inside you. You have to perform heart surgery!

The same is true for the bad attitude apples in your organization; they have to want to change. They have to be willing to perform heart surgery on themselves.

That said, there are three things you can and should do as a leader to help them:

1) Be a coach. A coach is an instructor or teacher. Sometimes people don’t realize how their bad attitude is being expressed so let them know how their attitude is affecting the organization.

2) Be a mentor. A mentor is a trusted advisor or guide. Knowing is different from doing. By mentoring someone with a bad attitude, you can help them recognize their bad behavior and focus on being more positive.

3) Be an example. Most important of all, as a leader, you must be a role model. Your life must set an example of the right kind of attitude. Your attitude, according to Paul, should be the same as Jesus, a humble servant obedient to God.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV).

A bad attitude apple can have a disastrous effect on an organization. As a leader, you can’t afford to ignore the bad apple. You need to take action before their attitude spreads to the rest of the organization. A leader guided by the Holy Spirit can be a catalyst for attitudinal change. Be a coach, be a mentor, be an example, and be the powerful, inspired leader God intends you to be!.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked with someone who had a bad attitude? How did his/her attitude affect the organization? How did you deal with the person?

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Category: Relationships | Interpersonal Relationships

 

 

#204: Do You Need a Powerful Influencer in Your Life?

Leadership Lessons from the Lesser Known

Is there a powerful influencer in your life? Do you even need one?

Powerful Influencer

Moses had one, and his advice dramatically changed the way Moses led the people of Israel for the rest of his life. Moses’ key influencer was Jethro, his father-in-law, who made a brief appearance in Exodus 18.

Many thanks to Barbara K for suggesting Jethro as the topic for this month’s “Lessons from the Lesser Known.”

The Influencer Backstory

Moses was leading the people of Israel out of Egypt on their way to the Promised Land. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, met up with Moses as they traveled. Moses recounted to Jethro all that the Lord had done for the people of Israel. Jethro proclaimed the greatness of God and brought offerings and sacrifices to God (Exodus 18:11-12).

The next day Moses resumed his usual activity judging issues between the people of Israel from morning until night (Exodus 18:13).

Jethro the Influencer

Jethro questioned Moses, asking why he was doing all the judging for the entire nation by himself. Moses explained that his role as leader was to judge disputes between the people and to teach them God’s statutes and laws (Exodus 18:15-16).

He bluntly told Moses his way of doing things was not good because he would wear himself out personally tending to the needs of all the people.

Jethro advised Moses to divide his responsibilities among other trusted men of God. He should appoint men over thousands, hundreds, and tens to judge the minor disputes among the people. These men were to be God-fearing, trustworthy, and hate bribes.

Moses was to continue to personally teach the people God’s statutes and laws (Exodus 18:17-22).

His final direction to Moses was to consult with God and act if God so directed him.

Moses listened to Jethro’s advice and did everything he told him by appointing leaders over the people, while Moses continued in his responsibility to teach the people about God.

Lessons for us About Influencers

Moses exhibited two characteristics common among type A leaders: 1) he thought he could do it all, and 2) he had lost sight of what was most important.

Many of us tend to exhibit the same two characteristics; we think we can do it all, and in the attempt to do it all we lose sight of what is most important.

This tendency is precisely why leaders need key influencers in their lives. We need someone we can trust to give us honest, sometimes blunt feedback, and keep us focused on doing what is most important.

What Should You Look for in a Key Influencer?

There are at least four important takeaways about key influencers from the example between Jethro and Moses.

  • People who we allow to be key influencers in our lives should themselves be men and women of God.
  • Key influencers should feel free to speak the truth in love, even bluntly when necessary.
  • Leaders should listen to the advice of key influencers and bring it before God in prayer.
  • Leaders need to be action oriented. Once the advice is given and confirmed by God in prayer, act. Do it now!

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Is there a key influencer in your life? What criteria do you look for in a key influencer? What role do they play in decisions you make?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

 

Category: Relationships | Healthy Alliances

 

#173: What Unique Trait Should Christians Share with Redwood Trees?

When I was a young lad, perhaps 13-years old, I along with 30 other members of Boy Scout Troop 193, boarded a rented school bus and set off on a 6-week adventure.

Trees, Unique, Redwood, Trait

We left Spokane, Washington and camped our way down through Oregon, into southern California, up through Nevada, and back home.

Along the way, in northern California, we stopped in the Redwood State Park to see the Giant Redwood trees. They are the oldest and tallest trees in the world.

These redwoods are truly amazing. Some of them are over 2,200 years’ old. They were already pretty good sized trees when Jesus was born! Now, however, they tower over 300 feet tall. Many are over 360 feet tall and 20 feet in diameter!

Despite their enormous girth and height, their roots are remarkably shallow reaching only 6-12 feet deep into the soil. What holds these majestic specimens up in the harsh winds of the coastal climate? Two things. Their roots stretch out fifty feet in all directions to give them stability. And they grow together in groves so their roots intertwine and support each other.

I’ve always thought this was an incredible picture of what it means to be in unity as a body of Christian believers. We are stronger together when our “roots” are spread out and intertwined. We are stronger together when we are united and support each other.

There are many Bible verses that speak to the importance of unity among the body of believers.

For example:

King David wrote how good and pleasant it was to God for believers to dwell together in unity:

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

The apostle Paul wrote extensively on the subject of unity among believers. Writing to the Ephesians and referring to the church, Paul said there is one body united by one Holy Spirit:

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

Paul, again writing to the Ephesian believers compared the church to a body with every ligament supporting the rest:

“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16).

Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers stressing their need to put aside divisions among them, to be united in mind and thought.

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Writing to the Galatians, Paul taught we are all one in Christ. In the body of believers, there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, male and female, or slave and free. We are all one in Christ!

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

And finally, writing to the Colossians Paul exhorted them to let Christ rule in their hearts, united in one body of believers.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

These are just a handful of verses that deal with the subject of unity among Christian believers. There is little doubt that the Lord’s hope for us is that we, as a body of believers, will be united in our faith.

What concerns me is there is often more disunity among believers than there is unity. We argue over minor points of theology. We publically cast dispersions on other denominations because they hold to a different liturgy or sing different kinds of worship songs.

No wonder the outside world looks on Christians with confusion and downright skepticism!

I do not believe this is disunity and division among the body of believers is pleasing to the Lord. As a body, we should be like the giant redwood trees of northern California whose roots intertwine providing strength and unity to all.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. What is your view of unity in the body of Christians believers? Is it important?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

 

Category: Relationships | Interpersonal Relationships

 

#168: Why Are More Professional Relationships Crashing Every Day?

The state of our professional and personal relationships is in decline. And that has me worried.

Relationships Plane Crash

I see two factors contributing to the decline.

The first is technology. We have email, instant messenger, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and a host of other technologies that allow us to communicate without actually connecting.

The second cause is an outgrowth of the first, and that is the increasing trend to work remotely, away from the office. The 2010 American Cities Survey completed by the Census bureau states that just under 10 million workers work from home full-time and another 4 million work from home at least part-time. The total of 14 million people working at home is an increase of 35% over the prior decade. Imagine what the number is today, six years later!?

What is missing from relationships built on this technology is the depth that comes from actual contact with our fellow man. We check in with someone via a two-sentence email, an instant message or a Tweet, and then we are on to the next thing. We cannot establish a meaningful connection with anyone this way.

I liken this technologically driven relational contact to what pilots call a “touch and go.” Touch and goes are when you come in for a landing, the wheels touch the runway, then you power up and take off again.

Many of our relationships today are built on touch and goes. Email, instant messenger, Twitter and all the rest allow us to execute touch and goes. We can connect frequently and with ease and still not build a relationship.

Building Relationships

Real relationships, the kind that can stand the test of time, are built on solid a foundation. The foundation of strong relationships is on display throughout the Scripture. As Christians, we should set an example for everyone to see. Here are five ways we can build relationships on a solid foundation:

  • Love one another. Jesus, teaching the disciples said, Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
  • Encourage one another. Paul, writing to the Ephesians said, “No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
  • Respect one another. Peter, writing a series of instructions to believers living among Gentiles said, “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17).
  • Invest in one another. Paul writing to the Romans said, We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:6-8).
  • Pray for one another. Paul, this time writing to Timothy said, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone” (1 Timothy 2:1).

Let me be clear. I am not against the use of technology. I am, in fact, a closet geek. I use email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others. But here’s the thing. As great as these tools are, they are just tools. The communication they support is not a substitute for deep relationships built one-on-one, face-to-face.

So use the tools that are right for you, but remember too that God made us as relational beings. We need to be in relation with one another. We need to love one another, to encourage one another, to respect one another, to invest in one another, and to pray for one another. When we do these five things we will build strong relationships that will be a light to the world.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. What is your reaction to the premise that the use of technology is weakening our ability to build strong relationships?

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Category: Relationships | Interpersonal Relationships

#157: The Give and Take of Extraordinary Leaders

It’s not what you think

Extraordinary leaders come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common; they all understand the importance of give and take.

Give and Take Leaders

And by give and take, I am not talking about their ability to negotiate, or their ability to compromise!

No! I am talking about the ability to give credit and take responsibility!

Sadly, when I was a young leader in my early twenties, I was not very good at giving credit or taking responsibility.

If my team of salespeople did especially well in making a breakthrough sale, I made sure the boss knew their accomplishment was because of the superior training and leadership I had provided.

My team had an exceptional year and led the division in our most important sales metrics. When my boss and his boss asked what contributed to the success I talked at length about the training I had provided the team throughout the course of the year. Honestly, it never occurred to me to highlight the individual successes of my salespeople that contributed to our outstanding results.

If, on the other hand, one of my salespeople made a mistake that cost the company money I did my best to make sure the light of incompetency shined only on my employee.

We once had a particularly complicated promotion allowance. After carefully explaining how it worked, one of my sales representatives proceeded to misrepresent the offer to a number of customers. It cost the company several hundred dollars to make good on the sales rep’s mistake. I threw my sales rep squarely under the bus as I explained to my boss how the mistake was the sales rep’s alone. After all, the rest of the team got it right.

I am not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point after becoming a Christian, I recognized this propensity to take credit for other people’s work and avoid responsibility for failures wasn’t right. In fact, as a young Christian, I decided I would give other people credit whenever possible, and always take responsibility for issues within my team.

I started out small by encouraging my team members individually and privately. Then, as I saw how this built them up, I started publicizing their successes publically to other members of the team.  We were suddenly gaining significant traction as a group.

Next, I started telling my bosses how great my sales people were; how they had made great sales against all odds. And I left myself out of the story.

The first time something did go wrong, I stood quaking in front of my boss, and simply said, “I messed up, I’ll fix it.” I refused to throw anyone under the bus. To my great surprise (and relief) the boss just said, “Good. Take care of it.” I found taking responsibility was actually easier than trying to make up excuses to cover myself.

That year was a transformative year for me as a leader. I went from taking credit and avoiding responsibility, to giving credit and taking responsibility.

Giving credit became a bit of a game to me. I would spot someone doing something extraordinary and brag about them. Then I started sending emails to my bosses, as high up as I could reach in the corporate hierarchy, letting them know what great results someone had achieved.

I stepped up my game a little further by starting to brag about the results of people who didn’t even work for me. Anyone who I heard about doing something of note was fair game. I would fire off a memo to their bosses and bosses’ boss to let them know how much they contributed to the organization.

Now here’s the funny thing. I found two very important outcomes that derived from my new “giving credit” leadership philosophy:

  • The more bragging I did about others, the fewer things ever went wrong. I rarely had to stand in front of the boss and take responsibility for a project that went sideways because it almost never happened.
  • The more I gave credit to others, the more recognition I received from my bosses for being a good leader.

So in the end, the very thing I sought as a young leader; recognition and respect for my skills, was achieved not when I focused on myself, but when I focused on everyone else.

Paul had it right when he wrote to the Ephesians in 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked for leaders who gave credit and took responsibility? What was that like compared to those who took credit and avoided taking responsibility?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

Category: Relationships | Encouragement

 

 

#151: Me, Myself, and I, the Unholy Trinity of the Selfish Leader

There was a time in my early days as a leader when I thought quite highly of myself. I perceived myself as being smarter than most of my bosses, certainly smarter than my peers, and my employees, well they were downright lucky to have me as their boss!

Selfish Leader

Looking back, I believe my leadership style came from a confluence of my own insecurities and the command and control style of leadership exhibited by the post WWII leaders I worked for.

What that means is I did everything I could to hide my own insecurities behind a wall of bravado. It means that everything I said and did as a leader was designed selfishly to advance the cause of me, myself, and I.

Thankfully for me (and everyone in our organization), I became a Christian, and God started working on me right away. I soon realized the kind of leader I was, was not the kind of leader I wanted to be.

I’d like to say my transition was like a larva in its cocoon that metamorphosed into a beautiful butterfly. But it wasn’t. It was more like I was this huge piece of stone that God had to hammer away at, until He got something that He could use.

Because of my history, I can spot selfish leaders from a mile away. Check this list of seven characteristics. If someone has three or four of these characteristics, they are well on their way to being a selfish leader:

1) Rejects counsel and advice from others.

The selfish leader believes he/she is the smartest person in the room, and there is little to be gained from listening to the wisdom of others. Even if someone else has a good idea the selfish leader will reject it because it isn’t theirs.

Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, rejected the counsel of his father’s advisors. Instead he listened to his young friends who told him what he wanted to hear, and the result was rebellion in the kingdom and war. (1 Kings 12)

2) Makes unrealistic demands on others.

The selfish leader will make unrealistic demands on others in an effort to further their own agenda.

Solomon had taxed the people heavily to pay for his own luxurious lifestyle and all his building projects. Rehoboam, promised the people rather than lighten their load he would lay an even heavier burden on the people. (1 Kings 12)

3) Threatens drastic punishment for failing to meet demands.

The selfish leader is not afraid to beat people into submission. They will cajole, humiliate, threaten, and if needed, make an example of one to “motivate” others.

When Rehoboam announced his new “I’ll tax you more than ever” plan he followed up with a threat saying, if you thought my father was hard on you when he whipped you, wait till I get ahold of you! (1 Kings 12)

4) Refuse to help others. The selfish leader isn’t about to help others unless there is something in it for them.

Nabal was a very wealthy man. David and his men had protected Nabal’s servants and his flocks from robbers and nothing had been lost while David gave them protection. When David and his men needed some food and water they asked Nabal and he refused to help them. (1 Samuel 25)

5) Makes rash pronouncements.

The selfish leader is all about grandiose gestures, promises, and proclamations. It’s all about making him look bigger than life.

Jephthah returned victorious from battle and announced that whatever came out of his door to greet him he would kill as an offering to the Lord. Who should emerge to greet him but his virgin daughter! (Judges 11)

6) Obsessive Paranoia.

The selfish leader is often paranoid that someone will discover their incompetence. When that paranoia becomes fixated on a single individual or group they seek the destruction of their “enemy.”

Saul was just such a king. He was paranoid that David was about to take away his kingdom and he became so fixated on David that his risked the kingdom in an attempt to kill David. (1 Samuel 22)

7) Rejects God’s direction.

The selfish leader doesn’t just think he knows better than his contemporaries. He or she is also able to rationalize their decisions as being better for them than following God’s direction.

Jonah was a prophet of God. But when it came to delivering the message of repentance to the Ninevites, Jonah rejected God’s call, and ran the other direction. We all know how that worked out! (Jonah 1)

Truth be told I still struggle with being a selfish leader sometimes. But when that happens God gets out his big hammer and chisel, and starts hammering away on me. He’s trying to make me more like Jesus.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked for or with a selfish leader? How did it affect you? The organization?

 

Category: Relationships | Interpersonal Relationships

#147: Is Being a Servant Leader Really a Good Thing?

There’s been a lot of talk of talk the past few years about the importance of being a servant leader in business. In my experience most of the time it’s just talk. It sounds good to be called a servant leader. It strokes our frail little egos if we can convince ourselves that we are servant leaders.

Jesus Servant Leader

But the cold-hard truth is being a real servant leader is hard, and it requires more dedication, trust, and work than most people are willing to put forth.

The Servant Leader

The priority of the servant leader is to equip, enable, and encourage their subordinates to live up to their full potential.

Servant leaders combine a desire to serve others with a steadfast commitment to lead. They are often described as being visionaries, empowering, relational, trustworthy, and humble.

Examples of Servant Leaders

There are many servant leaders in the Bible. I’ve selected just four examples to share today:

  • Abram (Abraham) led his men to victory in battle. He refused to take any spoils for himself, but allowed the men who joined him in the battle to take their share of the spoils. Abram cared more about the men who risked their lives in battle than he cared about enriching himself. (Genesis 14:21-24)
  • David cared for Mephibosheth. King David, out of loyalty to his friend Jonathan, son of Saul, took in Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth. David restored Mephibosheth all the property and possessions that had belonged to Saul. David served Mephibosheth out of love and loyalty to Jonathan. (2 Samuel 9:1-13)
  • Mordecai worked to save the entire Jewish population. Not concerned for his own safety and security, Mordecai enabled Esther to confront King Ahasuerus with Haman’s evil plan to annihilate the Jews. The plan was foiled and Mordecai, along with Esther, ended up saving the entire Jewish people. (Esther 9:1-10:3)
  • Jesus washed the disciple’s feet. Foot washing was the job of a household servant, but Jesus washed the disciple’s feet as an example of what it meant to be a true servant leader. Jesus turned the world’s values upside down: The Son of God, lived and died serving others. (John 13:14-15)

Disadvantage of Servant Leadership

The primary disadvantage of adopting a servant leadership philosophy is it is a long-term strategy. It takes time to establish the levels of trust, employee engagement, loyalty, etc. that positively impact results.

Leaders who naturally operate out of an autocratic style of leadership often do not have the courage to release authority and trust subordinates. They don’t have the patience for a long-term leadership style like servant leadership. They want results now and they want it done their way!

Advantages of Being a Servant Leader

There are many advantages to being a servant leader, but here are five that I think are most important:

  • Servant leadership maximizes the career development of employees.
  • Servant leadership leads to high levels of employee loyalty. Turnover is reduced.
  • Servant leadership builds trust within an organization which leads to high levels of employee engagement.
  • Servant leadership leads to high levels of customer service and customer loyalty.
  • Servant leadership has the power to impact society in a positive way.

Of all the advantages of servant leadership it is this last one; the potential to impact society in a positive way, that makes servant leadership worth all the effort, and counters all the potential disadvantages.

Join the Conversation

Have you worked for servant leaders in the past? How does that compare to non-servant leaders you know? Do you think being a servant leader can be an effective leadership philosophy in today’s business world?

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Category: Relationships | Servant Leadership

#146: There are only Two Kinds of Leaders

There are only two kinds of leaders.

Leaders

There are those who view their leadership position as an opportunity to take as much as they possible can from the organization. I call them the takers.

The other kind of leader views their leadership position as an opportunity to give to the organization. I call them the givers.

Givers and Takers. As a leader it all boils down to, are you a giver or a taker?

The takers take things like the big office, the title, the salary, and the extra perks. They believe organization owes them these things because of who they are.

The givers look to see what they can give to the organization. They look for ways to serve the organization. They care less about themselves and more about the organization.

On the very top of my takers list of Biblical leaders are Judas and Herod the Great.

Taker: Judas

Judas was an apostle of Jesus. He was called to be one of the top 12 leaders to take the Gospel to the world. But what was he worried about? Judas was stealing some money out of the money bag when he saw fit, and then complaining when a woman anointed the Lord with perfume.

He hoped Jesus would crush the Romans, and establish Himself as king. Then, being in the inner circle, he would score a nice plush job, with a big office in the temple. Knowing his fondness for money he probably had his eye on the job of Secretary of the Treasury. He was in it for what he could get; money, power, and position.

Taker: Herod the Great

It is said that it was safer to be a dog in Herod’s palace than one of his family members. Herod had most of his wives and even his own children killed because he saw them as questioning his authority or a threat to his rule. Of course Herod was also the king who heard about a baby born in Bethlehem who would be king, so he ordered all the babies in Bethlehem under two years old killed. Herod loved to tax the Jewish people to fund his lifestyle and his personal building projects. All Herod wanted to do was hang on to the money, power, and position he already had.

There are quite a few Biblical leaders who were givers. Aside from the obvious choice of Jesus, one of my top picks for a giving leader is Barnabas.

Giver: Barnabas

Barnabas was a Levite from the island of Cyprus who converted to Christianity early on. Barnabas’ first act of service to the young Christian church was when he sold some land he had and gave the entire amount to the apostles to distribute as they saw fit.

Later, when a new convert to Christianity named Paul wanted to work with the disciples in Jerusalem, it was Barnabas who stood up for Paul, introducing him to the disciples, and vouching for him.

Barnabas saw a need and helped to meet the need out of his own resources.

He saw a young man named Paul and believed in him. He helped Paul establish himself as a preacher of the Gospel.

Some time later Paul and Barnabas were working hard in the mission field with a young man named Mark. Mark was younger and less experienced. Rather than continuing on with Paul, the star of the mission field, Barnabas took Mark under his wing and mentored him.

Barnabas saw something special in Paul and Mark. He cared not for his own status, but was a giver who was only concerned with doing everything he could to further the Christian church.

The End Result is Relationships

The kind of leader you are, whether a giver or taker, will have a bearing on the kind of relationships you build with those you lead.

Judas sold out the movement and ended up killing himself all because he didn’t get what he wanted.

Herod ruled through fear and intimidation. Paranoia was the guiding light to his leadership style.

Barnabas, on the other hand, was a generous and supportive leader. He was not afraid to stand up for what he thought was right. He cared little for his own position and more about equipping the fledgling organization to take the Gospel to the world. Barnabas’ name means “Son of Encouragement” and it is easy to see why.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. What kind of a leader are you? Are you a giver or a taker? What kind of leaders have you worked for – givers or takers? Which did you want to work for?

 

Category: Relationship | Servant Leadership