Leo is a character in a story called “Journey to the East” by Hermann Hesse. I read an article by Robert Greenleaf for my latest class and learned about this character – Leo. The story is about a guy who joins this group of travelers headed to “the east” in search of “ultimate truth.” Leo is a simple servant among them who is described by Wikipedia as “happy, pleasant, handsome, beloved by everyone, having a rapport with animals – to a discerning reader, he seems a great deal more than a simple servant, but nobody in the pilgrimage, including the narrator, seems to get this.” When Leo disappears, the whole group begins to bicker and fight. Ultimately, the reader discovers that Leo was the leader all along. Although he first revealed himself as a humble servant, Leo was a very strong leader.
Anyway, all of this got me to thinking. Jesus was first revealed to us as a humble servant too – a baby in a manger, a man without a home who travelled the country helping/healing people, one who washes the feet of his friends, etc. I wonder if a pastor could be seen first as a servant? When a visitor arrives at a church, could the pastor be the guy out in the parking lot greeting people? or maybe he should be the guy serving doughnuts? or cleaning the restrooms? I would guess that in a smaller church or a new church plant, the pastor gets the opportunity to serve in all of these roles. But what about a big organization? Shouldn’t the leader still be a servant? I also start wondering who the real leaders are around my church? What would happen if the ushers didn’t show up? Who is the guy like Leo? Who is the guy that, if absent, the whole church would begin to argue and fight? Is my presence at the church in any way similar to Leo’s?
“The law of service: He who wishes to live long must serve, but he who wishes to rule does not live long.” – Hesse, “Journey to the East”
I have served as the worship leader for our contemporary service for the past 3 years and did it in my previous church for about 8 years. Anyway, they just officially hired someone for that position to start this coming week. I must admit that I’m excited! It’s been way too long since I was able to sit in church with my wife. I can hardly remember the last time we were able to worship together in a contemporary service.
Some people are concerned that I’ll miss it, but I really don’t see that as a possibility. It’s just music. I truly believe the best worship leaders are “lead worshippers.” They are worshippers first and secondly they are leaders. Over the years, I have discovered that this amazing contemporary music movement which has so dramatically changed the church, is not really the way that I connect with God. When the whole movement began, I loved it. I could lose myself in the songs and truly be connected to God, but now I seem to connect to Him in much more private ways when I’m studying alone or listening to sermons in my car. Anyway, I think I’ve become more of a worship leader over the years and less of a lead worshipper. I’m glad to hand the baton over to someone who truly feels called to this ministry.
Everyone seems to agree there are fewer true leaders in the world today than in any other previous generation. I wonder why? Here’s my BIG thought: I wonder if the lack of leadership is somehow connected to the lack of “play” in the world? Let me explain.
It’s has always been a pet-peeve of mine that kids today don’t know how to play. They are good at wasting time with TV or video games, but “play” is a whole different thing. You’ve gotta be creative to play. You have to use your imagination to play. (By the way, in the Scriptures, the very first characteristic God chooses to reveal to us about Himself is His creativity. Then He says we’re made in His image.) Play revolves around creating stories and scenes and situations. You’ve gotta be willing to look foolish if you’re gonna “pretend” anything – and what is play without pretending something? Remember when you used to play hide-n-seek. I remember imagining that I was the good guy who was hiding from the dreaded evil enemy. I remember playing football and pretending to be the radio announcer as the game winning touchdown was scored. My parents didn’t look down on me for those days. They didn’t think I was foolish. They laughed and enjoyed my creativity. They encouraged my imagination. They imagined with me. In play, we learned about the world. We began to understand how it worked. We developed deep friendships – in some ways they were probably deeper relationships than our current ones.
What if leaders began to “play” more? What if they imagined and weren’t afraid of looking foolish? What we created a culture of “play” where everyone was a part of it and no one really felt intimidated to join in on the fun? When we “play,” we don’t have to feel insecure, ’cause it’s just for fun anyway. If we taught our children to play more (by playing with them) would their generation have more leaders? I think it would.
If our leaders were allowed to imagine more, dream more, how many of us would dream with them? If they were allowed to “play” with stuff until they figured it out, what new innovations would we have?
In his book “Soul Tsunami,” Leonard Sweet says:
He (Jesus) displayed a genius for never growing up. He didn’t have much use for work. In fact he attracted his disciples by calling them from work: ‘Let others work, even bury their dead. You follow me.’ (Matthew 8:18-22)
Ask someone born before 1964, “What do you do?” and you will find out where they work, what their title is, what they “do” for a living. Ask someone born after 1964, “What do you do?” and you are as likely to find out that they dirt-bike, mountain-climb, net-surf, sea-kayak – in other words, they define themselves more by “life-first” than “work-first” commitments. . . .
If you want to make a violin sing, do you “work” at it? No, you “play” a violin. It takes a lot of “practice,” but the “practice” leads to “playing” the instrument. I want my marriage to sing. That’s why my wife and I don’t “work” at our marriage; we “play” at our marriage. . . I don’t want the Scriptures to “work” in my life; I want them to “play” in my life.
Erwin McManus says:
People don’t get “burn out” from too much work, but from not enjoying their work.
Anyway, leaders should learn to play and play hard – not just when they’re away from the office, but even while they’re in it. Work should never really be work – it should be enjoyable – going to the office should be like entering the playground where you are free to express yourself (within the boundaries) and imagine and create and dream and get others to join you in it all. When you leave, you might have some dirt to clean off, but you’re still excited about coming back to play again the next day.
PS – I have watched children and on the playground, it’s the ones who imagine and dream and are willing to look foolish who end up leading the other kids. Leaders play. Players lead.
As the leader of my son, there are (or will be) times when it’s appropriate for me to allow him to lead me. Of course I will only allow him to lead me to certain places – it’ll always be within the boundaries that I set, but still, I will choose to follow him sometimes so that he can grow into a leader himself.
In all our leadership training, it’s been clear that a leader is not defined by his/her position, power, or authority but by his/her character, skills, relationships, and vision. My position will always be over my son, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t the better leader. This means that the most incredible leader the world has ever known could be waiting on you at your favorite restaurant, or it could be the man who smiles at you while you’re pumping your gas. Maybe, just maybe, it’s the guy who stoops down and washes your feet. (John 13)
Here’s where this stuff get interesting though. If a leader is not defined by his position and the best leader could be the guy in the lowliest of positions, then how much leadership should the man of position/authority assert? If a true leader can lead from the bottom position, and he’s the one with real vision, there most likely will be a clash between the real leader (with no position/authority) and the one who holds the position. The man of position may even recognize the value of this other man’s leadership, but stifle him out of his own fears of inadequacy. Of course the opposite could be true also – he might find that the man of position values his passion and ideas in such a way that he is able to implement them and help move things forward.
How can the man of position, remain humble and capable of recognizing bottom leaders? What role do bottom leaders have in leading positional leaders? Can a positional leader be led by a bottom leader who is a positional follower? When is the right time to follow a bottom leader? What boundaries should be set? If you do, are you still the leader or is it only a position? Will you be able to keep that position long if you allow a bottom leader to lead? Can a positional leader ever have true community with his followers? Can a positional leader serve his followers in such a way that he is actually a “bottom leader?” Can leadership be shared or does there have to be a position – a go-to guy – a buck-stops-here-guy? These lines between leaders and followers and positions get real blurry for me – because I see myself in each of these roles all the time.
It’s kind of a classic illustration, but the example we have from geese is pretty amazing. In their “V” formation, the leader is not the leader all the time. He cuts the wind resistance making it easier for the others to fly for a time and then he steps into one of the other positions so someone else (who isn’t as weary) can fly “lead.” While he sits in one of these other positions, he “quacks” loudly to encourage the one flying in the lead position. He “leads” from the back.
Anyway, leading from the bottom is an adventure. It’s a true calling. This world desperately needs more bottom leaders, but it don’t recognize it’s need. Bottom leaders will most likely find themselves in the center of controversy, but hey, you’re in good company – Jesus was a bottom leader. He was certainly in the center of controversy, too.
PS – The world needs more bottom leaders, not backseat drivers.
I love it when someone can convey a message with nothing but questions. Here’s a blog from seth godin that does just that:
How do I persuade you?
Do I show you a powerpoint filled with bullets?
Or give you a spirited sales pitch while looking you in the eye…
Perhaps I should send a very attractive salesperson.
Do I amplify my word of mouth and be sure you hear about my idea from three people you trust?
Do I minimize fear or maximize gain?
Are you best persuaded in a group, surrounded by your boss or your
employees or your family or people you trust? Will it matter if those
around you give me a standing ovation?
Can I persuade you over time, drip, drip, drip, or do you respond better if you feel an avalanche is coming?
Will you change your mind if I’m funny? Or if I scare you to pieces?
Perhaps there’s no way you’ll be persuaded. Perhaps nothing I can
say will make a difference. However, you’ve told yourself that before
and been wrong…
Will you buy if you get a discount? What if the price is high and going up tomorrow?
Do you want to be the first person to embrace an idea (or the last)?
Here’s the thing: unlike every other species, human beings make
decisions differently from one another. And the thing that persuades
you is unlikely to be the thing that persuades the next guy. Our
personal outlook is a lousy indicator of what works for anyone else.
It’s interesting to me that in the end, it all comes down to relationships. The best way to influence/persuade anyone, is to first understand that person and his/her needs, thoughts, & desires. Since each of us makes decisions differently, wouldn’t it make sense to figure that out before trying to influence them? Well, that is, if you have time to get to know them and the message/influence is important enough. Is the eternal message of Jesus as Lord important enough? Important enough to invest in getting to know others in such a way that we can persuade them?
Who will you get to know? How will you get to know them? Since no one cares what you know until they know you care, how will you love them? Care for them? Will that love and care be real or will it stop once the “project” is over and they have come to know Jesus?
Calvin Miller says something in his book “The Empowered Leader” which is so simple and yet so clear that it forces me to think/meditate on it more. He says, “God can only direct the flexible.”
How often do we equate our legalistic (non-flexible) behaviors with being more spiritual – Saying to ourselves, “If I can do this or that or spend this much time serving Him, then I’ll be more spiritual.” Romans 14, it seems pretty clear that the weaker man is the one who is more legalistic. The one who lives in freedom seems to be the stronger.
This leadership model is grounded in the idea that different people need to be led in different ways. Let me explain the basics.
Commitment and Competence – Development Stages
Development stage 1 (D1) – People are usually highly committed to a new project, but have low competence since they’ve never done it before.
Development stage 2 (D2) – When the honeymoon is over commitment levels typically drop and competence remains pretty much the same. (This is where people most often quit.)
D3 – If they persevere both commitment and competence rise again.
D4 – The longer someone does something the better they get. Both commitment and competence continue to rise.
Directive and Supportive Behaviors
All leadership breaks down to these two kinds of behaviors.
Directive = *goal setting, action planning, clarifying roles, *showing and telling, time lines, evaluations, priorities, etc.
Supportive = *listening, praise/encouragement, info sharing about organization or self, *problem solving, asking for input, rationale (explaining the whys), etc.
* = most critical behaviors.
Putting it all Together
A “D1” (high commitment and low competence) needs an “S1” Leadership Style – S1 = Low Support/High Direction (leader decides) This is sometimes referred to as a “Directing” style of leadership. Motto is “Leader decides.”
A “D2” (low commitment and low competence) needs high direction and high support since they are in the “quitting” stage. This is “S2” style is a “Coaching” style. The motto is “Let’s talk, leader decides.”
A “D3” whose commitment and competence have increased needs a “Supportive” style of leadership with high support and low direction. Motto – “Let’s talk, you decide.”
And finally a “D4” (high commitment and competence) needs a “delegating” style. The “S4” is a low direction/low support style which empowers others to “run with it.” Motto is “You decide.”
OK -in my opinion, most of these behaviors come pretty naturally if you truly care about those you are leading. If you’ve developed a relationship with them, then you can sense a lot of this stuff. It’s certainly a good model to understand and having this knowledge will give you a way to evaluate your efforts, but it really all comes down to relationship.
This understanding of leadership could also be beneficial to parenting. Kids need to have a different type of relationship with their parents as they develop. In the first few years (1-5years) a lot of directing is needed. Between the ages of 6-12, they probably need more of a coaching-style of relationship with their parents. The parents still make the decisions, but begin having discussions to help their children understand why they are making those choices. As teenagers (if parents have done well with the other steps), parents could begin to play a more supportive role where they allow kids to make some decisions based upon the talks they have together. It’s important to recognize that this stage has “low” direction not “no” direction. In certain cases, the leader/parent must still make the decisions. By the time they leave home, (like it or not) kids will be responsible (or not) for their own actions. If a parent has been successful in leading his children as God would call him to, he would probably be comfortable delegation or even with sending his child out on his own.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be the leader and parent that You’ve called me to be. Allow me a special ability to discern where people are so that I can lead them in the way that will most benefit them. Help me to be more intentional about training others so they can lead. Grant me favor in the eyes of those I lead so that I can grow deeper relationships with them in order to bring them to new places and to understand what challenges they need or what support they need. Give me a vision which is worthy of commitment – one which honors You at every turn. Glorify your name through my life and my influence upon others. AMEN.
We watched a John Maxwell presentation about “How to Cast a Vision” in school the other night. Here are the notes I took:
1. Clarity bring understanding to vision.
2. Connectedness brings past, present, and future together.
3. Purpose brings direction to a vision.
4. Goals bring target to a vision.
5. Honesty brings integrity to the vision and credibility to the leader.
6. Stories bring relationships to the vision.
7. Challenge brings stretching to the vision.
8. Passion and Conviction are fuel for the vision.
9. Repositioning brings change to a vision.
10. Urgency brings intensity to a vision.
11. Modeling brings accountability to a vision.
12. Strategy brings a process to vision.
In addition, in casting a vision one should share his heart, paint a picture of hope in it’s accomplishment, ask for help, and explain how to help.
There were also some great little quotes he used. Here are a few:
People won’t reach into the future until they’ve touched the past.
Winners stretch to vision, whiners shrink from it.
When challenged, winners say, “Sick-em” and whiners feel sick.
Nothing of value happens in a church until a line is drawn.
When the heat goes up there are two reactions. Whiners leave. Winners become more passionate. If you’re vision is of God and you lose them, you never really had them in the first place. Passion fires up committed and fries the uncommitted.
Those who pay the most for a vision celebrate the most in it’s accomplishment.
Vision is caught more than taught.
Vision = Cause + Courage
The gift a leader gives a congregation is a vision. The gift they give him is it’s fulfillment.
God will send the resources needed according to the size of your vision. The size of a vision is determined by the size of our questions.
People change at three different times: (1) When they hurt enough they have to (2) When they learn enough they want to, and (3) When they receive enough they’re empowered to.
Vision must be seen clearly, spoken of continuously, and communicated creatively.
All this is to say, I really like John Maxwell. Some of his stuff seems really over simplified, but in regards to concepts – probably the simpler the better.
Another aspect which I think is important that he didn’t mention is the biblical foundation for a vision. The example he used (Bill Hybels) was filled with biblical references, but Maxwell mentions nothing of it. In communicating a vision, it seems to me that people are more likely to get behind it if they understand that it is not the leader’s vision, but it is from God.
As the leader, our job is only to point out that which God is among us and already doing so that people can join Him in His efforts. This is how we align ourselves with His vision. If people are able to see how God has already begun a work, (as in Nehemiah 2:18 when he explains to them all that God had done to get things rolling.) it shortens the leap of faith required to just a step of faith.
Maybe we as leaders should spend more time talking about what we already see God doing!?!?
This book should be read by any and every leader. It deals with a part of leadership which is very rarely discussed and in some cases ignored altogether. Although they never use the metaphor, the “dark side” which they discuss is an ever-present reality which influences every decision we make and everyone around us – similar to the dark side we’ve come to know from the Star Wars films. They describe it like the dark side of the moon, it is a part of our very essence and helps to make us who we are. This dark side is defined by our
natural tendencies to fill the voids left by our weaknesses and deep hurts from past experiences. The dark side is how we’ve learned to cope with life. Unfortunately, these habits (healthy or not) continue to be lived out after we become Christians and begin leading others. Throughout history many leaders have been overtaken and many great ministries/organizations have been ruined from the influence of this dark side. Gone unchecked, we risk much in our lives by ignoring its’ existence and influence. This book provides the reader with the tools necessary to understand, recognize, and redeem his/her own dark side. The church would benefit greatly if church leaders were aware of this reality and guided others in cautiously heeding its’ warnings.
Understanding Our Dark Side
The first section of the book is mostly an extended definition of what this dark side truly is. The authors are very meticulous about sharing both their own personal interactions with this presence in their lives and those of other famous leaders throughout history. They describe those who have dealt properly with the dark side like Bill Hybels and the Apostle Paul and those who have been overtaken by it like Jim Bakker and King Saul. All of these stories combine to paint a picture of the many varied forms this dark side can take on in one’s life. They describe how pressures can build within a leader and eventually our dark side emerges with an explosion of emotion or frustration. “At times the dark side seems to leap on us unexpectedly. In reality it has slowly crept up on us. The development of our dark side has been a lifetime in the making.” (pg. 22) They also attempt to break down the dark side into its building blocks so the reader can more readily recognize it while it’s being built. The building blocks they mention are pride, selfishness, self-deception and wrong motives. (pg 40-45) In addition they describe many of the signs of the shadow side as: (1) an inexplicable drive to make a significant mark with our lives (2) a profound need to be approved (3) an irrational fear that our work is inadequate (4) a need to feel in absolute control (5) perfectionism (6) many other behaviors such as overeating, compulsive spending, alcoholism, compulsive exercising, etc. (pg 50-51) In describing the development of our dark side, the authors refer to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or as it is sometimes called the “needs pyramid.” This pyramid builds from physiological needs, to safety needs, then love needs, esteem needs, and finally self-actualization. Maslow’s theory is that people must have their needs met at one level before they can get their “higher” needs met. The authors of this book suggest that sometimes we get those needs met in unhealthy ways, and this becomes the seed for a growing dark side which has learned to satisfy itself in ways that God never intended. As one grows older these behaviors become habits and will eventually explode into a full-blown dark side.
Discovering Our Dark Side
The second section of the book describes five different types of dark side leaders. It details their characteristics and then offers a self-test to the reader to determine his/her potential for falling into this category.
The compulsive leader is symbolized by Moses who felt the need to control every aspect of the Israelites movement out of Egypt – even to the point of being a judge over every matter between the people (numbering millions). These leaders tend to think they are the only ones who can do the job correctly and therefore have a hard time delegating. They also develop highly structured systems which must be followed in the minutia. Many times, this makes them workaholics. In an effort to maintain control, they will repress anger and emotions which can erupt in sudden violent outbursts and then be quickly controlled again. They also have a tendency to be very critical and enjoy the freedom the church gives them in seeking “excellence” in ministry.
The narcissistic leader is more like Solomon. Scripture is clear that he thought the world revolved around him – he did many things “for myself.” They use other people to advance their own agenda and find it difficult to recognize the efforts of others – often times taking the credit themselves. Deep feelings of inadequacy and inferiority motivate them to work/minister for the approval and admiration of others rather than for God.
Saul is a great example of the paranoid leader. He was hypersensitive to the actions and reactions of the people, always fearful of potential rebellion. These leaders are intensely jealous of other gifted people because they are so insecure in themselves. They overreact to criticism and tend to believe there are ulterior motives into the most innocent of actions. They love to keep their hands on every area of the organization and therefore require lots of meetings and reports. They also keep a “safe distance” when it comes to relationships because close relationships require a transparency which they fear will potentially undermine their leadership.
The codependent leader is represented by Samson. He continually involved himself in self-destructive behaviors. These leaders are masters of denial – even to the point of believing the denial to be truth. They have a serious need to please others and don’t want to disappoint anyone. They repress their emotions and feel stressed as a result. They also don’t initiate action to confront misbehaviors because they have learned to live with them, but instead will sometimes even take personal responsibility/blame for others actions. Codependent leaders often appear to be extremely loving peacemakers, but this can go too far and enable unhealthy or unbiblical behaviors.
Jonah is a passive-aggressive leader. They don’t confront, but instead act out their disapproval by procrastinating, forgetting, or just not putting their whole heart into a project. They are complainers who would rather do nothing than attempt something with the possibility of failure – or worse yet, maybe they’ll succeed and then be held to a higher standard. These leaders are not very enthusiastic and can be irritable or impatient and often can explode when their status quo is threatened.
Redeeming Our Dark Side
This third section of the book points the reader to a few specific exercises to help him in living with his dark side and even allowing it to be a positive force in his life. These steps are (1) Acknowledging our dark side (2) Examining the past (3) Resist the poison of expectations (4) Practice progressive self-knowledge and (5) Understand your identity in Christ.
Step one (acknowledging our dark side) consists of nothing more than realizing and agreeing that you are no different from the rest of the people in the world. You have a dark side too.
Step two (Examining the past) is described as a “simple process of remembering.” (pg 163) It entails remembering everything from major issues like a death in the family to minor inferiority issues arising from a nickname you were given as a child. The authors paint the picture of our intentional journey into the past saying “We must become the hammer that begins to shape our errant emotions and dark side rather than the anvil on which our dark side pounds us into a distorted image.” (pg 164)
Step 3 (Resist the poison of expectations) requires our attention to the expectations placed upon us. We should choose which ones we will own and which ones are not a reflection of our calling. If we live our lives under everyone else’s expectations, we will soon be living someone else’s life.
Step 4 (Practice progressive self-knowledge) is about spiritual disciplines involving Bible reading, personal retreats, devotional reading, journaling, and other tools for self-awareness like personality tests, counseling, accountability groups, and performance evaluations. It’s about being open to hear from others (including God) regarding your weaknesses and
Step 5 (Understand your identity in Christ) requires an understanding that our position in Christ is not dependent on our performance, position, titles, achievements, or power. Our condition on earth is a polar opposite to our position in Christ, and our worth is based upon Him alone.
Unlike any other leadership book I’ve read, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership takes an honest and comprehensive look at the part of leadership that no one really likes to discuss. Most books give some insightful ideas about leading and talk about how to influence others, but ignore the reality of all the fallen leaders we’ve seen throughout history. Overcoming confronts this issue head on and allows the reader to be proactive in recognizing his own dark side so as to keep him from falling into these pitfalls. The historical and biblical stories included give the book an authentic feel so as to illustrate the concepts accurately. As I grow in my leadership roles, I intend to make this book an integral part of my life and also for training others for leadership positions. These ideas will help me to remain honest about my own spiritual dark side and hopefully, I’ll respond by being intentional in redeeming it by using some of the steps and concepts this book teaches.
I wrote a post quite a while ago called “Lions Little Boys and Me” that talks about the difference between boys and men. There’s quite a bit which leads me to the conclusion that, “Boys live life trying to prepare for when Satan attacks them, and men live planning their attack on the lion. It’s the difference in living life defensively or offensively. Another BIG difference is that boys get attacked by a lion they never see, but men . . . CHOOSE THEIR LION.”
I’ve been reading another book lately called “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day” by Mark Batterson. Somehow these ideas converge and mean something very powerful in regards to leadership. It’s not intended to be a book on leadership, but “In a Pit” is exactly that. It’s based off an obscure little Scripture in 2 Samuel 23:20 that describes a man, Beniah, who actually chases a lion into a pit. What is it in a man that would make him react in this way? This is what Batterson wrestles with. When broken down, he suggests that these kinds of men, these lion chasers are men who:
1. Defy the Odds
2. Face their Fears
3. Overcome Adversity
4. Embrace Uncertainty
5. Take Risks
6. Seize Opportunity
7. Look Foolish
These are exactly the kinds of qualities I’ve been reading about in all these leadership books. These characteristics are those of the leader. Throughout the book Batterson tells many stories about his own journey into leadership and how God has used each of his experiences to shape him into the man he is today.
In comparing this to my post from a few years ago – I can’t help but think that God is using this to stir something in me. What is the lion that I’ve gotta chase? Could it be this dream of planting a church? I want to be a man who chooses his lion and then chases it down (trusting God) without hesitation. I believe that God will continue to reveal these things to me as He sees fit. When I’m ready, He’ll show me more. I guess I’m excited to know more now though (that patience thing rears it’s ugly head again).
Prayer: Lord, give me patience, but let me keep this passion/excitement that’s burning inside for You and Your plans/desires.