Tag Archives: leadership

Quick Review: The Art of Virtue-Based Transformational Leadership

So a book I started well over a year ago and have read excerpts and sections off, but never really officially finished until this week was The Art of Virtue-Based Transformational Leadership by Mark McCloskey and Jim Louwsma.  It’s about 140 pages and a great primer on a really helpful leadership framework.

I had been looking forward to this book for quite a long time because Mark McCloskey was a significant mentor in my life as the head of the Transformational Leadership MA program I went through at Bethel Seminary a decade or so ago.  This book essentially captures the intro class to that program with a bit more refinement in some of the ideas and in the packaging. Louwsma has been a significant collaborative partner with McCloskey. I remember him visiting and presenting in some classes during that time and was impressed by his insights and perspectives.

The book gives an overview to what they call the 4-R leadership framework, which starts with Relationships and works its way out to Roles, Responsibilities, and then ultimately Results.  I’ve found it to be the most comprehensive and helpful framework for leadership development that I’ve used, but it’s also the dominant framework I’ve been exposed to over the years. McCloskey was former staff in my ministry organization and helped implement this framework as the leadership framework for the whole organization.  So I’ve been immersed in this framework both academically and in practice over the past 20 years.

As an aside – if you are Cru Staff, you should own and read this book to have more foundation for the framework that is central to organizational evaluation and development.

The authors weave the theory of the model with the narrative and example of Nehemiah from the Old Testament book of the same name, but one of the nice touches is they include a diverse number of 2-3 page biographical summaries on various transformational leaders in history.  I especially liked that they extended behind typical examples, but took a global approach in highlighting leaders who have exhibited transformational leadership.

It’s really not an overwhelming read as it’s less than 150 pages, but you get a lot in those pages. For $100 you can find the MBA / ultra-academic version of this book.  But now that this is available as a Kindle e-book I can’t recommend it enough if you want to explore a practical, yet research-based framework to help build and shape a leadership culture. Even if it’s just for your own development, it will help you do an audit on just about every area of your leadership from character to practices to skills.

Get it!

 

Quick Review: The Five Temptations of a CEO

Thanks to Audible, Patrick Lencioni’s book The FIVE Temptations of a CEO was on sale last week for 50% so I think I got it for around $4 or so. It’s one of his shortest books and also the first of his well-known leadership fable books to my knowledge. The audio version was about an hour and a half. I listened to just about the whole thing while supervising my kids in the swimming pool on vacation one afternoon. Water was WAAAY too cold for me so I opted for some Lencioni instead.

This was maybe the most simple of all the books I’ve read from Lencioni. Simple story and five simple principles that have a significant and disproportionate impact on leadership and team success. It was a brief book, but it came at a good time for me as I’ve been stretched lately through having to lead at a higher level. It’s not just for CEO’s, but for anyone really leading a team and who is in a position to steward organizational mission, vision, and values.

The five temptations are essentially these:

  1. Status (protecting self over focusing on results)
  2. Popularity (wanting people to like you instead of holding them accountable and making the needed decisions)
  3. Certainty (wanting to avoid risk and failure)
  4. Harmony (wanting to avoid tension and uncomfortability in the team)
  5. Invulnerability  (Maintaining distance and avoiding authenticity)

Here’s his model in simple form as it’s covered on his website. You can download the model here in pdf form.

Much of these principles are unpacked in more detail in later books, especially The Five Dysfunctions and Getting Naked. So I don’t know if paying full price for this book is what you need to do. I would think a lot of it can be gleaned from The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. But for the price, it was a great and simple overview of some key things. Of all the ones here, the temptation of certainty was the one that was most helpful for me right now. It’s the one least covered in other books I’ve read so maybe that’s where I found a lot of value here. But overall – it provided a great opportunity for self-assessment and to explore possible development and change moving forward.

It was a great hour and fifteen minutes – I listened at 1.25x speed 🙂

The website for the book is here.

 

 

 

Quick Review: The Mentor Leader

One of my personal goals this year was to do some intentional development in the mentoring area.  In the last several years I’ve been doing more mentoring by nature of my role as a faculty member with a commitment to mentor several men on a weekly basis. In the last five years I’ve noticed I’ve been in a transition phase – where I’ve been moving from one looking for mentoring to having to embrace this particular aspect of leadership in new ways the older I get.  I am comfortable mentoring situationally and without long-term commitment, but I’m increasingly in situations where I need to give more in these ways.  One of the developmental resources I chose to read was Tony Dungy’s The Mentor Leader since the title was in the neighborhood of what I am looking to learn more about and develop in.

The book does have some great principles and wisdom for mentoring, but in general, this is really a good team leadership resource. Dungy at points synthesizes some of the best insights from other leaders and then adds his own principles and philosophy. His philosophy is unpacked through his 7 “E’s” that he illustrates in his final chapter. These E’s are familiar words like engage, educate, empower, elevate, encourage and a couple others.  And they cover the essentials of culture shaping leadership that puts people first.

Dungy uses a lot of business and leadership content, but he uses Scripture more and does it pretty well. In that sense, this book can be used as a good servant leadership for people just beginning to learn about Christian or ministry leadership.  I can see this being a helpful outreach resource too for those that admire Tony Dungy from his football accolades and media presence.

It is full of stories and anecdotes from the sports world, which I enjoyed because I’m familiar with many of the names and personalities mentioned. Not everyone who has that backdrop may resonate with some of the illustrations or stories in the same way, but they provided great context and depth to Dungy’s content and teaching.

The book is well structured and includes a well-structured philosophy of leadership that is rooted in both Scripture and some of the better wisdom from leadership experts out there today. For those who have read tons of leadership reading, it may feel a bit light on theory and philosophy, but that’s ok for what Dungy’s general audience is in this book.  The focus is on helping people embrace the idea that adding value to other people’s lives is foundational to how we should define and understand leadership. In this way, there’s less here about how to accomplish things than there is on how to build others up in the process.

It’s a good resource. The audiobook is great because Dungy himself narrates it and for those that are familiar with his voice from his NFL television analyst role it feels quite natural and comfortable. The audiobook is at last check only $4.

There’s some things here I can envision using in the future, but in general, its strength is how it helps people embrace the call to add value to other people’s lives. That alone is a refreshing emphasis for a leadership book.

You can download a free pdf or mp3 of the 1st chapter of his book here.

 

 

Quick Review: 7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness

Over the past year I have, as the opportunities have allowed, have worked my way through Eric Metaxas’ book 7 Men and The Secret of Their Greatness.  I took this book slow and when I was in the mood for a brief biography this was a great go to book, especially via the audiobook version.  Each biography is about 50-60 minutes on the audio book, basically the length of my commute to and from work.

The book includes 7 biographies of men of faith that have had a significant impact on others and society.  The list includes George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Chuck Colson.

Many of thus are well-known figures, some with movies documenting parts of their stories or journeys. Amazing Grace came out on William Wilberforce, Chariots of Fire on Eric Liddell, and most recently 42 on Jackie Robinson. I recommend all of them.

I personally learned new and significant things about each man that I didn’t know before even though I have been quite familiar with many of these men.  I enjoyed all of the brief biographies, but I was particularly encouraged from my learning on the lives of Pope John Paul II and Chuck Colson, who I did not know as much about. These men are quite different in their personalities, gifts, and historical and social contexts. But the faith and integrity demonstrated that showed up tangibly in service to others is quite the powerful common thread to their impact.

I am not typically a “biography” guy, but this was a great way to expose myself further to the lives and examples of these men and leaders, each in contexts that carried such great challenges.  I recommend the audiobook, which is my preferred mode to do biographies. It was a great antidote for traffic and long commutes.

 

Quick Review: Strong and Weak

One of the richest and most practically helpful book I’ve read this year is Andy Crouch’s Strong and Weak.  It’s the third book I’ve read by Crouch this year and all three form together what I would describe to be a trilogy related to a theology and practice of image bearing. You can see some of my thoughts on the 1st of these books Culture Making here or the more recent Playing God here.

Strong and Weak is roughly an extension of Playing God.  Playing God  is a more in depth look at power and privilege. Strong and Weak continues that, but Crouch introduces a framework for understanding social ethics, relationships, and authority among other things.  This allows for a really clear conceptual understanding of much of what he unpacks in Playing God.

Crouch builds his book around a 2 x 2 chart. The X axis is represented by the concept of vulnerability, while the Y axis is represented by the concept of authority. Crouch draws from the first couple chapters of Genesis these two significant aspects of what it means to be an image bearer. Having the authority and ability to take meaningful action on one hand, and having the posture of vulnerability and risk on the other.

In the chart there are 4 quadrants, which Crouch describes as flourishing (high authority, high vulnerability), suffering or poverty (low authority, high vulnerability), withdrawal or apathy (low authority, low vulnerability) and exploitation (high authority, low vulnerability).  The book is organized around these quadrants and their implications for relationships, community, and even leadership as well.

The simple 2 x 2 chart provides a really helpful framework to understand some really complex dynamics as well as the powerful and countercultural implications of gospel action through people in different quadrants.  It provides a helpful way of understanding servant leadership, empowerment, social responsibility, and community development all in one.

This book is about 150 pages or so, very readable. I highly recommend you read this – it has something for everyone and it serves as an incredible teaching tool to help people understand how to look at the importance of both authority and vulnerability – which cover a surprising amount of the issues leaders have in negotiating the social realities of their contexts.

This is an important and helpful resource that should help people think more theologically and responsibly about the dynamic relationship between authority and human relationships.  I really encourage you to find time to read it.

 

Quick Review: Culture Making

I recently finished Andy Crouch’s Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling and wanted to share some quick thoughts on the book. I had been wanting to get to it for quite a while and some of the discussions I’ve been in recently related to ministry and education gave me cause to finally dive in.

Essentially the book presents a theology and practice of creative stewardship and work. After an exploration into what “culture” is and how it works, there is an analysis of the many ways people engage culture.  The most common expressions of how Christians engage culture are noted as condemning culture, consuming culture, critiquing culture, or copying culture.  There are some similarities to some of the categories offered by Reinhold Niebuhr as well as to more recent work by Tim Keller. But Crouch’s focus is primarily on culture as it relates to creativity and calling (thus the title) as opposed to a full-blown theology and practice of cultural engagement that includes political and social engagement. The term cultural engagement doesn’t really even capture Crouch’s thrust – he focuses rather on “culture-making” instead.

Crouch, drawing on Genesis and the Scriptures, argues for two other paradigms that are more “Biblical” in nature.  He names creating culture and cultivating culture as the two approaches to culture that are often overlooked by Christians, but that provide the greatest redemptive contribution to God’s purposes in restoring the world.  He uses the metaphors “artists and gardeners” to illustrate what is involved.  Cultivating refers to the work of stewarding the best of what humanity is and has created while creating obviously refers to the effort given to bring dreams into reality for the sake serving mankind and glorifying God.

I found the discussion incredibly helpful and enjoyable, especially because creativity and cultivation have long been overlooked. Creativity has had its champions, but I was intrigued by the role of “gardeners” in the church and in the Kingdom of God. I’ve been thinking about this and feel like it is a neglected aspect of the church’s engagement with culture.  Maybe the historian in me is drawn to the idea, but it feels significant to me.

There’s a lot more in the book including content related to power and other topics that are of interest, but the thrust of the book is above – helping people understand the many ways they navigate culture and to consider that the best way to impact society for good and for God is through the creation of new cultural goods. The argument being that bad or insufficient culture isn’t transformed until something better comes along to replace it. One of the incisive criticisms Crouch levies at the church is noting how most efforts to bring Christian worldview to the table in relation to culture stops in the realm of critiquing culture, falling well short of creating culture.

My final note is that Crouch gives an insight in his introduction that really stuck with me. He notes the popular maxim, “Pray as if it all depends on God and work as if it all depends on you.” I’ve always understood the kernel of truth here and the call to diligent stewardship exercised in dependence on the Lord, but something never fully felt satisfying to me.  Crouch critiques the application of this phrase, affirming that we need to learn to work as if it all does depend on God – because it does. Stewardship is implied, but the freedom of exploring vocation in the guidance of the Holy Spirit opens doors for creativity and inspiration.

I think this book gives a lot to chew on – not every person may be gifted or inspired to be a creator or a cultivator, but these are elements that every community would be wise to nurture for the sake of both worship and mission.

 

Quick Review: Outliers

I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers last week and I really enjoyed it.  If you looked at my recent posts you could see that I essentially am finding ways to read a bunch of the books I wanted to read over the past five years.  Outliers was one I have wanted to get to for a while.

The idea essentially is that our tendency to attribute success to personal greatness really undermines the systemic variables that result in exceptional success in time.  So small or unique advantages at a point in time end up creating opportunities, that if stewarded by hard work and investment, can result in exceptional performance.

I think it injects a lot of humility into the discussion about “greatness” and it touches a lot of areas of society.  No one should be taking all the credit for their success.   Examples in the book include the Beatles, Bill Gates, professional hockey players, and many other in society.  It shows how these people took advantage of small advantages when they came and over time they led to exceptional performance.

The parts of the book I was most intrigued though was the back half of the book that explored areas of education related to economic disparity, marginalization, and culture.  There is also a discussion about how ancient farming and irrigation practices impact many Asian countries and cultures’ performance in math.  It made me want to have my kids spend some time working rice fields.  These are all contexts in which economics, culture, luck, fortune, and family heritage end up creating a systemic environment for some people to have small advantages that can, through hard work and discipline over time, but turned into excellence.  But keep in mind, that time of practice and experience needed for greatness is estimated to be about 10,000 hours.

I have heard a lot about this book and the ideas over the last many years, but one of the main ideas that really surprised me and that I appreciated was the question Gladwell raises not about how we can be great, but about how we can offer opportunities for currently marginalized or disadvantaged segments of society to experience that same kind of greatness.

I think the example of education for economically disadvantaged communities stood out significantly – there’s many variables that if institutions and leaders targeted them intentionally, could help create an authentic level playing field.  Instead of preaching that life is a level playing field – where success is only a matter of effort, it’s being more realistic about the ways small advantages lead to large advantages and working to create places where all have an opportunity to achieve excellence if they are willing to do work hard.

So this book is less about how to achieve success as I originally thought, but more about how to understand what factors lead to success over time and how we can work to get the best out of everyone and not just the advantaged.

Pre-School Theology: I’m Here!

This entry is part 12 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

We’re in our last months of having a pre-schooler so the nostalgia is setting in.  But we continue to have moments that remind us that the eyes of a pre-schooler always provide a fascinating as well as entertaining perspective on life and even life with God.

Last week I attended a theological forum here in Manila on Peace and Reconciliation and was gone for a couple of days.  Even though it was held in the city, it was essentially like an out of town trip.  When I got back I took the family out for ice cream to re-connect after being gone and celebrate the end of the week given that it was a Friday.

IMG_4260It was a high energy meeting where kids were talking fast and relaying all their experiences from the previous few days and catching up on things.  The older kids that is.  After several minutes of chatter and fast talking by our oldest children, our five year old Kaelyn at the first real moment of silence in the conversation burst out with a simple declaration, “I’m here!”

It was an abrupt transition, but she had tons she wanted to connect about and she was feeling overlooked and somewhat overpowered by her siblings.  All that she was feeling in that moment just exploded awkwardly through that simple phrase, “I’m here!”

It was such an abrupt statement in the conversation that you can’t help but shift the focus of the conversation and explore what was going on for her. Sure enough, she had been wanting to share some specific things with me that she had been holding onto for a couple days and she wasn’t going to feel close or connected until I knew about the important things in her life.

It was a reminder that being seen, being able to have a voice, being able to have meaningful connection in areas that we want to be known is fundamental to living lives of purpose in community.  We all have moments in life, relationships, and work where we want to scream out, “I’m here!”  It’s a gift when others respond to our own different expressions of “I’m here!” with a gracious and listening disposition.  It also reminds me that it’s just as significant of a gift to others when we validate their “I’m here!” with a response of “Yes, you’re here!  And I’m glad you are! Tell me more!”

Lencioni refers to anonymity as one of the signs of a miserable job and all the pyschology literature shows us the many ways relational isolation wrecks havoc on well-being and communities.  But it’s in those moments of expressing, seeing, or responding to the “I’m here’s!” is where authentic and connected community is built.

There is a warning that we often find artificial ways to declare “I’m here!” in an effort to earn that validation, yet no achievement can provide the transformational power and depth of freely given acceptance and grace through relationship.

This is the power of the gospel for people in their journeys with God and with one another.  Connecting in the “I’m here!” moments are  the simple moments that build us up, transform us, and deepen our capacity to serve others.

Look for the “I’m here’s” this week and see how you can give the gift of, “Yes! You’re There! Tell Me More!”

 

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 🙂