Blazin’ a Trail

I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve climbed around that tree.

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”  ~ Unknown. (Sometimes attributed to Emerson & McAlindon)

Meridian State Park (Texas) is one of my favorite places on earth. It’s where I first understood the cross. (I guess I’m actually still working on understanding it’s magnitude, but. . .) Anyway, one of my memories of Meridian was a time when my friend Shayne Hackworth and I went exploring. We blazed trails all over that park. We found natural springs and uncovered fossils. We saw and experienced things the rest of our group missed. We’d take turns leading each other. We waved big sticks in front of us as we traveled in order to clear the spiderwebs from the trail. In spite of our efforts, I still remember getting covered in those webs. Cuts and scratches all over our legs were common as well as the occasional poison ivy rash.

Leadership was not glamorous or easy. It was a sacrifice. It was a way to honor those behind you. The leader may have been out front, but he served his followers. He was in the lead position, but he placed himself underneath them. He believed they were more important and understood that they could travel further and accomplish more if he served them by taking the lead position. He got more dirty, more bloody, and more sweaty than the rest of the group.

Leaders serve.

Servers lead.

 

Pelicans and Leadership

Recently, I had the privilege to join some friends (Thanks Shelby’s!) at their bay house. It’s a beautiful place and a perfect place to “get away” a bit.

I don’t think I’ve ever really sat and watched pelicans diving for fish before. They fly up high to get a good wide perspective and scan for prey. When they see something they circle to get a good angle and then dive with abandon. Recklessly even. They aren’t very graceful – just effective. In order to survive, they must do this regularly – every day even.

I wonder what leaders can learn from pelicans? Do we escape our normal routines and seek out “high places” where we can get good perspectives? Do we continually scan for new opportunities? Do we work to get a good angle and then dive recklessly? Are we so afraid of being ungraceful that we just continue to circle without ever diving? Do we get comfortable enough that we stop working this process or do we do it daily?

Integrity

Integrity is the amount that your words, actions, and beliefs line up with one another.

As a teacher, I witness my students’ lack of integrity every day. When they misbehave, I follow our classroom procedures to reprimand them. They almost always say, “I’m sorry.” However, I’m not sure they really are. Often, their words don’t really line up with their subsequent actions. There’s an integrity problem.

I’ve heard that integrity is “being the same person all the time” – no matter who else you’re around or what situation you find yourself in. “It’s who you are when you’re alone.” These definitions are centered around “consistency” which is also what I was taught in my Leadership Studies @ the College of Biblical Studies:

Integrity is the amount that your words, actions, and beliefs line up with one another – it’s how consistent you are in each of these areas.

Integrity is the “white” section.

Where our words, actions, and beliefs all agree with one another.


Here’s what it looks like when someone has a lot of integrity:


The first type of integrity problem is that of the Liar:

People lie. Sometimes we can do the right things and believe the right things, but peer pressure (or some other pressure) causes us to lie in the moment. (I guess it also works the other way – We can believe the wrong things and do the wrong things, but lie to make ourselves look better.) When we lie, we compromise our integrity. Even the “little white lie” can be dangerous. Each time we lie (no matter how small), we make ourselves more comfortable with lying. We must also remember that others are watching us. When the phone rings and a 3yr-old hears daddy say, “Tell them I’m not here,” he is learning something from his daddy.


The second type of integrity inconsistency is that of the Coward.

The coward says what he believes, but just won’t actually take any action. He’s too scared or too busy to follow through. I’ve certainly had this problem. I believe I should do a lot of things and even talk about doing them, but often get too scared to actually take the necessary steps to move forward. It easy to say that I’m just too busy, but ultimately, maybe it really is just simple fear that paralyzes us all.


The third type of integrity inconsistency is that of the Politician:

The politician will say (words) and do (actions) whatever it takes to get what he wants regardless of his own values or beliefs. He might have great beliefs, but they don’t have any deep roots. He is willing to compromise them at the smallest temptation. In general, he is simply out to fulfill his own desires regardless of anyone else. He is a dangerous person to be around.


The final type of integrity problem is the most inconsistent. You never know what you’re gonna get with these guys. They are often out of touch with reality and clueless about themselves. They have no integrity at all. (At least with the others, there are 2 of the three which line up. You might be able to predict something based on those two areas.) With the final type, there’s no predicting anything.

Notice that there is no integrity(white area) at all.


I hope my little exploration of integrity has been helpful. This information is all stuff I learned from my Biblical Leadership classes at the College of Biblical Studies.

Multi-tasking is a Myth

John Medina, author of Brain Rules, explains that multi-tasking is a truly a myth. The way that the brain works doesn’t allow for it. Although the brain can do multiple things simultaneously (You can walk and talk at the same time or breathe and read a book.) the conscious brain can only pay attention to one thing at a time. Our tendency to listen to music, answer the phone, and send e-mails or text messages, while trying to write a paper or finish a project at work is not productive. A focused concentrated effort can go a long way to help manage our time.

Here’s how Medina explains: “Research shows that we can’t multi-task. We are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich input simultaneously.” Without going into the neurological details, Medina goes on to explain that there are 4 steps that the brain must go through each time attention is shifted from one task to another – four more when attention is shifted back. The process takes several tenths of a second each time. It doesn’t sound like much time but it adds up quickly and maybe more importantly, the distraction hinders the more complicated processes of the task at hand. If you’ve ever found yourself losing track of previous progress, or heard yourself say things like, “Now where was I?” then you have experienced this problem. Medina says, “Studies show that a person who is interrupted takes 50% longer to accomplish a task. Not only that. He or she makes up to 50% more errors.”

This means that if we would put our cell phones on silent (or God forbid – turn them off), close the layers of applications running on the computer, shut the door, and give our tasks a focused effort, we could probably accomplish much more during the day and have fewer errors in our work. Our minds are just too crowded by all the messages competing for our attention. The immediate gratification of our “information addiction” is hurting us. Maybe we should just choose to ignore a few things. All of this thinking reminds me of another post which was inspired by the phrase, Selective Ignorance.

I don’t know about you, but when I was a student, I was a procrastinator. (OK – I probably still am.) But when the deadline was approaching, I would stop everything else and focus on the project. Although I had weeks to work on it, I was able to get it done in a couple of hours with focused effort. Based on my own experiences, I believe know Medina is right.

What would my life look like if I fasted from multi-tasking? Would my kids get more of me? Would I be more present in the moment? Would I get more done? Which messages/projects would I choose to ignore? Would I have to ignore them at all if I had more time ’cause I was getting more things done?

Troop Carrier or Luxury Liner?

In his book Radical, David Platt writes:

In the late 1940s, the United States government . . . construct[ed] an 80 million dollar troop carrier for the navy. The purpose was to design a ship that could speedily carry fifteen thousand troops during times of war. By 1952, construction on the SS United States was complete. The ship could travel at forty-four knots (about fifty-one miles per hour), and she could steam ten thousand miles without stopping for fuel or supplies. She could outrun any other ship and travel non-stop anywhere in the world in less than ten days. The SS United States was the fastest and most reliable troop carrier in the world.

The only catch is, she never carried troops. At least not in any official capacity. . .

Instead the SS United States became a luxury liner for presidents, heads of state, and a variety of other celebrities who traveled on her during her seventeen years of service. As a luxury liner, she couldn’t carry fifteen thousand people. Instead she could house just under two thousand passengers. Those passengers could enjoy the luxuries of 695 staterooms, 4 dining salons, 3 bars, 2 theaters, 5 acres of open deck with a heated pool, 19 elevators, and the comfort of the world’s first fully air-conditioned passenger ship. Instead of a vessel used for battle during wartime, the SS United States became a means of indulgence for wealthy patrons who desired to coast peacefully across the Atlantic.

Things look radically different on a luxury liner than they do on a troop carrier. The faces of soldiers preparing for battle and those of patrons enjoying their bonbons are radically different. The conservation of resources on a troop carrier contrasts sharply with the opulence that characterizes the luxury liner. And the pace at which the troop carrier moves is by necessity much faster than that of the luxury liner. After all, the troop carrier has an urgent task to accomplish; the luxury liner, on the other hand, is free to casually enjoy the ship.

The SS United States = The American church

Unfortunately, most churches in America resemble the luxury liner. Although God designed us to carry soldiers into battle, we’ve become more interested our own comforts during the journey – so much so that we’ve actually quit moving toward the battle! When you attend a service at the average church in America, you typically hear more about the programs/amenities you can find on the ship than you do about the mission which is ahead. I guess it is what they say it is: a service. Like the staff on a cruise ship, the church is there trying to serve it’s patrons/members. Unfortunately, those members are there selfishly “getting fed” and consuming those services when they should be thinking in terms of being transformed/trained by the Gospel so they can accomplish the mission of “serving the world” with the Gospel.

To borrow a phrase from James, “My brothers, this should not be so.” (James 3:10)

On the other hand, what if the church was coming together to equip it’s members/troops to take ground for the Kingdom of God? What if we didn’t have “services” but “training exercises?” What if we removed the luxuries from the church and focused on the mission? What if we saw our ultimate goal as sending troops into the world rather than catering to the whims of our members? What would it take to convert the luxury liners that we have into troop carriers again? What organizational changes do we need in order to make quick, in-the-heat-of-battle decisions? If we were to return to our “troop-carrying calling,” would the church be able to accommodate 15,000 soldiers who shared space as opposed to 2,000 patrons fighting for position and space? If we focused on this calling, would the church move at a faster pace unhindered by petty internal arguments?

Anyway, these were just a few of my thoughts after reading this section of Radical.

I Want to Teach

family 02smTeacher’s Prayer:
I want to teach my students how to live this life on earth.
To face it’s struggles & it’s strife & to improve their worth.
Not just the lesson in a book or how the rivers flow,
But how to choose the proper path wherever they may go.
To understand eternal truth and know the right from wrong,
And gather all the beauty of a flower and a song.
For if I help the world to grow in wisdom and in grace,
Then I shall feel that I have won & I have filled my place. .
And so I ask your guidance, God, that I may do my part.
For character and confidence and happiness of heart.
– James J. Metcalf

As an 18yr veteran of full-time youth ministry, I have decided that I want to move into the educational system. I’m NOT just looking for a job, but a position that I can passionately pursue – one that I’m excited to do each day – one where I can truly make a difference in the world and impact/influence people. A teaching position seems to be the direction that God has been leading my wife and I. There are a couple of reasons:

1. I love working with students and this would put me with them every day. I have also always had an ability to connect with students who were different from the average “church-going” type of student and look forward to being able to work with them more regularly.

2. I believe my varied youth ministry experiences will be a huge asset in an educational environment. I have experience teaching, counseling, writing curriculum, training other teachers, leading groups, and supervising people. I also have experience with multimedia, interactive learning, team building, group work, and other creative teaching strategies.

I have completed the “act houston” Winter 2010 Institute for alternative certification and passed the 4-8th Generalist content exam with a score of 282 out of 300. This makes me “highly qualified” and eligible for a Probationary Certificate from the State of Texas.

I have a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Leadership from the College of Biblical Studies and have written many articles describing my philosophies/ideas about leadership. Some were even published by published by smallgrouptrader.com. If you’re interested, you can check out some of these articles here:

Leadership:
Leadership Compass & Teaching
Lions and Leadership
Little Shovel
Bottom Leaders
Changing a Culture
Wizard of Oz Leadership
SmallGroupTrader
Bio:
Steve Corn

Articles:
I Don’t Know What We should Study
Leadership is Service
Practical Ways to Connect as a Group

During this time in our lives, God has granted us peace. I’m not sure how to explain it, (Jesus is the “Peace that passes understanding.” Philippians 4:7) but we are resting in the fact that He has never let us down and that as His children, He loves us. We don’t know how we’re going to survive and keep our house from one month to the next, but we feel that He is leading us down this road toward a teaching position. I ask for your prayers, your advice, and your help. We need our friends (the body of Christ) to help us through this difficult time. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

Want to contact me?
Steve Corn
Dv84JC@yahoo.com
979-415-4522 (cell)

Leadership Compass

The leadership compass is the basis for the leadership model we studied at the College of Biblical Studies.

North = Character

South = Skills

West = Relationships

East = Vision

A true leader is a man/woman of character and influence with leadership skills to move people into a new preferred future/vision. The intersections of these four points are also important. For example: If you’re having a problem with people trusting you as a leader, you’ll see that trust is at the intersection of relationships and character. That means the root of the trust problem is either 1) Your people don’t know you well enough to trust you or 2) You have character faults which make them question whether or not you can lead them. It could also be a combination of the two.

I am setting out on a new adventure in life and am seeking a teaching position in the public school system. I believe this model will help me as I seek to influence both students and other teachers. My vision as a teacher is to teach more than just the curriculum, but also true wisdom. Wisdom beyond the textbooks. This kind of goal will require a strategy and this leadership model provides the basic outline for my philosophy of education. Influence is gained through character, relationships, skills, and vision. I will seek to be a man who is qualified in each of these areas.

RePost: Servant Leadership

In my teacher’s alternative certification classes, we’ve been discussing what they call the “1st Year Roller Coaster” and it reminded me of some of the things I learned in my “Christian Leadership” studies at CBS. I thought it was worth RePosting. Also called “Situational Leadership,” this model is intended to help managers/leaders guide new employees/volunteers through the “Roller Coaster” by offering different styles of leadership to them throughout the process. It also helps in understanding the “Roller Coaster” and why everyone feels similar things when starting something new. Anyway, below is the description I originally wrote.


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.

Situational_3_3

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

Situational_2
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.

Christian Gymnastics – The Balance Beam

Risk is essential if we are going to call ourselves Christians. In Psalm 127:4-5, God describes our children as “arrows” in our quiver. That means we’ve gotta be willing to send our children (and ourselves since we are God’s children – the arrows in His quiver.) out of the safety/comfort zones and into enemy territory to take ground for the Kingdom of God. Sometimes the greater risk is to risk nothing at all. Only in risk do we discover how great our own need for Jesus is and realize His power and love for us.

Here’s a great video I saw on Donald Miller’s blog from Francis Chan talking about risk.