March 2014

Nine Pathways to Self Leadership

Long. Slow. Deep. Difficult. Particular.
That is a mantra and mindset I use whenever I talk about personal formation. Whether the focus is leadership development, life coaching, spiritual direction or some combination - growing, maturing, developing - is long, slow, deep, difficult and particular (this last one meaning concrete, specific and highly relevant to the individual). Here are nine pathways that are useful in the First Task of Self-Leadership. Each pathway helps with the three essential elements of Self-Leadership:  (1) awareness, (2) choice and (3) action/praxis.

Self Leadership - A Word From Mandela

Nelson Mandela had what the Bible calls the wilderness experience. For Mandela, his wilderness was a small one. It was Robben Island near Capetown. The island is 2 miles x 1 mile in size (3.3 x 1.9 kilometers). On the island was the prison where Mandela spent 18 years. He had a cell that was 8 x 8 feet (or 2.5 x 2.5 meters). Cold in the winter, hot in the summer, sparse, hard, with little contact from the outside. This was the crucible where Mandela was forged.

With no entertainment, no distractions, few options, but much solitude and silence, a woman or man has time to think. Ruminate. Ponder. Obsess. Look within. When you are your own main company, it is possible (not inevitable) that you will come to know yourself. 

The Seven Leadership Practices of Pope Francis

Pope Francis why he leads the way he leads  chris lowney  servant spiritual leadershipWell obviously the new pope has more than SEVEN leadership practices, but Chris Lowney identifies seven core practices of this Jesuit formed Pope Francis. These practices are illustrated nicely in Lowney's new book, Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads. Here they are with super brief explanations.

What a Mess!

Richard Stearns president World VisionAnd what an example of rather INEPT leadership!

I almost never have two posts on any one day. But today is an exception. I am sure most of you are familiar with World Vision's decision (which shocked many of its loyal supporters) to approve the hiring of Same-Sex Marriage personnel. This was shocking because it was a radical departure from the core values that most evangelicals affirm about family, marriage and sexuality.

Richard Stearns is the president of  World Vision. In the past, he has been a great leader, wise, caring, committed, sensitive to the needs of many of the broken, hurting people of the world. His book, The Hole in Our Gospel is an outstanding book.

Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit)

the fire of the Holy SpiritHere is a powerful, beautiful, surrendered, trusting prayer that can be prayed TO the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is the third member/Person of the Trinity.

The Spirit has personality.

The Spirit has a specific work and ministry to be done.

This prayer understands the work of the Spirit and is a prayer of invitation and invocation, longing for the Spirit to do that work in your life.

I recommend a slow, prayerful reflection the first time through. Almost a lectio divina reading and moving through this prayer. You may want to pray it for several days. Later, pull it out on a weekly basis and use it as a model or stepping stone to communicte with and commune with the Spirit of God.

What Size is Your Church?

Here is an interesting statistic my friend Connnie Milchling (Executive Producer of Worship Arts at LWCC) forwarded to me. The numbers refer to ATTENDERS and not to membership.

Size of Church       % of Churches in the USA

Life Long Learning (The Jesuit Way)

Eric Hoffer  the learned and the learningThe busier you are, the harder your work, the more demanding your challenges, the more pressed you are, the greater the stress levels in your life, THEN - the more absolutely imperative it is that you have integrated rhythms of learning, study, prayer and reflection in your life.

As the complexity of life accelerates, as change is massively and wickedly continuous and disruptive, it is only those Life Long Learners who will be relevant, wise and fruitful. This is why Life Long Learning is a core value of Leadership ConneXtions International. This is why we spend as much time as we do in our own personal learning, in creating learning environments and communities of transformation and in empowering leaders to be architects of such environments.

At this, the Jesuits were MASTERS. 

Mindset Matters

I won't say much at all today...only repeat the obvious. Your mindset does indeed matter. You will almost always act according to what you think. If you think you can try something new you will. If you don't think you can - you won't. If you think you will suceed or fail - that's right - you will!

Take a look, a good look, at your life. How you are living, what you are experiencing, what you are doing, where you are going - it all comes down to this. If you think you can, or if you think you can't - you are probably right.

Maybe it is time to change what you believe. The good news is - that is exactly what Jesus offers. Metanoia-change-transformation-renewal at the deepest core of our beliefs.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International


The One Must Read Leadership Book for This Year

Pope Francis why he leads the way he leads   chris lowneyThis past week I have read two outstanding books that jump into Brian's BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR category. It is going to be very hard to dislodge them from their #1 and #2 rankings.

At #2 is Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society by John Gardner. I won't say anything else about that book, other then - deeply insightful, wonderfully written, personally challenging and inspiring.

My Own Worst Enemy

my own worst enemyI rarely have less then a dozen appointments a week. Some weeks it can be quite a few more. I am privileged to spend a lot of my time working with peope who are growing, pressing on, hungry for more, invested in the process, committed to the journey, open and curious learners. Therefore, these conversations are usually some type of mentoring. Either leadership coaching, life coaching, spiritual direction, skill training, supervision. Occasionally I have conversations that enter into the deep brokenness and dysfuction of the other. Occasionally there is full blown resistance in one of these conversations... occasionally (fortunately).

Leading Quietly

This image moves me.

Evocative of
quiet leadership,
careful, gentle influence.

The soft touch that brings forth the music.
That gives away the spotlight for others to shine.

This is not the only way of leadership. But it is a way. And it is a needed way. 

Maybe it is a way for you to learn.

If you don't lead like this, it will be hard to learn. Hard - but worth it.


Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International



Seven Habits of Thinking - How Many Do You Use?

Leonardo da Vinci genius thinking habitsIn his EXCELLENT book, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Gelb explains the “seven habits of thinking” that da Vinci exemplified.

Many people believe da Vinci was THE great thinker ever. He regularly appears among the very top on lists of creatives and innovators. The chances are that you are like I was. I had some vague, general impressions of da Vinci. While Gelb is not writing a biography about da Vinci, he does provide some brief biographical history of this genius.  

See You at the Crossroads

Crossroads. Serendipity. Synergy. Connectedness, Catalyst. Change.
There are Six Words that describe the season in which I now live and move.

converge crossroads future past presentWarning - this post is pure "right brain." Usually I weave left and right together, occasionally falling to one or the other. It will be okay if you don't understand some of what I say. I am okay if you can "feel this one."  

What If . . . ?

What a great question!

This is the question that inspires imagination.

This is the question that launches explorations.

This is the question that take us outside the boxes that confine us.

This is the question that gives birth to innovation.

This is the question that gives voice to a dream.

This is the question that finds a better way.

This is the question that leads to growth.

This is the question you need to ask every day.

What if ________________________________ ?

Now, you fill in the blank. If you want to have a powerful time of reflection, get a piece of paper (or hopefully, get out your journal) and write on the top of a new page:

What if . . . ?

My Weekend Reading (Notes from a Giddy Book Nerd)

For those who might not have figured this out... I am a Book Nerd... and some of my best friends are Book Nerds... So if I sound a little giddy, it is just the exuberance I have as I look at the two books sitting beside me... which, as soon as this is done, I start reading them.

Pope Francis why he leads the way he leads  chris lowneyThe first is Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads, Lessons from the First Jesuit Pope written Chris Lowney. Here are four reasons why this is a must read book.

1.  It is written by Chris Lowney who has written one of my all time favorite books on leadership - Heroic Leadership, which was a study of how Jesuits lead. If you have not read that book - get it and read it.

20 Characteristics of Life Long Learners - A Checklist

Here are 20 characteristics of Life Long Learners. I borrowed and tweaked this list from, How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci by Michael Gelb (see page 56 for his version). Print out the list (see the MSWord file at the bottom of the post). Give yourself one point for each characteristic that is very true for you. One half point if it is somewhat true. No points if it is generally not so for you. Hang it somewhere obvious on your desk.

1.  I am curious and interested in many things.

2.  I keep a journal or notebook to record ideas, thoughts, inspiration, questions.

3.  I seek to learn in fields that are outside my current interests and specialty.

4.  I think, analyze and logically consider things to truly understand them.

The Meaning of Life

What is the meaning of life?
That is a great question, but it is not the only question, and perhaps it is not even the best question. 

Here is another question, similar theme, but very different focus:
How can my life become more meaningful?

Do you see the difference between these two? The first question may involve reflection and discovery, even insight. But... technically, that is all that question is designed to achieve - an understanding about the meaning of life. (Note - the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q & A #1 is a pretty good place to begin on this.)

Pressure and Stress Over Time Equals Beauty

The Deep Wisdom God has Structured Into His World.
Here are three images, each with a statement. They help me understand some of the most important, rich (but hard) lessons of life. I have a brief reflection after the images.

There is nothing about a piece of coal that gives any hint it may become a diamond

the caterpillar becomes a Monarch butterfly

a grain of sand is the irritant around which a pearl is formed

You are in Charge!

the individual is king  autonomy  self-directed  individualismOr are you?

Be sure to read through to the last line ... or if you want ... skip the post and just read the last line ... that is the take-away idea.

One of the now established realities of post-modern life is we no longer trust authorities. Trust and confidence in the institutions of our culture and those who lead those institutions is at very low levels.

The cult of the individual is on the rise. It has been on that rise for a very long time. It just seems it is accelerating. In the loss of trust in those who lead us, we then turn to the one source we think is reliable - the SELF. I am in charge. I will decide. I choose. 

The customer is always right.
The individual is king.

Are You Getting the Results You Want?

If you are not, here is a little perspective.

Tom Asacker says your organization, whatever it is: a team, or family, or community group, even a government, is getting exactly the results it is designed to get (The Business of Belief, pp. 113-115)! Asacker is not original on this thought, but he does say it very well in these few pages.

Most of us think our organizations are somehow, not getting what they should be getting. Tom says - huh? Why would you think that? Of course your organization is getting what it is designed to get. Don't blame the organization for not getting results. The problem is the DESIGN of the organization. The way the organization is designed, it gets what it is designed to get. 

If you don't like the results or lack of results - then CHANGE THE DESIGN. 

A Memo to the Uninformed

A memo went out some years ago from the Powers That Be. The memo said three things.

That is now the way of life. Information, options, choices, problems, blogs, tweets, facebook friends, everything - exponential growth is the way it is and the way it will be.

Fatigue and overload.
That is now the way of life. There is just TOO MUCH OF EVERYTHING. The psychological, mental, emotional, affective demands of modern (and post-modern) life are simply overwhelming (see Robert Kegan, In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life) on this. But most of us don't need to. We already know it because we already feel it.

Comfort Zones

Yes they get a bad rap... and often they should.

We do need them for places of rest, recover, relaxation, and recharging (a general powering down). They are wonderful and necessary places to visit. You just don't want to live there and certainly, you don't want to work there.

Rest - yes.
Live & work - certainly not.
Leadership - God forbid!

Life is meant to be an adventure, a journey, an invitation to learning and growth, full of opportunity, challenge, quest and even some risk. I am not speaking as an adrenaline junkie. Far from it. Trust me. While I like change and while I love growth... I can also have a cautious streak in me.

While I think I am, in some ways, a creative path-finder and way-maker, I am also a strategist who likes to think things through before committing to something.

While I have an entrepreneur streak in me, I am mildly (okay moderately) failure avoidant.

while I like to explore the cutting and leading edge of social realities, I definitely do not like falling off that edge.

Getting the Right People (i.e. Productively Neurotic)

I have been talking about Personal Productivity with several different groups of people over the last six weeks or so. We have had great conversations, stimulating, some push and struggle as we wrestle with these issues and a steady moving ahead to think wisely and well about what it means to do Good Work. I continue to do my own reading and study about this theme. It is on my mind a lot. 

And... not only do I want to be as personally productive (bear much fruit that lasts to the great glory of God, in the words of Jesus in John 15), but I want to be a part of a team of highly productive missional servant-leaders. That sets the stage for this thought from Jim Collins in Good to Great and the Social Sectors, page 15. 

Lent Reflection 01

With the Lent Season begun, I am going to do very brief reflections in addition to the normal posts. In many cases, these reflections will simply be thoughts from resources I am using. I am using two primary helps for my devotional time this Lenten Season.

The main resource is What's Gone Wrong? which I wrote a few years back as one of the volumes in The Exercises Series. This is 43 exercises, using the Ignatian Week One Exercises as the starting point for considering the problem of sin, evil and suffering. I am part of a group of about 40 people going through this spiritual journey.

Good to Great and the Social Sectors

Good to Great and the Social Sectors Jim CollinsThis is a very short plug and plea for every leader who works in the non-profit and/or social sector and spheres of life - you should read this little monograph by Jim Collins at least once a year.

I have read it about a dozen times since it came our in 2005. I've gone through several copies. My latest copy is marked up with four different colors of ink and highlighter... and is now so marked up I will have to use a new copy for the next reading. (By the way, be sure to check out his great site that is loaded with resources.)

Some of the most important reading you will do is not reading to learn things you don't know (although Collins will certainly provide that for you in his monograph); it is reading that reminds and refreshes you about thing you already know, but forget to do. 

Two Images of Leadership: Which One Is Your Way?

Here are the images. I am sure you will see my bias from the beginning. Take a look at the images. What do you see going on? What is happening? What style of leadership is represented? What kind of leadership do you admire? Which one is most descriptive of the way you lead?

disconnected leadership or leadership out in front of the crowd  what do you see

true leadership the power of inclusion, language, shared values, consensus, coalition

The first image could be that of the visionary, stand out in front of the followers kind of leader that is so often admired (as well as resented) in our culture today. It can also be the leader who is aloof, disconnected, isolated... and perhaps the authoritative leader.

Lucky People

I want to share a longer quote that is from Tina Seelig's book, What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20. I read this quote in another book - Maximize Your Potential, edited by Jocelyn Glei. Here is the quote, then a few brief comments.

Careers - How Many will You Have?

My dad spent his entire adult life in three jobs.

Chosin Reservoir, Korean War(1)  Shortly out of high school, he was in the U.S. Army and served in Korea. He was part of the Army unit that saw action at the Chosin Reservoir. (I am incredibly proud of my dad and his service for his country.)  By the way, this image does not have my father in it, but it is what that particular military experience was like for the Korean Veterans.

The Flywheel of Spiritual Formation

Long. Slow. Deep. Difficult. Particular.
That is a mantra that I use to help people understand the process of spiritual formation. Each of those words is necessary to understand the process.

I wish it wasn't that way. I wish that spiritual formation, maturity, wisdom, holiness, Christ-likeness, fruitfulness of missional engagements were short, fast, simple and easy. I wish it wasn't a race, a stroll would be nice. I wish it were not a battle and war, a playground park would be nice.

Hebrews 12:1  let us run with endurance

As I listen to many Christians, I can tell that is what they wish as well. That is certainly what so many of our programs and events offer.