Tag Archives: Vulnerability

Merry Disturbing Christmas!

Nine years ago I wrote a post entitled Herod & Jerusalem based on some reflection on Matthew 2:1-4. I came back across that passage this Christmas season and wanted to offer some new and refined possible responses to the question, “Why was Herod and all of Jerusalem troubled when hearing about Jesus?”  Here’s the text:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.“ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.

This version uses the phrase “troubled,” but others use “disturbed” to describe the emotional response by Herod the Great and all of Jerusalem.  Have you ever thought of what all of Jerusalem means?  Does that mean every single person? Does it mean the rich? The religious? The powerful? The educated?  Or does it mean all? I don’t know definitively what all means here as there was no internet or newspaper service, but I would assume it includes at least the rich and powerful who had a vested interest in the politics and leadership of the day. AKA – the rich, powerful, religious, and educated.

And what does it mean that they were troubled or disturbed? Weren’t the Jews waiting in expectation for a Messiah, a deliverer, a King that would restore them to glory?  Why were these Jewish leaders disturbed rather than curious or hopeful?  And what does that matter for us today?  Here are some of my theories….

Here are some of my theories….

1.  Maybe the news of a newborn prophesied King of the Jews disturbed the elite because they feared the disruption of the social order.  The leaders of Jerusalem had established some measure of stability through Herod’s relationship with Caeser Augustus and the fear of Roman intervention. And in any system, there those who benefit from a political administration and those who may not. Maybe all of Jerusalem means those who found a pretty good life under Herod were more worried about losing their status in the face of local rebellion or Roman retaliation than about Biblical prophecies? Word of a new and promised king would mean a challenge to the political order of the day with potential vast ramifications for those with status in that order.

2.  Maybe Herod and all of Jerusalem were more disturbed than hopeful because they could not see God’s way of providing for His people.  Maybe, as people often do, they fell into patterns of belief and thought that God’s promised King would only come through “Kingly” lineage as viewed through the lens of the day. Of course, Jesus does have Kingship in his bloodlines as Matthew’s genealogy attests, but so did a lot of other people. Maybe people were blinded by their own elitism and expectations about where great leaders come from? Maybe the new King should be born a King and the thought that a baby born in Bethlehem could be a King was ridiculous. As such, this child again becomes a threat to the political and social order because he could not possibly be from the right stock.

3.  Maybe the educated and religious elite stopped expecting the Messiah because they liked their religious system they had developed and the control and status they gained from enforcing it? Maybe the news of a newborn Messianic King was disturbing because they were focused on policy rather the story of Israel? Maybe they feared the loss of their tight religious system if Rome got involved in a power struggle?

4.  But maybe there’s a deeper level of disruption involved? While Herod was disturbed no doubt because of the threat to his power and position, maybe all of Jerusalem was disturbed with him because the presence of two Kings brings the question of allegiance to the forefront. The news that a promised “King of the Jews” has come from outside the current royal line means a challenge to current authority. And for all those “around,” it means there will be a day of reckoning, a time to choose.  Who will they give their allegiance too?  In such a time, everyone has to choose. It’s only a matter of time.

Maybe it’s some parts of all of the above. Comfort, status, control, and safety seem to be factors for why all of Jerusalem began to get disturbed and anxious. But at the core, I believe all of this gets at the anxiety of allegiance. When allegiance is secure, these other things are not disturbing even in the face of risk and danger.

All of Jerusalem seemed to be feeling the anxiety of allegiance, even if they couldn’t put a name to it.  And unless we have addressed our own allegiance once and for all, we should be disturbed by Christmas as well.  But is so, is your anxiety because you fear losing power, status, comfort, or control?

This is what makes the incarnation amazing – the promised King came with no earthly power, status, comfort, and with total vulnerability. The foolish things of the world have shamed the wise.

 

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 Gifts of Imperfection

After reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly a few weeks back, I decided to read her book The Gifts of Imperfection as well.  This was the foundation of her initial TED talk that went viral and brought Brown into the public idea and her research on shame and vulnerability.

I wanted to read this book because she referenced a few sections of it in Daring Greatly that intrigued me and because Brown’s book’s are fantastic Manila traffic audiobook experiences. They are interesting and carry depth, but they aren’t so complicated or theory oriented that I have to rewind and backtrack on things. Both of these books are great and provide much more context and perspective to supplement the TED talks.

The Gifts of Imperfection was actually more personally significant for me than Daring Greatly. Perhaps this is because of my past and current manifestations of perfectionism and overly serious temperament most of the time. There were several sections that I found to provide such great insight into dynamics, fears, and pressures that have been part of my life and journey at various points.

Perhaps most helpful, this book came at a timely point in time where I have been experiencing increased pressure and expectations – some from others and some from within. I cannot do all the things I am needing to do.  Correction.  I cannot do all the things I am needing to do as well as I want.  That distinction is revealing about my struggles and this book reminded me of the futility and danger of trying to control my environments or please others or deliver high-quality results in every area of life. It’s a life-giving book and there’s much that echoes what the Scriptures say about living by faith in the vulnerability of life.

There is an excellent section on parenting that is different from some of the parenting content in Daring Greatly but that was really helpful for us as we now have our oldest child in middle school. There’s also great content on the role of faith (though some of the spirituality content was ambiguous and at times feel a little new age in its language). But the content from a research perspective of the correlation between authentic faith and living wholeheartedly was interesting to me.

I haven’t read Brown’s more recent books, but the treatment of vulnerability and shame is really good and is highly relevant to every walk of life because it’s part of the stuff of life. I can help but think through these themes through Genesis 1 – 2 because they echo the big story of Scripture.

Anyway – I highly recommend The Gifts of Imperfection. I see myself coming back to it from time to time because I resonated so much with different sections.

 

 

Quick Review: Daring Greatly

I finished Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly today and it was really great.  I’m not sure I need to give too much of an intro due to her enormous popularity through her TED talks and involvement in the Global Leadership Summit a few times in recent years.  So I’ve seen her content and enjoyed it, but I  hadn’t read one of her books and been able to be exposed to some of her research in more depth.

Brown is a shame researcher among other things and this book is really unpacking what dynamics are at work within us to either catalyze boldness and greatness in life or hinder and limit us.  The key as she communicates it is the idea of shame resilience – the ability to live vulnerability and bounce back with risk and courage in a world that often seeks to limit and judge.  So vulnerability and shame are at the core of this book as well as some of her other works as well.

From a theory standpoint, it fascinates me how the research reinforces what I believe the Bible teaches about identity, the fall, and redemption. She unpacks the crippling and paralyzing darkness of how shame works in peoples lives and communities. But she also illustrates how a person’s sense of what she calls “worthiness” or wholeheartedness is what makes the difference in people’s lives. That sense of worthiness that comes through love, grace, and emotional connection is what provides the security and grounding to risk and live with courage amidst vulnerability in this threatening world.  The research confirms clearly the Biblical narrative and its theology of identity.

Practically – there is excellent content that includes great content for parenting and for leadership.  As parents in the heart of parenting young kids, it’s super helpful reinforcement of what will help shape wholehearted kids and how to negotiate vulnerability as a family.  The same with leadership, but the content and application to family and parenting felt most valuable to me right now.

This is a significant book and the general arena is pretty key today. People do not understand the power of shame in these ways – in the west or east. In Asia, these are huge themes and topics that need addressing and leadership in the family and the church among other places.  But it’s the same in the west.

This is a great read for parents, leaders, spouses, and friends. It takes us to the heart of what’s going on in the deepest parts of us in our daily struggles and gives hope for a path forward if we feel stuck.  So I highly recommend the book or any of the talks you can find on youtube or the TED website. It’s worth it!

 

Keeping Things Above Board

This entry is part 9 of 10 in the series Leading on the Seas

The phrase “Above Board” has long been associated with transparency and integrity – that nothing is shady or being hidden for corrupt purposes or selfish gain.  This term is anchored in marine tradition and practice.  When crews were to have their ships inspected or if they had a business deal, they would put out everything on the deck or in plain sight as a gesture of good faith or so business could be conducted easily or so they could be inspected.

Captains and crews who wanted to hide cargo or hide things of value would keep those things strategically hidden in the recesses of the ship.Above Board in common lingo and in sailing lore refers to things that are set out in plain sight, not hidden out of sight.

The metaphor is so ingrained in our culture as it relates to integrity and maintaining openness that I will go a little bit different direction as far as a modern day application.  If you have functioned in any organization then likely you have seen “closed door” meetings as well as “open door” meetings.  By open meetings I don’t mean that anyone can walk in off the street and join your meeting.  It means you give people access to what really is happening over the course of setting direction and making decisions.  Closed door meetings is when only the select few have access.  I like the “Above Board” metaphor because I think it relates really well to how leadership teams seek to control their image by taking refuge in privacy.

Certain things are often put out “on the deck” to project a spirit of openness and to build trust and confidence.  But often others can get a feel for whether everything’s “Above Board” or if there’s secret cargo below that is not being talked about.   Leaders and teams who try to hide cargo can fool some people, but not their best people.Hiding cargo doesn’t mean necessarily corrupt activity.  I think the danger I see is that teams and leaders can try to control their image so much that they keep all the real substance to their decisions and their presence to themselves.  The stuff that is put out on deck is only that which is polished and organized.  But here’s a couple things that teams can do to keep things Above Board and build trust and accountability rather than a culture of image management and organizational control.

  1. Let team members speak with independent voices at times.  Sometimes team members have to be in a position to be able to be held accountable.  There frequently is a “one voice” policy out there, which I believe from a communication standpoint is typically good as it relates to direction and whatnot.   But sometimes “one voice” becomes something that leadership teams can hide behind because it’s hard to hold individuals accountable when only “team” things are put out on the deck.  Be unified.  But be accountable too.  Let people own their decisions and take responsibility for them.
  2. Be intentional to put things out on the deck that are incomplete or unfinished.  Leaders who like “secret” meetings where they are solving the worlds problems often don’t like to let people know about process or the real issues and tensions that come up over the course of significant decisions.  They just work them all out behind closed doors and then come out and present a nice looking finished product.  But this usually dismisses context.  People trust you more when they can see the context and backdrop of where the decision or end result came from.  Just looking at the final product doesn’t typically allow people to appreciate the full scope or context that makes such a decision or product appreciated.  Ironically, by trying to control you can lose control as people lose trust because they don’t have access to the leadership struggle below the deck.  They don’t need to know all the business, but real is better than fake.  You can end up with a good or necessary leadership decision and still be fake doing it.
  3. Invite an inspection below the deck.  Choose to be open, vulnerable, and transparent out of a commitment to building trust and empowering others.  Let followers and other leaders check you and your team out a bit to learn about what makes you tic and whether you are trustworthy or not.  If you are not trustworthy, it would make since why you try to hide.  Reality will be exposed.  If you are trustworthy, then you only reinforce that by giving people access and you open yourself up for continued learning.

Keeping things “Above Board” is about honesty, trust, and fostering partnerships.  Sneaky efforts to hide cargo or disguise unsavory or unfinished things erodes trust and undermines empowerment.

Where do you think leaders need to keep things “Above Board?”  What types of things do you think most frequently are hidden away under the deck?

Click the category link “Leading on the Seas” in the right hand column to see more in this series of posts.  These posts are part of a larger leadership development project I’m working on so please feel free to add your thoughts and perspectives!