April 2014

It Must Always be About the Organization

great man theory of leadershipGreat Leadership Lessons, NOTE 07.
There is some paradox involved in this lesson... and frankly, quite a bit of in-the-face challenge as well. Give me a little grace and space to write about myself as an example. I will get to that in a moment.

We live in a culture that still loves the Great Leader Story. We love our leaders larger than life. We love heroic leaders. We love the leader who takes a decisive stand against all the others, against the crowd, against the popular way...and proves to be RIGHT. We love the superstar leaders. We love the celebrity leader. This is not just in the world, but the church deals with this just as much.

Stimulate Progress, Lots and Lots of Progress

Jim Collins   Built to Last  preserve the core  stimulate progressGreat Leadership Lessons, NOTE 06.
Preserve the Core is the first half of the linchpin idea in Built to Last. Stimulate Progress is the second half.

A few weeks ago I was teaching a seminar to a group of leaders. During that event, I had briefly prepared some material that years ago was a very central paradigm for spiritually formed leadership. In fact, at one time it had been my favorite material. But things changed, I found new ideas that were more interesting and which had more potential. So I stopped using that model.

Preserve the Core: Five Lessons & Six Questions

Jim Collins quote  truly great companies understand what should never change.Great Leadership Lessons, Note 05:
Jim Collins and St. Augustine have something in common. They both understand the crucial difference between what is core/essential and what is secondary and not-core.

Augustine said, "In essentials - unity. In non-essentials - diversity. In all things - charity."

Collins says, "Preserve the Core. Stimulate progress (in everything else).

This is the LINCHPIN idea in Built to Last. A linchpin is a "thing" that holds together all the other elements of a complex system.

The Grace of God - Here is My Definition

Definition of grace  Paul  damascus road  audacious insanity of a heavenly wisdomThe story of Saul on the Damascus Road is described in Acts 9:1-19. This is his conversion experience. This is the transformation of Saul to Paul.

This is the story of surprising mercy and unexpected love to one who was least deserving of it.

It is the story of how God's grace turns sinners into saints, rebels into servants, and persecutors into missional leaders.

We are so familiar with this story that, perhaps, it no longer amazes us with its sheer improbability. I read this and I wonder at the boldness of God! To take a murdering, persecuting zealot and call him to be the lead apostle of grace . . . This is not just boldness. Stronger words are needed. The audacity, the presumption, the insanity of such a plan!

Yet that is exactly what grace is. 

Grace is the audacious insanity of a heavenly wisdom that works miracles in hopeless places and lost cases.

Things Helpful for Salvation (C.S. Lewis)

I am beyond a Raving Fan of C. S. Lewis. 
There are few writers who weave together the gifts of imagination, affection, intellect, will and action as C. S. Lewis. This year I am reading lots of Lewis and many books about Lewis.

Leadership teacher and author, Bobby Clinton, recommends that leaders have historic mentors. A historic mentor is someone from the past. You access their wisdom by reading and reflecting on their life and work. I have done that for many leaders over the years (including Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa like Nelson Mandela). I have done in-depth study and learning from the great theologians and writers on spirituality, like Ignatius of Loyola, Augustine, Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, John Owens, Wesley, Eugene Peterson and Peter Kreeft (the last two being contemporary authors).

Over the years I have read quite a bit of Lewis and from time to time would read a book about him. This year I am reading a dozen or so of his books and I have a list of about twenty books about Lewis. 

Best Practices and Powerful Mindsets

execution of ideas leaders execute  leaders implement   leaders actJim Collins NOTE 04:
Great Ideas, Powerful Mindsets, Core Beliefs, Enduring Truths. They matter a very great deal. But great thinking, even great strategic thinking, without implementation is all but useless.

To your great ideas and powerful mindsets you must add BEST PRACTICES. This is what you do and how you do it. This is the behavior that is implemented. This is the action that is executed. 

Ideas that are Implemented Lead to Change.
Mindsets that are Carried Through into Execution Make the Difference.

I wanted to say this from the very beginning. Collins has wonderful ideas in his books. I love ideas. I get fired up about great ideas. I can think and think and think and think. I can interpret, critique, morph, ponder on, analyze to death ideas. That does not make me a leader.

Is "Great" Really a Category Christians Can Use?

Jim Collins NOTE 03:
There are definitely some words Christains do not like. I am not talking about vulgarity and swearing. Here are the words I am thinking about.

words Christians don't like

When we start using these words, and others like them, we squirm and become uncomfortable. They sound, well - worldly. Secular. UnChristian. They are not words we find in the Bible. They seem to be "works-oriented words." We prefer words like grace, love, relationship and acceptance. 

Another word to add to this list is the word - GREAT or GREATNESS. That word sounds full of pride and even arrogance. Of if not that - then of impossible standards.

I understand... I really do. I really like some other words and ideas myself. By far, my favorite two biblical phrases are from Jesus and Paul.

Objections Christians Might Raise to Jim Collins

Jim Collins Note 02:
I read quite a few of the most important leadership authors. Every year I still read 20+ new books on leadership. Many of these books are written by secular authors who have no interest in spirituality, or particularly  - the Christian faith. 

I have many conversations with Christian leaders who wonder how appropriate it is to use the insights of these non-Christian authors. Jim Collins is not exempt from their questions. In fact, the very popularity of his ideas makes him the subject of some "concerns" raised by "some" Christian leaders. 

I will briefly raise and answer three questions/objections that are good questions and worth considering. Two of them in this post, and  one in the next post.

Jim Collins and Great Leadership.

Jim Collins photo  Good to Great  Built to Last  How the Might FallJim Collins NOTE 01:
It happened a few months ago. I was realy caught off guard. I was talking with a younger leader (in their mid-twenties). I used the idea of BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious  Goals) that Jim Collins made popular in Built to Last. They had never heard that phrase. I said it came from leadership author Jim Collins. A blank stare! "Who is that" was the question?  "Wow!", I thought.  "How can someone in leadership not know about Jim Collins and the wealth of ideas he has contributed to the world of leadership?" After a moment of surprise, I explained the idea of BHAGs. 

Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Happy and Most Blessed Easter to Everyone. 
Here are a few of my favorite Resurrection Images.

THE EMPTY SHROUD with the light of God's glory and the Holy Spirit.

resurrection, empty tomb shroud, Holy Spirit, Christ is risen

Stained Glass of the Risen Christ

Stained glass resurrection of Jesus

The Light of Life who is the Risen Christ coming out of the tomb.

Christ coming out of the tomb alive again and forever   resurrection Sunday

The Both-And of Christian Faith

John Henry Newman Christianity is dogmatical, devotional practical

Every now and then I read a quote that GETS IT RIGHT. And this one by John Henry Newman gets it very right indeed!

This is the focus on theology, doctrine, truth that matters, the ideas that make a difference. Orthodox, historic, apostolic faith has always understood that while Christianity is much more than a belief system, TRUTH and the wise understanding of "Word Made Flesh," the Revelation of God, God's Words to us - is essential. 

To Live and to Die (in Christ)

John Calvin to live and die for Christ

The Holy Week moves on. Good Friday is two days away. Then two more days and we celebrate Easter Resurrection. 

The focus of this Holy Week is always on Christ. Christ crucified and Christ risen again. Our focus is on the work of Christ, the sinlessness of His life, the love that made possible his sacrificial suffering and the power that raised Christ from the dead. 

We are always the "Graced Ones" or the ones who receive grace.
We are always the "acted upon." The work of Jesus is always prior.
We are always those dependent on and connected to the Source which is Father, Son and Spirit.

The message of Holy Week is that God has acted decisively, graciously, powerfully, effectively and REDEMPTIVELY to do for us what we could not and can never do for ourselves.

Nothing can take the place of THAT message.

LCI Update: Back From Spiritual Direction Training in Ottawa

Air Canada prop lane 18 seaterI am back from a week up in the Ottawa region of Canada. The plane pictured to the right is the small prop plane that took me on the first flight from Harrisburg, PA to Toronto. It was an 18 seater. Kind of fun being in it. Fast take of and landing. Plus you can watch through the front window of the plane as we come in for the landing.

Pray As You Go - The Stations of the Cross

Pray as you go Stations of the CrossPray as You Go is a well known and highly used website for daily prayer. While I do not use it on any kind of regular basis (my own regula of spiritual formation avoids social media), still, for many people it will be a wonderful experience.

Then, from time to time, they have special resources that are outstanding. If you are moved by beautiful classical music, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND to you this collage of music, scripture, prayer, spiritual reflections and guidance that takes you through ten Stations of the Cross. 

This will take you some time to go through.

Thomas Carlyle on Your Work

Today is a Final Word (at least for awhile) from Mr. Carlyle. Here it is. 

Thomas Carlyle quote On the choice of books  work  vocation meaning and purpose of work

Once again we see how rooted Carlyle is in the Christian worldview. For that worldview has a VERY HIGH view of work. Created in God's image, we are creators, workers, doers, makers of artifacts, artisan of culture, laborers in the marketplace vineyards of endless occupations.

We are created to do this. Much of the meaning and purpose of your life is to find out what you are made to do and what is made for you to do. At that intersection you discover identity, calling and vocation. Carlyle says this is one of the first problems every one of us must confront. What is the work we are to do in the universe?

Thomas Carlyle on Walking Against the Tide

Today and tomorrow - just two more from Carlyle. I hope you have been moved by this insightful author, as I am. Today's thought is one that describes the essence of being a follower of Christ. First, here is Carlyle and then I'll have a thought to add.

Thomas Carlyle quote On the choice of books  world obstructing you

That is the Christian journey. In the world but not of the world. The Book of Hebrews describes us as sojourners who are looking for a "better city." We are nomads making our way through this world that is out of sync (okay - full rebellion against) the kingdom of God. We are citizen-ambassadors of the Other Kingdom. We are Followers of the WAY. The Way is narrow, hard, difficult and only a few follow it. The Cultural Highway is broad, wide, busy and is life in the fast lane.

Thomas Carlyle on Speaking Truth

Speak the truth or don't speak at all.
Certainly never conclude a person is a good speaker just because they have mastered the art of oratory, passionate proclamation, or clever communication. We are so often drawn to those who are best at spin doctoring the truth. Or presenting personal opinion as if it is the truth delivered once and for all to the saints! All you have to do is recall so much of the recent conversation on "church" by those who have a grievance against it.

When I read some of the just silly or angry words about the church, the passage that came to mind was simply, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone at the church." For some of the loudest critics (at least the ones I know personally) are also some of the most grievous offenders. 

Thomas Carlyle on Why and How to Read

Carlyle says it so eloquently and compellingly - I have nothing to add.

Thomas Carlyle quote On the Choice of Books, reading

Well, I do have something to add. Two things.

First - Amen!
Second - run right now and get a book if you do not have one you are currently reading. Then, immediately - START reading.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International


Thomas Carlyle on Making Mistakes

It is a fact of life. There is nothing you can do about it.
You are going to fail. You will fall short. You will make mistakes. You will stumble in your work. You will err. You will take wrong turns. I have had some doozies. I have fallen and fallen hard. Wham - flat on the face. And that is not just ancient history many years old. I am thinking about this past week! 

Failure is not the failure...unless you fail to learn from the failure. Failing is part of the learning process. That is not the problem.

Thomas Carlyle on Humble Learning

Be Modest. Be Humble. Be Diligent.

Be these things when it comes to learning. This is not all we need be as learners. Curiosity is good. Passion also. Debate and rigorous critical analysis of the ideas set forth is not only useful - it is vital. Still, there is the great benefit of a humble demeanor for life long learning.

You know your limits. You know that you don't know MOST of what there is to know. You know you have many opinions, some of which have little substance of content or rigor of process supporting them. You understand the power of personal bias. You know you can't easily rise above your presuppositions, but at least you have awareness of them. You know others (many who are MUCH smarter than you) hold oppositive positons. You also know you have changed your mind (a time or two) in the past; and you will surely change your mind again in the future.

Thomas Carlyle "The Engraver"

Leaders Lead.
They lead by making an imprint on others.
They lead by "leaking" into the organization around them - values, beliefs, dreams, ethos...
They lead by influence.

Carlyle was such a Leader. Here is an observation about Carlyle's person and how others experienced him. It is spoken with warmth and respect by Richard Herne Shepherd who wrote the long introduction to the published inaugural address - On the Choice of Books.

Thomas Carlyle quote  On the Choice of Books  leaders imprint and influence

Thomas Carlyle and the Dishonest Man

Carlyle came from a Scottish-Calvinist background. While he turned away from much of the faith, still there was embedded within him, that essential worldview way of understanding life. At the core of that was a profoundly religious-moral understanding of truth, beauty and goodness. So much of Carlyle's writings were to expose VICE and to encourage VIRTUE. Here is one of his observations.

Thomas Carlyle quote  On the Choice of Books, dishonest man

Whether the dishonest man is a politician, preacher, educator, businessmen or friend - they "darken counself by words he utters."

When our culture allows such people to be in positions of leadership - well, the old biblical word WOE - comes to mind.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International


Thomas Carlyle on Books (Good and Bad)

I read a lot. There is never enough time to read. I have a long list of books I want to read. I have a number of unread books sitting on my "To Read Shelf." So I must be selective. For according to Carlyle, not all books are created equal. There are good books and bad books. There are books that edify and books that disturb with their mischief. There are books full of wisdom and there are books full of deception. There are books that are well written and books hastily scribbled (some by well known Christian celebrity authors who are rushed to get another book in print). 

A well known name does not a Good or Wise Book Ensure!

So Carlyle counsels discernment and cautions us to be discriminating (alert, sensitive, perceptive) readers. 

Thomas Carlyle quote  books are like sheep and goats  On the Choice of Books

What is a really good book that turned out to be a very great advantage in teaching you wisdom?
And have you read any books that seemed to the cause of a wild mischief?

Thomas Carlyle on Books and Work

I love quotes. I collect them. When I find really, really good ones, I go looking for images and I mash the quote and image together. 

I have some favorite authors who are eminently quotable. C. S. Lewis is one of them. G. K. Chesterton another. Thomas Carlyle is one author who is much less known to most of you, but who is inspiring and witty. Thomas Carlyle is one of the old writers (of the 1800s), philosoher, historian, cultural critic and in all things wide and deep sage, as well as a fine writer. To learn more about Carlyle, read this article. 

For the next several days, I will give you one or two of his quotes to consider. They are all from his inaugural address at Edinburgh University when he was installed at the Rector on April 2, 1866. The lecture was published as an essay - On the Choice of Books.