Tag Archives: perspective

Tension Produces Dreams – revisited

I have often wondered if life would truly be better if it was simpler. What if I didn’t have to strive quite so much? What if relationships just happened naturally? Wouldn’t everybody be better off if we removed the struggle and pain and work? I mean don’t most people just live for the weekend so that they can kick off their shoes and relax?

I think that this idea is actually fairly hollow and will not actually lead us where we want to go. An oft repeated story is told of butterflies that must wrestle with their cocoon in order to strengthen their wings so that they can survive once they are loose. I have been through this process many times personally and, due to my recent events, I feel like I am back in caterpillar mode, whereas I had been in butterfly mode for several years. The only way to get back to the freedom that being a butterfly provides is to walk through the process of tension…tension that produces dreams. What does tension do for us?

Tension provides a sense of gratitude for an accomplished work

Tension makes the thrill of jumping that much bigger

Tension helps me know what is worth fighting for

Tension provides the perspective and momentum necessary to take a risk

I have shared before how it took seven months of unemployment before I landed at my most recent job. Talk about tension! The team that I was privileged to lead is currently wrapping up a 3-year project to create resources for local churches to better serve families affected by disability. These resources are the result of years of tension – conversations, debates and discussions about the best way to serve the church. Personally, I am back in the process of tension as I seek my next great adventure.

So, what are the basics I need to focus on to ensure that this time of tension is one of growth and production, not discouragement and frustration?

1) Tension forces me to revisit my dreams, my goals, my hopes.  If tension causes me to give up on any of them, then they weren’t that compelling to begin with. My dream is ultimately to make a difference in the lives of others, to advocate on behalf of those who have been marginalized, to develop leaders and build sustainable teams to accomplish amazing projects! I look back over 20+ years of full-time leadership and these basics have never changed. Take this as a great opportunity to revisit your vision and make sure that it is truly large enough to be compelling.

2) Remember that life is a journey and tension is simply one of the steps you must take on your way to success. Tension is the pressure required to create a diamond, the rubber band stretched and ready to launch, or the nervous feeling you get right before you make a leap of faith. Embrace tension as a launching pad to your next great adventure, not an obstacle that will keep you grounded.

3) Although it might be clichè, there is a reason that it works – “what doesn’t break you only makes you stronger”. Tension is necessary for world class athletes to become stronger. I am not content with status quo. I don’t want to be bored or settled or live a dull and mundane life. I want adventure and excitement and progress in my life and tension is the tool that brings this about. And without tension you will never learn just what you can truly handle.

4) Tension brings you to the feet of Jesus. I do not want to assume that everybody reading this is a follower of Christ, but for my life, this is the only constant. Tension reminds me constantly that He is God and I am not. I cannot, nor am I meant to, proceed through life on my own strength. Tension keeps me humble which is always the best way to be.

I don’t know what you are walking through this week, but I would imagine it includes some tension. Be encouraged to not run from it, but rather to embrace it…and to anticipate the dreams that will be birthed because of it.

~ Mike

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5 Perspectives of Leadership

Leadership is the process of moving people. It is about identifying leaders, discovering their gifts and passions, and moving them forward according to their dreams and goals. Over my years of leadership, I have learned that there are five basic perspectives regarding influencing others. Maybe they resonate with you or maybe I am missing some, but regardless, here is my list.

Individually – how do you invest in people? What do the one-on-one relationships in your life look like? Do you find those conversations revolving around yourself or are you working to maximize the potential of others? An effective leader must take the time to know their team, care about their team, and invest in each team member as an individual.

Organizationally – how to you build and engage teams? Often, these happens naturally due to projects or events within an organization. However, as you are working to build a team, what do you look for? Must everybody agree with you or are you willing to bring in some outsider perspectives and some individuals who will challenge the status quo. A great leader looks for diversity within a team and engages teams that will ultimately bring a project to a successful conclusion.

Intentionally – without a clear vision or strategy, the leadership process dies. It is the responsibility to not only guard the vision, but to lead in such a way that others embrace and support the vision. If only the leader knows the vision, they are missing a huge component of influence. We all typically work with greater efficiency when we understand the “why” behind a directive. Intentionality on the part of the leader helps to keep everybody on the same page and understanding why they are doing what they are doing.

Developmentally – healthy leadership produces fruit in others. The ultimate sign of effective leadership is when those you have been leading begin to lead others. Until this happens, leadership is most likely accomplishing tasks. However, when you can release other leaders to take over projects or even move successfully to a new venture, you are seeing the developmental fruit that comes from the hard work of developing others.

Concentrically – this perspective really weaves throughout the others, but is an important principle to understand. Leadership always starts with the heart or core of an individual or organization. Momentum begins with one person who then invites others into the process and now five people are on board. As momentum grows, it ripples outward like the remnants of a pebble in a pond until the fruit of leadership overwhelms the entire organization. Start small and trust the process to move your leadership to the fringe and beyond.

So, what am I missing here? Would you add to, take away, or reframe any of these ideas?

The Storms of Leadership

Have you ever just wanted to quit? Have you ever felt like the tide was never going to pull back? Have you ever looked around at your circumstances and just wanted to throw in the towel? I know that I have on more occasions that I care to admit. While this might seem to be discouraging, I can actually find great encouragement in the life of Christ and how He handled the storms as they arose.

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In Matthew 8:24 (NIV) we read that “…suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.” Later, another storm arises and He is seen walking on water. An interesting side note is that Jesus sent His disciples into the boat the night before, knowing there was a pending storm. In Luke 4:30 (ESV), an angry mob brings Jesus to the side of a hill “so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.”

Storms never shocked Christ, never caused fear and never pulled Him from the mission that God called Him to. Storms are seen by Jesus as not merely part of life, but tools for growth in the lives of those who follow Him.

How else can we explain the impact that Jesus’ handling of storms had on Peter? He is transformed from an arrogant fisherman (John 13:6-8) to a well-intentioned but misunderstanding sword wielder. He then takes his greatest moment to defend Christ and instead denies that they ever knew each other. Could this possibly be the same Peter who preaches on the Day of Pentecost, who challenges the Sanhedrin and who is a “founding father” of the Church? It seems that the combination of witnessing how Christ handled storms with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit provided all that was needed for a powerful leadership transformation.

Storms do not define us, but they allow us to better see God. Leadership requires the ability to trust in God in the midst of storms and to lead others in and through storms to safety. We must experience personal storms before we are able to lead others in them. In my life, it is only through the experience of coming out on the other side of storms that I have seen my faith and confidence in God grow. After all, without any storms in life, why would I need the strength and power of God in my life?

As tempting as it might be to wish for lack of storms, I have come to learn that they are a reality of life and are really the only way to grow and expand leadership capacity.

What do storms do for me practically?

  1. They remind me that life is bigger than me – I need God’s perspective
  2. They remind me that I am not in control – I need God’s power
  3. They remind me that I am not alone – I need God’s presence

Each of these concepts allows me to step back, to rest, and to trust in my God. If He didn’t personally run from storms and taught His disciples likewise, then it only makes sense to follow in His steps and look at storms not as something to escape or avoid, but rather to weather by His grace and with His strength. And as a leader, this then provides me both the credibility and experience to pass this on to those whom I am privileged to influence.

As I move into a new year, these three areas of need are going to be the filter through which I pray, I read, I learn and I lead. As these areas grow personally, I trust that God will expand my influence as a leader and will increase my capacity to lead as well. Will you join me this year as I better embrace storms and look for God’s perspective, power and presence in the midst.

~ Mike

Leaders Need Perspective

Left to ourselves, we often get bogged down in mundane details and issues. Other people make their problems into ours and attempt to pull us into the drama and struggles of their lives. While healthy leaders serve and look out for others, there must be a place to step back, say no and gain a little perspective.

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While there is no magical formula, I have learned the importance of perspective. It is necessary on a personal level, for my family, at work and basically everywhere that I am. Without perspective I can begin to spend my time chasing shadows, worrying about things that don’t need worrying and find myself rundown. Since I am really not interested in living this way, I must intentionally seek perspective.

How??

  1. The Word of God – my perspective becomes healthy when it filters through the Bible. While I know that not everybody subscribes to this lifestyle, it is what works for me. I have too many experiences without this filter and they never end well. Daily disciplined reading, prayer and meditation make a huge difference for me.
  2. Slow down and look around – when did it become cool and fashionable to be busy, to be late and to over schedule? This is a terrible way to live and definitely does not give space for perspective. The old phrase “stop and smell the roses” carries more truth than most give it credit.
  3. Try something new – drive a different path to and from work, listen to a new podcast, take up a hobby, volunteer at church or learn a language. Whatever the specifics, new things force us out of our comfort zones which naturally leads to new perspectives.
  4. Spend time with people more than tasks – I believe this is obvious. Tasks do not typically alter perspective, but working with and doing life together with people does. It requires that I listen more than speak (not easy, I must admit) and that I am okay with agreeing to disagree. Also, I must intentionally spend time with different generations as perspectives change drastically between them.

So, how important is perspective to you? Which of the suggestions resonates with you? Be encouraged to take that challenge for a test drive this next week and see what happens.

~ Mike