July 28, 2009

The Difference Between Communication & Leadership

I thought about titling this "Why Our President Is A Great Communicator & Not A Great Leader", but I thought that might be a little harsh. So for the record, let me simply state that I'm using our President as an example. Many of our Presidents have fallen into a similar category as President Obama.

Recently there was a report that democratic leaders on Capitol Hill were a little upset & disappointed with the President & his lack of leadership. They said it was time for the President to demonstrate some leadership & clarity as they work on the health care reform that's become a huge story in the media in recent weeks. As I see it, President Obama's problem is that he is an excellent communicator & speaker, but not necessarily a great leader. At least he's not demonstrating the quality of leadership that's needed right now.

When he speaks, it's still very much a campaign style, vision casting tone that makes people feel good, but it doesn't really lead anywhere. He doesn't give us a really clear picture of what his plans mean for us. In these times, we need a leader who can be clear about our direction, even in the midst of uncertainty. Yet the President continues to use flowery speeches filled with hope & change that are quickly losing their punch with the general public. Sadly, this wear is starting to show on the President. Last week he said it was time to stop talking about health care reform & to act on it. Well, the problem with that is 1) our government is built on debate 2) we haven't really had a good, clear discussion on the issue.

Not all communicators are great leaders; not all great leaders are amazing communicators. Just because someone possesses a skill to inspire people with his/her words does not mean that he/she can actually lead those people. So for those of us in leadership we have to figure out where we fall. Are we the great communicator who should surround themselves with competent leaders to help execute the vision we have for our organizations, or are we the strong leader who needs a mouthpiece to help communicate the vision & plan that we have?

July 24, 2009

What Do You Say?

Right now I'm spending a lot of time trying to figure out what I'm going to say in a week & a half at my final worship with our students. And for the first time in my ministry, I'm speechless. As a preacher/teacher, I usually have plenty to say. I love planning & preparing to teach students, but for this occasion, I have no clue what to say.

What do you say to a group of students that you've walked with through some truly transforming years in their lives? What do you say to students that you've poured yourself into for years? How do you boil down everything you want to say into something that they need to hear? Oh yeah, it would be nice if they would remember it for more than an hour too!

For those of you who have been in positions like this, what advice do you have for me? What's the one thing that I have to pass on in my last opportunity to speak to most of these students?

July 19, 2009

Time Keeps On Slippin, Slippin...

Tick, tock, tick, tock....

Whether you like it or not time keeps right on ticking, "like sand through the hourglass." The problem is that we don't know how much time we have, & the bigger problem is that few of us act like it is a problem. Yet most us, constantly complain about our lack of time. What if time isn't our problem? After all, we all have 24 hours everyday, right?

To me the question we should be asking is, "Am I going to make the most of time, or is time going to make the least of me?" In Ephesians 5, Paul writes that we should be wise in how we live, making the most of every opportunity. I don't know about you, but I'm not great at making the most of all my opportunities/time. According to Paul's instruction here, wise living is marked by making the most of our time. Do you want to be wiser tomorrow than you were today? Then start by making the most of your next 24 hours.

What can you start doing right now to make the most of your time? How can you cut out the waste in your life & create the margin you need in order to really make the most of your opportunities?

July 17, 2009

In The Eye Of The Uncertainty Storm

Last time I wrote a bit about uncertainty & how to deal with it in your ministry or organization. Lately I've been reading lots of articles & listening to a lot of teaching on the subject because I've found myself in the middle of the "uncertainty storm". As I'm writing this I'm in the process of transitioning out of my current place of ministry & into the next step that God has for me & my family as we follow Him. Trust me, it's a lot easier to talk about uncertainty when you're talking about someone else's uncertainty. When it's you & your family that's weathering the storm, it feels completely different.

Yet it's not different. All of the principles that I wrote about & that I've read about recently still apply. The only difference is how it feels. It's important to process the emotions involved in a transition like this, but if you become overwhelmed by them, you can become crippled by them. It's OK to shed tears over the people you'll miss, the experiences that you won't get to be a part of, but it's also important to remember that the future God has for us is one of victory as long as we keep in step with Him.

As I move on into whatever the next step holds for me & my family, my plan looks very much like what I laid out in my last post. I plan to hold onto the vision & calling that God has given me for my ministry. While I don't know what the exact next move is, I do know what God has called me to. Therefore, I can discern the path I should take based on whether it will enable or inhibit my fulfilling that vision & calling.

July 7, 2009


I've heard Andy Stanley say that "uncertainty is a permanent part of the leadership landscape." He goes on to encourage leaders that uncertainty doesn't indicate poor leadership; it actually underscores the need for leadership. Uncertainty will be our constant companion on the leadership journey, but there are definitely times when the uncertainty weighs more heavily on us than usual. What then? What do we do when we're in a period of transition? What do we do when conflicting views arise about the next move? What do we do when we're not sure what to do?

According to Andy Stanley, the best thing to do is to return to the God-given vision for your ministry or organization. I wholeheartedly agree with this. There's only one problem, at least for me. Returning to the vision that God has given us doesn't necessarily give us the next step along the way. If you're like me, when uncertainty arises, you want the solution, & you want it NOW! The thing that is wrong with that approach is that our real motivation is eliminating uncertainty. Instead we should be seeking clarity in the midst of uncertainty, & returning to the vision that God has given us will always give us clarity. It may not always give us the next step in the process of navigating uncertainty, but it gives us the priceless grid through which we can run our decisions as we move forward through the uncertainty.

So if you are caught in the middle of what seems like extreme uncertainty whether personally or organizationally, return to the mission that you've been called to. Go back to the problem you've been burdened to solve. The vision you've been given will provide a filter for your decisions going forward. It will give you clarity to lead in the midst of uncertainty.

For more on this topic, pick up Andy Stanley's "Next Generation Leader" or listen to this month's Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast.