The Great Rat Race of Leadership

So much of our lives is spent at work. There is great pressure to advance, to excel, to influence and to be seen. Far too many of us have allowed our identity to be more about what we do than who we truly are. I have worked on church staffs and in retail environments and currently am in more of a corporate office setting. Regardless of the purpose of different organizations, there is a general expectation to make a difference, even if at times it might involve cutting corners. In such high pressure environments, is it possible to lead well, in an effective manner, according to biblical principles?

I have learned over the years through challenging circumstances and personal pain that I must be about the calling God has on my life and entrust the details to Him. Promotion, recognition, influence and the like cannot be my focus or I become desperately self-seeking. Rather, I must intentionally keep in mind the following biblical principles when it comes to leading well at work.

Do all for Christ – Colossians 3:17 (ESV) encourages me that “whatever [I] do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…” If I want to lead effectively in the work place, I must remember that I am first and foremost a representative of Christ. For years I have tried to work with the mindset that Jesus is sitting at my desk with me. How much more effectively would I manage my time if this was true? Would I speak with a different tone on the phone or would I reply differently to that difficult email? While this is my reality as a follower of Christ, I confess that it takes great intentionality to live accordingly and do all of my work for Christ.

Submit to authority – In Romans 13:1 (ESV), I am commanded to “be subject to the governing authorities.” While this passage is specifically speaking to government, I can see a fairly easy correlation to my boss and supervisors. I must confess that I am blessed to have a boss who leads with great compassion, vision and empowerment. He is truly about the team above himself and it is a joy to work under his leadership. However, this has not always been the case in my life, nor could I say that I have the same relationship with every leader at my current job. So, what happens when I might not agree with or get along with work leadership? I do not see an asterisk in this verse that God only asks me to submit to authority that I like or agree with. Rather, I must trust that God has established leadership and must submit accordingly. This in no way implies that I cannot share an opinion, or even disagree with leadership, but ultimately the final decision is theirs. If I simply cannot submit, then it might be time to move to a place where I can be a benefit to the organization and not a thorn.

Serve others – The point of leadership is not to take care of and promote myself. Jesus teaches that true leadership is not about lording over others, but rather is about serving people (Luke 22:25-26). Effective leadership in my workplace happens as I am able to look for ways to elevate others. There is great joy in shining the spotlight on the accomplishments of my team; far greater than self-promotion could ever provide. Great leadership teaches us to praise publicly and criticize privately. In the same manner, I need to deflect the praises of others onto my team while shouldering the responsibility when criticism surfaces. This is a great way to serve others at work. Give credit away, don’t pass blame when criticism arises, and trust God to handle the promotions and recognition on your behalf.

Get caught doing good – Speaking of recognition, I would say it is much more satisfying to get caught doing good than to strive for recognition. We have all been in a meeting where somebody is busy talking about how amazing they are. Typically, their own hype does not match the project they are talking about, but even if it does, there seems to be a lack of luster when they have to shine the spotlight on themselves. When I was younger, I spent an inordinate amount of time telling people about what I was doing and how well I thought that I was doing it. 1 Peter 5:6 (ESV) says to “humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” Why would I violate this clear biblical principle and risk missing out on God raising me up? I am fairly certain that He can raise me up much further than I could ever hope to do for myself.

Is it possible to lead biblically within the workplace? Yes! Is it easy? No! I work in a Christian ministry and the struggles to lead biblically still very much exist. Why is this so? Probably because my organization is filled with broken and sinful people, including ME! All I know is that God’s ways are the best and this has been proven in my life so many times over the years. I am growing in each of these areas through circumstances and relationships at work, and my hope is that I am becoming a better representative of Christ along the way.

How about you? Are any of these steps particularly challenging for you? What other aspects of workplace leadership would you add to the list?

~ Mike


Leadership in the Home

I find it interesting how many people do not consider the home to be a place where leadership exists. For many, leadership seems too organizational or formal or political to make sense within the confines of home sweet home. If I am completely honest, leadership at work or church is must simpler than at home. The power of genetics and the many connected emotions make home leadership much more tricky to navigate during a typical day. However, this does not relieve me of the mandate to lead my home well. 1 Timothy 3:4-5 says that a potential church leader must “manage his own household well…for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

1 Samuel shares a heartbreaking story about the high priest, Eli. While he was faithfully leading the nation of Israel, the Bible states that “the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord.” What a brutal revelation of poor leadership within the home. I would hate for this to ever be said of my children. Because of this, I need to lead in such a way that my children know God, that they see me pursue God and that when they are adults, they could never say that they were not exposed to life with God.

Leadership in my home must start with my marriage. This is not some dominating control issue. Rather, I am responsible for setting the tone of my household and it begins with how I treat my wife. Do I love her well? Do I truly cherish and honor and provide for and protect her? Do I look for practical ways to serve her daily or am I about my needs and agenda? Your best way to determine this would be to ask her. My hope and prayer is that she feels cared for and loved better by me than by anybody else in her life. If not, then my leadership is sorely lacking. Epheisans tells me to “love my wife as Christ loved the church.” This is a tall order since Christ sacrificed and gave His life for the church. It’s quite a standard to aim for, but by the grace of God I am hopefully getting closer to leading her well. 

As my children are able to see how I treat my wife, it extends my leadership influence to parenting. My girls should see in me the ideal way they want to be treated by men, both now with friends and someday in the future (many many many years in the future lol) in marriage. My boys should have a role model for how to provide for, how to protect and how to lead their future homes in a godly manner. While there is a certain amount of pressure here, it is more of a privilege that God has blessed me with to shape the future through the lives of my children. Do they see their dad pursuing Christ and running hard after God? How do I speak of and treat others? Complete transparency will tell you that I have a ways to go with my own humanity to provide a great role model, but I hope that they are able to see progress in my life. 

Another aspect of leadership , specifically with my children, is to work hard to not think for them, but rather to challenge them with the idea of “what would be better?” They must decide that pursuing Christ is important to them and then must figure out how to best do that in their individual lives. I can teach and train and model, but ultimately they have to take the ball and make a run for it. If I make all of their decisions and tell them exactly how to do things, then where does their ownership happen? A far more effective manner, and one that I am still figuring out, is to let them pursue Christ and live out their faith on their own and then be there to answer questions and redirect when needed. 

The spiritual, emotional and relational health of my home is ultimately on my shoulders to establish. I can accomplish this through a bunch of rules and regulations, or I can pursue Christ on my own and then allow His Spirit to guide me in how to best lead my home. I want my home to be filled with the presence of God. I want for there to be joy and laughter and peace and good memories. I am accountable to lead according to the end in mind and must ensure my actions line up with my values.

How about you? What does leadership look like in your home? What role do you have in shaping the atmosphere of your home and how are you allowing God to lead you in this way? I would love to get some comments here as I have a lot of learning to do in this area.

~ Mike

I am my Biggest Problem

Leadership must begin with me. Unfortunately, on my own, I want to stay up late, play video games, eat snacks and then sleep in. I get impatient, want to rush the process and can easily see people as being in the way of my agenda. Leadership would be so much easier if it wasn’t for my own selfish humanity. While it might seem that I just need to get more organized, set alarms and choose to like people, this only lasts for so long. I have learned that I need the wisdom of the Bible to have a chance at leading well. The principles of God are the only way I can grow and develop as a healthy and effective leader.

So, what does the Bible say about leading myself? While there are a great many things, here are four that I typically struggle with the most.

Self-control – Galatians 5:22-23 says that self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. I find the name of this characteristic¬†ironic since I clearly need the strength of God to have self-control. I can last for a while staying faithful to plans and dreams and needs that will set me up for healthy leadership. But it is only temporary because my humanity will kick in soon or later. Reliance on God allows me to last a bit longer before I indulge in too much ice cream or stay up far too late for anybody’s good.

Servanthood РJesus takes the typical paradigm of leadership that involves working hard to look out for self and step on others to get to the top of the pyramid and flips it completely upside down. True leadership happens when I choose to serve others, look out for others first, and use my influence and experience to set those around me up for success. Easy? Not a chance, but I have seen this truth play out well time and time again.

Humility – is leadership really supposed to be about myself? At the end of the day do I care so much about my ego and image that I am willing to fight to be seen and heard? Unfortunately, this battle happens inside of me more often than I would care to admit. Thankfully, with age I have learned to at least mostly keep it inside. So often I have to fake it even when I never make it, but the Bible teaches that humility is truly the best way to lead.

Patience – admittedly, I saved the best for last. And by best, I mean the area of my biggest struggle. Whether it is in traffic, waiting for an email reply or just need Amazon Prime to fulfill my over-energetic, type-A needs, patience is definitely not a characteristic of leadership that I embrace well at all. I want everything done yesterday and I have spent the majority of my life waiting for God to catch up. Now, truth be told, He is always perfectly on time and hindsight confirms this fact, but I will probably struggle with this leadership trait every day of my life.

So, while this list is far too short, it is what I am working on to become a better biblically grounded leader. I want any influence I have to be used to advance God’s kingdom and to set others up for success in whatever they are called to do. The Bible is the ultimate book on leadership and hopefully this list helps jumpstart the same conversations in your life that it does in mine.

~ Mike

Leadership by the book

I must confess that I am a book junkie. Amazon is my friend and I am constantly purchasing books for both work and home. I have long been a believer in the maxim that leaders are learners. However, the quality and content of the books that I choose greatly affect the quality of leader I might become. I yearn for books that challenge me, inspire me, correct me, and encourage me. Often, when I am reading, I can gain one or two of these aspects and grow as a leader.

Rarely could I say that a book perfectly provides the leadership learning that I need. However, over the years I have found one that has yet to let me down. The Bible is my guiding book and my “go to” when I need to grow personally as a leader, or better understand how to build a team, mentor others, etc. It provides perfect principles to follow. The problem is that I regularly follow them with great imperfection, but this does not diminish the influence of the Bible on my life and leadership.

What does the Bible offer for leadership?

1) It addresses the core issue of poor leadership – we live in a sinful world and interact daily with sinful people, including ourselves. The Bible does not skip around this truth, but rather tackles it head on. The Bible is ultimately a romance story of God providing a way for us to be redeemed and restored into right relationship with Him. While it is possible to lead well outside of a relationship with God, I would suggest that only with God can any of us see our true purpose fulfilled.

2) It provides examples of good and poor leaders alike – I can learn from the victories of Nehemiah and the failures of Samson equally if I have the right frame of mind. Everything I read in the Bible is designed to be a learning experience that pierces my heart and brings about life transformation. On a selfish note, the poor leaders in the Bible also provide hope that God can even use a guy like me. 

3) It teaches principles with simplicity and clarity – I learn much better when things are simple and spelled out. The Bible provides stories, proverbs, and narratives that teach with such depth and richness while maintaining a simplicity of learning. While the truths are challenging and hard to live out, I cannot complain (for the most part) that I do not understand what God wants to teach me. 

There are many more reasons that the Bible is the ultimate guide for leadership, but these are a good foundation. Over the next several weeks, I will be sharing my practical experiences on what this look like in leading myself, my family, in my workplace and in my community at large. I hope that my stories will inspire and encourage you and, most importantly, drive you to the Bible as your first, and best, resource for leadership.

~ Mike