Archive for January 2017

Be A Better Leader: Be Genuine (suggested books)

“Be Genuine” is the first category we’re exploring in our “Be A Better Leader” series. In this series, we are looking at a variety of attributes, characteristics, and skills that are essential to effective leadership, and discussing how they are reflected in practice. In addition to this month’s topic, the list of categories also includes “Be Relational,” “Be Trustworthy,” Be Knowledgeable,” and “Be Excellent.” This month, as we look at what it means to “Be Genuine,” we will be talking about the need to be authentic, be yourself, and be an example, and today I share some thoughts on a recommended related book or two.

We both know that there are many books that speak on the topic of authenticity, the importance of leading by example, the importance of understanding yourself so that you can lead from your strengths, and why it is important for effective leaders to be genuine.  I’m simply sharing a couple of books on related topics that I have found to be insightful and valuable in my own personal leadership development.

J. Robert Clinton’s The Making of a Leader (1988, Revised 2012) is an explanation fo “Leadership Emergence Theory,” and is particularly meaningful to me because it was the theoretical basis in my own research for my doctoral dissertation.  It is a model of leadership development that originated out of research of the formation of leadership in biblical leaders and in significant historical ministry figures, and so is specifically applicable to a Christian view of leadership.  Clinton describes this theory as the concept that “all of life is used by God to develop the capacity of a leader to influence” (1988, p. 9) including internal processes, external processes, and divine processes, both formal and informal.

Leadership Emergence Theory divides the leadership formation and emergence process into six stages, or phases, over the lifetime of the leader. The first, Phase I, is called the Sovereign Foundations phase. It is in this initial stage that God providentially works with the foundational items in the life of the leader-to-be in preparation for future leadership, beginning from birth. Phase II is the Inner Life Growth phase. In this stage, the emerging leader receives both informal and formal training, and there are four predominant means through which the training takes place:  imitation modeling, informal apprenticeships, mentoring, and academic study. Phase III is the Ministry Maturing phase. In this stage, emerging leaders serve in ministry as their prime focus, and get further training, and it is also during this phase that the discovery of giftedness takes place.  The following stage, Phase IV, is the Life Maturing phase, during which the emerging leader is able to identify and begin using his combination of gifts, training, and experience (called “gift-mix”) with effectiveness and impact, and learns to develop its use to its full potential. The pivotal stage is Phase V, the Convergence phase, in which the leader becomes most effective in his role as a leader and in his ministry, as his potential is maximized and exercised.  Unfortunately, only a few leaders ever experience this phase in their lifetime.  Even rarer is the final stage, Phase VI, or Afterglow.  This phase follows the active ministry of a leader by influencing a community based on a lifetime legacy of leadership.

In addition, Clinton identifies the essential variables and concepts that are foundationally important to understanding who we are, and knowing how/why our lives and our leadership have formed in the way that they now exist within us.  Understanding these variables and concepts in the context of the six stages of development help us to best understand ourselves and the shaping of our own leadership.  It helps to know ourselves by helping us to recognize the path of our personal leadership development story, so that we can then produce even further personal development.

 

Clinton, J. R. (1988, Revised 2012). The Making of a Leader. Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress.

Clinton, J. R. (1989). Leadership Emergence Theory. Madison, WI: Printing Plus.

 

Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, is a book about vulnerability and it’s value in leadership and in relationships.

Dr. Brown begins with a discussion about scarcity, or the feeling of never having or being enough. This feeling is attributed to the behaviors of shame, comparison, and disengagement, and therefore the counter attack is vulnerability and worthiness, being willing to face risk and exposure and knowing that I am enough (which she defines as “wholeheartedness”). But these are the very behaviors that we often avoid or refuse, and the result, then, is that “the greatest casualties of a scarcity culture are our willingness to own our vulnerabilities and our ability to engage with the world from a place of worthiness” (p. 29).

Vulnerability is described by Brown as a place of uncertainty, risk, emotional exposure, or, being open to attack or damage. The fear and misunderstanding of that risk has produced several myths – such as “vulnerability is weakness” – that inhibit our willingness to be vulnerable. Brown explains that it is necessary, then, that we develop “shame resilience,” or the ability to identify, face, and respond to what causes us shame in order to develop vulnerability. She then describes the typical shields / masks / defenses we employ to protect our vulnerability, and presents three strategies for removing those shields

Having identified and explained vulnerability, with the obstacles that inhibit it and the means to develop it, Brown addresses the importance of recognizing the value gap – the difference between what we want to do, think, or feel, and what we actually do, think, or feel. The disengagement between these two values (between talk and walk) must be overcome, both individually and culturally. She identifies the key to change, or re-engaging, as “disruptive engagement,” which involves making it safe to fail, combatting shame, and cultivating a unity and honesty that fosters vulnerability.

The essence of the book is the importance of being genuine. We must be genuine, and we must help others be genuine. In order to be genuine, we have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable with people, so that they can see who we really are. This can be scary, but it’s also necessary for building trust, because it reflects authenticity. I personally believe authenticity is crucial for effective leaders, so this book may be a good resource for helping you develop along that path.

Brown, Brené (2012). Daring Greatly: How the courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Gotham Books: New York, NY.

Week of January 30, 2017

“As a leader you ought to be caring for the people you lead, but you shouldn’t do it for what you can get out of it, rather, you should do it because it is the right thing to do. In doing so, you provide an example that will shape and influence them far more than you realize, because they are watching you and they will imitate you. In the end, your recognition and reward is beyond the material and temporal gains, but will instead be the lifetime reward of developing people, and the eternal reward of glorifying God. Therefore, as a leader: be an example.”

Be A Better Leader: Be Genuine (by being an example)

“Be Genuine” is the first category we’re exploring in our “Be A Better Leader” series. In this series, we are looking at a variety of attributes, characteristics, and skills that are essential to effective leadership, and discussing how they are reflected in practice. In addition to this month’s topic, the list of categories also includes “Be Relational,” “Be Trustworthy,” Be Knowledgeable,” and “Be Excellent.” This month, as we look at what it means to “Be Genuine,” we will be talking about the need to be authentic, be yourself, and be an example, and then I will share some thoughts on a recommended related book or two.

Early in my marriage, my wife and my mother were having a conversation about me (always a scary thought), when my wife commented about how annoying it was that I would wiggle my feet while I went to sleep, which of course made it difficult for her to fall asleep. My mother replied, “His dad does the same thing!” What was most interesting to me about this was that I was not even aware (consciously, at least) that this was one of my dad’s habits.

Years later, when we lived in another state, my parents came to visit, and while there, my dad came to see me at work. It didn’t take long for my extraverted father to disappear in search of other conversations, and after a while, one of my coworkers stepped into my office and asked if my father happened to be visiting. When I asked what made him say that – knowing that he had not met my father – he said, “Because I just saw someone who walks exactly like you . . . and like your son.” These two events illustrated for me the realization of how much I had followed my father’s example (whether I was aware of it or not), and how much my son, in turn, was following mine.

This is true for all of us – we are examples, whether we consciously realize it or not. People watch us, especially people that are close to us or are following us. And when they watch us, they learn from our example, and emulate what we do, in some form or another. That’s why it doesn’t actually work for us to tell our children to “do as I say and not as I do,” because the truth is, they are going to do what we do regardless of what we say.

Knowing the power of our example, the Apostle Peter gives it some attention in the book of I Peter. In fact, he specifically talks about our example in the context of leadership, but before we get there, lets get a broader view of the whole book. In the first four chapters, Peter seems to spend a lot of time talking about the importance of serving others in humility. Most of this instruction is applied to specific relationships and circumstances (such as the relationship between citizen and government, husband and wife, employer and employee, Christian brothers and sisters, and so on), but is also connected back in some way to our call to glorify God and reflect Christ in everything we do. He also clearly says that having this kind of conduct and character will not always be received well, and in fact may bring persecution and suffering, but to do it anyway . . . because our motive is always outside of ourselves: again, so that God can be glorified and Christ can be modeled

In this context of serving, humility, and representing Jesus, Peter says in chapter 5, verses 1-3:

1To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”

Peter says that those who are leaders have a responsibility to watch over and care for the people they lead. When I read how he describes that, it sounds to me like it is an obligation that should not be done out of obligation! He says we are to do this not because we have to, but because we want to; not for what we can get out of it, but for what we can give; and not to climb the ladder or exert power, but to serve as an example of what we are trying to grow. He says that we need to lead with a positive, selfless, and giving attitude, while living an authentic example in front of them.

You see, as a leader you ought to be caring for the people you lead, but you shouldn’t do it for what you can get out of it, rather, you should do it because it is the right thing to do. In doing so, you provide an example that will shape and influence them far more than you realize, because they are watching you and they will imitate you. In the end, your recognition and reward is beyond the material and temporal gains, but will instead be the lifetime reward of developing people, and the eternal reward of glorifying God. Therefore, as a leader: be an example to the flock.

Week of January 23, 2017

“Four basic steps: first know yourself (figure out your personality, characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses); then be yourself (lead from your strengths); next, help yourself (compensate for your weaknesses); and finally, make yourself (discipline yourself to do those things that you don’t like to do, but have to do as the leader). Following these four steps will help you to become the most effective leader you can be, because your leadership will match you and reflect you. So be the leader you are, not the leader that someone else is.”