Saturday, September 27, 2008

So What Went Wrong?

Let's review: according to the Judeo-Christian tradition, humanity was created by a purposeful God who made people in his own image and who also made them to be productive. That sounds pretty great - so why do we have all the trouble we do today?

One word: the Fall.

No, not the season. Rather it is a mistake made so early in humanity's history that it effected our past, and it continues to effect our both our present and our future. The Fall occurred when humanity knowingly chose to do evil rather than remain in a state of trustful innocence.

The story itself occurs in Genesis chapter three. That chapter is complete with a talking snake, seemingly magical trees, and God himself walking in the garden. For modern folk, all this can seem a bit fantastic. In the classes I teach, I often mention the correspondence test for truth. The correspondence test basically asks if we can see a concept evidenced in the world we live in. I will be the first to admit that I can not show you a talking snake, but I can tell you that when I knowingly choose to do wrong, the process parallels the temptation in Genesis. Though not in these exact words, I often think "Did God really say . . . ? Wow, that looks good . . . . OK, I'll just try it . . . ." The end result: death. Sometimes it is the death of innocence; sometimes it is the death of trust. Sometimes I get hurt, and other times I hurt others.

Genesis chapter three deserves much more commentary that I can appropriately provide in this blog, but allow me to conclude with one final thought.

The Fall story is not the death of all human goodness, nor is it a story of abandonment by God. After the sin occurs, God seeks out Adam and Eve, and he even provides clothing for them. In spite of our fallenness, God is still in the business of providing. That gives me hope.

IDEA LEADERS: (1) How do you know the difference between right and wrong? (2) When you cross that line, how does it effect those you lead? (3) In spite of this world's brokenness, where do you find hope?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Worldview: Origins, Part 3

Let's review. So far, I espouse that the universe is purposeful and that humanity has worth because it was made in the image of its Creator (and I am following the Judeo-Christian tradition in doing so). I suggest that these two concepts are especially beneficial for a servant-leadership mindset.

Now for another thought on human origins: you were made to be productive.

That statement is not simply some line from a motivational seminar. It is the truth. Consider Genesis 1:28, which says "God blessed them: 'Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth'" (from The Message, which is a paraphrase - for a more literal translation, I recommend the English Standard Version).

A few observations:
  • God blesses humanity with these instructions. They are not burdensome.
  • No busywork here. God gives humanity the opportunity to be creative managers who prosper by reproducing and managing other created beings.
Blessed creative management was humanity's original leadership purpose. Though our modern world may be a far cry from the perfect garden of Genesis 1-2, we can still be blessed creative managers.

IDEA LEADERS: (1) Do you assign busywork to those you manage? Why? (2) How can you help those you lead feel creative, productive, and blessed? (3) What personal changes could you make to become more creative, productive, and blessed?

Art: "Adam Names the Animals," from The Aberdeen Bestiary.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Book Review: Lead Well and Prosper

When I first got serious about the craft of writing, I purchased a copy of Strunk and White's Elements of Style. Thin, highly readable, and practical, it became a constant companion during writing projects.

If you are looking for a similar book on management, I recommend Nick McCormick's Lead Well and Prosper. McCormick offers practical servant-leadership advice for managers in his brief book. Each chapter begins with a brief case study and ends with a summary list of do's and dont's. There is nothing revolutionary here, but I do appreciate the book's overall tone and style.

Recommended for new managers or those who wish to become managers.

For a link to Nick's website, click here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Know your point - make your point.

Speaking in front of a group can be intimidating, but it is also a necessary leadership skill. To paraphrase Will Rogers: when speaking, a person should (1) stand up, (2) say what he knows, and (3) sit down. If preachers would do this, we would all go to lunch earlier.

That's good advice. I recently listened to a speaker who had lots of good things to say - the problem was that he had so many good things to say that he lost his impact. He tried to make too many points. If you really want to impact people with your message, stick to one main point. If nothing else, the discipline of thinking through your message and synthesizing it into one main point will help you better understand what you are trying to say.

Once you have your main point, you need to do three things with it.
  • Explain your point - Provide supports for your idea. Why is your idea important? Where did you get this idea? If a book or another speaker inspired you, say so.
  • Illustrate your point - Find a story or object lesson that embodies your main point. This is the part that people are most likely to remember, so spend time preparing this one. If a particular story does not fit your point, no matter how great the story is, don't force it. Find a better illustration or you will only confuse people (I know this from experience).
  • Apply your point - Rarely do leaders give speeches that are purely theoretical. If your message is true, then your hearers need some way to apply that truth to their lives. Give them a specific action they can do after your speech.
I learned those three steps in a preaching class I took when I attended seminary, but I have found them useful whenever I address an audience (and yes, I even use a variation of this in my classroom).

Know your point. Explain your point. Illustrate your point. Apply your point. Then you will make your point.

IDEA LEADERS: (1) Who are your favorite speakers? (2) What makes them so effective? (3) How can you apply these steps this week?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Leadership Development Carnival No. 3

Thanks to Dan McCarthy for including a link to Idea Leaders in his latest leadership blog carnival.  The blog carnival is a one-stop source for links to leadership blogs.  This month's carnival feature's potential advice for Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.  Click here to check it out.

Worldview Leadership: Origins, Part 2

Last week I introduced both the concept of worldview and the question "where did I come from." This week I'd like to continue answering that very important question. In the Judeo-Christian worldview, humanity's origins are found in God himself. In fact, we are made in God's image. In Genesis 1:26, God says "Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature" (translated in Eugene Peterson's The Message). In The Expositor's Bible Commentary, John Sailhamer points out that during the previous acts of creation in Genesis 1, God says, "let there be." Now God says, "Let us make." God takes a personal interest in the creation of humanity, allowing humanity to somehow reflect part of him.

There are two major implications here for servant-leaders. First: there are no complete idiots. Really.

There are certainly some really frustrating people out there. Yes, sometimes there are really frustrating people in our organizations that we lead. And yes, they may do some idiotic things. But no, they are not complete idiots. Consider Jesus' warning in Matthew 5:22 (and to be frustrating, I'm going to let you look that one up). Somehow, even frustrating people bear the image of God. That image deserves respect.

Implication number two: even when you mess up, and I mean really mess up, you are still not a complete failure. In spite of your failures, you too bear the image of God. And that image is worthy of some self-respect.

This two-fold implication of being made in God's image is one reason Jesus can say, "love your neighbor as yourself." When we do this, we affirm the goodness of God's creation. Although that goodness is marred by the Fall of humanity (see Genesis 3), there is still something in every person that is worthy of respect.

IDEA LEADERS: (1) Among those you lead, in whom do you most clearly see God's image at work? Why? (2) In whom do you least see God's image? Why? (3) How does the fact that you are made in God's image change the way you view your failures?