February 24, 2012

Leadership Lessons From Moneyball

Valerie & I watched Moneyball last night. I was shocked that I got her to watch a baseball movie. A big thanks to the rugged good looks of Jonah Hill & that other guy, I think his name is Pitt, are probably in order for getting her to buy in. After all, it's not just a movie about baseball; it's a movie about the business end of baseball. I'm sure it sounded like a riveting topic to my wife who has never seen the baseball classic, The Natural & maybe not even Field of Dreams.

First off , it's a great movie. Great writing, great pace, & Jonah Hill actually does deserve the Best Supporting Actor nomination that he received. It probably won't win Best Picture & Brad Pitt probably won't get the Best Actor nod, but I'm just glad a movie with such mainstream success got attention at the Oscars. Usually it's just a bunch of odd ball flicks like The Artist that get all the attention.

After processing the movie, I was hit by some huge leadership lessons that jump out of this story of how Billy Beane built a winning baseball team with misfits, cast-offs, & nobodies.
1) What Has Always Worked Might Not Work In Your Current Context.
A business as usual approach to that Oakland A's team would have resulted in a mess, but turning the baseball world on its ear resulted in a division championship. It also laid a pattern for the Boston Red Sox to follow as they built their World Series team of just a few years later. What has always been done in your field might not work in your particular circumstances, & what you've always done might not be what you need to do in the specific context you might find yourself in.

2) The Guardians Of The Status Quo Are Ruthless & Powerful.
Billy Beane paid a pretty high price for what he did. His scouts thought he was insane. His manager was less than supportive, & the baseball world viewed him as a heretic...until they started winning. Then Billy Beane was a genius...until they lost. Then it was back to saying, "See I told you that wouldn't work." If there is something you have to change, be prepared to be wounded. Jonah Hill's character, Peter Brand, told Beane, "The first one through the wall gets the bloodiest."
3) Vision Must Be Cast & Re-Cast.
Leaders know this, but it's easy to get sidetracked by tasks. The result is that we & those we lead begin to lose focus on the ultimate goal. In the movie, the team doesn't really begin to take shape & fulfill their potential until Beane & Brand are shown meeting with players explaining what they are trying to do & how each player fits into the team.

4) Know The REAL Problem You're Trying To Solve
There is a great scene where Beane is sitting around the table with his scouts looking at the overwhelming task that faced them following the 2001 season. The scouts perceived the problem as one of simply replacing the player(s) they would lose in the off season. It's the same problem scouts & GMs have had to face every year. However, Billy Beane understood it wasn't that simple. They couldn't replace the guys they were losing because they couldn't afford to keep them, so how could they go sign someone to "replace" him. Beane understood that the real problem was that the baseball business system was inherently unfair. Therefore, they had to adapt or die. What is the real problem you & your ministry or organization are trying to solve? Don't spend your time focused on a symptom of the bigger issue.

Moneyball is a great movie. It's entertaining, funny, & really insightful. There's a little bit of language in it, but for a PG-13 movie, it's actually light on questionable content. It was really interesting to watch the movie & actually remember the events on which it's based. I'd recommend it to everybody.

February 21, 2012

Lessons From Walls

For the last few weeks, our church has been going through the series "Walls", which looks at the story of Nehemiah in the Old Testament. Whenever we do a straightforward book study, I try to also read along on my own in order to not only try to keep up & anticipate where our pastor is headed with the series but to also hear the things from God that He wants me personally to get during the series. Now Nehemiah is easily one of my favorite books in the entire Bible, so narrowing all the good stuff in there down to a handful of nice, concise lessons is really hard for me, but here goes.

1) You Don't Have To Have A Pedigree To Lead A Great Movement Of God.
Nehemiah was a cup bearer, not a prophet, not a priest, not a teacher, yet God used Him greatly.

2) Once God Gives You A Burden, Pray & Plan
Nehemiah HAD to get back to Jerusalem but it seemed impossible, so he prayed, he planned, & when the opportunity came to present it to the king he was ready & God blessed it.

3) You Need Others To Accomplish The Mission God's Called You To
Nehemiah had a burden & a call, but it wasn't one that he could pull off alone. God always calls us to something that requires Him & His people in order to fulfill it.
4) You'll Need Extreme Focus In The Face Of Opposition
Nehemiah faced almost constant opposition. Whether they were simply degrading Nehemiah & the people or actually plotting to take Nehemiah down, enemies were around. Who your enemies & opponents are will tell others almost as much as who your friends are.

5) Doing Something That Lasts Must Include A Commitment To God's Word
Immediately after rebuilding the walls, the people were pointed back to God's word. While they had accomplished a huge project, the real project, the rebuilding of their fellowship with God, was at risk. Even with rebuild walls, the people could have easily fallen back into the sin that led to their exile & the destruction of the city. Real change comes from the transforming power of God's word at work in us. Make sure that your mission is rooted in God's bigger purpose revealed in His word.