Category: Leadership

Quote of the Day – Talent

“If you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.” – Austin Kleon

Get in the Gym More

I am a fan of University of Kentucky basketball.  Let me be a little more specific.  I am a fair-weather fan of University of Kentucky basketball.  What I enjoy is watching a very good team play some very exciting basketball.  When the season holds such magic, I enjoy watching the games.  When it does not, I might go a whole season without watching a single game.  If you have kept up at all with this season’s team, you might already realize I am watching every game I can.

For those not up to speed, the coach of UK’s basketball team, John Calipari, has put together something magical this year, which is part because of his recruiting, and it is partially due to some of last year’s players deciding to not go to the NBA.  That means he has an entire team of players who could start on any basketball team in the nation.  Ten of those players started out this season as the Blue Platoon and the White Platoon, an almost unheard of strategy in college basketball where the entire team was switched out every four minutes.  Unfortunately, that left an entire third string of players, who could start on most any team in the nation, sitting on the bench in their warm up suits.

Early in the season, Alex Poythress, who plays power forward for UK, tore his ACL and ended his season.  This left a vacancy in one of the platoons, which has resulted in some varied combinations on the team, but ultimately an opportunity.  This was, at least in one game, filled by Dominique Hawkins.

I write all this for a reason.  There are still a number of players on the bench.  Players who rarely get any floor time, yet they are great by most accounts.  Players who were superstars in their high school careers.  Yet they get almost no time on the floor playing.  Why?  They aren’t “earning” it.  I watched an interesting video and read an interesting article on this yesterday by The Courier Journal.

Derek Willis, one of those on the bench for UK, was hoping to fill that vacancy left by Alex Poythress, yet when the time came he was not chosen.  The aformentioned article goes into some detail why.  Derek is not the most renouned speaker in the world, but what he said is a great life lesson for anyone.  Derek states, “I’ve asked a lot of people, talked to them about it, (and) I’m really just getting the same thing: Just get in the gym more and just be around the game more.”  Whoa!  Did you read that?  Now to be fair, Derek admits he is struggling with this lesson, but even so he has said something profound here that applies to all of us.  If you aren’t happy with where you are in your career, talk to your coach (your boss) and others in a mentor position, find out what “practice” is in your career, and do more of that.  Do more of what it takes to get your time on the floor.  If you are on the floor, do not take that lightly because there may be another player on the team who wants it more, who is willing to work harder than you, and if so, they may take your spot.

This reminds me of a player on the football team on which my son has played.  He wasn’t the biggest player on the team, but during the off-season he spent his time at the gym, working out regularly.  He would come back each season more bulked up than the last.  It came to a point his calves were like most people’s thighs in size.  And that wasn’t all.  He was bulking up all over.  He was doing what it took, and it paid off.  He became one of the premier players on the team, often getting an opportunity to run the ball down the field, often being put in tough spots due to his athleticism.  He made this opportunity.  It didn’t just happen.

It also reminds me of Ozzie Smith, one of the greatest shortstops of all time in baseball.  I have heard it said that Ozzie would pay kids in the street to come in and either hit or throw ground balls to him so he could practice his trade.  If that is true, then it certainly speaks to the lesson Derek Willis is learning too.  It doesn’t matter how great you are, more time practicing, no matter how great you are, results in better performance – period.

As we all look at our lives, what are we doing to get more time on the floor in our lives?  Derek Willis, I am watching you.  I hope you have learned as much from this as I have learned from you.  I want to see if you grab this opportunity and show the world what it takes to be on the floor.


Disaster Recovery

Chicago from the Air

Chicago from the Air

As I begin writing this it is Friday night, September 26th, at about 10:00 PM Central Time. I have just departed Chicago O’Hare Airport for Nashville, and while I feel blessed to be on this flight, it was not originally in my plans for the day.

I began this morning in Denver, Colorado, with an early morning flight to Chicago, followed by another flight to my only local airport in Paducah, Kentucky. If all had went as planned, I would have been home by 3:00 PM, though I know that is not something to count on. Even so, what happened today should have never happened.

Airlines often get a hard time from folks over things that are beyond their control. Believe me, they mess up their share of the time too, but things like weather are hard to control. Today was one of those days. One of those days the airlines weren’t to blame. My airline of choice, United, and all of the others would have preferred today never happened. Though I have been in the midst of this all day, I have yet to see the news, so I don’t know the full story, but let me tell you what I know.

A disgruntled employee set fire to the air traffic control headquarters. As I understand it, this wasn’t even at the airport, and it is certain that it had repercussions that went much further than Chicago. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this disgruntled employee was, at least for a short time, the most powerful man in America, though I don’t think that was his point.

As tragic as this is, it will likely derail the real tragedy in all of this. The real tragedy is that a critical piece of the infrastructure of this country, air traffic, was effectively halted by one man. ONE MAN. This raises a question that must be answered. How did this happen? Unfortunately, the focus will be put on this disgruntled employee, but it will probably miss the real issue. The real issue is that there was not an adequate disaster recovery plan in place.

As many people know, critical businesses must have disaster recovery plans. I suspect that there was a disaster recovery plan for this critical service, but was it adequate? No. A critical service of this nature should have had the ability to fully recover in a matter of minutes. Though I am not one for unnecessary spending, a complete replica of this system should have been in place at another location, and it doesn’t seem that it was. In fact, as I departed tonight, flights were still being cancelled, and it seems they will be tomorrow too. How could this happen? What will the total cost of this outage be? I fully suspect that the cost will be far more than it would have cost to put an adequate disaster recovery center in place.

Why is this so troublesome? It is not the first time this has happened. This same location had an issue just earlier this year. When will people learn? How much money will the private sector have to spend to cover the mistakes of the public sector?

I don’t know the answers, but I sure hope someone in a position that can make things happens makes it their job to find the answers.

9 Easy-to-Steal Habits of the Super Successful

One of the things that always sparks my interest is the differences in the successful and the unsuccessful.  This blog post at Fast Company on 9 Easy-to-Steal Habits of the Super Successful is one of the better lists I have read showing some of those differences.  As I read this list, I thought of how this is a list that every leader in the church should read as well.

There are a lot of good ones in this list which I won’t cover, but there are a few I do want to point out.

The one that struck me the most in this post is “Lead, Don’t Dictate”.  This is a leadership principle that I hear over and over, and one that I think ever single person who is in any sort of “leadership” role should reflect upon.  Are you leading?  I think there are roles for managers (people that manage processes or people to accomplish a task), and I think there are roles for coaches/mentors (people who help guide others, though they aren’t necessarily in the trenches of the day-to-day job themselves), but this world is sorely short on leaders (people who have a vision and are willing to jump into the battle to lead their team toward that vision).

As I read back on those words, I am not sure I have adequately defined that, and even more so I see how much work I need to do to be a real leader both in my professional career and in my role in my church.  Much to ponder on this one …

Another one that struck me as very important is “Keep Promises, No Matter How Small”.  Wow, this one makes me sick at my stomach.  Why?  I fail at this.  It isn’t that I tell someone something that I don’t intend to do, it is that I forget I have told them that.  This is a real issue for me, and I suspect it is for others too.  What sometimes happens is that I commit to something and I don’t write it down.  Perhaps that commitment is not that important to me, though it is to the person I committed to.  Because I don’t write it down, it escapes me, and I don’t follow through.  Wow, I now see I need to work much harder on this one.

Another one I struggle with is “Take Breaks”.  In fact, I am reminded about this often from people who are around me.  Candidly, I know they are right.  No one is effective if they work all the time without taking a break.  In fact, Stephen Covey said it well with Habit 7 from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

You can renew yourself through relaxation. Or you can totally burn yourself out by overdoing everything. You can pamper yourself mentally and spiritually. Or you can go through life oblivious to your well-being. You can experience vibrant energy. Or you can procrastinate and miss out on the benefits of good health and exercise. You can revitalize yourself and face a new day in peace and harmony. Or you can wake up in the morning full of apathy because your get-up-and-go has got-up-and-gone.

There are several other good ones in this list, some of which I have adopted (#1 comes to mind immediately) and some of which I still need to work on (#9 comes to mind immediately).  Now the challenge of the day for me, and perhaps others too, is to work on those areas where I am weak, and to strengthen those areas where I am strong, so I can be the best example I can be – the best leader I can be.  This isn’t just about our professional lives either.  As I said in the opening paragraph, this applies to leadership in our churches, and that doesn’t solely mean the pastor.  It means everyone in a position of “leadership” in the church.  It also means our homes, our personal life, and everything we do.  After all, a leader isn’t just a leader in part of their life; leaders are leaders all the time.

Four Leadership Lessons From Nehemiah

I came across an interesting blog post the other day titled, “Four Leadership Lessons From Nehemiah“.

I would like to add a disclaimer before I get into the meat of this post.  I have not checked out the church from whose blog I read this.  While I normally do that, I didn’t feel these points were impacted by theology.  

  1.  Leadership Is Providential – While I agree with the Patterson’s point on this, I struggle with it too.  I believe God ordains each of us for our work, but by simply saying leadership is providential, it makes it seem as if leadership doesn’t fall into our lap, God hasn’t ordained it.  Sometimes God provides us the skills and the calling, and sometimes I believe God expects us to develop those skills.  I think this goes along with point number three.
  2. Leadership is Spiritual Hard Work – Perhaps a better way to say this is “Leadership should be spiritual hard work.”  In fact, I am not sure the discussion behind this point supported the point as well as I expected it to, though the point still holds true.  Good, godly leaders are not just leading, but they are supporting those they lead in prayer.  If it were only that, it would be simple and easy.  Good godly leaders also consider those they are leading to be more than employees or “followers”.  In fact, just like the Bible tells us in Romans 12:15, we should, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”  You should consider those you lead, especially those you have direct influence over, to be a significant part of your life.
  3. Leaders Use Projects to Build People – This is a powerful point that I would not have gotten on my own reading Nehemiah.  All too often in today’s world, this principle is thought of backwards.  People are thought of as a means to complete a project, but that is not how it should be.  We can see other examples in the Bible of this as well, the one most coming to mind is the disciples.  The interesting truth behind this, which isn’t stated, is that by using projects to build people, the people you lead will then complete the projects better.  By placing the growth of those you lead above the projects they are assigned to, you ultimately end up with better, stronger people doing better, stronger work.  This can be a slipperly slope though, as one can fall into the trap of attempting to grow people so that projects will be done better, which ultimately fails as the leader’s heart is not really on their people.
  4. Leaders Persevere – I loved the quote from Mark Dever in this section of the article.  Mark states, “A godly leader keeps leading.”  What else is there?  If God has put leading others on your heart, then leading is what you do.  Trials come.  Challenges happen.  Projects are completed.  Jobs are finished.  Even so, leaders keep leading.

One of my long-term goals is to be the best leader possible, and these four principles are certainly ones to keep in mind, especially #2 and #3.  It seems to me that the greatest task a leader has is using their influence as a leader to build up the people they lead.  As I see it, the foundation of this is both the second and third points from above.

Three Great Things Leaders Do

There is a plethora of articles out there on leadership, but the many of them are misguided. The concepts are fairly simple, and while I would not have necessarily chosen these three things as my top three, they would all be on the list.

Three Things Great Leaders Always Do

  1. You must have a clear vision.
  2. Actually care about people.
  3. Be the hardest working person in the organization.