Tag Archives: Leadership Development

Quick Review: Stuck! Navigating Life and Leadership Transitions

Last week I read the book Stuck! Navigating Life and Leadership Transitions by Terry Walling. Terry once led a brief time of organizational refocusing at my home church about 15-20 years ago so the name has stuck with me, but I was motivated by this book because he offers a popularized book of some of Dr. Robert Clinton’s work on Leadership Emergence Theory. Clinton is most known for his book The Making of a Leader and he has been at Fuller Seminary for quite a while.

Walling offers an incredibly practical description and road map for journeying through some of the biggest moments of leadership and spiritual development in life – what he calls “Transitions” and what Clinton calls “Boundaries.”  These are moments where old paradigms are being broken down to make way for the new. They can take a few months or they can take years to journey through.

Clinton’s work was formative for me in my late twenties as I was going through a significant boundary or transition. It was a 3-year phase of my life, but I would have taken much longer to navigate the deep truths I was being invited into about myself and about the Lord without Clinton’s Leadership Emergence Theory. It shifted the direction of my life and increased my leadership influence significantly the following decade.

Walling’s book was so easy to read and understand. My wife is a great test case in this. She is reading it right now and she is finding it to be a powerful read in the context of her life right now.

There are significant times in life where we can focus on the challenges and struggles and just try to get through. But it’s a much different experience to see such a phase as an invitation to go deeper and have our paradigm of life with Jesus expanded for the sake of preparation for what’s ahead. My wife is definitely in a big transition season right now and I may be in one too – it’s been helpful for us as we discern God’s leading.

The focus for Walling is the 3 big transitions in a leader’s life, which range from about the 20’s for the first one, the 40’s for the second, and late 50’s or early 60’s for the third.  We’re reading it in a timely way because we’re around that 2nd major life/leadership transition and boundary.

This could be a great intro to Leadership Emergence Theory if you want to begin reflecting on the big picture / sovereign hand of God in your life. It’s a far more practical and manageable version of Robert Clinton’s theory and work. I can’t think about my own leadership development at this point without some of the categories of the theory so I recommend you get acquainted with it and explore it.  This book is a practical introduction for you.


Quick Review: Taking People With You

I just finished David Novak’s book Taking People With You.  I am currently in the process of helping coordinate a large organizational change both in structure, culture, and in leadership roles and placement.  I was intrigued by the title of the book.  Then I found out it was written by the CEO of YUM, the company than includes Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell and I got excited – probably disproportionately so.

For one thing, when it comes to American Fast Food or “Quick Serve” Restaurants, KFC and Pizza Hut are right up there at the top of the list in the Philippines along with McDonalds.  So KFC and Pizza Hut are in my face.  I have to work a little harder to find a Taco Bell – but the products and tastes are so substantially different in Manila that I steer clear of that option.

Anyway – this company spun off from Pepsi Co. in a unique set of circumstances into its own company.  That made for a lot of interesting leadership stories and nuggets.  Besides some of the larger principles, I probably just enjoyed hearing the stories behind crystal Pepsi, the new KFC Colonel Sanders logo/brand, failed breakfast menus at Taco Bell, and popular Pizza Hut promotions. A lot of them were fascinating to me.

This book is not a research book, it’s an individual leader’s leadership philosophy and it reads that way.  So you get a lot of values, nuggets, and principles throughout.  There’s a lot of things borrowed from big names like Jim Collins or Jack Welch, but there’s a lot of wisdom with stories and anecdotes that back them up.

Maybe what I liked most besides the stories was that this book included several “tools” where the author shares a concrete and practical management tool to accomplish some particular task or goal – both developmental and strategic.  Some reinforce vision development.  Some get after self-awareness.  But some really provide helpful approaches to aligning employees, building trust, building unity on teams, getting honest dialogue, and a host of other things.

Many people teach all these leadership things.  Finding appropriate and practical tools or exercises to reinforce them in action is more challenging.  But Novak has some good ones here.  Last month I designed one such tool on vision and alignment for a class I’m teaching.  In this book, Novak has a very similar tool that I think was better and easier to use and I plan to use it next year.  But there’s an easy 4-5 tools I plan to file away and use in my leadership efforts working with teams or individuals.  In actuality, many of these “leadership tools” are great small group activities so there are broader applications than even he hints at in the book.

If you’re new or unfamiliar to the leadership theory or business world, this book actually could serve as a good intro or survey for you because he covers so much ground and references so many of the top names in the field.  If you have been around the block and are well read on leadership dynamics, then the practical tools and applications may be intriguing to you as you continue to explore effective ways of mobilizing people for effectiveness on a mission.

But if you just want to read or listen for stories about Pepsi, Pizza, KFC, and Taco Bell – then I think you’ll enjoy the read 🙂


Quick Review: DRiVE

Last week I finished reading Daniel Pink’s DRiVE:  The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. 

Understanding motivation seems to be an under explored aspect of leadership studies and action.  Given how much discussion there is in leadership and ministry ventures about empowerment, it surprises me there is not more intentionality to ground more leadership development and empowerment of workers and new leaders with healthy awareness as to what will lead to long term change and impact.

Pink provides a brief survey or overview of the history of how people have understand motivation – from survival, to external reward motivations, and finally to intrinsic motivation.   I disagree with the evolutionary assumptions behind how Pink frames this – as if the journey towards intrinsic motivation is part of humanity’s destiny in evolving towards self-actualization.  I happen to think a lot of the research actually instead supports a holistic theology of creation.

That’s one of the things I enjoyed thinking about when reading this book – how the research tends to affirm that men and women were created for intrinsic motivation when there is enough stability and freedom that allows for it.  Intrinsic motivation is an expression of identity and I believe it is meant to be an expression of worship to our Creator.  So a theology of creation makes the research in DRiVE even more interesting and exciting to me, not less.

What’s fascinating about DRiVE is that there are some jobs where external rewards are helpful – what Pink describes as algorithmic work.  But if external rewards are linked to generating motivation in heuristic work – work that requires creativity among other things, external rewards end up generating a host of negative results and implications.

The core areas Pink explores as key to fostering intrinsic motivation are Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.  Essentially he argues that people need freedom over their work and schedule and methods to some degree in order to truly be passion driven in what they do.  Mastery is a product of struggle and sacrifice.  Purpose is a deep connection to a greater cause, something greater than us.  In short, these three areas must be fostered and developed if we are to empower others through intrinsic motivation.

A helpful section in this book relates to parenting – how we often try to generate intrinsic motivations in our kids through methods that actually work against that.  That section might alone be worth reading for those in the parenting stage.  I have been thinking a lot about how to be intentional in targeting and developing intrinsic motivation in both my family and in teaching and organizationally.

Chances are there are at least one or two areas in your life and leadership that a closer look at human behavior and motivation would help in.  It definitely has been helpful for me in my own self-leadership and my leadership of others.

Quick Review: After You Believe

A couple months ago I read N.T. Wright’s After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters.  This book has really got me thinking and I’ve been continuing to think about the implications of Wright’s arguments as it relates to ministry and leadership formation.

Wright considers this to be the third book of a trilogy of sorts after his books Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope.  The first of those is his type of “Mere Christianity” and the second his a treatment of Heaven and eschatology.  After You Believe is a treatment of what discipleship and sanctification looks like post conversion – it’s about how true transformation of character develops.

The real focus of the book is the process and development of character which doesn’t get produced naturally – character which is only produced through struggle and intentionality and perseverance.  This type of character refined by fire, in which behaviors become second nature, is what Wright discusses as “Virtue.”

Virtue, besides being my last name, is a concept growing more popular today especially in business and leadership development discussions.  “Virtue-based leadership” as a philosophy has been gaining steam in leadership circles and Virtue seems to be making a comeback since the days when Bennett’s “Book of Virtues” was popular.

Wright discusses the two extremes of character development – what he describes roughly as “following the rules” on one hand and “following your heart” on the other.  He describes this as a spectrum in which most philosophies of personal change will fall on one side or the other.  He discusses how either philosophy of change – legalism or emotionalism/feeling driven change are inadequate for the kind of character development that equates to the New Testament mandate of “putting on” the new self.

Wright addresses some of the history of virtue development and highlights some of the Catholic / Protestant tensions of the Reformation related to the concept of virtue based character formation.  His discussion on these themes related to Shakespeare’s Hamlet has me pursuing that play to see some of how those themes are reflected in the art of the time.

Wright fundamentally calls for a grace based approach to intentional character development that invests in developing new habits while getting rid of old habits.  Some get nervous when talking about habits and intentional character development because they believe all transformation is a product of the Spirit. Wright supports that as well, but argues that there is an embodied expression of faith in the believer as he makes choices and struggles to die to him or herself and put on the behavior consistent with the new identity in Christ.

Sanctification is produced by the grace of God as his children die to themselves by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit and put on the new self – even when the behavior isn’t “natural” or second nature yet.  Wright argues that over time, such Spirit driven behavior and struggle in faith produces that character refined by fire that is described by virtue.

We live in an age when many believers are trapped in legalism and performance on one hand and cheap grace on the other.  There is a need for an integrated view of sanctification that calls believers to a more holy integration of faith and works, all grounded in the grace of God.  Wright makes compelling arguments from Scripture and challenges all believers to reject cheap grace or regulations and embrace an authentic journey of denying themselves and putting on the character of Christ – even if it feels uncomfortable or not natural at first.




Third Year of the SPLC!

I’ve just opened up registration for the 3rd running or 3rd cohort of the Systems and Power Leadership Community. If you’re looking for some different leadership development that what you might have previously experienced or just love learning with other people, check out the details at my SPLC page.

If you know somebody that could be served by this type of learning experience – send them the link!

The 2012-2013 group kicks off officially October 1st. Earlybird registration ends on September 19th!

What have past participants said about their experience?

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Maturity is Contextual

Have you felt like there were some situations or places where you really felt like you were growing?  Strong, healthy, empowered?

And then maybe you also find yourself in other situations or places, but you don’t feel like those descriptions are true.  Maybe there are places or situations where you find yourself weak, anxious, powerless, angry, or maybe even just young and immature.

I believe Maturity is Contextual.

What does that mean?  Well it means there are some places you might actually function pretty maturely and there are others in which we find ourselves giving expression to various dysfunctions and immature behavior that maybe we had forgotten existed or that we’re not aware of yet.

I think a majority of folks have a paradigm of maturity that is linear – you grow or mature and it’s kind of like a static thing that you take with you wherever you go. You don’t regress…you keep climbing the mountain of adulthood.  It’s kind of linear in that it’s like a straight line on a graph. Maturity = growth and transformation over time.

I think there’s a kernel of truth there.  But we also in some ways are different people in different places.  Each context or situation is a different emotional system.  They are made up by the unique collection of people and players.  What’s important for this discussion is that each setting we might find ourselves in, the pressures upon us and the challenges to our identity and maturity vary greatly because dynamics change with different people.  So authority relationships, family, gender, ethnicity and race, and host of other factors shape our experience of our contexts.  And you know what – different situations often tap into different things. Sometimes we don’t have to grow up in some places because people don’t make us.   However we can’t get away with those same things in a different context because the expectations are different.

This is part of why even grown men and women can feel and act like children or adolescents when they return to their parent’s home.  Or maybe it’s why even very mature and experienced leaders can’t speak up in the face of perceived authority.  Whatever it is – we don’t act the same across the board.  Therefore we develop differently in differently places, because those places call us to grow up in different ways (except for those places which work to not let us grow up at all in the first place).

I worked with short-term international mission teams for about five years so I got to work with students and staff of my organization before, during, and after significant and often intense cross-cultural experiences in various places around the world.  It wasn’t uncommon during a debrief or conflict mediation session to hear someone express in frustration, “That wasn’t me.  I don’t know what happened.  That wasn’t really me.”

Now we all know that feeling and understand what’s being communicated there.  But I always tried to ask the question, “Well, who was it then?”

Sometimes we regress, a situation or team or relationship or dynamic draws out the worst in us.  There’s often flat out sin involved too as a result of immature reactivity.  Usually there’s also an exposure of areas that are immature – that haven’t grown up yet.  And it’s hard to integrate those immature moments, those childlike moments with those experiences in which we feel like we’re on top of our game and where we feel good about ourselves and what we want people to see and experience from us.

Maturity is contextual in that it is through unique contexts and situations in which we are formed and shaped and challenged and exposed.  Yet maturity is not purely contextual as we seek to integrate our sense of self, allowing us to become someone who is consistent, who embodies integrity and wholeness, and who can embrace the challenge to grow up as a result of whatever challenge that comes. I’m speaking here more on a developmental level rather than on the theological/sanctification level.

Who we are is not “somewhere in between” our best environments and our worst.  Who we are is both.  Our underlying character gaps and our immaturity or vulnerable to sin areas are exposed more in certain settings – and they should drive us towards grace and humility and learning.

But we should be mindful that in our best environments – we might have a false sense of confidence about just how far we’ve come.  I’m not talking about pride per se.  I’m talking about a monstrous blind spot that comes from failing to recognize that we function really well in some contexts and situations because our weaknesses are not tested in those moments or places as they are others.  This is why people in power can go a long way and maybe never really recognize how many glaring holes in their character are really there.

So as you think about your own growth and development – recognize that it’s fluid, it’s environmentally influenced, and it’s a sign of maturity to do the work of integrating your self as different contexts experience you differently. That’s where you really experience grace and exhibit authentic humility as a person and leader.

And remember this warning – you might not be mature in the setting in which you function most.  You might simply be lucky – lucky that you’re set up in a situation in which your true character just isn’t tested or challenged or exposed.  We have seasons like that.  But those seasons come to an end sooner or later and we’ll have a test of our character and convictions. Our maturity then may be exposed both by the situation…and then how we respond after we find ourselves in the light in new ways.


Embracing the NO’s to Sex: Putting On The Big Boy Pants

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Why I Love It When My Wife Says NO to Sex

Putting On the Big Boy Pants

Encountering limits and experiencing boundaries are reality checks.  We need limits as they remind us that our reality is in fact bigger than just ourselves.

While it might be a rude awakening if a particular spouse is in the mood and starting to put the moves on and they are met with, “You know, I just really don’t want to right now because I’m…..” or “I’m really not feeling that great…” or “I’m not sure I can right because I feel like we need to finish that discussion we had earlier and I can’t be close until we resolve that.”

Initially it might be a buzzkill, but in the bigger picture it can be reality giving you a cold slap to the face, reminding you that your burning desires and the sexual feelings you have in the moment aren’t the only thing going on in the world.  We need to be slapped by reality sometimes.  Some of us are far too crafty in our efforts to avoid reality and we need it to find us and wake us up if we’re getting a little too insular in our perspective on life and marriage in this example.

But we’re talking on some level about rejection. More than building resolve and serving as a catalyst to a husband to be a student of his wife, being told no when you’re putting the moves on can be pretty developmental in other ways – identifying areas of insecurity or pride being some of them.

Those buying in that we ought not ever reject our spouse amidst sexual initiation (according to some teachings on 1 Cor 7 which I’ll address in a few days) create a dynamic in which the husband especially never has to deal with his own security as a person and a man.  When he wants sex, he gets it.  He can feel comfortable in his own world of his own desires without ever really having to be ok when he doesn’t get his way all the time.  There are men whose ego’s are riding pole position in their marriage and all the dynamics are designed to support that ego.  These are men who hear these types of marriage teachings and feel validated for their “rights” as a man.

You know what this reminds me of – raising my young kids.  What happens if my kids always get what they want and they never learn to be ok with disappointment and not getting what they want in the moment – their heads get big and they become more self-centered and demand more.  They need to hear “No” a lot because they have to learn how to balance their own desires with the desires of others and the limitations that often exist in getting what you want.

There’s a pattern to some of the leaders and ministers that flame out later in life for some kind of moral failure or character issues – usually they were coddled a lot and often they had wives who instead of helping their husbands become stronger and more accountable, they enabled their husbands through unconditional cheerleading and refusing to do anything that wounds the ego.  Some get wrapped up in the success of their spouse and things become about image and performing rather than strengthening the relationship and marriage in a mutually transforming way.

When my wife says no to sex or no to a host of other things I might want to do that she feels strongly about, I believe she’s helping me become a better leader when she sets limits with me.  She’s helping me live within my personal and family limits.

So you know what we as men (and sometimes women too) need to do when our sexual mojo doesn’t get the results we might want in the moment?

We need to go put our big boy pants on and figure out an alternative way to connect with our spouses or we need to go find something else to do besides brooding or pouting.  I believe there’s a connection between our capacity to stay secure in our relationships and handle “No’s” in both the personal and professional contexts.  If we can handle “No’s” without making it all about us in marriage – we’ll be able to demonstrate those same dynamics in our work relationships.

Related to this, my suspicions for a while have been that those I see not being able to work with strong female leaders are coming from marriages in which their marital “system” doesn’t allow for a lot of no’s to the male ego.  They aren’t used to hearing “No” from women and therefore such leaders aren’t secure enough to lead WITH leaders of BOTH genders – especially ones that will say “No.”  Just an observation that at this point seems to me to be a pattern, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Never say no to your spouse’s sexual initiation as a teaching in my mind reinforces a Napoleon complex for husbands.  Little dudes wearing big hats expecting everyone to fall in line with their will.  I think God’s design for marriage and sex in marriage aims a little higher than that.

So let’s exchange our Napoleon’s hats for our big boy pants and embrace adult and peer dynamics in marriage.  Because one of the fruits of our marriages should be that we become more mature and better leaders – in our families and in our vocations.


2011-2012 Systems & Power Leadership Community Starting Soon!

Are you looking to increase your leadership capacity and deepen your leadership presence?

The second cohort of the leadership learning group will launch in  October of 2011 and I’m looking for 10-12 leaders who are interested in exploring the themes of identity in leadership formation, leadership in the context of emotional and relational systems, power and servant leadership, and leadership development in  the context of organizational life.

This may be a great opportunity for you to go a little deeper into these themes with a few other quality people.  If you know someone that would be all about this opportunity, please let them know about this as well!

Right now I’m estimating that about 1/3 of the spots are already taken, but there’s room for more.

Testimonials from Past Participants

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Read below for a summary of the vision, intended outcomes, and basic structure of the 7 month time line for those interested in this opportunity.

If you are seriously interested in participating in the 2011-2012 Leadership Learning Community, fill out the short request/application and I’ll follow up with you in the near future to let you know if there’s a spot for you:

For those wanting stated objectives and more info, here’s the breakdown of what we’re going after in this experience.

Purpose: To provided a guided leadership learning journey and experience in community centered around leadership formation in the context of teams and organizations for the purpose of building leadership capacity and wisdom.

Intended Outcomes:

  • Develop a basic foundation and working knowledge of family/congregational systems theory as it relates to teams, congregations, or organizations.
  • Develop a holistic paradigm of leadership formation that integrates spiritual maturity, emotional maturity, and identity.
  • Develop a strong foundation and framework for stewarding power, empowering others, and being a servant-leader in identity and practice.

Structure & Details:

  • Roughly an 7 month time-table.
  • Who?  Available to to Epic Movement, CCC/Cru Staff, and any other leader who is motivated by the intended outcomes.
  • Monthly Commitment of about 14-16 hours or about 4 hrs/week.  Monthly Video Conf. Call (1 1/2 – 2 hrs), Movie (2 hrs), Reading (8 hrs), Discussion Forum & Assignments (2-4 hrs)
  • Cost:  Free apart from cost of several books and several movie rentals and headset perhaps for video conference calls.
  • Monthly conference call/video chat (1 1/2 – 2 hrs) covering reading and other assignments for the month and to discuss key themes covered that month. We’ll probably use Google + for this.
  • Books and readings (6 books; roughly 8 hrs reading per month)
  • Movies and Media (1 movie per month)
  • One Monthly Online Discussion Forum to have ongoing dialogue between conference calls related to readings, learning moments, and media based discussion.

This not an official enterprise of “Epic Movement” or “Campus Crusade for Christ/Cru Global.”  However, I will give priority first to any Epic Movement or EFM staff that would like to explore this, though leaders from all ministry contexts are invited. Everyone needs to be engaged in leadership in some way or on a leadership team on some level.  There will likely be a bias towards the ministry context, but I believe it will be relevant and just as friendly to other leadership contexts.

If you are not sure you want to do this, but want more information – fill out the above form anyway and share some of your questions and thoughts and I’ll get in touch with you to talk more.

This is one of my favorite things to do and hope you consider participating this year or in the future!