THE SERVANT: APRIL 17st, 2019

A BLAMELESS CHARACTER

Peggy Noonan, former presidential speechwriter, wrote a superb book on our fortieth president, Ronald Regan. In When Character was King, she writes: “In a president, character is everything. A president doesn’t have to be brilliant. . .He doesn’t have to be clever; you can hire clever. . .You can hire pragmatic, and you can buy and bring in policy works. But you can’t buy courage and decency; you can’t rent a strong moral sense. A president must bring those things with him. . .He needs to have, in that much maligned word, but a good one nonetheless, a “vision” of the future he wishes to create. . .But a vision is worth little if a president doesn’t have the character---the courage and heart---to see it through.”

Daniel, (a leader in the Bible) is a great example of vision with character. He had a fabulous work ethic, both in his performance and perspective. And the Persian king saw it, promoting him to the top position over the whole kingdom.

Then the plot thickens.

As long as Daniel did his job, everything was fine. Instead, he excelled above the others, and things changed---dramatically. Chapter 6:4-6 tell us the managers under Daniel and the two vice presidents, formed an investigation committee to find some hidden dirt in Daniel's life. They stalked him, talked about him to others, gained access into his computer to check his files, went through his desk, checked out his closets, unlocked his iPhone, and who knows what else.

They found NOTHING! ZERO! NADA---no hanky-panky, no secret funds or hidden classified hidden emails, no fraud, no hushed cover ups, no corruption, no scandal in the making, no goofing off on company time. Daniel met his deadlines on time. He left work when he should not when he felt like it. He didn't make it a habit to take extended lunches on company time. The guy was squeaky clean which reveals the second quality of integrity---A Blameless Character.

How's your personal character?

Are you reliable? Negligent? Getting by with things you shouldn't?

Do you keep your promises to your kids?

Are you truthful when your spouse asks about your spending, your time?

Do you answer emails, texts, return calls when you say you will?

Are you careful where you go, who you are with?

One day a pastor got on a bus and paid the fare. The driver gave him change, but it was too much. That Sunday the pastor had preached on honesty, so he took the money back to the drive and said, “You gave me too much change when I got on the bus.” The driver said, “I know. I did it on purpose. I visited your church yesterday and wanted to see if you really lived what you preached.”

YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOUR INTEGRITY WILL BE TESTED.

(To be continued)

THE SERVANT: APRIL 1st, 2019

A Leader of Integrity

Some believe that personal character has little to do with leadership. Do you agree? If so, then ask yourself these questions:

Do people of low character influence you and inspire you to action?

Do you have good relationships with people of low character?

Do you admire people of low character?

Would you welcome them leading you?

Like it or not, agree or disagree, character counts in leadership. Warren Bennis, who has studied and written extensively on leadership, says, “Leadership is character in action.” “Ninety-nine percent of leadership failures are failures of character.” (General Norman Schwarzkopf)

The greatest character quality is integrity. Integrity is what people will remember about you more than your brilliance, ingenuity, competency, and energy. Integrity (or lack of it) is your legacy, what people remember about you.

Daniel, an Older Testament leader, incarnated integrity. As a Jewish teenager, he was exiled to Babylon. In Daniel 6, at the age of 80, he's a leading official in the godless Persian system. Darius the Persian king appointed 120 managers (satraps) to run his kingdom and over the managers were 3 administrators (or, Vice Presidents). Daniel was a VP, a top-level position, just under the king. Power was at his disposal. He had respect and elite status. The king could trust Daniel. Over the years, he never lost his integrity in this God-hating Persian system.

Several things stand out. First, Daniel had a fabulous work ethic. “Daniel distinguished himself among the administrators and managers BY HIS EXCEPTIONAL QUALITIES and the king planned to promote him over the whole kingdom.” (Daniel 6:3) “Exceptional qualities” is literally “an extraordinary spirit.” Daniel stood out. He wasn't like everyone else. He did his work well because he saw it well. His perspective shaped his work performance. Daniel excelled. When review time came, he was promoted.

How's your work? Do you do it well? Are you the best leader you can be?

How's your attitude? Granted we all have bad days, but is every day a bad day? Is the problem a bad day or a bad life?

Are you easy to work for or with? How would others rate your leadership performance? Are you a tough guy, the boss, control freak, or a servant leader who is considerate and respectful of others and their ideas?

How's your spiritual perspective toward your leadership? Does God fit into your leadership role every day?

A MARK OF INTEGRITY IS EXCELLENCE ON THE JOB, BOTH IN PERFORMANCE AND ATTITUDE.

(To be continued)

THE SERVANT: March 18th, 2019

Leadership Character

John Wooden, coach of the UCLA Bruins, was a cut above other leaders. During his tenure, he coached the Bruins to 10 national basketball championships in 12 years, 7 in a row. He was relentless when it came to character development among his players. In his book They Call Me Coach, he wrote, “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, because your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

It seems that personal character gets little attention and work when it comes to leadership. When was the last time in a leader's training and education they took a course on:

· dealing with relentless temptation?

· losing well?

· handling a situation that derails the leader?

· what to do when everything has been lost?

· what to do when people don't follow the leader?

Surely there's more to leadership than the skills, abilities, and techniques that supposedly bring prosperity and success.

Mark Miller (The Heart of a Leader) likens leadership to an iceberg. “How much of the iceberg sits above the waterline? Only 10% is visible while 90% lies below the waterline—unseen, invisible. Let the part above represent leadership skills, the things leaders do; the part below represents leadership character, what a leader is. 90% of a leader’s effectiveness is determined by what’s below the waterline. Leadership character ultimately drives what leaders do, why they do it, and how they handle a negative reality.”

Many leaders spend a lot of time and energy developing the 10% above the water.

·         They earn BBA/MBA degrees from fine universities.

·         Spend hours attending leadership seminars and courses.

·          Seek professional consultation.

·          Work hard, make major decisions, and lead countless meetings.

·          Communicate and listen.

They do whatever it takes to make them “successful,” “great,” “prosperous.” However, how much time do they spend developing the 90% of their leadership character, who they really are as people? If little to no time is spent, are they not like a man who built a nice house---beautiful, big, comfortable, loaded with luxury. The house looked good, impressive, well-built, but it was foolishly constructed on beach sand. You've heard the story. When a hurricane hit, the house collapsed---like a valued, long-term client saying NO to a multimillion proposal you must have, your business going bankrupt, key people who made your company successful leaving, your marriage ending, your family falling apart, your ministry dwindling. Then what?

“CHARACTER IS THE ABILITY TO MEET THE DEMANDS OF REALITY” (Henry Cloud, Integrity)

THE SERVANT: July 22, 2017

A Leader's Attitude of Gratitude

Our attitudes impact our lives more than we realize. It's true. Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it.

Dr. Victor Frankl, a bold, courageous Jew, became a prisoner during the Holocaust. Before being liberated, he endured years of indignity and abuse at the hands of the Nazis. His ordeal began by being marched into a Gestapo courtroom. He had lost his home and family, his freedom, his possessions, even his watch and wedding ring. His head was shaved, his clothing stripped from his body. Before the German high command he was falsely accused. He recalls that he lost everything, but one thing, the one thing no one could take from him—the power to choose his own attitude.

Gratitude is an attitude choice. Leaders can choose to be bitter or grateful for forgiveness; to wallow in hatred or thankful for hope; to be negative about the stress leadership often brings or appreciative for the opportunity to lead others.

Leaders with an attitude of gratitude are winsome, cheerful, optimistic, hopeful. The fruit of the Spirit describes well a grateful leader: loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled (Galatians 5: 22, 23). What employees, followers, students, spouses, children, volunteers would not want to know their leaders are grateful for them?

Leaders, what are you grateful for? Try these and remember ... gratitude is a choice

Be thankful to the Lord for His sovereign control over your circumstances, His holy character in spite of your sinfulness, His Word that gives you direction, His grace through His Son's death that redeemed you.

Be thankful for your leadership role, those who trusted you with that role, the people that follow you, trust you, work hard for you, respect you.

Be thankful for your leadership abilities, your expertise and experience, those who modeled leadership for you and encouraged you along the way.

Let me tell you about Mabel. Her face was a horror. If a new attendant could feed her, they could feed anyone. She was blind and almost deaf. One side of her face was being eaten by cancer. Mabel had a discolored and running sore that covered part of one cheek, dropped one eye, and distorted her jaw. She drooled constantly. She was 89, living in a state run convalescent hospital, and alone, for twenty-five years.

One day, a pastor made a visit and said, “Mabel, what do you think about when you lie here?” She said, “I think about my Jesus. I think about how good He's been to me. He's been so good to me in my life. I'm one of those kind that's mostly satisfied. Lots of folk think I'm old fashioned. But I don't care. I'd rather have Jesus, He's all the world to me, My life, my joy, my all. He is my strength from day to day, without Him I would fall.” (From John Ortberg's book, The Life You've Always Wanted)

That's gratitude—A CHOICE.

THE SERVANT: May 29, 2017

It seems that personal character gets little attention and work when it comes to leadership. When was the last time in a leader's training and education they took a course on:

· dealing with relentless temptation?

· losing well?

· handling a situation that derails the leader

· what to do when everything has been lost?

· what to do when people don't follow the leader? “If you say you're a leader and no one is following, you’re only taking a walk.”

Surely there's more to leadership than the skills, abilities, and techniques that supposedly bring prosperity and success.

An iceberg is a good picture of leadership. How much of the iceberg sits above the waterline? Only 10% is visible while 90% lies below the waterline—unseen, invisible. Let the part above represent leadership skills, the things leaders do; the part below represents leadership character, what a leader is. 90% of a leader’s effectiveness is determined by what’s below the waterline. Leadership character ultimately drives what leaders do, why they do it, and how they handle a negative reality.

Many leaders spend most of their time and energy developing the 10% above the water.

  • They earn BBA/MBA degrees from fine universities.

  • Spend hours attending leadership seminars and courses.

  • Seek professional consultation.

  • Work hard, make major decisions, and lead countless meetings.

  • Communicate and listen.

They do whatever it takes to make them “successful,” “great,” “prosperous.” However, how much time do they spend developing the 90% of their leadership character, who they really are as people? If little to no time is spent, are they not like a man who built a nice house---beautiful, big, comfortable, loaded with luxury. The house looked good, impressive, well-built, but it was foolishly constructed on beach sand. You've heard the story. When a hurricane hit, the house collapsed---like a valued, long-term client saying NO to a multi-million dollar proposal you must have, your business going bankrupt, key people who made your company successful leaving, your marriage ending, your family falling apart, your ministry dwindling. Then what?

                “CHARACTER IS THE ABILITY TO MEET THE DEMANDS OF REALITY” (Henry Cloud)

THE SERVANT: APRIL 26, 2017

Integrity

INTEGRITY. Webster defines it as “wholeness; entireness.” You might say integrity is completeness, a well-balanced life. In many cases, our society has abandoned well-balanced living. People lie, cheat, and steal. They break their marriage vows. They live in hideous sins like gossip and prejudice, incest and idolatry, greed and laziness, cut ethical corners to gain power and wealth, and put blame on others to protect themselves. Deception and manipulation abound. Lack of integrity has become an art form.

 Some leaders are guilty. They don't tell the truth ALL THE TIME, don't always say what they mean and mean what they say, are negligent in the handling of money, their own and others. Too often leaders are not reliable, don't keep their promises, fail to return emails, texts or phone calls, lead double lives that if known would cause shame and disgrace in their family.

 I love what God says through the words of the Apostle Paul. “Therefore since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God. But by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:1-2) How about this? “For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God, so we speak, not as pleasing men but God, who examines our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:3-4)

 Integrity has a beautiful and refreshing simplicity to it. It has no hidden motives, agendas, hypocrisy, or duplicity. It doesn’t play political games or engage in surface verbiage lacking substance. Integrity doesn’t manipulate others. It’s nothing but pure, simple. absolute honesty---WHOLENESS.

 So leaders. . . do you want a challenge? Start modeling the truth. . .the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God. Think truth. Believe truth. Speak truth. Face truth. Love truth. Seek truth. Walk truth. Talk truth. That last one is a good place to begin. Starting today, intentionally, deliberately, conscientiously “speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15) That's a great place to begin practicing gut-level integrity.

THE SERVANT: March 24, 2017

In the 70’s, Robert Greenleaf, an AT&T executive, made a startling statement in his book, SERVANT LEADERSHIP. He believed an organization existed for the person as much as the person existed for the organization. Greenleaf's statement walloped the autocratic, top down, corporate establishment, proposing that “the great leader is seen as servant first and that simple fact is the key to his greatness.”

Someone greater and wiser than Greenleaf said it first. As His death drew near, Jesus told His 12 disciples, “Whoever wants to become great among you, must be your servant; and whoever wants to be first must be a slave to all.” Then He defined His mission “. . . not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) That's pretty clear. Jesus came to serve and give, not to be served and get. He didn't come to be rich and famous or to attract attention by His popularity. Jesus didn't come to sit at head tables and be noticed; He preferred to wash feet and go unnoticed. Jesus did what servants do best: serve and give.

GREAT LEADERS ARE AT THEIR BEST WHEN THEY SERVE. SERVING MAKES A LEADER GREAT.

What a different approach to leadership influence. It's not influence by taking control, demanding obedience, commanding loyalty. That kind of influence doesn't change lives. Jesus calls His leaders to a better kind of leadership where people see a leader who doesn't look out for himself/herself only, but considers the well-being others. Because of the attractiveness of leaders who serve and give and love, people will respect and willingly follow. That's real influence!

 Henri Nouwen wrote

“A whole new type of leadership is asked for in the church of tomorrow; a leadership which is not modeled on the power games of the world, but on the servant leader, Jesus, Who came to give His life for the salvation of many.” (In the Name of Jesus)

THE SERVANT: February 23, 2017

LEADERSHIP IS RISKY, EVEN DANGEROUS. Just ask E.J.Smith. On April 10, 1912, Captain Smith sailed from London believing the newly christened Titanic was unsinkable. That evening he boasted to dinner guests that if the ship were sliced into 3 sections it would still float. He was wrong.

You know the story. The Captain ignored 6 iceberg warnings and ordered his crew “FULL SPEED AHEAD.” The policy manual stated “Moderate speed for maximum safety,” but Captain Smith trusted his past leadership effectiveness to make it through. Plus, he wanted to arrive ahead of schedule, then retire. He didn't.

Around 11:30 PM, an iceberg 100 feet tall scraped the Titanic's side, slicing open over 200 feet of the ship. Immediately the boat filled with water. Thomas Andrews, the Titanic's master builder, knew the boat was doomed. He was right.

On April 15, at 2:00 AM, the “unsinkable” ocean liner sank in the frigid Atlantic Ocean with 1517 passengers and its captain. Only 712 survived. THE SHIP WAS SOLID, STRONG; THE LEADERSHIP WASN'T.

WHEN LEADERSHIP FAILS, PEOPLE DIE.

LEADERSHIP is leading an organization, a church, a ministry, over the seas of life. Leaders are like captains. They set the direction, determine the speed, lead the crew, assume responsibility for others. Church leaders do the same. Some lead very well bringing the church, the ministry safely to its destination. Others lead poorly, or worse, not at all, seriously injuring themselves and their followers.

The greatest model for life and leadership is Jesus Christ. Whatever Jesus did, He did perfectly. Other leaders were good, some were outstanding in their time, but none were perfect. In Jesus, we have the finest example for life and leadership for all time, for all organizations, for all people, for all situations.

WHEN LEADERS FOLLOW HIS EXAMPLE, PEOPLE LIVE.