Archive for Miscellaneous

Thank You!

A little over three years ago, I was in a place of transition in my life.  I had been involved in Christian education for about 22 years, and had been able to learn and grow as a leader through my experience.  However, we (my wife and I) had been walking through a journey that included her battle with cancer, so I began to look for opportunities to use my experience and skill set in ways that would allow me much greater flexibility to care for my wife’s needs.  Specifically, I began to explore opportunities to teach undergraduate and graduate courses on leadership (focusing primarily on pursuing online teaching positions).  Because I felt like I had some valuable insights to contribute to the conversation on leadership, and because it is desirable for college professors and instructors to be actively writing, I bought a copy of Blogging for Dummies to learn how to set up a blog, and the end result was this page, “Common Sense Leaders.”

Over the last 3+ years, I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to organize and clarify some of my thoughts in writing, and then being able to share those thoughts with you.  It has helped me to grow even more in my own leadership, and I hope it has likewise been helpful for you.  Along the way, I was also able to self publish a simple little book on purpose, called Finding Purpose at the Intersection of Passion, Ability, and Opportunity.  I now have a second book written, one that specifically addresses effective Christian leadership based off of a series of posts I did on leadership lessons from the life of Ezra, that I hope may one day be published (we’ll see if a publisher is ever interested; it may just have been something that was written for my own benefit). Regardless, I do know that I am a better leader today than I was three years ago.

During that time of transition, as I was seeking the best way to care for my wife, God worked clearly in my life to move me into a head of school position at a small Christian school Texas, one where my wife and I are both well cared for and loved.  I believe I am now in a place where I can serve God well, lead with excellence, and make a difference in the lives of people, while at the same time being able to walk life’s journey together with Nora in a way that gives us both peace and joy.

Therefore, I think it is now the right time to take a break from writing this blog.  At least for the time being, this will be the last post for “Common Sense Leaders.”  There may come a day when it is right for me to take up my pen and start sharing my thoughts again, but for now, I am stepping away.  Thank you for taking time to listen to what I have shared, and I pray that you will continue to grow in your own leadership as well.

Jeff McMaster

Be A Better Leader: Be Excellent (some recommended reading)

“Be Excellent” is the fifth 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 Genuine,” “Be Relational,” Be Trustworthy,” and “Be Knowledgeable.” This month, as we look at what it means to “Be Excellent,” we will be talking about the need to be flexible, be intentional, and be competent, and then I will share some thoughts on a recommended related book or two.

If you have followed this blog at all, you know that I am a pretty avid reader, so I have quite a few books on my shelves that have been beneficial to my personal, professional, spiritual, and leadership growth (and quite a few that I’ve read just because they were entertaining).  That makes it a little hard to narrow down a selection here, but I going to recommend two in particular.

The first one is a book called Spiritual Leadership by Henry and Richard Blackaby, which I am currently reading.  Because I am only partway through the book, I haven’t actually written a review, but I think that this is already rising to the top of my list of valuable books for leadership excellence within a Christian perspective.  It is an excellent book on leadership, but it is written with a specific perspective of what it means to be an effective and excellent leader in any context who leads in such a way that it reflects God and draws people toward God and His plans.

The other book I’ll recommend is The Leadership Challenge, by Kouzes and Posner.  The Leadership Challenge is about how leaders mobilize others to want to get extraordinary things done in organizations. It’s about the practices leaders use to transform values into actions, visions into realities, obstacles into innovations, separateness into solidarity, and risks into rewards. It’s about leadership that creates the climate in which people turn challenging opportunities into remarkable success” (Kouzes & Posner, 2002, p. xvii). The preface of this book begins with this paragraph, summarizing the concept of leadership that it prescribes.

The book was originally published a little over 25 years ago, and became an influential book that was representative of Transformational Leadership. As I described in recent post, transformational leadership can be defined as “the process whereby a person engages with others and creates a connection that raises the level of motivation and morality in both the leader and the follower” (Northouse, 2013, p. 186).  Transformational leaders are people who are recognized as “change agents who are good role models, who can create and articulate a clear vision for an organization, who empower followers to meet higher standards, who act in ways that make others want to trust them, and who give meaning to organizational life” (p. 214) Kouzes and Posner, culminating in there important publication, researched and developed a model of leadership that represented these ideals.

Their research was conducted through countless surveys and interviews of leaders around the world over the last several decades, and resulted in establishing what they term as the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.  The effectiveness of these practices is predicated on the establishment of credibility first (no one is very willing to follow a leader that they do not trust), which was revealed when their research show that honesty and integrity were consistently the highest rated attributes that followers wanted in their leaders.  With credibility established, the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership are:

·      Model the Way: be a model of the behavior you expect from others, with clear consistency between words and deeds

·      Inspire a Shared Vision: imagine the future, and then enlist people in that vision, with an understanding and consideration of their needs

·      Challenge the Process: be willing to change the status quo and adopt innovation, recognizing that experimentation, risk, and failure comes with change

·      Enable Others to Act: foster collaboration and trust, empowering and making it possible for others to do good work

·      Encourage the Heart: demonstrate genuine acts of caring to uplift people and show appreciation, drawing them forward

They finish their book by establishing the view that leadership can be learned, encouraging people to self-analyze and take the stops to develop effective (and moral) leadership skills.

The book, with the principles described by Kouzes and Posner, is an excellent resource for leaders.  The ideas are practical and understandable, and correlate strongly to biblical principles (see the bonus note below).  This book is a definite must for your leadership growth and development.

Bonus:  A separate book, Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge, was published in 2006 as a faith-based companion to The Leadership Challenge.  The book addresses the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership from a Christian perspective, utilizing five men and women from the world of leadership to reflect on the role of faith in leadership as it applies to the principles of Kouzes’ and Posner’s work.


Kouzes, J. M., and Posner, B. Z. (2002). The Leadership Challenge (3rd Edition). Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.


Week of January 30, 2017

Week of January 23, 2017

Week of January 16, 2017

Week of January 9, 2017