Sunday, January 27, 2008

What is your vocation?

Last week dealt with the issue of where to lead. This week I'd like to introduce you to a servant leader who found the answer to that question through downward mobility. Henri Nouwen was an ivy-league professor who left his prestigious academic post to work with a handicapped community. You can read his story here.

I appreciate his accurate description of the none-to-gentle tug-of-war between the desire to do something "successful" verses doing something "meaningful." Plato's Laws discusses the importance of an education that teaches citizens to find pleasure in virtue. Perhaps in a similar way, the servant leader's education teaches him to merge "successful" and "meaningful."

IDEA LEADER: How distinct are your concepts of being "successful" verses doing something "meaningful"? Do you know anyone who has found peace by merging the two?

Photo: Teri Holzmann

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Where should I lead?

If it really is true that everyone can be a leader, then the next logical question is "where should I lead?" This question deals with leadership context.

Though all are leaders, not all are equally gifted for every situation. Sometimes in our pursuit of status we may pursue leadership opportunities that don't match our gifts. We can easily become a fish out of water, with the natural result that we gasp desperately for air.

Let me propose a simple test. If a good leader never asks people to do more than he is willing to do, then ask, "What am I willing to do?" In the pursuit of excellence, in what area are you willing to push yourself the most? If you discover that you are willing to make the biggest sacrifices for your current context, then congratulations! You seem to have found your leadership-calling (at least for the present).

IDEA LEADER: In what areas of industry or personal life am I willing to make the most sacrifices for the sake of excellence? Does this match what I am currently doing?

Friday, January 11, 2008

New Year's Evaluation

Though my New Year's resolutions aren't yet official (other than to stop procrastinating, which I'll start working on tomorrow), I have completed my New Year's Evaluation.

Every semester I ask my students to evaluate my teaching, and this year I used a particularly simple evaluation: stop, start, continue. Students wrote out what they thought I should stop doing, what I should start doing, and what I should continue doing. Knowing what to continue is particularly helpful.

Stop, start, continue provides 360-degree feedback because I also completed a self-evaluation before asking my students to evaluate me. Interestingly, some of the things I felt that I needed to stop or start were not mentioned by my students, so those things may not be issues after all.

If you have not made resolutions this year, why not try a stop, start, continue evaluation? If you are bold enough, have those you lead do the same as an evaluation of your leadership.

IDEA LEADER: It seems to be human nature to focus on what we should stop or start, but what do you need to continue doing as an effective servant-leader?