Signs Your Church, Ministry, or Business May Be Failing (Part 1)

We can be competent, highly-skilled, educated, passionate, and have a winsome personality, but if we lack humility, those other things don’t matter. Humility is the key to recognizing and avoiding failure in order to achieve success.

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

Success or failure of any organization begins at the top with those responsible for leading and stewarding the organization.

Whether you are a self-employed plumber, the CEO of a Fortune 100 company with 35,000 employees or a pastor of a 15,000 member church – it all begins with the leader.

Ultimately, the foundation of good leadership is not competence, skill, passion, or personality – its humility. We can obtain advanced degrees from the best institutions on the planet. We can be competent, highly-skilled, passionate, and have a winsome personality, but if we lack humility, those other things don’t matter. As leaders, we must relentlessly cultivate humility. It requires humility to recognize signs of decline in order to avoid it. Lasting success requires humility as well.

In Part 1, we will dive into signs your church, ministry, or business might be headed into decline. Essentially, we are attempting to accurately diagnose the problem. In Part 2, we’ll discuss how decline relates to you (and me) as an individual leader and what you can do to avoid it. Here, we are attempting to provide a cure or solution for the problem. 

Disclaimer (because everybody needs one): I have been in various leadership positions since I was in high school. I have worked for myself. I have worked in the C-suites. I have owned companies. I have led ministries. In my lifetime, I have made massive, sometimes heart-breaking mistakes. In fact, I could write volumes about my failures and mistakes and a short pamphlet of my successes. So, when it comes to failure, (please believe me when I say) I know what I’m talking about. I’ve failed a lot. But, I try to learn from my failures and make things right.

What are the signs your church, ministry, or business may be failing?

Jim Collins’ book, “How the Mighty Fall – And why some companies never give in” will be our guide. I read the book in 2009. I’ve read it at least 5 times since. I use it as a reference. I’ve watched the lessons in the book unfold in real life. “How the Mighty Fall” is ultimately a book about humility. I highly recommend reading it. You can also read my post: How The Mighty Fall – A Primer for Successful Leadership

The book answers the questions: “What happened leading up to the point at which decline became visible? What did the company do once it began to fall?”

I’ve organized key concepts and quotes into sections to help readers navigate and digest Collins’ concepts quickly and easily.

– 5 Stages of Decline –

Stage 1.

HUBRIS BORN OF SUCCESS

We’re so great, we can do anything!
(Picture Leonardo DiCaprio on the bow of the Titanic yelling, “I’m king of the world!”)

“Stage 1 kicks in when people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement, and they lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place. When the rhetoric of success (“We’re successful because we do these specific things”) replaces penetrating understanding and insight (“We’re successful because we understand why we do these specific things and under what conditions they would no longer work”), decline will very likely follow.” (1)

Markers for Stage 1:
a. Success Entitlement, Arrogance: Success is viewed as “deserved,” rather than fortuitous, fleeting or even hard earned in the face of daunting odds; people begin to believe that success will continue almost no matter what the organization decides to do, or not do.

b. “What” Replaces “Why”: The rhetoric of success (We’re successful because we do these specific things’) replaces understanding and insight (“We’re successful because we understand why we do these specific things and under what conditions they would no longer work”).

c. 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. (2)

Stage 2.

UNDISCIPLINED PURSUIT OF MORE

More, more, and more!

“… more scale, more growth, more acclaim, more of whatever those in power see as “success.” Companies in Stage 2 stray from the disciplined creativity that led them to greatness in the first place, making undisciplined leaps into areas where they cannot be great or growing faster than they can achieve with excellence—or both. When an organization grows beyond its ability to fill its key seats with the right people, it has set itself up for a fall. Although complacency and resistance to change remain dangers to any successful enterprise, overreaching better captures how the mighty fall.” (1)

Markers for Stage 2:
a. Unsustainable Quest for Growth, Confusing Big with Great: Success creates pressure for more growth, setting up a vicious cycle of expectations; this strains people, the culture, and systems to the breaking point; unable to deliver consistent tactical excellence, the institution frays at the edges.

b. Declining Proportion of Right People in Key Seats: There is a declining proportion of right people in key seats, because of losing the right people and/or growing beyond the organization’s ability to get enough people to execute on that growth with excellence (e.g., breaking Packard’s Law).

c. Bureaucracy Subverts Discipline: A system of bureaucratic rules subverts the ethic of freedom and responsibility that marks a culture of discipline; people increasingly think in terms of “jobs” rather than responsibilities.

d. Problematic Succession of Power: The organization experiences leadership-transition difficulties, be they in the form of poor succession planning, failure to groom excellent leaders from within, political turmoil, bad luck, or an unwise selection of successors.

e. Personal Interests Placed Above Organizational Interests: People in power allocate more for themselves or their constituents – more money, more privileges, more fame, more of the spoils of success – seeking to capitalize as much as possible in the short term, rather than investing primarily in building for greatness decades into the future. (2)

Stage 3.

DENIAL OF RISK AND PERIL

Oh, don’t be an alarmist, things are just fine!

“In Stage 3, leaders discount negative data, amplify positive data, and put a positive spin on ambiguous data. Those in power start to blame external factors for setbacks rather than accept responsibility. The vigorous, fact-based dialogue that characterizes high-performance teams dwindles or disappears altogether. When those in power begin to imperil the enterprise by taking outsize risks and acting in a way that denies the consequences of those risks, they are headed straight for Stage 4… If you blow a hole above the waterline (where the ship won’t take on water and possibly sink), you can patch the hole, learn from the experience, and sail on. But if you blow a hole below the waterline, you can find yourself facing gushers of water pouring in, pulling you toward the ocean floor.” (1)

Stage 3 Leadership-Team Dynamics (organizations in decline)

– People shield those in power from grim facts, fearful of penalty and criticism for shining light on the harsh realities.

– The team leader has a very low questions-to-statements ratio, avoiding critical input and/or allowing sloppy reasoning and unsupported opinions.

– Team members acquiesce to a decision yet do not unify to make the decision successful, or worse, undermine the decision after the fact.

– Team members seek as much credit as possible for themselves yet do no enjoy the confidence and admiration of their peers.

– Team members argue to look smart or to improve their own interests rather than argue to find the best answers to support the overall cause.

– The team conducts “autopsies with blame” seeking culprits rather than wisdom. (2)

Markers for Stage 3:
a. Amplify the Positive, Discount the Negative: There is a tendency to discount or explain away negative data rather than presume that something is wrong with the company; leaders highlight and amplify external praise and publicity.

b. Big Bets and Bold Goals without Empirical Validation: Leaders set audacious goals and/or make big bets that aren’t based on accumulated experience, or worse, that fly in the face of the facts.

c. Incurring Huge Downside Risk Based on Ambiguous Data: When faced with ambiguous data and decisions that have a potentially severe or catastrophic downside, leaders take a positive view of the data and run the risk of blowing a hole “below the waterline.”

d. Erosion of Healthy Team Dynamics: There is a marked decline in the quality and amount of dialogue and debate; there is a shift toward either consensus or dictatorial management rather than a process of argument and disagreement followed by unified commitment to execute decisions.

e. Externalizing Blame: Rather than accept full responsibility for setbacks and failures, leaders point to external factors or other people to affix blame.

f. Obsessive Reorganizations: Rather than confront the brutal realities, the enterprise chronically reorganizes; people are increasingly preoccupied with internal politics rather than external conditions.

g. Imperious Detachment: Those in power become more imperious and detached; symbols and perks of executive-class status amplify detachment; plush new office buildings may disconnect executives from daily life. (2) 

Stage 4.

GRASPING FOR SALVATION

Do something! Anything! 

“The cumulative peril and/or risks gone bad of Stage 3 assert themselves, throwing the enterprise into a sharp decline visible to all. The critical question is: How does its leadership respond? By lurching for a quick salvation or by getting back to the disciplines that brought about greatness in the first place? Those who grasp for salvation have fallen into Stage 4… Initial results from taking dramatic action may appear positive, but they do not last… leaders atop companies in the late stages of decline need to get back to a calm, clear-headed, and focused approach. If you want to reverse decline, be rigorous about what not to do.” (1)

Stage 4 behaviors:
– Pin hopes on unproven strategies – discontinue leaps into new technologies, new markets, new businesses – often with much hype and fanfare.

– Embark on a program of radical change, a revolution, to transform or upend nearly every aspect of the company, jeopardizing or abandoning core strengths.

– Destroy momentum with chronic restructuring and/or a series of inconsistent big decisions. (2)

Markers for Stage 4:
a. Series of Silver Bullets: There is a tendency to make dramatic, big moves, such as a “game-changing” acquisition or a discontinuous leap into a new strategy or an exciting innovation, in an attempt to quickly catalyze a breakthrough – and then do it again and again, lurching about from program to program, goal to goal, strategy to strategy, in a pattern of chronic inconsistency.

b. Grasping for a Leader-As-Savior: The board responds to threats and setbacks by searching for a charismatic leader (expert) and/or outside savior.

c. Panic and Haste: Instead of being calm, deliberate, and disciplined, people exhibit hasty, reactive behavior, bordering on panic.

d. Radical Change and “Revolution” with Fanfare: The language of “revolution” and “radical” change characterizes the new era: New Programs! New Cultures! New Strategies! Leaders engage in hoopla, spending a lot of energy trying to align and “motivate” people engaging in buzzwords and taglines.

e. Hype Precedes Results: Instead of setting expectations low – underscoring the duration and difficulty of the turnaround – leaders hype their visions, they “sell the future” to compensate for the lack of current results, initiating a pattern of overpromising and underdelivering.

f. Initial Upswing Followed by Disappointments: There is an initial burst of positive results, but they do not last; dashed hope follows dashed hope; the organization achieves no buildup, no cumulative momentum.

g. Confusion and Cynicism: People cannot easily articulate what the organization stands for; core values have eroded to the point of irrelevance; the organization has become “just another place to work,” a place to get a paycheck; people lose faith in their ability to triumph and prevail. Instead of passionately believing in the organization’s core values and purpose, people become distrustful, regarding visions and values as little more that PR and rhetoric.

h. Chronic Restructuring and Erosion of Financial Strength: Each failed initiative drains resources; cash flow and financial liquidity begin to decline; the organization undergoes multiple restructurings; options narrow and strategic decisions are increasingly dictated by circumstance. (2)

“Reorganizations and restructurings can create a false sense that you’re actually doing something productive. Companies are in the process of reorganizing themselves all the time; that’s the nature of institutional evolution. But when you begin to respond to data and warning signs with reorganization as a primary strategy, you may well be in denial. It’s a bit like responding to a severe heart condition or a cancer diagnosis by rearranging your living room.” (2)

Stage 5.

CAPITULATION TO IRRELEVANCE OR DEATH

Oh well, at least we tried…

“In Stage 5, accumulated setbacks and expensive false starts erode financial strength and individual spirit to such an extent that leaders abandon all hope of building a great future. In some cases the company’s leader just sells out; in other cases the institution atrophies into utter insignificance; and in the most extreme cases the enterprise simply dies outright.”(1)

In conclusion, the core of good leadership is not competence, skill, passion, or personality – is humility. As leaders, we must relentlessly cultivate humility. We must be open to criticism, feedback, challenges, questions, and advice. We are to be servants, not masters.

In Part 2, we’ll discuss how decline is related to you as an individual leader and what you can do about it.

Until next time….

 

Sources:

(1) Article: How the Mighty Fall – A Primer on the Warning Signs (Business Week) by Jim Collins (2009)

(2) Book: How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins (2009)

 

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Leaders are Readers – Books I’ve Read Since January 1, 2022

There are no ‘experts’, there are only expert learners. It doesn’t matter whether you are 10 years old or 100 years old, there is always something new to learn.

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

One of the best ways to become a better leader is to read voraciously and widely.

Why? Because leaders are readers. Not only does reading widely help you learn new skills and qualities of leadership, reading and learning keep you HUMBLE. When you think you’ve somehow ‘arrived’ in your respective domain of vocation or station in life… think again! That’s hubris. “Hubris born of success” is first mark of decline in an organization or team (see Jim Collins’ ‘How the Mighty Fall‘).

There are no ‘experts’, there are only expert learners. It doesn’t matter whether you are 10 years old or 100 years old, there is always something new to learn. Learning keeps your brain active. Healthy curiosity and learning are life giving.

On January 1, 2022 when I set a goal to read 13 books in one year. In the spirit of learning, below is the list of books I’ve read so far. Please note, perhaps you, like me have learning challenges (dyslexia, ADHD, etc)? That’s okay! I read very slowly. Sometimes I must re-read entire books. In a future post, I’ll share some tricks I use in my reading journey.

1. Our Bodies Tell God’s Story: Discovering the Divine Plan for Love, Sex, and Gender – Christopher West

2. Carpe Diem Redeemed: Seizing the Day, Discerning the Times – Os Guinness

3. The Kingdom Unleashed: How Jesus’ 1st-Century Kingdom Values Are Transforming Thousands of Cultures and Awakening His Church – Jerry Trousdale & Dr. Glenn Sunshine

4. Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity – Alisa Childers

5. Art and the Bible – Francis Schaeffer

6. Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling – Andy Crouch

7. The Stress Effect: Why Smart Leaders Make Dumb Decisions–And What to Do About It – Henry L. Thompson

8. The Lord of the Rings (Part 2) Tale of the Two Towers – JRR Tolkien

9. QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life – John G. Miller (note: I read this once per year)

10. Hinge Moments: Making the Most of Life’s Transitions – Michael Lindsey

11. The Dust of Death: The Sixties Counterculture and How It Changed America Forever – Os Guinness

Currently reading: Dominion – How the Christian Revolution Remade the World – Tom Holland

In addition, I read my Bible almost every day. I use a devotional reading plan and I read a Proverb daily (there are 31 Proverbs). I also read Psalms and Ecclesiastes often. I have an ESV Reader’s Bible that contains no verses, no references, and no chapters – enabling me to read huge sections of scripture without feeling like I’m chasing rabbit trails. It is a joy!

What books are you reading?

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Tone Police

Tone Policing is a logical fallacy (ad hominem). “The ad hominem fallacy occurs whenever the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing an argument is criticized instead of seeking to disprove the argument provided.”

[Philosophy Lander.edu]

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

I’ve observed a disturbing trend in the American church.

Tone Policing is a problem among leaders. It needs to stop immediately. Are you a church leader? You are held to a higher standard.

What is Tone Policing?

Tone Policing is “a conversational tactic that dismisses the ideas being communicated when they are perceived to be delivered in an angry, frustrated, sad, fearful, or otherwise emotionally charged manner.” [dictionary.com]

Wikipedia says, “Tone policing (also called tone trolling, tone argument, and tone fallacy) is an ad hominem (personal attack) and anti-debate tactic based on criticizing a person for expressing emotion.

Tone policing detracts from the truth or falsity of a statement by attacking the tone in which it was presented rather than the message itself… it prioritizes the comfort of the privileged person (in authority) in the situation over the oppression of the disadvantaged person.

While anyone can engage in tone policing, it is frequently aimed at women as a way to prevent a woman from making a point in the discussion. It is a means to deflect attention from injustice and relocate the problem in the style of the complaint, rather than address the complaint itself.

Note: Women can be guilty of Tone Policing. This is directed at male church leaders.

Tone Policing is a logical fallacy (ad hominem). “The ad hominem fallacy occurs whenever the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing an argument is criticized instead of seeking to disprove the argument provided.” [Philosophy Lander.edu]

Often times, a personal attack using tone as the offense is converted into a strawman fallacy by someone I’ll call the “Tone Policeman.”

[Cue the siren and the red and blue lights]

A Tone Policeman assumes the role of; victim, hero or social justice warrior in order to coerce, criticize, or manipulate. Accusations of tone crimes shame, silence, degrade, abuse, or bully in order to achieve a desired result (submission or silence).

Interestingly, Tone Policing contains a resemblance to Herbert Marcuse’s “Repressive Tolerance” with a more pronounced psychologized expression. Think ‘Cancelling’ someone based on their tone (expressed emotion).

Tone Police reside in the domain of organizational power and authority. They typically employ psychologized therapeutic language in order to manipulate. They create an offense where there is no offense.

Tone Policing is a speech code similar to Political Correctness. Instead of censoring certain words or phrases, Tone Police attempt to govern intent and meaning based on vocal inflection or perceived emotion. Both Political Correctness and Tone Policing are extremely toxic and unloving.

How is Tone Policing used?

Tone Policemen attempt to relocate a substantive statement or argument into the domain of style or tone (expressing emotion). It is a deflection tactic that dismisses or ignores the core issue(s). The issue is not the issue, Tone is the issue. In other words, tone trumps substance or truth. A guilty verdict is pronounced by the one in power over someone else for expressing emotion (tone).

Most often a Man’s Game

Typically, the Tone Police tactic is used by men in authority to manipulate women who do not possess power. While women can be guilty of using the Tone Tactic, its most often men. Occasionally, men in authority use it against other men as a power play, defensive/deflection tactic, or psychological manipulation.

Ultimately, this is a passive-aggressive tactic wrapped in therapeutic language.

Left unchecked, a Tone Policeman will go on to gas-light, damage relationships, and toxify an organization.

Example: Mary brings a substantive problem to her male boss with urgency. Because women are perceived as more emotional than men, her boss (Tony) dismisses the substance of the problem. Then he makes perceived emotion (tone) the problem – regardless of the validity of the claim being made by Mary.

Tony says something like, “You know, Mary, I don’t appreciate your tone.” Or “I find your tone very hurtful.” Or “Your tone is so abrasive and harsh.” Or “Mary, you seem joyless, what’s wrong with you?”

Tony is saying, “What you are telling me is true but I don’t like the way you are telling me truth (tone). So, I’ll negate the truth and attack you personally based on your tone. You are guilty of expressing emotion!”

Content and validity are brushed aside while subjective tone is reframed as the issue.

Christian Tone Police take cues from worldly sentimentalities and pop-psychology rather than the Bible.

Sometimes, Tone Policemen produce man-tears. One can cry and lie at the same time, you know. Ask any parent of a 4 year old child. Other times, tone is attributed to body-language. “She had an aggressive posture toward me.” Or “I didn’t like the way she looked at me, it hurt my feelings.”

Most commonly, men in authority use this hurtful and deceitful method to silence or dominate women. Instead of trying to understand the substance of an issue, they create presumptions, inferences, and deflections.

Increasingly in America, we see grown men in Christian leadership roles wallow in feigned self-pity, contrived offense, psychological fragility, and hurt feelings. And men who have experienced actual abused or exploitation are overrun by a crowd of charlatans.

The Darker Side of Tone Policing

Some Tone Policemen are so enamored with the spurious glittering therapeutic power of spells they cast, it’s astounding. They relish silencing and controlling others in order to insulate themselves, protect their psychological comfort, or dominate and humiliate others. These males are cowards and don’t deserve the title of ‘Man’ in a biblical sense.

Dealing with Tone Police

Remember, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” [Proverbs 15:1]

Bring the issue forward to one in authority with confidence. I recommend the following steps:

1. Write down the problem – This helps you articulate it and ensure you have a valid issue. To the best of your knowledge, is it true?
2. Pray over the issue and interactions.
3. Invite someone else to the meeting (if appropriate).
4. Take a few moments to breath deeply.
5. Be kind, be firm, be honest, and be courageous (Fear of man is a snare – Fear of God leads to wisdom and peace)

Dr. Henry Thompson says, “Have emotions but don’t allow emotions to have you.
James 3-4 teaches about our tongues and worldliness.

Self-awareness:

Tone Policing is subconsciously learned social behavior. It is catechized through culture via various means (family, media, entertainment, etc). That does not excuse it. If you are not self-aware enough to understand you are manipulating someone, you are not mature enough for leadership.

Responding to Tone Police:

If you are on the receiving end, take a moment and assess yourself and the situation. Then tell the Tone Policeman that their ad hominem (personal) attack is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Expose the logical fallacy and offer them an opportunity to re-address the issue. If they continue to pull the Tone card, tell them you won’t be manipulated or entertain it any longer. Leave their presence. If they continue, report it to someone else in authority [Follow Matthew 18].

Tone Policing is Sin:

Tone Policing is a sin because it’s a manipulation of another human being. The cure is repentance before God and reconciliation with those manipulated and harmed.

Warning to Tone Police:

If you engage in Tone Policing, you run the risk of alienation from community, co-workers, and friends who you depend on. Back-sliding and destroying your Christian witness become growing risks.

Additionally, you run the risk of misreading scripture because you will read God’s Word through a lens of ‘tone.’ That is dangerously thin theological ice.

Someone will say, “But wait, Jesus He was kind and gentle. He used a compassionate tone.” True, but Jesus Christ offered stern words and harsh language without sinning.

Read the texts below, see if Jesus Christ would be pulled over by the Tone Police and given a Tone Ticket for speaking the truth in an off-putting, emotionally-charged tone.

Matthew 23:33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”

Matthew 12:34-35 “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

From Luke:

11:42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces….

11:46 “And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers….”

11:52 “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

11:53-54 “As he (Jesus) went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.”

Warning from Luke:

12:1-3…. “[Jesus] began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”

What is the Alternative to Tone Policing?

Listen and speak truth plainly, firmly and humbly as before the Lord. Try to discern truth even as you are being harshly criticized or confronted by an emotionally charged person. Remember, you are a Christian leader! You have a higher calling. If you are so insecure that you resort to Tone Policing, you need to choose another profession. Or you can Repent!!! Ask for forgiveness! Then, work towards restoration with others!

“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!”
[Pslam 139:23-24]

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” [Proverbs 19:11]

In all things, charity.

The prophet is specially called to critique and challenge the people of God when they have forgotten or betrayed their original calling. Thus Moses confronted the people of God over the golden calf, Elijah over the prophets of Baal, Jesus over legalism and hypocrisy, Martin Luther over the distortion of faith, and Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer over the idolatry of nationalism. Such prophetic critiques were often delivered with outrage, but they were not denials of the chosenness of those attacked. On the contrary, the purpose of critique is restoration, not dismissal. The prophets were specially called and their prophetic messages were special calls to bring God’s people back to the original calling from which they had fallen away.
Os Guinness

The Call

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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.

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