Tag Archives: Ministry 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 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.



Capacity Building Decisions and Empowerment

Have you ever seen an example of a group of people or an organization succeeding in something that everyone else is struggling with?  People usually want to find out “the secret” so they can jump on the success train too.

I was talking with a friend not too long ago about an example of an organization that has really taken major jumps in its success empowering ethnic minority leaders and creating a culture that fosters and honors diversity and rich cross-cultural engagement.  We were talking about why this one organization and event was seeing such fruit while others that were at least in theory working towards the same thing not seeing anything close to the same ethos being produced.

What was clear to us was that the “secret” was not in what took place at the event itself or in the immediate months prior to it.  What was evident is that the fruit that was experienced in terms of diversity and ethnic minority leadership out of an originally Caucasian environment was a product of years of right, healthy, and serving decisions. Those decisions did not immediately produce glaring fruit, but over time those decisions shaped culture.

This is my takeaway from our conversation:

Ethical, serving, and healthy decisions over time increase the capacity of a community or organization to be ethical, serving, and healthy. Places that are failing to serve or failing to empower leaders are failing not just because of the moment, but because they are bearing the fruit of years of decision making that hasn’t served or empowered to the degree that was needed.”

Decisions are capacity building opportunities.  One decision by itself to move towards something different or new or needed may not have a radical impact on a culture’s ability to embody those values.  That decision may not even be successful or fruitful.  But it may fail because the community’s capacity isn’t ready to live out those values yet.  Pragmatic or success driven institutions panic in such a moment and begin to backtrack to alleviate the anxiety of change.  Serving institutions committed to creating new realities continues to stay the course in making these value driven decisions.

These decisions are like weight lifting.  One decision may not produce much and it may meet a lot of resistance.  But over time, decision making that is anchored in a clear commitment to culture change and serving others, especially those who are different, starts to bear the fruit of an increased number of people who have the capacity to live out the values of the desired future as opposed to the comfortable past or present.

But like weight lifting, decision making is hard when your goal is increasing capacity.  There is resistance. There are temptations to quit.  There are temptations to take short cuts to capacity and growth that undermine the health and integrity of the long term objectives.

The scriptures speak to the dynamics of sowing and reaping.  These dynamics are readily embraced when it comes to some elements of leadership and in my world of ministry it is readily applied to evangelism.  Yet when it comes to multi-ethnic empowerment and unity, the empowerment of ethnic minority leaders, and issues of power and voice in community and organizations we often fail to remember the phenomenon of sowing and reaping.

Today there are many places that want to reap health, reap justice, and reap ethical serving cultures without understanding how they must sow to those areas over time.  Most of us would agree that it can be pretty discouraging when there is talk about what people want for the future, but the decision day to day and month to month or year to year don’t reflect a core commitment or understanding of how to build the capacity to see such a new reality come to pass.

When it comes to ethical, healthy, and serving environments, there is no “secret sauce.”  But there is a secret – it’s that you are embodying and reproducing what you have sowed over time.  If we want an environment that is more healthy, just, serving, and empowering then we must be willing to pay the price over time.   There are no short cuts, no steroids to serving and empowering leaders from all backgrounds.  Every decision matters – it’s building our capacity to live out what we want or it’s tempting to live out what always has been.

How are you seeing your capacity strengthened or weakened by your choices and decisions?

My Best Posts of 2012

It’s a few days late, but per tradition I wanted to post some of my best or most viewed or engaged posts of 2012. My blogging pace slowed down, but I enjoyed putting more focus into the themes of servant leadership, measurements, ethics, and power.  I’ve put up what I think are the top 10 general leadership posts as well as a few other links related to different interests.  See the bottom for links to more in depth resources – articles and e-books. Enjoy!

Leadership / Ministry / Culture / Ethics

Dangers for Discerners: Elementary

Maturity Is Contextual

The Praying Prophet

The Rush and Good Feeling of Progress (On Ole Miss & James Meredith)

Green Zone Leadership: Agendas

Stats Lie: Large Underwear

Stats Lie: The True Image of Man’s Existence

Why Self-Forgetfulness is a Poor Paradigm of Sanctification

Carver’s Do Not Faces Make

20 Year Anniversary Reflections on the LA Riots


Family or Fun

Star Wars and Personal Accountability

Preschool Theology: Wretched Man!

We’re Moving to the Philippines!


Resources from 2012 I wrote or collaborated on:

The Epic Resilient E-Book: Some of the Best Articles and Blogs from Epic Staff during the 2011-2012 School Year

The New Edition of My Paper/Article of Why Ethnic Minority Staff Leave My Organization

An Article By My Friend and Teammate Adrian Pei “Rethinking Culture and Mission”