The Journey in the IDLP program over the past 9 month has been one of incredible growth and challenge for me. Many of the topics and assignments have been somewhat intimidating for me, and I would often doubt in my ability to complete (with true understanding & appropriate application) the tasks. But time & time again I have drawn from the input received in program into my everyday life. It’s like the delicacy of the equilibrium of an ecosystem – what you do on one side of a pond (or the universe) ultimately affects the other side. Topics & principles covered in the program that I did not think would have much of (or any) impact on me have cropped up somewhere in my life, be it corporate or personal.
In session 1, writing out a vision statement (and translating it to Power Point) has made me think a whole lot more about what the heck we are doing within the HCC organisation and how we communicate what we are doing. Keeping things simple and uncluttered is so profound – those are the ideas that stick. Session 2 was great getting a handle on leadership styles & understanding management vs leadership (although I do think managers can be great leaders). It was also very challenging looking at my own weaknesses and identifying where I can grow as a leader. In session 3, identifying areas that needed change, how to bring about that change through innovation, and finally designing an incremental implementation plan on how to achieve that change all gave me a bit of a headache! But really helped me with projects I am currently involved in. In Session 4 we took that concept of Strategic planning to another level when as a group we had to do a SWOT analysis of the YOYL program and create an action plan around an identified opportunity. That not only taught me to look outside the obvious to see things I had previously not seen, but it also taught me a bit about group dynamic and what it is to be in a sense a project manager (I was appointed leader of my group). We put some pretty cool ideas into the action plan – glad to say I have seen hints of these ideas floating around YOYL advertising & communication.
In Session 5 we tackled that buzz word that is so popular in the market place today – coaching. This session really opened me up to a whole new paradigm of leadership through such things as the lost art of listening, empowerment and bringing people to find their own solutions through questions rather than answers. Session 6 was all about team stages & team dynamics. The thing that really stuck out for me was the power of autonomy and how it translated to ownership and motivation within people. The interesting thing about the assignment was the 360 leadership assessment. It gave me a lot of insight into how others see me function. In session 7 we looked in depth into different personality types, starting with my own and then looking to the personality types of others in the various teams I am a part of. This is so insightful. It helps me understand others and their actions so much better and how to better work with them in the future. Knowledge really is power on this level! Understanding my conflict style and how to choose a conflict style wisely based on the situation and various aspects of a conflict is extremely valuable!
Session 8 was all about financial management. Excel spread sheets are not my comfort zone, but this session helped me make a lot more sense of them and how to read them. It really gave me a handle on a topic I just did not know how to tackle before or where to begin. Session 9 pealed back another layer in helping me relate to people – generational theory. I now see so clearly why in general people communicate the way they do or make the decisions they do simply based on when they were born and what the characteristics of their generation are. It makes me reflect on how to better communicate with a person in a way that will be understood by them, simply because I understand a bit about how their generation functions. Session 10 concluded the program with biblical worldview & understanding foundational truths about our existence on this beautiful planet. This session got me thinking about my witness in the world around me, how I discern truth (or walk in error due to deception) and how to stay on the path of life without the paranoia of worrying that I’m going to fall off the path into a dark ditch of legalism or a devious ditch of license!
“Oh Lord its hard to be humble…” is the 1st line of the well known song performed by Kenny Rogers. I wonder if it’s rather not a question of choice – to be hard or to be humble?
As I look at the life of King David, the “man after God’s own heart”, I see a humble man, willing to confess his sin. When he was confronted with his sin of adultery & murder in the case of Bathsheba & her husband Uriah (2 Sam 11), he repents and acknowledges his sin & transgression. “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” he cries out to God (Ps 51:3). When he sinned against the Lord for taking a census of Israel, it is recorded that “David’s heart struck him… “for I have done very foolishly” (2 Sam 24:10). When Shimei publicly cursed David and could have been killed on the spot for cursing the king, David did not permit harm to be done to Shimei in case “the Lord had instructed him to do so” (2 Sam16:10). He did not presume himself to be infallible.
As you look at the life of Solomon his son, you see a young king who sets out with a passion for God, but over time begins to set his affections on wealth, power, foreign women & their idolatrous ways. He seemed to consider himself exempt from obeying God’s commandments – an attitude which has brought great disaster upon every person who has ever taken it! When confronted by the Lord himself, Solomon does not humble himself and repent (like his father did) – rather he hardens his heart. When your heart is hardened, you cannot discern what is true or walk in truth.
As leaders we all fall & make mistakes, but a humble & penitent heart will keep us from walking in deception and ultimately destruction. When my heart hardens I must endeavour to keep it soft through repentance. What greater accolade is there than to be called a “man (or woman) after God’s own heart”?
King David was a great leader who knew how to motivate a nation and lead his people. In 1 Chron 29 we read one such occasion when he gave instruction as to the building of the temple, a job that he entrusted to his son Solomon. He prepared all the materials and artisans for Solomon to begin the building of the temple, a sign of a selfless leader, content to build into the life of another without sharing in the glory and fame of the end result. What drive David on to be this kind of leader? I believe it’s because he was WAC’d!
W – whole hearted towards The Lord
A – affectionate towards The Lord
C- consecrated to The Lord
In verse 9 of 1 Chron 29 we read about the people offering to The Lord with a “whole and blameless heart” – they were imitating their King (see vs 3b – 5a).
In verse 3 David says ” I have set my affection on the House of my God.”
In verse 5 David inspired his people to consecrate themselves and their offering “like one consecrating himself to the priesthood (AMP version).
This text inspires me as a leader to be whole hearted in all I do, to set my affections on God, and to consecrate my life unto Him. Then and then only can I truely begin to inspire those that I lead.
Recently I was flying from Los Angeles to Cairo with a connection in New York. Whilst waiting to board I was sitting among many Muslim folk who were also passing the time waiting to board the same plane. That wait in Terminal 4 at JFK airport would become a life defining moment for me.
Without any announcement, a veiled woman sitting on my right pulled a prayer mat from her bag, faced Mecca and dropped to her knees to perform Salat or formal worship & prayer practice in the Islamic faith. A man sitting to my left was reading and reciting from a very large Koran (the practice of Tajwid). All the while sitting opposite me, an elderly Egyptian couple and an American woman were engrossed in conversation about the Islamic faith. The woman had recently converted to Islam and was en route to perform Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). The couple patiently were educating her in the ways of her new found faith.
As I sat witnessing all that was taking place around me, the following words came to mind:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”
The Apostle Paul
As I pondered on the display of expression of the Islamic faith around me in that terminal (on American soil), I began to ask myself – am I really unashamed of the Gospel of Christ? Do I take every opportunity to display Christ in me, the Hope of Glory? As leaders emulating the greatest leader who ever lived, there really is no room to be ashamed of Him who is not ashamed of me.
Prominence does not always equal significance & significance does not always equal prominence.
From time to time I catch myself thinking of leadership as something huge, corporate, visible & prominent. But all too often I see that leading from behind has as much significance as the “man of power for the hour” scenario. Leadership & impact can be very significant and at the same time not prominent at all. Just think of the birth of the most significant leader in all history – Jesus born in a stable in the small town of Bethlehem. No pomp, no ceremony, no fuss.
In everyday life I see everyday people doing the most extraordinary things. I have seen a group of gogos (grandmothers) take the little they have and set up shelters for starving children in the poorest of the poor townships in Gauteng South Africa. I have seen a young woman develop and grow an NGO protecting children & educating adults against the evil of child abuse and human trafficking in Cairo Egypt. I know an artist who mentors and shepherds younger artists & musicians to shine the unadulterated Gospel in the market place in a post modern & secularist society. These folks are leaders who are shaping the nations into the image of Christ through education, care & the arts – and they are doing it from behind, quietly in the background, far away from platforms and positions. Let’s us not underestimate our influence to lead from the back row…
Within minutes they were bickering over who of them would end up the greatest. But Jesus intervened: “Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles. It’s not going to be that way with you. Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant.”
The advice that Jesus was giving His disciples in the above passage was not very popular. It was not popular then, and it’s not popular today. However, if we are to follow in the example of the greatest leader that ever lived, then we cannot be taking His words as casual advice; but rather as words of life and a pattern for living. In line with the “upside down” Kingdom – if you want to go up, you have to go down! Jesus lived this. His willingness to be misunderstood and ultimately His death on the cross are testimony to this.
A mentor in my own life used to say something that stuck with me when it came to the subject of authority & leadership. He said – “A label saying Tomato Sauce on a bottle of tomato sauce does not make the contents of the bottle tomato sauce.” We know this, yet we do it as if the title makes us so and demands the respect and service of others. James tells us that self seeking is in direct defiance of Kingdom living – to the point of being a part of the enemy’s camp! Paul sums it up best when talking of Christ’s example to us:
Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.
For me, one of the most beautiful scenes is seeing a gaggle of geese flying across a sunset in their signature V formation. Enhancing that beauty is the understanding of God’s design and evidence of His blueprint in these gracious creatures. In the case of the V flying formation of the geese, these birds are able to increase their flying range by up to 71%, greatly improving efficiency and energy consumption, and therefore flight fatigue. The birds behind the leader fly in the up-wash from the wingtip vortices of the bird ahead. This assists each bird in supporting its own weight in flight. V formations also improve the fuel efficiency of aircraft and are used as a military tactic. It is very important to note in the case of the geese, the leader is rotated every so often to avoid burn out and fatigue.
Another vital key I am locking into on this path of leadership understanding & study, it that we all have limitations – even the greatest of leaders that we so admire and look up to. I believe that is a characteristic that God our creator intentionally designed into us for the purpose of needing each other – for the purpose of community. A great leader will know and acknowledge his limits (a sign of true humility), and in the forum of community, have others take the lead in certain areas (give away responsibility), thus avoiding burn out and seeing much better & greater results for the community, group or organization. This can be summed up in one word – Synergy. Synergy can be defined as the interaction of multiple elements in a system to produce an effect different from or greater than the sum of their individual effects. In essence, in the realm of teamwork, it is the working together of a group of individuals to produce a greater good more effective than the efforts of each individual. A song is also a good example of human synergy, taking more than one musical part and putting them together to create a song that has a much more dramatic effect than each of the parts when played individually.
Leadership is not only about knowing when you need another “goose” to take the reins at the front, but also about looking out for the other geese in the spirit of love & foresight. It is recognizing the fatigued ones and placing them at the back of the formation for a time, while the strong ones carry the bulk of the load for a time. This is of course the introduction to yet another vital skill that every great leader must possess – strategy.