Archives For February 2012

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” ~ C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Most of us have constructed in our hearts some kind of personal contract with God–an agreement, of which we are barely conscious, that restricts what God will or won’t do in response to our efforts to follow his ways.

For Christian leaders, this contract often includes agreements like these:

  • If I do what You say, my church or organization will grow in numbers.
  • If I follow Your lead, my sphere of influence will get bigger.
  • If I do what You say, I will be safe, my family will be safe, and we won’t suffer much.
  • If I follow Your lead, the path will generally make sense to me and lead to the kind of success I envision.

And so on. But the problem, which every Christian leader has to face up to sooner or later, is that God never signed that contract. He often works in ways that can seem counterintuitive, nonsensical, and even dangerous to us. Scripture is full of examples of this, though we tend to not really see them. So here are a few examples of ways God may bust up your paradigm:

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For most leaders, failure is the enemy. A failed program, a failed public event, a failed critical relationship, a failed (or falling) attendance record–we abhor them all. To fail means something has gone wrong. It activates all kinds of alarm bells inside us, complete with spotlights and guard dogs dispatched to sniff out the flaw:

  • Is God not pleased with me?
  • Is there sin in the camp?
  • Are we missing God’s will? Did we mishear him?
  • Is it the enemy’s fault?
  • Am I a bad leader?
  • Is my team to blame? Did they drop the ball somewhere?

For many leaders, failure (however they define it for their specific situation) is the one great Intolerable Outcome that they’ll do anything to avoid. After all, if they fail, might that mean that God didn’t choose them after all…that they’ve been mishearing God all this time? (That is many leaders worst secret fear).

But great leaders don’t fear failure. They include it as a normal facet of what great leadership creates. In fact, some of them even celebrate it. Here are just a few reasons why.

Great leaders know that…

  • Failure is essential to growth. As anyone who’s been to a gym will tell you, your body doesn’t grow stronger or healthier unless you regularly, systematically push it to failure. The same is true for the spiritual Body we call the Church.
  • The freedom to fail without punishment is essential to creativity. You (and your team) can never be truly creative or bold unless you are given the freedom to fail spectacularly. Ever wonder why the Church so rarely leads the culture in innovation or the arts? This is a big reason why. We don’t take truly bold creative risks because we erroneously believe that failure equals missing God’s will. But what if the process of failure and learning is actually central to God’s will?
  • Failure is not final. It’s a surprise bend in the road. Every good story has them. Great leaders know that living a great story is more desirable than always getting everything right.
  • Failure is not a sign of God’s disapproval. It’s a normal, healthy part of any process of discovery. And if the Church isn’t in a process of discovery, then it isn’t really growing at all.
  • Failure is an unavoidable tool God uses to shape leaders. There is not a single leader God has ever called who has not had to grow through significant failure in order to become all God intended. Great leaders know this fact, and have stopped resisting it. Consider this:

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” ~
Denis Waitley

What is your relationship with failure? Do you abhor it? tolerate it? deny it? try to hold it at bay? What if you actually celebrated it as an essential aspect of growth? What would that open up for you and your leadership?

Destiny Project Women

February 25, 2012 — Leave A Comment

“The gift of presence is a rare and beautiful gift. To come unguarded, undistracted, and be fully present and fully engaged with the one whom we are with. Have you noticed in reading the Gospels that people enjoyed being around Jesus? They wanted to be near him – to share a meal, take a walk, have a lingering conversation. It was the gift of his presence. When you were with him, you felt he was offering you his heart. When we offer our unguarded presence, we live like Jesus. And we invite others to do the same.” ~ Stasi & John Eldredge (from Captivating)

Fifteen women recently gathered to experience a Destiny Project Retreat along the banks of the Guadalupe River in the Central Texas Hill Country. Here’s what they had to say about it:

“Don’t let fear, anxiety or anything else keep you from this weekend if you feel God calling your heart. He showed up for me in amazing, beautiful and unexpected ways, even though I came doubting I’d even catch a glimpse of Him.” ~ Heather

“Destiny Project is a great process for getting more in tune with who God created you to be and His vision for your life.” ~ Jessica

“Time with these sisters spent avidly pursuing deeper relationship with God and each other was such a gift in itself. I know myself in ways I could not have expected without taking the step of faith to join them.”> ~ Renee

“The Destiny Project has given me a beautiful gift of being seen and known by other women. This gift is precious and something I will carry with me always.” ~ Brandie

“This is a unique process that allows each member to benefit from the combined strength and love of the entire group. I feel encouraged, and strengthened with specific steps to take to live my life in a more God-honoring way.” ~ Jayne

“This unique experience combined all aspects of my life that I wanted to touch but couldn’t get there on my own. Whether you have no expectations, high or low expectations, you will be surprised!”~ Lucy

New Destiny Project Retreats are being scheduled all the time. Just click here to join our mailing list, and we’ll let you know when and where the next one will be held.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~ Mary Oliver

Want to know the #1 reason leaders hire a coach?

I’d love to say it’s because they want to maximize their potential. They want to dream bigger, and become more fully the person and the leader that God has called them to be. They want to get free of longstanding struggles and maximize their impact and effectiveness as a leader, and they recognize the value of partnering with a skilled ally to help them achieve that goal.

But that’s not usually why they come.

Most often, the reason leaders hire a coach is because “it’s not working anymore.”

Whatever they’ve been doing, however they’ve been leading, whatever has worked like gangbusters in the past, it’s hit some kind of impenetrable wall. It’s suddenly producing negative returns, either internally or externally, or (more often) both. It’s painful. And, having already tried everything they know to “fix it,” they turn to coaching.

And can you guess the most common reason why “it’s not working anymore”? Blind spots. Lack of self-awareness. Every leader has a shadow side…a broken, disowned part that is driven by fear and ego. And for many, this “false self” has been driving their leadership from the beginning, like a computer virus quietly infecting an otherwise powerful software program. And the effects are finally beginning to show.

“This unconscious striving is very dangerous for us and for those around us; it will eventually burn us out since there is no amount of achievement that will ultimately satisfy the emptiness of the human soul. And the people we work with will eventually notice that they are mere cogs in the wheel of our own ego-driven plans.” ~ Ruth Haley Barton

The regular practice of deepening self-awareness and self-knowledge is a critical skill many leaders overlook ~ to their own hurt and the hurt of those they mean to serve. But for those who are willing, the practice unlocks your leadership in a way few things can.

So how do you develop the skill of self-awareness? Here are 7 tips I often suggest to my clients:

  • Take at least one full day for solitude every month. Prepare a list of questions ahead of time. Questions for yourself, and questions for God. Spend the day unplugged from technology and pray as you journal through your questions one by one.
  • Practice the Daily Examen. Here’s a link to several forms of the Examen you can try for yourself.
  • Partner with a Spiritual Director. Engage with him or her before, during and after your solitude days, and as a cornerstone of your personal and spiritual growth. Here’s one I recommend.
  • Form a “spiritual running partner” triad. Invite two other trusted, mature souls into the inner circle of your life. Meet regularly. Make it priority. Share everything, including things you don’t share with anyone else. And invite them to regularly hold up a mirror to reveal your blind spots and challenge you to stretch beyond your comfort zone.
  • Spend daily time with God that is NOT connected to your work life. Personal stuff only. Avoid having only a “working relationship” with God.
  • Read books that stretch you to grow in self-awareness. Two I would suggest are Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and Practicing Greatness.
  • Partner with a trained and certified Leadership Coach. I offer a Leadership Circle Profile that goes right to heart of revealing leadership blind spots and charting a course to overcome them. (Once you click the link, just scroll down the page a bit to see the description.)

What other regular practices would you add to the list?

Leading from Humility

February 25, 2012 — Leave A Comment

“You see, when there is danger, a good leader takes the front line. But when there is celebration, a good leader stays in the back room. If you want the cooperation of human beings around you, make them feel that they are important. And you do that by being humble.” ~ Nelson Mandela

Leaders, here’s a quick gut check:

  • Where do you need to step into the line of fire and confront a danger facing your people?
  • Where do you need to step into the shadows and let other people shine?
  • How can you help someone else feel important today?
  • How else might you develop greater humility in your leadership this week?

Lead strong. Live free.

Leading From Grace

February 25, 2012 — Leave A Comment

“Grace, she takes the blame, she covers the shame, removes the stain.” ~ U2

Many Christian leaders I work with often get confused around the issue of grace. We all want to be “grace-filled” leaders. Of course! It’s a high value for any leader in a church or faith-based organization. But what does it mean to be a grace-filled leader–really? And how do you extend grace to the people on your staff and still hold them to a high standard of performance in their jobs? Doesn’t grace mean you just keep taking it when people perform poorly or behave badly? You “extend grace,” right? You hope they’ll be different next time.

Let me offer another perspective.

Grace is not leniency.

Grace is power–Divine power–to become the whole person God created you to be (Acts 4:33; 2 Corinthians 12:9). To receive grace means to be empowered. Grace gives us power to choose differently. Power to change. Power to become something more than we have been. Power to actually be the wholehearted person God dreamed of from the beginning.

Yes, grace includes compassionate acceptance of where we are today. No judgment. No condemnation. This is essential to grace. Without this, no real change can happen.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” ~ Carl Rogers

But grace is also the courageous, tenacious belief in the best version of who God created you to be. It is the refusal to let those you lead live beneath the vision of God’s highest dream for their lives. It is taking a stand for another person’s God-inspired destiny.

Grace is a kind of calling forth.

To lead from grace does not mean giving someone a “pass.” It means holding them to the highest vision of who they are in Christ in an atmosphere of full, compassionate acceptance of who they are right now.

Leading from grace is a bold, radical act. It takes practice. It takes courage.

And it is the power that changes the world.

What does it mean for you to “lead from grace”? How are you “leading from grace” with your people right now? How might you do it even more?