I don’t think he would have (or did) because, knowing all things and being completely filled with the Spirit, he would not need any external reminders. It is literally impossible (both now, and when he was on earth) for Jesus to forget any obligation that he has. (And he does have obligations — that is, things he needs to get done — but they are only the arrangements he freely enters into, which are founded in the promises he has made in the Scriptures.)
But, I’ve never thought that “what would Jesus do” is necessarily the best question. It is a helpful question. But since we are not Jesus (for example, we are not omniscient), the more precise question is “what would Jesus have me do?”
And I think he would say this about to-do lists: “If you can keep all your commitments and get done what you are called to do without writing anything down, no problem. But if you have more to do than your memory is able to hold, one of the other reasons I’ve given you a mind is so that you can figure out a better way to keep track of everything than just keeping it in your head. So go, do what you need to do to remember what you need to remember in order to get done what you need to get done.”
Something like that.
I just read a quote from someone who said that Christian values should become a vital element in the overall moral and cultural discourse of the nation. I think that’s probably true, but what are Christian values?
Most of the time when we think of “Christian” values, frankly, our thinking is pretty lame. We limit ourselves to the avoidance ethic — what we don’t want to see people doing. Christian values have become reduced simply to safety, security, movies that don’t swear too much, and “good family time.”
I’m all about good family time. But the Christian ethic is not simply about avoiding evil, but proactively doing good. And being radical and energetic in it. The question is not what can I spare to serve others and reach the world, but what will it take?
How about if we model for the world a more complete picture of Christian values, which would include things like this:
- Radical generosity. Just like Jesus, who did not merely tithe but gave everything he had (2 Corinthians 8:9).
- Love. Ditching the self-protective mindset and putting others before ourselves, making their good our aim in all things.
- Risk. Making the good of others a higher priority than our own safety, security, and comfort, and taking risks to bring benefit to them.
- Creativity. Christians are to be creative! And to be a boring Christian is a sin (that’s an implication of the term “salt” in Colossians 4:6).
- Excellence. Slack work is a form of vandalism (Proverbs 18:9). Christians are not to be clock-watchers in their work, but to do things well and with competence.
- Initiative. Taking ownership for making things better, rather than sitting around watching and complaining.
- Leadership. Instead of criticizing, leading and setting a good example.
- Humble authenticity.
- Global and multi-ethnic vision.
- Ambition. Not for our own comfort, but for the good of others.
These are all Christian values. But would the world know to name even one of these as Christian? We have a lot of work to do.
I’m giving away a free ESV Study Bible (this one).
If it would serve you, or there is someone you would like to give it to, send me your name and address through the contact form on this site. I’ll send it to the first person who responds. (I won’t do anything with the other addresses but delete them — I’m just having you include your address to cut out a step.)
I won’t be able to respond to everyone to say whether you were the first person or not. So, if you don’t hear from me today, that means it wasn’t you. To the person who is first, I’ll shoot you a note and let you know it’s on its way.
Update: We have a winner!
If God Can Protect Those Who Go To Hard Places as Missionaries, He Can Protect Those Who Go in to Culture-Shaping Vocations As Well
This is a great point I just came across in some of my notes, from I think the book Fearless Faith:
I’ve always wondered why we could be so quick to sacrifice our children to become missionaries but stand in the way of their becoming broadcast journalists, film and television actors, photographers, and painters. It’s almost as if we believe God is strong enough to take care of his own only as long as they stay within the safety of the Christian ghetto.
I’m all about missions and taking the gospel to unreached people groups. I think that, in addition to this, we also need to realize that the gospel also spreads through the vocations of all Christians, wherever they are (as long as we understand the proper relationship between faith and work — which most don’t!) — and that more Christians are needed in culture-shaping vocations.
In other words, the recovery of a robust doctrine of vocation is just as essential to the completion of the Great Commission as embracing the challenge of going to hard places to bring the gospel to those who have never heard.
(And, beyond that, as people come to faith through the vocations of every Christian, there will be more who in turn go to the unreached.)
“We cannot read the writings of the ancients on these subjects without great admiration.”
“Shall we count anything praiseworthy or noble without recognizing at the same time that it comes from God? Let us be ashamed of such ingratitude.”
These are my notes from Bill Hybel’s closing message at the Summit.
Everyone wins when a leader gets better.
My vision for the Summit has always been that we leaders realize we all need, at the very least, an annual heart-check and gut-check and time of refreshment and encouragement and refining our leadership skills. That we treat doing this as a non-negotiable, essential part of our practice.
At the end of the day, we want to be able to stand before God and say “I did my absolute best with the leadership gifts you’ve given me.”
Could you imagine the impact of several hundred thousand leaders gathering annually for a recalibration? This is within our grasp and I hope you’ll join this great vision.
Matthew 16:18. Who is ultimately building the church? Will he allow it to be defeated?
I believe the local church is the hope of the world. But the first 18 years of my life, the one word I would have used to describe the church was “hopeless.” I thought that at the very best I would be minimally engaged with the church for the rest of my life. The church we attended when I was growing up was one I practically wanted to protect people from coming to so it wouldn’t do more harm to the reputation of Christ.
But in the next stage of my life, my perspective changed on the local church from “hopeless” to “hopeful.” I learned in one of my seminary classes about how God moved in the early church, and the professor would say things like “why can’t someone in this room chuck their life plan and give their life to building the local church like this?”
Vision is the picture of a future that creates passion in people. It propels people forward who would normally be comfortable with the status quo. It puts a bounce in your step when you’d normally be dragging your feet.
I was seized by a vision of what the church could be. Of the church’s vision and power and potential. I determined I would seek to play some role in this. I moved to Chicago to help a friend build a youth group, and without realizing it I had signed on to the ride of a lifetime. [Tells great story of how he was called to ministry and Willow Creek started.]
I then moved from “hopeful” on the local church finally to “the local church is the hope of the world.”
The hope of the world is not government, academia, business, but the church because it is to the church that God has entrusted the message of salvation, which truly changes people’s lives and hearts.
And I realized this meant we need to enable everyone in the church to make the maximum contribution they can, and we need to get leaders to lead, and we need to teach everyone to serve and to give generously, and invite young people to be a part of things as soon as they can. And then it occurred to me that we need to see every church reach its full redemptive potential. And I’m really eager to see that day.
What gives us confidence that the church will endure to the end of history? Many empires and massive companies that seemed durable have evaporated. Why will it be different for the church? Because Jesus is building the church.
Jesus is not directing the angelic choir, taking long naps, or doing crossword puzzles. He is completely focused on building his church, the hope of the world.
One of the greatest privileges in all of life is when Jesus taps you on the shoulder and says, “Hey Brian (or Fred or Melinda or etc.), I have a critical role for you as I am building my church in this world. And I’ve been preparing you your whole life for it.” How do you say no to that? How do you blow that off? How do you say “I’ve got my own thing going on, and I want to build my retirement and golf game instead.” Don’t be that guy. You’ll regret it forever. Don’t say “no thanks, I’m building my thing.”
In my view, the morning prayer of every sincere Christ-follower on earth should be “Lord, today I freshly commit myself to your work today as you build your church in the world. I commit all of myself to the role you’ve assigned to me in the building of your church.” Have you ever prayed that prayer? How about praying that prayer every day for the next 30 days? Could you imagine if the 2 billion people in this world who claim to be Christ-followers prayed that every day and sought to do it? Or the 160,000 leaders who are part of the Summit this year did that? My mind can barely grasp what would happen in the church and in the world if we were to do this.
Will you say to the Lord, “Yes, I will join you fully in your work of building your church”?
Some notes from John Ortberg’s message on the influence Jesus has had on history. Ortberg gave probably around 100 facts. This is just a small sample.
We are stewards of a movement that has reshaped history more than any other.
Jesus is not just the greatest king among kings, but is the King of kings.
Every world leader and king now has their birth and death marked in relation to Jesus’ birth.
Things did not change by accident.
Wherever you have an institution of self-giving for the lowly, whose recipients will never be able to repay, it probably has its roots in the movement started by Jesus.
92% of all colleges and universities started before the Civil War were started in Christ’s name.
Jesus revolutionized the arts. Dante, Bach, Luther’s hymns, Mozart, all did their work to the glory of God. Modern musical notation an invention of monks.
Separation of church and state, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.” This is perhaps the most influential political statement ever made. It had been assumed in the ancient world that religion was the prerogative of the ruler. Jesus separated the realms.
Jesus changed how we think of human rights and dignity. The notion of individual rights, where did this come from? It was not self-evident in the ancient world. Today almost everyone says “I believe in a God of love.” Where did that come from? It was rare in the ancient world. Jesus brought a new way of thinking about God.
Jesus uniquely taught love your enemies. In the ancient world it was admired to help your friends, but harm your enemies.
The real question is not who was this man but who is this man?
His work is not done yet.
At the core of leadership is trust. Do people trust you? Do they trust who you have empowered to lead in your organizations?
To the extent that you are trusted, you are free to lead. To dream great dreams and go from here to there. When you lose trust, it’s game over. You can no longer lead. It all comes to a grinding halt.
Integrity = trustworthiness.
How are you doing? Is there anywhere in your leadership and your life where you are not fully trustworthy?
Is there anyone in your organization with whom you think you need to have a conversation about their trustworthiness? “One of the biggest regrets in my organization is knowing some people are off track and not going and talking to them right away. And then by the time I have talked to them, lots of damage has been done.”
Or maybe you’ve already had the conversation, and it’s time to take them out. They hurt too many people, they don’t tell the truth. Give first warnings, give second warnings. At some point, you have to take action.
Ury is one of the leading world experts on negotiation and conflict. He is the co-author of the best selling Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In and a faculty member at Harvard Business School. Here are my notes on Jim Mellado’s interview with him.
Jim: How did you get started in this?
William: I grew up during the cold war under the shadow of the bomb, and I could never understand why we were willing to put all of humanity at risk. The question I’ve devoted my life to is how do we live with our deepest differences?
Jim: Why is this relevant to everyone?
William: I see negotiation very broadly. Think of your own lives and who you negotiate with in the course of your day. Your kids, your spouse, your employees, your co-workers, your board. You spend a lot of time each day in the act of back and forth communication, trying to reach agreement on various issues. We are negotiating from the time we get up to the time we go to bed at night. Many of our decisions are made through a process of shared decision making. This is why negotiation is so central. It is a core competence for leadership.
William: Conflict isn’t necessarily bad because no injustice or anything gets resolved without conflict. We need to hear lots of different views that are very different. The question is can we deal with conflict in a constructive way, or are we going to handle it through destruction?
Jim: What is the biggest obstacle to negotiation?
William: It is not what we think it is. It’s not that difficult person out there. It’s us. We are the biggest barrier to us achieving success. It is an all too human characteristic to simply react — to act without thinking. The key foundation of successful negotiation is to get up on the balcony — a place where you can get a larger perspective. A place of clarity where you can see the ultimate goal. That’s key.
One of the greatest powers we have in negotiation is the power not to react.
Jim: What are the most significant skills we need to get good at to negotiate well?
William: You need to focus on underlying needs. You need to be creative. And you need to rely on objective criteria.
So the first is to separate the person from the problem. We often end up being soft on the people and soft on the problem. Or we make the opposite mistake, being hard on the problem and hard on the people. But you find successful negotiators drawing a line between people and the problem. They remain soft on the people while dealing hard on the problem. The harder the problem, the softer you need to be on the people. Soft on the people means listening, putting yourselves in the shoes of the other side, understanding how they feel (how could you change someone’s mind unless you know what it is?), and respect. It costs you nothing to give someone basic respect, and it means everything to them.
Jim: When I first read your book, I thought that was especially significant because one of the fruit of the Spirit is kindness.
William: Yes, this changes the game from face-to-face confrontation. You ought to see yourselves on the same side of the table, side by side, tackling the same problem together.
Jim: Unpack the second principle, focusing on interest, not position.
William: There is often a difference between interest and position. The key is to probe behind the specific position a person has to the underlying aims they have. Sometimes the aim can be accomplished in a different way. So the key is to always ask the question “why?”
Jim: Talk about the importance of developing multiple options.
William: What we bring to negotiation is our ability to be inventive. Once we see the interests, rather than just position, we can see that there are many ways of doing that. Creative options that meet the interests of all sides.
Jim: How about the power of objective criteria and fair process.
William: Often people think in terms of a fixed pie. But in the inventing process, you’ve asked “how do we expand the pie?” But now that’s say you’ve done that, and it is time to divide up the pie. How do you deal with that? In a merely positional process, this tends to be a question of will and ego. The alternative is to use standards that are independent of will and ego, objective criteria. You don’t have to “give in to the other side,” but defer to an independent standard of fairness that is objective.
Jim: What do you do if you aren’t able to reach an agreement?
William: We should go in to negotiations with what we call a BATNA — a “best alternative to a negotiated agreement.” This isn’t negative thinking, but positive alternative thinking. If you have an alternative, you are going to have more confidence. And this also gives you a way to measure the value of your agreement. Many times, people reach an agreement that is worse than their alternative.
“Organizational health is the single greatest competitive advantage in business. It is virtually free and accessible to any leader who wants it, and yet it is virtually untapped in most organizations.”
The reason? “Too many leaders think it’s beneath them.”
What is organizational health?
The best way to understand it is to contrast it with something we are more familiar with?
In order for any organization to be effective, there are two requirements for success. First, it must be smart. Strategy, marketing, finance, technology, etc. This stuff is important. Nobody should ever tell you it’s not important. The problem is it’s only half the equation, yet it gets 80% of the attention. If we are going to maximize our organizations, we also need to make them healthy. A healthy organization has minimal politics and confusion, high morale, high productivity, and low turnover.
“When I show most CEOs this slide, they say ‘I’d give my left leg to have the right side of that slide — organizational health. But I don’t know how to do that. They didn’t really teach us that in business school. Let’s go to the left side of that slide and tweak some stuff.’”
Many leaders are more comfortable in strategy and finance than organizational health. But if we want to change our organizations, we have to make them healthier.
“Every organization I work with has enough domain expertise to be wildly successful, but few tap into it because they aren’t healthy. There are politics and confusion.”
Southwest Airlines is an excellent company, but it’s not because they’re smarter. They are great because they are so healthy as an organization. As a result, they use every bit of knowledge that they have.
So, how do we make our organizations healthy? There are four organizations you have to master. They are simple, but hard.
1. Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team
Trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, results. Leadership teams must be cohesive. [See his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.]
2. Create organizational clarity
Many people this is just about mission statements. But many mission statements don’t work because they try to do too many things. Here’s an example: [Wait, it's too long and boring -- I'm not going to type it! Just imagine the most boring, hard to grasp sentence you've ever seen. It's from . . . Dunder Mifflin! And yet it's surprising how close to reality it is for many organizations.]
What you need to do is answer six critical questions. If you can answer these six questions, you can create clarity in your organization and the result is true empowerment.
1. Why do we exist?
This is your core purpose. This is not just a restatement of what you do. For example, the purpose of Southwest Airlines is to democratize travel — making it cheap and possible for everyone to fly. Your core purpose helps you make all your decisions. For example, in the issue of whether to charge fees for checked luggage, Southwest asked “would this help democratize air travel?” The answer was no, so they don’t charge.
2. How do we behave?
These are core values. You can’t list every positive value here, however. That is too much and overwhelming. Get down to the one, two, or maybe truly endemic behaviors. So we need to distinguish different types of values. For example, there are aspirational values. These are things you aspire to, but which aren’t true of your organization right now. When you make these core values, you lose credibility. One of Enron’s core values, for example, was integrity! That was not a true core value for them. A core value is something you are willing to be punished for. You will hold to it even if it would be to your detriment.
When someone asks you to violate a core value, you lovingly recognize that this is not the place for them. This is how you know you believe in something — if you will hold to it even if it wouldn’t benefit you (externally).
Churches really struggle here. This is because they confuse core values with permission to play values. These are the minimum standards. For example: telling the truth. This is more of a minimum standard. Of course you won’t hire people who lie. Minimum standards are critical. But this isn’t what we’re talking about when we talk about core values. Here, one church is often very different from another. Everyone should be able to worship at your church, but this doesn’t mean anybody should be able to work there. There must be a core value fit.
“To work in a church, you should never do it because you have to have the job.” It should be only because you are able to contribute to the mission. [If you are there just to have a job, please leave as fast as you can! I know some people like this and there is no faster way to ruin a church!]
3. What do we do?
Many executives actually aren’t on the same page here.
4. How will we succeed?
This is the issue of strategy. Strategy boils down to three anchors, which become the filter for every decision you make. Every organization can do this. For example, at Southwest: make the customers fanatically loyal, don’t make the plane late, and keep fares low. They tell everyone in the organization these three things, and say: “As long as you do these three things, you can make whatever decision you need.” This empowers employees.
Most employees’ strategy boils down to this: I’m just going to try to avoid getting in trouble. This is why most customer service is so bad.
5. What is most important, right now?
6. Who must do what?
3. Over-communicate clarity
You need to hear something 7 times in most organizations before people believe it.
4. Reinforce clarity through human systems
Do things in creative ways that reinforce and demonstrate the values.
I hope that someday organizational health will become standard in organizations. That will change the world. Until that happens, this represents an incredible opportunity for competitive advantage.
Sometimes people say to me, “Craig, how did you come into ministry?” I would not be doing what I am doing today if it had been for my pastor who took a risk on me at 23 and said “I believe God can do something special with your life.”
Tragically, there is not enough of this today. I want to talk to the older generation, and then the younger generation. I think I can maybe do this for a bit because I’m about in the middle right now.
How do you know if you are in the older generation? Let’s just say if you have to ask that question, you probably are.
To the Older Generation
Don’t look down on the next generation, don’t resent them, don’t look down on them. Believe in them because they need you.
Know that even though some in our society don’t always value maturity, God values maturity. If you’re not dead, you’re not done.
If you’ve got breath, keep going. I’d dare to say your best days are before you.
One of the most innovative and impacting ideas he’s learned came from a guy who was 75.
How can you hand ministry over to the next generation? The key is in delegating. Don’t just delegate tasks to the next generation. If you do this, you create followers. People who simply do what they’re told. Delegate authority, because then you create leaders. And that’s exactly what my pastor did to me.
Embrace the season you are in. Don’t try to be something you aren’t. The younger generation can smell a fake from a million miles away. Be yourself. With the younger generation, authenticity trumps cool every single time. “There’s nothing worse than some fat, fifty year old preacher wearing skinny jeans. Just say no.”
You can be a spiritual father to those who come behind you.
To the Younger Generation
You need those who have gone before you more than you can imagine.
A characteristic of the younger generation is the sense of entitlement. This is not your fault necessarily — you were coddled. One result of entitlement is over estimating what you can do. But most people over estimate what they can do in a short time and under estimate what they can do in a long time.
Showing honor publicly results in influence privately. The younger generation, however, often doesn’t show honor, and this is hurting churches and ministries.
One reason we have failed to honor people because we have failed to honor God for who he is. When we honor God for who he is, we will more naturally honor those around us.
Honor builds up; dishonor tears down. Honor values others; dishonor tears down. I would argue that in our churches and organizations, because of a lack of honor and love, we are limiting what we are able to do.
Some people say “if my pastor (or boss or etc.) was honorable, I’d show honor to them.” But it’s respect that is earned; honor is given. Treating people with honor is often what leads to them becoming honorable. Some of you in the younger generation need to repent of how you have treated those above you, because you have dishonored them. If you want to learn to be over, you need to learn to be under with integrity.
How Do We Do This?
Both generations must be intentional about this.
1. Create ongoing feedback loops. For example, each week I go over my message with a group that has people from the older generation and from the younger generation. Then after teaching the first one on Saturday night, I go back into a room and have it critiqued by those older and younger. You need to create intentional opportunities to get feedback. And think what it says to your church when a senior leader says to a 23 year-old “I value your opinion.”
2. Create specific mentoring moments. For example, yesterday I had a chance to sit with one of the major business leaders in our country. I was taking notes and writing as fast as I can. Recently we had a gathering in our church of the older and younger meeting together. These meetings do not happen by accident. You have to plan for them. This is one of the most important things you can do to develop strength in your organization. If you are younger, ask someone older, “will you mentor me?” Then ask them questions like crazy. Don’t try to copy what they do. Learn how they think.
3. Create opportunities for significant leadership development. For example, at our church we had a developmental weekend where we wanted to help develop new speakers. In a single weekend, we trained 38 new speakers to proclaim God’s word, and sent a resounding message that we are a church that values the next generation.
This was a truly fantastic message. Review this. Learn from this.
This is my paraphrase/summary of Jim Collins’ excellent message on his latest book, Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All.
Why do some enterprises thrive in uncertainty and chaos and others do not? Why do some leaders prevail in the most difficult circumstances, while other leaders fail to achieve greatness, or maybe even fail outright, in those same circumstances?
We have captured the differences in a triangle. At the center is that they are Level 5 Leaders. What separates an exceptional leader from an ordinary leader is not personality, but humility. Combined with will. We have spoken about this before. Acknowledging that this is the center, I want to focus on what else you need. There are three distinctive leadership behaviors that sit on top of that:
- Fanatic discipline
- Empirical creativity
- Productive paranoia
How do you exert control in a world of chaos? Imagine you are marching across the country. Some march only on the days when the wind is at their back. Others do 20 miles every day, no matter what, no matter how they feel or what the conditions are.
Fanatic discipline also means not stretching too far, not leaving yourself exposed when unforeseen things hit you.
All of our 10X companies had a standard of performance to hit and marching philosophy they would hold to even in the harshest conditions.
If you were to read just one chapter in his new book, he says it should be the chapter “The 20 Mile March.”
You have to manage yourself well in good times so you can do well in bad.
The 20 mile march is all about consecutive performance. Hit your mark not as an average, but as consistent, consecutive performance.
The biggest levers of change in the world are those who are enormously consistent in their approach.
The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change (though you will fall if you are unwilling to change). The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.
Still, discipline alone is not enough. We must also create. We must find new ways of doing things. We must make big creative bets and do new things.
How do the 10Xers create different from those who are mediocre?
You bet on something you know is going to work. Validate things based on reality. We came to call this “fire bullets, then fire cannonballs.” If you fire a cannonball first, and it misses, you are out of gunpowder. But if you fire bullets first, refine your line of site, and then fire a cannonball, you will hit your target.
Comparison leaders didn’t fire enough bullets — enough little things — to identify what will really work. Had a tremendous penchant for firing big, uncalibrated cannonballs.
At critical junctures in its history, Intel did not have the most innovative chip. But Intel beat it’s industry by a factor of 46. I’m not saying stop innovating. It’s a genius of the and. What these folks have is the ability to blend creativity and discipline. And it turns out creativity is not the hard thing.
Creativity is natural. Discipline is not. The challenge is not how to become creative, but how to get rid of the stuff that’s in the way of your creativity.
The really rare skill is the ability to marry creativity to discipline such that discipline amplifies your creativity rather than kills it. And how do you do that? 20 mile march and firing bullets, then cannonballs.
Be optimistic, and realize the world is full of danger. Take that paranoia and turn it in to buffer. It is what you do before you are in trouble, before difficult times come, that determines how strong you are when people most need you.
If you are only strong when conditions are good, that is called malpractice.
You have to keep yourself strong so when people need you, you are there.
The SMaC Recipe
Every company had a set of concrete practices they implemented consistently. Never forget Burlanmanson’s Law: “The greatest danger is not failure, but being successful without realizing why you were successful.”
You have the discipline to follow your practices, the productive paranoia to always be evaluating to make sure they are still working, and change things — but only based on empirical evidence of what works.
Always remember to preserve the core and stimulate progress. If you lose your values, you lose everything. But you must distinguish practices from values. Practices you need to change and develop. Your values should never change.
I’d like each of you to think of an event that hit you or your church or enterprise that meets three tests:
- You didn’t cause it
- It had a potentially significant consequence (good or bad)
- It was in some way a surprise
This is, of course, life. As a leader, how well did you perform in the face of that event? Would you give yourself an A? a B? a C?
What is the role of luck? Is the difference between 2X companies and 10X companies luck?
I realize the concept of luck may not resonate in the faith world! Stick with me for a sec here, though. Translating this to the faith world: the key is to see luck as a specific event that meets three tests — the three tests above. “When I was working on the research I had a conversation with Bill Hybels, and he said, ‘you know, Jim, not to upset your research, but did you realize your definition also applies to a miracle?’”
We asked two key questions: Are the 10X winners the recipients of luck? And second, what if anything did they do differently about it. What we found, using secular language, was that the great leaders were not luckier. Didn’t have better spikes, better timing. We asked the question, though, what was their return on luck? The question is not whether you get those events, but what you do with them when they come. The underperforming companies had an amazing tendency to squander them.
For example, Bill Grates was in a great position in the 70s. But weren’t many others also in those conditions? But who dropped out of college, worked 20 hours a day, and got the first PC out? That’s the return on “luck.” Thousands could have. He did.
The comparison companies had an amazing opportunity to fail to recognize and squander the good opportunities, and to be unprepared for the bad ones.
My wife had cancer ten years ago. You can’t say in the end “cancer is good.” But out of that experience we came away with a life mantra: “Life is people, and time with people you love.” And the more we began to try to remember and live idea, that life is about love and people, time with people you love, we got a high return on what was undeniably a bad event. It was a defining event that made us better. That’s what these leaders do.
You can replace the world luck with miracle, good event, bad event. What we find is that it’s this genius of the and. You pursue what you want to get done, AND when the big unexpected events happen, you ask “what is my responsibility to get the very most of this unexepcted event?”
When the leader steps up and makes the most of it, rather than squandering it, that is a very special brand of leadership. How to use a bad event as a defining moment, that forever transforms things.
If you were granted a miracle, or a blessed event, would it not be the height of your responsibility not to squander it? [Compare Ephesians 5:15-17: "make the most of the time"]
Are our lives mainly a result of what we do, or what happens to us?
It’s not what happens to you. It’s the things you do. We are always finding pairs of companies in the same circumstances, where one excels and the other falls. The great challenge is to accept, from all our research, that greatness is not a function of circumstance, but is first and foremost a function of conscious choice and discipline.
At the end of the day, what is a great enterprise? All that we’ve talked about before from Good to Great and Built to Last still applies. What’s new?
A great organization is:
- Superior performance. “Good intentions are not an excuse for incompetence.”
- Distinctive impact. Who would really miss you if you went away and why? That’s your distinctive impact. You don’t have to be big to be irreplaceable.
- Lasting endurance.
An organization is not truly great if it cannot be great without you. And if it cannot be great through shocks and storms and upheaval. These times we are going through right now are a call to lead at a higher level so people are there when they need you. They are counting on you to be there.
“Bill Hybels has always extended to me a hand of friendship and character. He has always made me feel welcome. There may be no better definition of great friendship, than to be always here for you so that you are never alone. That is what great friends are, no matter what and always. In that spirit, I extend a great thank you to Bill Hybels and to all of you. I hope each of you will connect somewhere in your life to be part of building something enduring and great. Perhaps in your church life or business life or non-profit or even a class you teach, or even building an enduring great family, or being an enduring great friend. But getting involved in something you care so much about that you want to make it the greatest it can possibly be, not because of what you can get but because it must be done, is something we all need to do. It is impossible to have a great life without having a meaningful life, and it is impossible to have a meaningful life without having meaningful work, doing it with people you love doing it with.”
“Whatever failings or flaws anyone has get highlighted when under stress. So it is important in Washington to never neglect the importance of relationships, and not letting differences become personal. Find ways even for people to get away together.”
“The other thing to be watchful of is it’s less the people themselves than the people who are egging them on.”
“Don’t play the resignation card unless you intend to carry through.”
Bill: I noticed from Decision Points that you and President Bush became good friends. Did that make it difficult?
Rice: We did have a very close relationship, and it was for the most part tremendously helpful. You really want to be able to make decisions without having to “call home” all the time, and you can make calls when you understand the president and have the framework worked out. The challenging thing to remember is that he may be your friend but he’s also the president. Second, use the relationship that you have to be a truth-teller for the president. When you are in a position of authority, you need truth tellers around you. You need to do it in a way that is right as well — only in private, for example. One reason I could say difficult things to the president was because he knew it was never going to show up in the NY Times. I knew also that the president valued what I thought. You have to develop a level of trust where your friendship becomes a place from which you can have the difficult conversations.
Bill: There are so many people in the US who believe you are eminently qualified to be president. You have been emphatic about saying that is not going to happen. But I think some of us would be curious, because you have the leadership, the vision, and the experience. There must be a deep and abiding reason you have chosen not to go that path.
Rice: I have never been a great planner, for example saying “in ten years I’m going to be doing this.” Because I’ve always in my life sought guidance through ambiguity. I love policy, not necessarily politics per se. You have to take energy from what you do as a politician, or it will drain you. On the campaign trail, Bush would be energized at the end of the day and I’d be ready to go to bed. The DNA was different. I think I’m called to do something different.
There’s lots I want to do in public service, but it doesn’t have to be elected office.
Bill: You are clear in your book that you are a follower of Christ, and a serious one. When you go to church, what are you hoping will happen to you when you sit down in church?
Rice: First and foremost, quiet time with God. I pray every night, I try to have meditation in the morning. But I have to tell you life enters. It enters my mind, it enters my spirit. It is hard to find the quiet time of rest. I find church is a place that that can happen to me.
Bill: (Joking) … so maybe you’d be fine if the preacher didn’t preach?…
Rice: No, no — I’m a minister’s daughter, remember! I’m getting to the necessity of preaching. I don’t want to hear sermons on current events [meaning, I think, politics from the pulpit]. What I especially value is coming away seeing things differently because of the sermon. I’m also a musician, and the music impacts me. Especially in the company of other believers.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is up now. Her message is called “No Higher Honor.” Here is my summary.
How different is it to be in government than out of government? It is very different. Now, I get up in the morning, read the newspaper, and think “isn’t that interesting.” And then I go on to what I want to do, because I’m no longer responsible for what’s in the newspaper.
It is a challenging and difficult time right now. We’ve been through three really big shocks. The first of course was September 11. If you were in leadership at that time, your concept of security changed forever. Then there was the global economic shock. This brings a sense of economic insecurity. And now we’ve had a third, which we’ve come to call “the air of spring.”
“Anger and fear are terrible ways to make political reform.”
What we are seeing is the universality of freedom. No man, woman, or child, wants to live in tyranny. Everyone wants the basic rights that we enjoy here in America. The right to say what you think. The right to worship. The right to be free from the secret police at tonight.
Freedom is not the same as democracy. Democracy is the institutionalization of those freedoms. And with rights come responsibilities. That is what makes a democracy stable. And it is a hard road from freedom to democracy. We in America ought to be pretty patient with those who are making the journey. Even in America, it has taken time for freedom to become democracy for all.
It takes more than a constitution and rule of law. It requires an understanding that democracy cannot be the tyranny of the majority. The rights of the minorities must be protected. And we must understand that the strong cannot exploit the weak. And that is not just the work of government. Government cannot put into the heart of every citizen the understanding and belief that we have the responsibility that there should be no weak links, because democracy is only as strong as its weakest link.
The strong should not only not exploit the weak, but ought to strengthen the weak.
If the strong exploit the weak, a democracy will not be stable.
Underneath this principle is another: that every life is worthy.
In democracy there are no kings and queens. There are no permanent stations in life. No one is condemned forever to the state in which they are born. Every life is capable of greatness. And if this is so, we have an obligation as citizens of a democracy to make sure the opportunity is there.
As Christians, the meaning of every life being equal is even deeper, because we are not only equals before the law, but equals before God. Our Lord Jesus died for each and every one of us, no matter our station in life, no matter the circumstances of our birth, no matter the depth of our sin, our Lord Jesus Christ died for each and every one of us.
Delivering compassion is the work of those who believe every life is worthy.
With education it doesn’t matter where you’re coming from, it matters where you’re going.
If you are fortunate enough to lead in challenging times, it is important to recognize that there is so much opportunity. So how do you lead from the troubling times like we live in, to those that will be more prosperous and freer? And say when you leave this earth that you have helped leave things better off.
Leadership is not simply about people following you, but helping people to see their own leadership capacity.
We have an example here in Jesus himself. He led his disciples to become leaders of the church.
But you can’t lead if people don’t see in you the belief that the future can be better.
I’ve come to believe that the most essential character of the leader is irrepressible optimism. Nobody wants to follow a sourpuss or someone with a victim mentality. But how do you remain optimistic in difficult times? One of the most important sources of optimism is to keep perspective. When I was Secretary of State, people would often look around and things weren’t going great in the world, but I thought it must have seemed this way many other times. Imagine what it must have been like to lead after WWII, when the question wasn’t whether Eastern Europe would be communist, but whether Western Europe would be as well.
Today’s headlines and history’s judgment are rarely the same. If you are ultimately focused on todays headlines you will achieve nothing of lasting value.
Another key to perspective is to realize that after struggle comes victory. This is a central message to our faith. After Friday, there would be Sunday.
I can’t tell you how often I have had to remember that it is a privilege to struggle. To often you can fall in to thinking it is your own dedication that is the key. But when, as Lincoln says, you have no place to go but your knees, you are driven to a deeper peace. I was often driven to Romans 5:1-10. I can’t tell you how often I read that to remember that it is indeed a privilege to struggle, and that out of struggle can come victory.
Perhaps the greatest source of strength and optimism is to think about all those times that what seemed impossible seems inevitable in retrospect.
There was a time no one believed that so many would emerge in freedom and prosperity and dignity. How could Nelson Mandela have a vision not for a South Africa where those who are black would oppress the whites once they are in power, but of a multi-racial society? Or how could a little girl who grows up in segregated Alabama, where her parents couldn’t take her to a restaurant, grow up to become Secretary of State? You see, somehow, things that one day seemed impossible, seem inevitable in retrospect. That’s one of history’s little tricks.
But we are to be reminded today that those outcomes were not inevitable. They were the work of people who sacrificed sometimes everything for a principle. Those who led by belief and faith and put themselves on the line to make the world better. Who led from impossibility to inevitability because they never accepted the world as it is, but also worked for it as it should be. That is always the calling of leaders.
I am grateful to have served as a leader in challenging times, and I am very grateful for the prayers of so many who would come up to me and say “I’ve prayed for you.” And I am grateful for the faith of my father and my mother, which gave me a foundation from which to take on the challenges of leadership. I wish you the same, and know that together we can make the world be not what it is, but what it should be.
“God doesn’t make you a leader so you can simply preside over something. You are to take people from here to there. Leaders take people to a preferred future.”
Before you try to take people to the future, show why we can’t stay where we are.
Along the journey from here to there, where is the vision most vulnerable? In the early stages, middle stages, or near the end?
His answer? The middle. When you are breaking out of the box, you have a lot of energy. The first 1,000 meters of a marathon are not hard. But “visions are extremely vulnerable in the middle. You need your best vision casting, your best motivating, to keep people engaged.”
Thinking in terms of your leadership career. Be careful in the middle phase. You realize you aren’t invincible. People die. You realize you don’t have unlimited energy. The unexpected happens. Make sure you stay close to God, and he will carry you. You can’t do this on your own.
“There’s not a lot like the local church when the local church is working right.”
“My intention is to leave Willow stronger than it’s ever been.” “My overarching thought about my leadership these days: What a privilege it is to be a leader. What an absolute privilege. If you think about it, only a very small percentage of the human race get the opportunity to lead things. These days I often find myself looking to heaven and saying, ‘Thank you, God. Thank you that I was placed in a family where I got graduate level leadership training at the dinner table. And people who drew leadership out of me. And one day you entrusted me with a vision to start a church in a movie theatre for people far from God.’”
“Have you thanked God recently for the privilege of leadership?”
Every once in a while it is a good thing to step back, reflect, and acknowledge the incredible privilege of leadership. “We get to build teams with people we love like family. We get to solve problems. We get to build up other leaders. We get to direct funds to causes we believe in deeply. We get to advance the purposes of the transcendent God in this broken world.”
“The worst days of leadership beat the best days of just being an onlooker or sitting on the sidelines.”
Advice he received once: “Enjoy every single day you get to lead. Because one day it will be over.”
Talking about the approach to succession planning they are developing (he’s 60).
First, there’s a planning phase. “Every important issue pertaining to succession must get surfaced. Who picks? What is the time frame? Will the pastor have any role after the transition?” And so forth. This should not be rushed.
Second, seek to find an internal person who can be the successor. If you can’t find an internal, then look for an external candidate. But look for an internal candidate.
Last phase is the actual transition itself. You gradually increase their responsibility and decrease yours, over the period of about 18 months.
His feelings on this: “I am extremely proud of our board and how they did the process. I also feel great about Willow’s future. It is also tough to consider.” (Note: They aren’t transitioning; “I still have many years left.” But it’s important to have a succession plan, because no pastor will be pastoring forever.)
“Senior pastors: Do the right thing for your church. When you get into your 60s, make sure that your greatest legacy is that your church is well led after you are done.”
They are in the second stage now — contemplating possible internal successors. “We’ll keep you posted on this in future summits.”
Hybels: “God didn’t make you a leader to respond to stuff all day. God made you a leader to move stuff ahead!”
This is fascinating. Hybels just mentioned how he’s met with many leaders — leaders “smarter and more effective than myself” — who say to him “I find it so challenging to manage my work and keep up with things.” This is huge. It shows the importance of knowing how to get things done, especially for leaders. Without an effective approach, it is easy to fall into the trap of always responding rather than also taking initiative to move stuff ahead.
I always enjoy listening to Bill Hybels, because he clearly has a sincere heart for God and is devoted to helping others follow Christ. Here are some key points from his message right now.
At the heart of leadership is self-leadership. “You are the most difficult person you will ever lead.”
At the heart of great leaders is energy. This is rarely talked about but is critical to leadership. Leaders have great energy and create energy in others. And key to maintaining your energy is leading yourself well.
[Some of my thoughts:] This is interesting. Hybels is talking about a time he sought to identify the six most important contributions he could make in the last six weeks of the year. This is analogous to a projects list if you follow GTD, basically. Here’s what’s interesting: Hybels didn’t list primarily individual contributor tasks, like “do this” and “get that done.” He had things on his list like “energize people to complete this initiative.”
That’s how leaders need to think. When identifying what we need to get done, it’s easy to think in terms of individual tasks. We need to fight against this tendency and think first in terms of mobilizing, equipping, and empowering others. If you keep a project list or task list, for some reason it becomes especially challenging to do this. Something about to-do lists seems to naturally incline us to think of things we need to do ourselves, rather than the things we need to do to equip others to get things done (which is a critical part of leadership).
I’ll be blogging the Global Leadership Summit today and tomorrow. Here’s a quick snapshot of what the Summit is all about:
We’re convinced that leadership is critical to church vitality. A church’s effectiveness in pursuing its God-given mission is largely dependent on the character, devotion, and skill of its leadership core—which can be formal or informal, staff or volunteer, clergy and laity.
The influence and impact of the church is felt most fully when Christ-centered leaders are at the forefront of establishing and growing well-led local churches and organizations…key reasons why The Global Leadership Summit exists.
The church is at its best, as God’s love and care inevitably spills out into our neighborhoods, towns and cities through acts of love, justice, mercy, service, and restoration.
And here are the speakers up this morning:
- Bill Hybels
- Condoleeza Rice
- Jim Collins
I’m sorry for being sparse in posting the last few months. If you haven’t guessed, it’s been because of the book. Winston Churchill sums up how I’ve felt the last few months (last year?):
Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.
I think this book skipped the “toy and amusement phase,” and that I’ve been in that tyrant phase for perhaps the whole time!
I had an interesting post written up on what has taken so long, but maybe I’ll save that for later. Several times I thought “oh, it’s done,” because of the length, but it still wasn’t what I wanted it to be. One piece of good news is that early on I suppose you could say I was struggling with writer’s block (though Seth Godin says it doesn’t exist!), and so I took the standard advice: just write anything, and you can always revise it and cut it back later. So that’s what I did, and I ended up writing a lot. The process of getting things cut back, however, was super challenging as a result (which is not what the conventional wisdom said would happen!), and I have actually taken out something like the equivalent of 4 books from this. For example, I have one short book almost ready to go on a Christian view of working in your strengths (and how to view our weaknesses). My priority, to be sure, has been this book, though hopefully this is one benefit that has come out of this process.
I plan, Lord willing, on writing many books in the future, and the whole process of writing this book (and all the writing that I ended up doing) will benefit that aim and make future books go much faster.
In the meantime, I’m sorry for the delay and, as Churchill would say, I’m just about to kill the beast. Can’t wait. It’s been fun, but totally brutal as well. The challenges will be worth it if it helps any of you be more effective in the important work you do every day, whether you are a stay-at-home mom or corporate executive. I believe the things we do matter immensely — both big and small, in all areas of life — and that God delights in them if we do them for his glory. I want to help you do them better, and with less stress and more joy, both where you are and in the service of fighting large global problems and reaching the nations.
Last, a word on missions. There is a relationship between our productivity in all realms of life and the advance of the gospel. We don’t need to and shouldn’t seek to justify all that we do simply on the basis of its evangelistic usefulness. Work matters in itself, and our ultimate motive in all things should be love for others and the glory of God. Yet, while the things we do matter in themselves, it is true that they are also a supporting testimony to the gospel and a means by which it naturally spreads. I don’t think small, and so I hope this book can also have the effect of helping equip the church in the task of putting a large dent in the Great Commission. I think a robust doctrine of work is key to reaching the nations, which means that part of the key to finishing the Great Commission is actually affirming that all work matters, not just evangelism and direct missions, and that we should seek to do all we do with excellence, creativity, and competence. And that learning how to work is key to doing everything we do more effectively.
I hope the book will help you immensely (and encourage you!), and keep me in your prayers!
In the meantime, I’m going to try to get back to regular blogging even as I finish up, and I’ll be blogging the Global Leadership Summit tomorrow and Friday.
Here is one way saving grace and common grace relate: deed ministry, which is essential to the testimony of the gospel, often requires common grace in order to be done well.
Hence, it is unwise as Christians to downplay secular wisdom (common grace). Secular wisdom is not the gospel. But it is God’s will that Christians be wise both in a saving sense (Proverbs 11:30) and in relation to how to live well in this world (Proverbs 6:6-8).