I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now, and this seems like a good time as another semester has drawn to a close. Ever since I’ve been teaching on a college or graduate level, I’ve had the privilege of reading – and learning – from some pretty profound writers.
In this case, I’m not talking about the great books and journal articles I get to lead students through. I’m referring to the papers and other written assignments that I have to grade. At my peak earlier in the year, I was grading bout 25 papers a day.
As you may expect, most of the things I read are rather average, and some are, um, well, below average. But every once in a while, somebody blows me away with their ability to creatively, powerfully express a truth. Sometimes it’s just a sentence. Sometimes it’s a paragraph.
Over the years I have collected my favorite student quotations. So in the tradition of my “Half-Baked Ideas that I’m still thinking about,” I wanted to share seven with you.
Drink these in slowly. Let them “bake in your oven” for a while. You’ll be richer for it. Click here and brace for impact!
Q – Please give me one ‘nugget’ of wisdom from your own experience of authentic Christian leadership.
A – Okay, here goes. This sounds like I’m stupidly stating the obvious, but it’s amazing how easy it is for people with leadership positions or aspirations to forget it:
Leaders go first.
They’re the first to serve.
First to see the future.
First to take action.
First to offer their lives and experience as an example. [click to continue…]
Leading people is like pulling a wagon.
It can be complicated and frustrating to over-analyze or steer from the rear. [click to continue…]
Strike up the band celebrity endorsements, hang those chads, and God bless the United States of America! It’s that time again! Voters in many parts of the country are already heading to the polls to vote early for the upcoming election, and the turn-off (um, I mean turnout) is high!
What better way to remind you that these are humans, not just 8 x 10 glossies, than with another round of Hanukkah Hams?
Since it’s been a while, let me give you the talking points on what a Hanukkah Ham is. Named in honor of somebody who suggested that his Greenwich Village Jewish customers would love a big ham for their next Hanukkah celebration, a Hanukkah Ham is a really bad (translation: stupid) idea concocted by usually really smart people.
Previous Hanukkah Ham stories have explored the worlds of electricity, money, college life, Christmas, air travel and hunting, to name a few.
But with so many words flying these days, what could invite more people to ask, “Did he just say that?” than political races across the country? Ever since I heard Philip Johns promise to get grits au gratin taken off the lunchroom menu in seventh grade, and Richard Tyson promised to build a student center in ninth, I’ve heard people running for office – any office – say some pretty outlandish things. I guess it just comes with the territory. [click to continue…]
One of the most famous child self-introductions in history took place in Cincinnati when Martha Taft was asked to introduce herself to her classmates. She stood and said, “My name is Martha Bowers Taft. My great-grandfather was President of the United States. My grandfather was a United States senator. My daddy is ambassador to Ireland. And I am a Brownie.”
Love it, love it, love it! What Martha may or may not have known at the time was that she was demonstrating leadership in the making. With a simple statement she was saying, “I know who I am and where I came from.” She was wonderfully free to be herself. And that’s part of the stuff of ongoing leadership.
Nothing to prove. Nothing to hide. No one to manipulate. No one to pretend to be, other than yourself.
Compare that to another group of so-called leaders who were anything-but. They never lowered themselves to lift one finger to help somebody in need. Everything they did was for attention. They basked in the attention of being “all-that” at public functions. They insisted on being called by their respectful titles in public.
Important? Yes… every time they looked in a mirror.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, [click to continue…]
Know why some people want to be leaders? Because they want the power that comes with it.
Now I’m sure that if you’re a regular reader here, that would in no way describe you. But haven’t you ever known somebody who was super-nice, very inspirational or whatever… then they got the promotion or the big office and turned into Little Caesar?
Or did you ever know somebody who was an awesome “number two” – a great assistant whatever… but when they finally got their chance to pull the organization’s strings royally flopped because they still acted like a “number two?”
“Power corrupts,” Lord Acton observed. “And absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But here’s the rub: all real leaders (and others in leadership positions) have power. Does that mean we’re doomed to lives filled with moral cavities?
Yes. Unless you do something about it.
Oh… I have good news… You can do something about it. [click to continue…]
(Cool things I heard somebody pray, #3)
Went to Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit for the first time this week. Of course, “global” for me was the simulcast just down the street at Live Oak Community Church.
Just before the conference began, Doug Halcomb, the senior pastor at Live Oak, led us in a simple prayer:
“Help us to own our influence.”
Wow. God had my attention before Bill Hybels ever appeared on the screen.
Every one of us has, to some degree, the capacity to shape the character, development, or behavior of someone else. For some people that takes a lot of work. Others seem to affect the world around them with seemingly no effort at all. [click to continue…]
On Sage Avenue, just north of Airport Boulevard in Mobile, Alabama, you’ll find the still-proud structure of St. Pius X Catholic church, built in 1968. I’ve never been inside of it for any reason. But I’ve bragged on it a lot. Especially to my friends at Mrs. Cobb’s Day Care that met at the Methodist church across the street back in the summer of ’69.
In between using tennis racquets as air guitars to tunes like “Proud Mary” and “Daydream Believer,” and acting out our own living music videos to “Seven Little Girls, Sittin’ in the Back Seat, Kissin’ and a Huggin’ with Fred,” we’d hang out on the playground and I’d brag about “My Daddy’s Company.”
Actually it wasn’t his, but he worked for one of Mobile’s premier construction firms during the time when a boy most wants to be proud of his dad.
Martin Builders had just finished the beautiful sanctuary at St. Pius. They also built such local landmarks as the Spanish Plaza and Malaga Inn downtown, parts of Bel Air Mall, and the Mobile Greyhound Park (not to proud of that one). And oh, how I would brag – obnoxiously – about “my Daddy’s company” and what they had done.
My first paycheck came from Martin Builders – a whopping $8.00 for cutting the grass. That evolved into summer work for a couple of hot, humid summers, where I learned what builders actually do and what they need to get the job done. [click to continue…]
There seems to be a for Dummies book for everything – over 1,600 titles and growing. They must be doing something right. For 20 years, Wiley has published “a reference for the rest of us” covering such far-ranging titles as running a bar, acne, Windows, and wikis. There’s one for Christian prayer and yes, one for leadership. The premise for each of the books is always the same: keep it simple and clear, offer cheat sheets, keep it light-hearted, and give easy-to-comprehend “get in, get out” tips.
With all due respect, maybe it’s time for a different approach. Maybe instead of presuming ignorance and moving up from there, somebody should presume that he or she is writing to geniuses.
They just may not know it yet.
Nowhere is that more real than in the area of leadership. Often both leaders and non-leaders approach the subject as if becoming a leader is a power we gain to overcome weaknesses, information we gather to overcome ignorance, or favor we gather to overcome anonymity.
But what if you already had the power, the understanding, or the favor? What if you’re already a leader, but just didn’t know it because nobody ever seems to recognize your unique genius? What if you’re beating your head against the wall trying to get better in an area where you routinely stink it up – all the while ignoring or running from areas of your greatest power and influence?
Maybe it really is time for a different approach. How about Leadership for Geniuses? [click to continue…]