We are all examples.
If you’re not a good example for others to follow,
then you probably are the bad example for them to learn from.
10 sentences to inception.
Leaders are decision makers. Period.
Every action come with a cost, at times, they come at the expense of others.
Now, are you comfortable with making decisions?
Given the degree of interdependence in this world, every decision we make will always be at the expense of someone else.
The only question is whether we realized it, or not.
With this understanding, it is not surprising to find people experiencing decision paralysis on a very frequent basis.
What if there’s another side of the coin that we have failed to consider, a cost we failed to measure?
There is a cost to inaction, there is a price for the invisible.
Just think about Hiroshima.
Everyone was being so agreeable. The CEO nodded, the VPs agreed, the Directors were polished in their reviews. All the content was “good,” the timelines “reasonable,” the budgets “sufficient.”
We were in a meeting to review the roadmap for the company’s new product. And it had all the hallmarks of a Potemkin village.
I wanted to accept the consensus as a sign that the company had rounded the corner on its 3-year slog to be more relevant in their market. I knew that the new head of engineering and the head of product management had worked through a ton of issues to get to this review meeting prepared. Maybe the company was (ahem) finally going to make products that were competitive.
But just then, the CEO interrupted and asked the product managers in the back row of seats, “What are the weaknesses with this roadmap?”
Some long seconds passed. The product managers looked at each other, then at their VP, and then, finally, to the CEO.
And then this small voice, untraceable for a moment because it was so small, started to explain how this plan would put the company in 2nd place in almost every aspect of innovation or time to market. The voice grew in clarity and volume. Then the person associated with the voice stood up and started to point out other areas where the plan was lacking, and where it would lead the company to miss the market. Underlining specifics, the tone of the voice implied these points were well known within the group working most closely on it, but dismissed by others.
You might think that the room celebrated this passionate voice.
But they didn’t. At least, not yet. You see, the person with the voice came off as a rebel. By my estimate, at least half the room was judging the person as being indelicate and the other half was judging the head of product management for not controlling his ranks. No one seemed grateful that an important issue was being raised.
Perhaps you can think back to your own “rebel” situation in your organization. Such moments are rarely hailed, at least as they’re happening. And yet any of us could see ourselves as rebels, heretics, or misfits who are challenging the customs and norms of our group. American culture certainly celebrates this idea of challenging the status quo — we tend to think of ourselves as a nation of minutemen, pioneers, and entrepreneurs.
There is a fine line between a rebel and a leader, though we tend to conflate the two. A rebel resists conformity. Sometimes the rebel’s challenging voice helps an organization to discover a gap, push themselves to innovate, and ultimately to thrive. So the challenging, dissenting voice can, at times, be tied to leadership. But to be effective, we need to understand key distinctions:
Most leaders we celebrate today didn’t start out perceived as such. For years, Martin Luther King, Jr. was viewed as a heretic before being recognized as an icon for heralding a new age of civil rights. Apple’s Steve Jobs was once viewed as an ideologue for design and is now acknowledged as the premier technology visionary.
Sometimes whether you view someone as a rebel or a leader depends on your vantage point. Take Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of Washington DC’s public school system. The recent founder of the organization Students First, Rhee is widely viewed as a pioneer of educational reform by parents — but as “conflict oriented” by the labor unions influencing today’s educational institutions. History will tell the rest of her story as rebel or leader.
Yet it is certainly not comfortable to be the gadfly — and a lot of careers have ended over “not fitting in.”
So perhaps we could use a more neutral word: protagonist. A protagonist is a principal champion of a cause or program or action. The protagonist does not wait for permission to lead, innovate, or strategize. They do what is right for the firm, without regard to status. Their goal is to do what’s good for the whole.
Protagonists help organizations become more competitive. After all, the word compete comes from the Latin com petire, which means “to seek together.” Their intent is to not to antagonize, but to drive towards something. Protagonists are willing to name things others don’t yet see; they point to new horizons. Without them, the storyline never changes.
Let’s go back to our product manager with the disruptive voice. She was not shunned or dismissed for having the courage to raise tough issues in front of the CEO. She was told to join in the effort. The CEO asked the heads of engineering and product management to circle back once they had a chance to work through the details of the issues she raised. And a much different roadmap developed, through many pizza-filled evenings, and some new demands requiring reallocation of resources. The systems and rewards inside this organization allowed them to not reject the rebel, but to demand her leadership.
Maybe we can resolve the conflict this way: You can be a rebel without being a leader, but you can rarely be an effective leader without also having a little bit of rebel in you.
Please help me to lead Central.
Not by my personality, but by your word.
Not by my intellect, but by your wisdom.
Not by my strength, but by your power.
Not by my inclinations, but by your spirit.
Not by my desires, but by your will.
Dear God… please help me to lead Central.
Objectivity was never dependent on majority.
Today I was thinking about the twelve spies that Moses send to explore Canaan. We know how all but two of them came back with less than favorable reports. I couldn’t help but wonder, if we were Moses, how would we have reacted?
Of course, knowing how the story ended, we may be quick to dismiss the other ten of little faith and only Joshua and Caleb truly trusted God. However, if we were placed at that exact crossroad of decision-making, who would we have trusted?
Would we have stuck to our guns, believing that God has given us the land, or would we have asked for a “re-evaluation”, called for another exploration trip and allowing “common sense” to prevail? Mind you, it wasn’t the case that Joshua and Caleb’s opinions were obviously more valuable. If we were to comb through the passage, we would notice that ALL twelve of them were leaders in their respective tribe.
Imagine this – Would you be…
Taking the opinion of 2 unit leaders or 10 other unit leaders?
Heeding the advice of 2 pastors, or 10 other pastors?
Would we have flowed with the ten, heeding the “wise counsel” of the majority while dismissing the other two radicals as overly optimistic and blindly naive? We might even affirm them for their enthusiastic but “unrefined” passion!
In a world that is so accustomed to the concept of democracy, such things are less foreign than it seems.
What scares me the most is that I can totally imagine that happening to myself!
You know, I often get real skeptical of leaders with serious inferiority complexion.
How can you claim to believe in others when you don’t even believe in yourself?
No offense man – but that just sounds like pure bull to me.
Honestly, I’m no advocate of self motivational talks. As Christians, we understand that we are able to believe in ourselves because God first believed in us. Being human, it is only natural for us to have our moments of self doubt. Though we may never be able to completely escape the clutches of self doubt, I just find it appalling how some leaders have to constantly struggle with this issue.
We, who are leaders, have a higher calling – the greater responsibility to disciple and empower those whom we lead. Yet if we are perpetually in the state of doubting ourselves, it would be inevitable that some of these unresolved concerns would overflow onto our followers. It is often said that insecure leaders have trouble empowering others as they find difficulty in letting go of power. This principle holds true for both the corporate world as well as church leadership.
A leader needs to have a healthy amount of self esteem, lest his followers suffer from his lack of it.
Why is everyone so uptight about becoming a leader? I for one am someone who believes that not everyone can or should be a leader. A leader requires that initiative to act, that ability to influence, the strength to communicate, the vision to plan ahead. Does everyone have this mix? No. Can it be nurtured? Yes.
But here’s the bomb. Should everyone be a leader?
Some are not suited for the job, others detest the job and I know of many others who are just happy to follow.
I’m not sure where you heard it from. It might be John C Maxwell. Perhaps it was the education system that you have been put through. It could even be from your family upbringing. Either way, there is this social construct that everyone should be a leader, and I believe it is responsible for causing so much unnecessary friction.
There can only be one captain in a team.
There are people who make excellent followers. We must accept that. There are people who can propel organizations much further as a follower rather than a leader. We must also accept that. There are people who are happy just to be a follower, contented just to support their leader. We must certainly accept that. It makes zero sense to be pushing everyone to be a leader. This unrealistic expectation creates unnecessary disappointments, places followers in positions they rather not be and forces responsibility onto people who don’t want them in the first place.
Not everyone who joins the company aims to climb the corporate ladder. Just ask the secretary.
Not everyone should be a leader. I know that sounds downright elitist. It sounds like some ancient caste system where everything has been decided since birth or something. Don’t get me wrong. Everyone has a role to play, and they should play it well. We just have to admit that this may not necessarily be the role of a leader.
You know how I used to be amused by 5 years and 10 years plans. Things like Stalin’s Five-Year Plan and the Great Leap Forward just didn’t make sense to me. How could someone plan for something that is half a decade away when one cannot even roughly estimate what would happen the year after next?
After seriously attempting to execute a short annual plan for the past year, I would like to adjust my position on that.
Journey together with me in my thought process in a hypothetical 3 tier organization.*
You receive an annual direction at the start of the year from your boss. You go about planning how you should impart it to your people; you figure how it should take effect. For it to work, you need everyone to buy into the plan, especially your middle tier leaders. Buying into the plan takes up another few months, optimistically. It took me about 3 months to make a group of 20 leaders to buy in; it would probably be shorter for good leaders. After they are convinced, they need some more time to implement new measures. These new measures would take another few months to kick in and for the lower tier to adapt to it. The result?
A fully functioning organization center on a sole direction in just six months!**
Your ideal organization goes about performing optimally for the next 3 to 4 months before the upper tier starts to plan for the next year’s annual direction in October. Energy is diverted to evaluate the fruits of this year’s (unfinished) direction. Employees start to tone down, either because they lack reminders or because they know that the direction is about to change soon. The year ends and we repeat this cycle from step one.
Total time actually spend executing the plan – three months.
Seriously, we spend much more time trapped in the exercise of planning than the act of executing. Not that planning ought to be phrased out, but I believe that the amount of planning should not overshadow the actual act of executing. I think this piece of common sense is easily scrapped when we often overlook that people need time to adapt to the new plan before they can execute it. We need time for people to buy in, time for people to make the switch, time for people to adjust to the new procedures. Time, time and more time. And you know how humans are when it comes to change…
One year plans? Good luck!
*Like that’s even realistic to begin with. Only 3 tiers? Yeah right!
**As you can see, this post uses highly optimistic estimates.
Let me challenge your concept of success.
How do you tell if an orange tree is a good tree? The model answer states that we ought to judge base on its fruit. Yet more often than not, we measure its height, check its size, count the number of leaves; we do everything in between except tasting its fruit. Truth be told, most organizations measures growth, not success.
Growth is not always a healthy thing; even cancer grows!
Being in a transitional ministry such as youth, I think we have to radically relook into our ministry philosophy. Our success is not hinged on how big our ministry is as much as it is dependent on the amount of healthy transfers we are sending over to other parts of the church!
It doesn’t matter how big an orange tree is if it only produces rotten fruits; it ought to be chopped down.
If the above suggestion were to be taken seriously, then I would think that it is high time for us to inspect the quality of the graduates whom we sent. Graduate groups are not the dumping ground for unresponsive people. If we are to truly bless the other areas of the church, it is imperative that we send our leaders – extremely strong leaders into our graduate groups! It would be near sighted and selfish of us to always keep the cream of our crop with regards to transfers.
No wonder we have such high attrition rates.
Never forget that the people who are still currently in our youth ministry are merely works in progress. We are to be judged by our finished goods. Our end product are still our graduates – the completed product of youth ministry; our pride and our joy. Don’t let it be the part of the ministry which we are most ashamed off.
Be a good orange!
A typical paragraph ripped from a science textbook:
Before they can grow into new plants, seeds need to leave the seed pod. If all the seeds a plant produced landed just underneath the parent plant, they would be too crowded, and the established large plant might not leave them enough light or water for them all to develop properly. When you plant seeds too thickly in a pot, you can see that they grow tall and leggy, and each plant is weak and spindly. The various methods of seed dispersal are designed to ensure that as many seeds as possible have a good chance of growing up to produce seeds of their own.
In church, we often mention about the concept of being fruitful. However, we regularly fail to acknowledge the other side of the coin – seed dispersal. Both are required to see healthy growth. Fruitfulness without seed dispersion would lead to overcrowding and weak looking seedlings. This is an important concept to grasp especially when discipleship and leadership successions are taking place.
Far too often, I see leadership suppression occurring. Young budding leaders who are suppressed by the presence of an older and more experienced leader above him, unable to leave him either due to lack of trust or basic insecurities.
It is already a given that the young leader is not as capable as the older and more experience leader and there are things he can learn. Yet the argument I’m trying to make here is not about the areas of growth as much as it is about the room for growth. Sometimes, senior leaders need to understand that although they can give their disciples some room for growth, they are in fact the ones taking up the biggest rooms in the house.
Let go, to see growth.