Leaders Serve & Sacrifice

One of the classic texts on leadership is Kouzes & Posner’s A Leader’s Legacy. The first chapter “Leaders Serve and Sacrifice” has some incredible quotes on the leader’s heart of service and willingness to suffer. Here are a few:

“Leadership is not solely about producing results. Success in leadership is not measured only in numbers. Being a leader brings with it a responsibility to do something of significance that makes families, communities, work organizations, nations, the environment, and the world better places than they are today. Not all these things can be quantified.”

“Who are the people I am really serving? And am I ready to suffer?”

“If we’re going to be authentic in our leadership, we have to be willing to serve, and we have to be willing to suffer.”

“People willingly follow someone who’s attuned to their aspirations, fears, and ideals. Loyalty is not something a boss can demand. It’s something people choose to grant to a person who has earned it.”

“I serve my associates so that they can serve our customers well. Actually, I’m at the bottom of the organizational pyramid supporting them and not at the top with them supporting me.” (Betsy Sanders)

“Without the element of servant leadership, the furthest you will get into someone’s motivation is the ‘have to’ level. Over time, that will build a narrow, thin organization. When a leader is able to drive down deep and get to the ‘I want’ motivation, the organization becomes a type of perpetual motion machine. It no longer takes as much energy from you as a leader because you’ve built into those around you the zeal to do a job well. The ‘sustain’ you’ve tapped in your team will carry all of you, collectively, well into the future.” (Nancy Ortberg)

“Nearly every act of leadership requires suffering—and often for the leader a choice between one’s personal success and safety and the greater welfare of others.”

And my personal favorite…

We guarantee that what people will say about you will not be about what you achieved for yourself but what you achieved for others. Not how big a campfire you built but how well you kept others warm, how well you illuminated the night to make them feel safe, and how beautiful you left the campsite for those who would come after you to build the next fire.

What are your thoughts on these great leadership quotes?

Top 10 Books on Leadership

Here are the top 10 books I’ve read on organizational leadership. These are the books that I seem to go back to time and time again for leadership advice. They are books with themes, phrases, and sayings that have consistently made their way into my leadership philosophy and vocabulary.

1. Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. In my humble opinion, this is the best book for building a strong team that achieves great results. As you can see, my top 3 books are by Lencioni. And I probably could have included all of his other books as well, but then it would have been “Top 7 Lencioni Books.” This book continually goes back to the element of trust. It’s the thing that leaders must develop and foster in their teams. And to develop trust, we must constantly model and lead through vulnerability. I highly recommend the Field Guide as well. It has great practical exercises to break the cycle of dysfunction in teams.

2. Four Obsessions of an Extrordinary Executive by Patrick Lencioni. A great follow up book to Five Dysfunctions, this book reminds me that building and maintaining a cohesive leadership team is critical. And then I must create organizational clarity and communicate it over and over. And finally, the last “obsession” is creating the human and operational systems necessary to lead and manage well.

3. Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni. All leaders lead meetings. But not all leaders lead good, effective, compelling meetings. Death by Meeting identifies the problems of bad meetings: lack of drama (good meetings need good conflict) and lack of context and structure (what’s the purpose of this meeting?). Why will we sit in a two-hour movie, completely engaged but in a two-hour meeting, we’re praying for the rapture? Death by Meeting will help you lead great meetings.

4. Good to Great by Jim Collins. This is one of the seminal works on what makes organizations great. Collin’s work reminds me that it’s always “first who, then what.” Get the right people on the bus, and correspondingly, the wrong people off. Another “good to great idea” that’s influenced me was his hedgehog concept: doing one thing and doing it well. His companion Good to Great and the Social Sectors is helpful for non-profit leadership.

5. The Heart of Change by John Kotter & Dan Cohen. Change is a constant. And leaders must learn how to identify what needs to change and then how to lead change. Kotter and Cohen’s 8-step method is a great model for bringing and managing change in an organization. The Heart of Change Field Guide is helpful as well. In addition, a more light-hearted, story approach to the model can be found in Kotter’s Our Iceberg is Melting.

6. Strengths-Based Leadership by Tom Rath & Barry Conchie. Leaders play to their strengths, help others discover and play to their strengths, and build teams around strengths. The leadership edition helps leaders understand how to better engage leaders around their strengths. StrengthsFinder also gives you a language to use with your team.

7. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath. This is another great book on change and change management in organizations and in life. The Heath brothers provide helpful insights with great illustrations about addressing both the mind and the heart in change.

8. Socialnomics by Erik Qualman. We live in an ever-increasing, technologically-driven culture. The social media revolution is underway. Qualman’s book on the reality (the upsides and downsides) of social media is fascinating. Leaders and the organizations they lead must learn to engage in and through social media. Socialnomics will help you learn why and how.

9. Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne. Osborne has become a personal mentor and has been affectionately nicknamed “Yoda.” Here’s a more in-depth review of Sticky Teams. It truly is a “one-stop” leadership book, especially for the church world.

10. Advanced Strategic Planning by Aubrey Malphurs. Leaders must collaboratively shape vision, values, and mission. Malphur’s book has influenced my strategic thinking and process for over a decade. It’s one of the best “step-by-step” methods for vision, mission, and strategy development.

11. Honorable Mention: Relational Intelligence by Steve Saccone. Steve’s book has become a staple of my personal and organization leadership development process. Leaders are all about influence. But often we don’t think about how relational intelligence shapes our ability to influence. Steve identifies 6 areas of relational intelligence and how to grow in each one. He also has a great study guide for the book to go through personally or as a group.

So these are some of the most influential books on leadership in my life. What are some of yours and why?


Top 10 Books of 2010

This is the first year that I’ve published my “Top 10 Best Books.” I read a lot of different genres. My favorite by far is fiction. But I also read my fair share of theology, spiritual life, leadership, biography, etc. So here were the Top 10 books I read in 2010.

1. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (533 pp.). Rushdie’s classic magical realism novel on Indian independence from British colonialism in 1947. Rushdie has an amazing way of correlating the historical events surrounding independence to the main character Saleem Sinai’s life. An intense read.

2. Cutting for Stone – Abrahama Verghese (534 pp.) From India to Ethiopia to New York, this novel is a “through the generations” look at a unique family and collection of characters that practice medicine and try to do life amidst the best and worst of times.

3. The Border Trilogy – Cormac McCarthy. Technically three books (hence “triology”), McCarthy’s classic work chronicles the dusty lives of several cowboys who venture through the barren wastelands of the south into Mexico. Most of McCarthy’s works are intense and at times, dark. But since my grandfather was a real life cowboy, I owed it to him to read some gritty, beyond “Lonesome Dove” cowboy classics.

4. Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand (457 pp.) The story of Louis Zamperini, Olympic Champion and WWII bomber pilot, who was shot down in the Pacific and survived a terrifying lost-at-sea struggle and an even more horrifying Japanese POW experience. An incredible story of human resilience. You’ll enjoy the “twist” at the end.

5. Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard – Dan & Chip Heath (320 pp.) The best book I’ve read yet on leading and managing change. The Heath brothers are masters at taking what seems complex and reducing it to simple, lasting principles.

6. Rooms – James L. Rubart (400 pp.) This book was a surprise for me. I normally don’t like Christian fiction. But this one worked me over like a “speed bag.” One reviewer said it was part The Shack (albeit with non-heretical theological implications) and part Screwtape Letters. That’s a fair statement. It’s a good book that Jesus used to guide me in some personal exploration of my own life and story this year.

7. Jim & Casper Go To Church – Jim Henderson & Matt Casper (169 pp.) A good book (frustrating at times) from the vantage point of an agnostic/atheist who explores some of the evangelical world’s headliner churches. It’s good to get an “outside” vantage point on how we do church in the U.S.

8. Relational Intelligence – Steve Saccone (200 pp.) Saccone does a great job helping us all become more relationally intelligent. His explanation of lack of relational intelligence (a la “The Michael Scott Syndrome” from The Office) is great. I recommend this book if you want to learn how to lead, influence, and relate more intelligently.

9. Sticky Teams – Larry Osborne (221 pp.) Sticky Teams is an update edition of Osborne’s earlier The Unity Factor. I wrote a longer review here.

10. Where Men Win Glory – Jon Krakauer (450 pp.) The life of former NFL player and Army Ranger Pat Tillman who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. I enjoy most of Krakauer’s works, and this book was researched well and told with heart and grit.

The Voice of Jesus

Gordon Smith’s The Voice of Jesus has been an influential book in my spiritual formation. I am taking two small groups through a leadership development journey, and the first theme is “Personal Spiritual Formation.” Spiritual leadership first begins with learning to hear the voice of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. There were a couple of quotes from Smith’s book that resonated deeply with us:

“The genius of the Christian life is the resolve, willingness and capacity to respond personally and intentionally to the prompting of the Spirit” (p. 16)

“For us as individuals, the danger is that we might never develop an inner life. It is easy to live by duty, the expectations of others, the routines of our work and the inertia of culture and religious tradition. Surely what we long for, though, is an authentic interior life in which we know to the core of our beings that the Spirit of God is present to us and speaking life to us – a life that is personally and dynamically our own. With a well-developed interior life, we live our lives in response to the Spirit. We chose to live that which we are called to live – our life, not someone else’s life” (p. 17).

“Nothing is so foundational to the Christian life as the affective awareness of our spiritual adoption and the inner confidence that we are loved by God” (p. 44).

“Joy is authentic only if it leads to integrity of life and character; otherwise it is false and vacuous. Meanwhile, moral reform without joy is legalism or moralism, not the authentic transformation of character that arises from an encounter with the gospel” (p. 45)

“Christian discernment is the spiritual discipline by which we listen to God by attending with heart and mind to the presence of the Spirit in our lives” (p. 55).

You can download The Voice of Jesus study guide here:

The Voice of Jesus Study Guide (Full Version)

The Voice of Jesus Study Guide (Shorter version)

The Life I Planned vs. The Life I Needed

One of my favorite summer reads was Cormac McCarthy’s The Sunset Limited.  It captures the conversation of two characters: Black and White. Black is a recovered addict and former inmate who found Jesus, and White is an atheist professor who tries to kill himself. The whole book is a conversation in Black’s kitchen after he’s rescued White from a failed suicide attempt. The conversation ultimately is a theological one that centers on the hope or hopelessness with or without God in the equation of life. And it’s written in McCarthy’s terse, sparse language that gets straight to the heart.

Here’s one of my favorite points of dialogue:

Black: If this ain’t the life you had in mind, what was?

White: I don’t know. Not this. Is your life the one you’d planned?

Black: No, it ain’t. I got what I needed instead of what I wanted and that’s just about the best kind of luck you can have.

So often we try to define and control what we want life to look like… the life we’d plan for ourselves. But for some reason, it doesn’t turn out that way. And there’s a tension in perspective here. In McCarthy’s story, White didn’t get the life he’d planned so he gave up. Yet Black, shaped by a far different perspective, sees the grace of God in giving him the life he needed. Jesus said in the Gospel of John, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). And in the abundance of life that Jesus gives, it’s always the life we truly need but not always the life we’d plan for ourselves. Such a marvelous mystery in the adventure of faith.

(P.S. Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones will star in the HBO debut of The Sunset Limited in February 2011)

Book Review: Linchpin (Seth Godin)

With the new book Linchpin, Seth Godin (leadership and business guru and blogger extraordinaire) has delivered part treatise on the new post-industrialized economy and part call to a new kind of leadership and influence. In the hyper-competitive, technology-driven economy, we’ve added a new team to the traditional teams of management and labor.  The new third team is what Godin calls “linchpins… people who own their own means of production, who can make a difference, lead us, and connect us. The linchpin is an individual who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who can invent, connect, create, and make things happen.”  As a new economy, society, and culture emerges, linchpins are indispensable to teams and organizations.  Godin’s task is to help define the qualities of the linchpin and encourage people to become/be one. If you’re looking for an “out-of-the-box” vision for leadership as art and gift, I recommend Godin’s new book. Five key themes resonated :

1. Linchpins recognize that the world has changed.  Note: not “changing” but “has changed.” Since the industrial revolution, we’ve hired cogs to run the machine.  And unfortunately, to maximize profits in a capitalistic, industrialized system, cogs are dispensable.  If we can find cheaper cogs elsewhere (i.e., outsourcing), then we will.  Godin identifies the essence and frustration of the problem: “The working middle class is suffering. Wages are stagnant; job security is, for many people, a fading memory; and stress is skyrocketing. Nowhere to run, and apparently, nowhere to hide… Organizations [turn] employees into replaceable cogs in a vast machine.” So the linchpin recognizes this new reality and maximizes the opportunity to bring “humanity and connection and art to her organization.  She is the key player, the one who’s difficult to live without, the person you can build something around.”

2. Linchpins create art. This was the metaphor that dominated Godin’s book.  “Artists are people with a genius for finding a new answer, a new connection, or a new way of getting things done.”  Everything we do has the potential of being art… creativity in the way we connect with people to bring life and value to their world… creativity in the way we lead a team to bring out the best in people… creativity in the way we solve problems (old or new) with insightful solutions that bring change to our lives and our world.  As a leader, I want my leadership to be art.

3. Linchpins don’t need maps, they make them. People who need the map, who need instructions, and who are content being told exactly what to do will never be linchpins.  Remember, in the new economy and new world, people who need maps and instructions become dispensable. So linchpins forge their own path and discover new routes to connect people and ideas to bring change and impact.  Linchpins see the world as it really is and have the discernment to develop the right map for the right moment at the right time.

4. Linchpins fight the “Resistance.” In the most challenge theme of Godin’s work, he defines the resistance (the lizard brain). The resistance runs from fear and discomfort.  The resistance tells you not to go into uncharted, chaotic territory. It wants safe. It wants the map. It wants the instructions. “The reason the resistance persists in slowing you down and prevents you from putting your heart and soul and art into your world is simple: you might fail.” Linchpins recognize the resistance and fight it at every step where it would threaten their art of leading and connecting to bring clarity and direction.

5. Linchpins give gifts. Supported by a persuasive exposition of the gift-culture (and the decline of it post-Reformation), linchpins are indispensable gift-givers.  They give their heart and their art often at no costs.  The internet provides scalability to the number of recipients who can receive and connect around their gift.  And linchpins grasp the counter-intuitive nature of giving… knowing that their leadership and art connects and builds “tribes of like-minded people.”  And as we give ourselves (and our love) to others, we become indispensable because we are connectors… connectors of ideas, people, and change.

Have you read Linchpin? If so, what were you thoughts?

Book Review: Sticky Teams (Larry Osborne)

Larry Osborne’s latest book Sticky Teams is a great book for all levels of leadership within the church. As a much expanded and updated version of his book The Unity Factor, Larry dives deep into all things leadership for senior/lead pastors, boards, staffs, and congregations. He is a seasoned leader who gives practical, common sense, counter-intuitive, and often “contrarian” wisdom on leading at different levels within the church. There were numerous nuggets of wisdom, but five stood out:

1. Philosophical unity is a must. Osborne sights doctrinal unity, respect & friendship, and philosophical unity as the litmus of team stickiness. All of these are a must, but as he writes, “If you think about it, most church fights aren’t over theology or even ministry goals, they’re over priorities and methodology” (p. 31). And if (and the “if” is key) you operate in a collaborative leadership culture and environment, it takes time to get people to agree on philosophy of ministry, method, and mission. Take the time. If you don’t, get ready for conflict and disunity. If you do, then key decisions will be much easier to make.

2. Growth changes everything. The structure that was once great for a church at one size can be constricting, stifling, and even disastrous at another level of church growth. Leadership teams and congregations that fail to grasp and adapt to these changes “invariably experience unnecessary conflict or shrink to a congregational size that best fits the structures and patterns they cling to” (p. 61). Osborne reiterates his sports analogies of track star, golfing buddies, basketball team, and football team. These clarifications of size and “style” have been hugely helpful for our staff team as we’ve grown from a church of 2500+ over three decades. People who were used to being golfing buddies are often in for a “relational shock” when the church grows and the game changes. Osborne gives two important indicators that the game has changed: relational overload and increased miscommunication. “The larger the team gets and the more hectic the games becomes, the greater the need for special meetings, chalk talks, and film sessions to get and then keep everyone on the same page” (p. 69).

3. Roles of the Board. For those of us that function with a board (elders, deacons, directors, etc.), Osborne’s identification of four changing roles of the board is helpful. In small churches, the board is all about doing. As the church grows, the board then shifts to approving. But as the church continues into the next stage of growth, the board needs to be about reviewing. Finally, in larger churches (i.e., mega-, especially 3000+), the board must be all about setting direction and boundaries vs. micromanagement and preference management. Osborne points out something critical: “This final transition can be particularly tough for board members who successfully manage their own staff or who own a business. They tend to forget that the church staff is not their staff and the church is not their business” (p. 105). In all phases of growth and changing roles, the board is there to give wise counsel because pastors often need a voice from outside the day-to-day ministry to see and evaluate the whole picture.

4. Roles of the Staff. As churches grow, the role of the staff changes, and some staff can adapt while some can’t. The most noticeable changes in staffing centers around moving from generalists to specialists and from doing to empowering. In smaller to medium churches staff operate as generalists, wearing numerous hats being a “jack of all trades” and sometimes “master of none.” But as the staff grows, their roles change predominately to specialists. Osborne shares a harsh reality: “Frankly when a church hits this stage, there’s not much a generalist can do except find something to excel at or find another small church in need of a generalist.” Secondly, staff members must move from doing to empowering. If staff leaders don’t empower others to do the work of the ministry, then they become a bottle-neck and put a ceiling on their ministry and the church’s growth.

5. Making room at the top. This chapter is subtitled “Why Young Eagles Don’t Stay” and is aimed at encouraging especially senior leaders to identify young emerging leaders, invite them onto the team, and let them fly. Osborne asks three key questions: (1) Are young eagles empowered or platformed? Platformed means we give them face time on the “platform” (and not only when we’re out of town and need a fill-in). (2) Are young eagles in the loop or at the meeting? Young leaders need to be included in the meetings, not simply waiting outside to hear what decisions were made (i.e., “in the loop”). (3) Who gets to ride shotgun? Leadership in key roles can’t simply be on a first-come, first-served basis. If it is, we’ll never make room for new, and often younger, leaders. Osborne writes: “Shotgun churches are easy to recognize. Just look for a church where all the good and influential seats on the leadership bus are filled by old-timers… When tenure is the primary determiner of who sits where on the leadership bus, a church is headed for trouble” (p. 121).

There are many more great themes and subjects dealt with in Osborne’s book. I highly encourage anyone in senior staff or board leadership to read this book. Then take the time to discuss it in the context of team. The discussion is bound to be clarifying for many teams and churches. Thanks Larry for another great book!