Leadership: Your interactions today will be the topic at dinner tonight

As a leader, you must have the self awareness to understand that every interaction you have with your team today will have an impact. Like waves that radiate from a stone thrown into a tranquil pond of water, your interaction will wash into the lives of the families and friends of your team.

Have you heard the name Stephanie Louise Kwolek? Probably not.

Kwolek was a Polish-American chemist who worked at DuPont for nearly 40 years. In 1965, she invented one of the most significant materials in modern times. This material has saved millions of lives.

Five times stronger than steel. Kevlar is an unbelievably durable material. It’s mainly known for use in “bullet-proof vests.” But, Kevlar can withstand 500 °F for seventy hours. It holds up in −320.8 °F cold.

“Kevlar is used as a material in more than 200 applications, including tennis rackets, skis, parachute lines, boats, airplanes, ropes, cables, and bullet-proof vests. It has been used for car tires, fire fighter boots, hockey sticks, cut-resistant gloves and armored cars. It has also been used for protective building materials like bomb-proof materials, hurricane safe rooms, and bridge reinforcements. During the week of Kwolek’s death, the one millionth bullet-resistant vest made with Kevlar was sold. Kevlar is also used to build cellular telephones; [Wikipedia]

At nearly 48 years old, I’ve been in the trenches and learned so much about relationships – often times the hard way.

In leadership roles, I’ve failed more times than I’ve succeeded. My failure file is much larger than my success file.

When asked about all the failures he experienced attempting to invent the first lightbulb, Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” In other words, Edison saw failures as vital steps toward success. I imagine Stephanie Kwolek failed a few times as well on her journey to create Kevlar.

Today, I see my failures at creating durable relationships as steps toward success. While I’m still a work in progress, I’ve at least made progress at becoming a bit better leader than I was yesterday (I hope).

As I see it, every interaction I have with someone adds credit to a relationship account. Every time I open up and allow the team into my life to see the good and bad, more credit is added to that account. Every time I can own a mistake or ask for forgiveness for doing something wrong, more credit. Every time I can celebrate with a teammate, credit. Every time, I can come along side and help them through a tough time, credit. Every time I pray with and for my teammates, credit. Every time I invest even a moment acknowledging their contribution to the mission and vision, credit is put in that relationship’s account.

My cup runneth over!

This is not about some flimsy transactional relationship model. I use the word ‘credit’ because that’s the best way I can think of to describe how to build and cultivate deep relationships on a team.

Perhaps, I’m trying to be like Stephanie Kwolek, I want to create the most durable fabric possible within the culture of my team. I don’t want to create cheap thin polyester fabric, I want Kevlar relationships – bullet-proof relationships with a lot of grace and dynamism.

Your interactions today will be the topic of conversation around the dinner table tonight.

As a leader, you must have the self awareness to understand that every interaction you have with your team today will have an impact. Like waves that radiate from a stone thrown into a tranquil pond of water, your interaction will wash into the lives of the families and friends of your team.

If you stop and think about it, as a leader, you have the power to shape the conversations long after the work day is over.

If you have such significant influence in someone’s life, don’t you think it’s important to understand the consequences of every single interaction with your team whether its verbal or non-verbal? It’s a relational stewardship – a huge responsibility.

How was your day?

Imagine someone on your team whom you lead going home after a hard day at work and sitting down at the dinner table with his or her spouse and children. Perhaps, the spouse asks, “How was your day?” The children pause eating and cast their gaze exhausted parent.

This is where your earlier interaction has the power to shape the entire evening of that family.

What if your team member responded with a description of how you ignored her or berated her over a mistake, or lost your temper, or didn’t listen, or made them feel like a cog in a wheel, or didn’t communicate something important, or allowed conflict to fester within the team?

What a sad story to tell at the dinner table, right?

That story will have a ripple effect beyond dinner. The children sharing their winning goal at the soccer game, or good grade on a math test matter very little when their father or mother is demoralized and feels unloved or unseen by their leader.

On the other hand… What if that person on your team responded to the question, “How was your day?” differently.

What if, their eyes lit up, a huge smile crossed their face, and a tear of joy moistened the corner of their eye as they excitedly shared what their leader said to them today? They tell the family how you (the leader) stopped by and took time to remind them they are important to the organization. How you said, that the project you’ve been working on for weeks matters, despite the challenges. How you thanked them for their hard work and grace with you as the leader. How you asked about their family or prayed for them on the spot!

Perhaps, you as the leader asked for forgiveness for being short or owned a mistake? Maybe, they tell the story of how you recognized their contribution or comforted them or asked for advice on an important project. What if it all you did was simply give your team member a big smile, a nod of approval, and wink of the eye just to acknowledge their contribution or a job well done?

That interaction will not only place more credit in your account, it will strengthen the relational fabric of the team – making it more bullet-proof and fire-resistant.

Most importantly, your interactions with your team today will be the topic of conversation around the dinner table tonight – and beyond.

What is the story you want told tonight?

Not a story all about you, but about how you made someone feel significant, appreciated, cared for, valued, and connected to something bigger than themselves.

That should be the story every leader should want told about them around the dinner table tonight.

So, why don’t you create that story when you go to work today? Don’t just pass by your team members without being aware that you have the privilege of shaping their story.

What that story will be is up to you. Make it a good one.

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”
– Proverbs 22:1

Special Thanks to my mentor and coach, General David Warner (Ret.) for making me aware how my attitude and actions impact the people around me. It makes me want to be a better leader, a leader who leads like Christ.

Escapism vs. Reality – Comfort vs. Growth

The comfort zone is the enemy of growth. The butterfly can fly because she built the necessary strength by breaking though her cocoon.

Nothing is more thrilling than reality.

That includes experiencing pain and discomfort. Human beings don’t grow by pursuing pleasure and comfort. Humans grow strong and resilient in the soils of pain and discomfort. In order to recover what it means to be human, we must ground our experience in reality as it is. In the midst of everyday life, we can explore that which is good, true and beautiful.

Real reality is far richer and meaningful than anything man can contrive. Therefore, escapism in all its various forms is our attempt to safely reside within our comfort zones to avoid reality.

The comfort zone is the enemy of growth.
Only when we push outside our little cocoons do we experience growth and a fuller vision of life and reality as God created it.

Meaning in life is found in travails and pain, not comfort and pleasure. An eagle’s muscular strength to soar through the heavens began with the struggle of breaking through the shell of safety and comfort of his egg. The butterfly can fly because she built the necessary strength by breaking though her cocoon.

Humans can’t grow or gain anything valuable in life by attempting to escape. Reality is far more fulfilling, meaningful and deep when we embrace the reality of life as God intended it to be.

Only then, can we understand that ultimate reality is eternal reality in knowing Him.

You can try to fool yourself by pitting escapism against reality, but you will discover reality will win every time. So get comfortable being uncomfortable outside your comfort zone. That’s where the growth and joy are to be found.

Human Trafficking Awareness 2022

In 2016 I learned that children in my community were being bought and sold for sex, and women (and men) were being exploited. Since then, I have joined an ever-growing community of folks who are combatting the problem on every level possible.

I had the privilege of joining our wonderful law enforcement leaders, our mayor and great nonprofit leaders at our annual 5 Stones Anti-trafficking Taskforce press conference. The purpose of the press conference is to launch our Trafficking Starts Here (#TraffickingStartsHere) billboard and media campaign in North Texas.

The Lord gave us a vision in 2018 and that vision is a reality that is spreading across the country. Communities are forming taskforce groups and running their own campaigns.

What is missing?

You!

Join us or launch something in your community.

Below are photos from the 5 Stones Taskforce press conference and links to posts I’ve written about my experiences domestically and in Iraq.

Photos from the Jan. 11, 2022 Press Conference

For Such A Time As This

“Trying Times call for tough leaders. In God’s providence, you and I were put in this moment in time and this place to live for him.”

Don’t miss the moment. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.

You are called to a Savior, a Kingdom, and a moment. What are you going to do in this moment?

For such a moment, you must lead. And lead you must. Nowhere in the Bible is cowardice or apathy rewarded. In fact, cowardice is punished (Numbers 14). Moral courage is always rewarded and blessed. Standing up for righteousness is an act of obedience.

We must recover and embrace God’s definition of ‘leadership.’

“Biblically, leadership is not someone at the top or someone out front. (A leader) is a person who takes the initiative and takes responsibility for either the opportunity or the crisis right in front of them…. That is what we must recover.”
– Os Guiness

Trying times call for tough leaders. In God’s providence, you and I were put in this moment in time and this place to live for Him. For God’s sake lead! Whether it is your family, your community, your workplace, or your church, you are called to take initiative and responsibility for the opportunity or crisis you are facing right now. If God placed the crisis or opportunity in front of you, don’t be fearful – Be faithful!

“It is going to take an enormous amount of biblical commitment, theological clarity, and individual and congregational courage to stand against the tide of the moral and ideological revolution of the culture.”
– Albert Mohler

Do not miss the moment. It has arrived.

The question is, “What are you going to do in the moment?

Reflect and meditate on the following scriptures that will challenge, equip and encourage you to lead!

“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation….” Acts 13:36

“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14b

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…” Acts 17:26

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son…” Galatians 4:4a

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

“Those who know God’s plans are responsible to live courageously for Him.” – Dr. Bill Egner

Calling the Church to Courage

Christian courage emanates from the heart of Christ who faced the cross for our sakes and His Glory. As long as we have breath in our lungs, we must continue to call the church to courage.

Fear of anything but God is sinful unbelief. “Fear naturally produces cowardice in people… wherever it (fear) prevails, it extinguishes Christian courage and strength.” – John Flavel

As I wrote in December of last year in a post entitled “Deposing the Tyranny of Fear“, fear is a tyrant – a slave-driver’s whip that drives men into traps and bondage. A spirit of fear has enveloped the world (including the church). The church has been slow to awaken to this reality. We are witnessing a growing number pastors and church leaders stand up. But, we must continue to exhort and call the church to courage.

Sirens from the Spirit of the Age have bewitched and lured the captains of the Church into their snares with their beautiful songs. The mighty ships of Christ’s Church have sailed dangerously close to the rocky shores where the Siren’s call. The irresistible melody makes the Christian forget his first love (Christ) and fall in love with the Spirit of the Age (the world). Only when his ship sweeps close to the rocks and his eyes see the terror, will he awaken to his folly. But, fear grips him. Is it too late?

By no means! As long as breath reaches our lungs, we call the church to courage. And this is not just calling to the captains, our dear pastors at the helm. We call each other to greater courage. In order to break through the fog and run-through the spirit of fear with the sword of the spirit, it will require ‘all hands on deck.’ The Church is one body with many parts. Therefore, it will take the full force of the saints in one accord to crush the spirit of fear with robust biblical faith!

If our souls are committed to the care of God, then Christians laugh at threats, cruelties and the spirit of fear and only grows more resolute by them (to paraphrase a witness of the torture of Marcus, bishop of Arethusa).

The Puritan, John Flavel reminds us that over the centuries, “Christians have put their enemies to shame by smiling at their cruelties and threatenings… (this courage is not particular to an age long past) but the same spirit of courage is found among Christians in all ages.” That means, today! S.M. Huchens diagnoses our malady of timidity;

“But the world has turned and a new age is upon us. Anyone who is paying attention to its movements knows that Christians are going to have to decide to think and act like Christians or not—to cause offense by it or not—and to pay what it costs.

 

It is time for those who are called to be pastors in the Church of the next age (for God will not stop calling them) to gird up their loins and put an end to the cowardly dalliances of so many of their predecessors in my generation and the one preceding it, owning the Christian faith to be what it is and no longer advancing the bastard offspring of the Spirit of this Age and those who are afraid to trust God by doing battle with it. The seminaries are by and large emasculating theaters full of large smiles and hollow chests, and there is a terrible dearth of orthodox, learned, and courageous shepherds—men who carry and know how to wield their staffs—but there seems to be no lack of hirelings who run when the wolves appear, making wolf-noises as they leave their flocks in the twilight.

 

Nor do I see how the fight can be fought apart from a new asceticism among all believers, which needs to be intelligently planned—something like what Rod Dreher calls for in The Benedict Option. Not many of the churches of any denomination, as currently constituted, full of the spreading rot, unwilling or unable to fight it, can be expected to cooperate, nor can they be expected as a matter of course to give livings to ministers of a boldly scriptural faith in the face of its enemies. But there are still brethren in the weak and fallen churches—even those that have a name for “orthodoxy,” and ways must be found to not abandon them, but feed and strengthen them for the Last Days.”
S. M. Hutchens

Remember, sinful fear is rooted in unbelief. The remedy is faith and fear of the Lord. “To the extent that our souls are empty of faith, they are filled with fear… The weaker the faith, the greater the fear; unbelief generates fear and fear strengthens unbelief.” – John Flavel

Fear is not the fruit of the spirit.

Christian courage emanates from the heart of Christ who faced the cross for our sake and His Glory.

We dare not fear the death he died for us. Otherwise, the cross is emptied of its power. We dare not commit the sin of fear that drove Adam and Eve into the shrubs of shame. Either we accept Christ’s words as true, “Fear not, for I am with you (until the end of the age)” or we trade the truth for a lie and worship the creature over the Creator. Remember, we worship what we fear. We should fear God only and take courage. Faithful courage in the face of fear glorifies God and courage is contagious!

God Commands and Commends Courage

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

1 Corinthians 16:13
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

Proverbs 28:1
The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

Psalm 27:14
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18

How can you call your fellow Christians to courage today?

How The Mighty Fall – A Primer for Successful Leadership

“Every institution, no matter how great, is vulnerable to decline.” – Jim Collins
As leaders of families, teams, companies, platoons, churches or any organization, learning what NOT to do is just as important as learning what to do.

“Every institution, no matter how great, is vulnerable to decline”

– Jim Collins

In 2009, Dave Ramsey and his team gifted me with a small library of leadership books. One stood out from the rest. If you walk into my home office or my office at the church or search my backpack, there is a high probability you’ll find a Bible and this one small book.

Fast forward to 2016.

I was in a conference room in Dallas with Dave Ramsey, Patrick Lencioni, Seth Godin, George W. Bush, and Jim Collins. I put a question to Jim Collins (bestselling author and speaker). “Jim, what is the best book you have written to date?” I fully expected him to reply, “Built to Last” or “Good to Great.” Both are excellent books. However, I was surprised by his answer. He replied without hesitation, “The best book I’ve written is a little book entitled “How the Mighty Fall” (2009).” Jim went on to explain that if we don’t know why and how great organizations fall, we won’t know how to make a good organization into a great organization.

As leaders of families, teams, companies, platoons, churches or any organization, learning what NOT to do is just as important as learning what to do.

Failure as a Favorite Teacher
I have a long list of failures and mistakes I’ve made in business, ministry and leadership. I call them my “playbook of what NOT to do’s.” I joke with people and say, “If you learn from all of MY mistakes and failures, you will be successful!” Failure is a better teacher than success. Just as pain is a better teacher than pleasure.

“How The Mighty Fall and Why Some Companies Never Give In” is a primer to understanding how to be a good leader of any group of people, whether a Fortune 100 Company or your family. Even when we read our Bibles, it is replete with stories of failure. Each with its own lesson to teach us in our own historical moment.
Click on chart images in this post to open in a new window and enlarge and/or download if you wish.

Pride (hubris) always marks the beginning of the fall
Proverbs 16:18 clearly states, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” This is true of individuals and organizations. Arrogance in the face of problems is incapable of seeing them in the first place. Pride blinds us to the truth. Past success does not promise future success. Failure to cultivate and renew the soils of traditions, values and competencies that led to initial success will create conditions for failure. When leaders replace “why” with “what” questions, they miss the opportunity for deeper reflection and basic understanding of why the organization was successful in the first place.

Most important of all is what Collins calls a “decline in learning orientation.”

Leaders lose the inquisitiveness and learning orientation that mark those truly great individuals who, no matter how successful they become, maintain a learning curve as steep as when they first began their careers.” (Jim Collins, p. 43).

I would add that leaders must “read widely”, not just sticking to their side on a topic or their area of expertise. Read to understand counter or competing positions. Read and learn outside your career domain. When we are lifelong learners, we understand that we never completely arrive. The more we learn the more we understand our own inadequacies and limitations – allowing humility to invade our lives.

Are you on your way up or on your way down? The dynamics of Leadership-Team bahavior chart below is a helpful tool for determining where you are headed.

In conclusion, understanding a situation is a precondition to responding appropriately to a situation. As a leader, if you misdiagnose a problem, the solutions you create will harm the organization you are leading. The Bible tells us to “know the state of our flocks.” (Proverbs 27:23)

“Every institution, no matter how great, is vulnerable to decline… By understanding the stages of decline, leaders can substantially reduce their chances of falling all the way to the bottom.” – Jim Collins

Every once in a while, I put “How the Mighty Fall” back on my bookshelf. Somehow, it makes its way back on my desk or in my backpack. I’m thankful Jim Collins wrote this little book.

Here is a link to a summary by Jim Collins….

*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.