The Top Five Truths of Leadership

1) Some leaders are born with inherent gifts or skills that make them leaders. Some leaders are made over time with a journey that includes experience and possible mentoring in some fashion. Some leaders are a combination of both. All have different styles and methods for how they lead.

2) Although education can be helpful but educational lettering following one’s name does not guarantee wisdom (the application of acquired knowledge) nor do educational achievements ensure integrity. Also, please throw in common sense to the mix. People can rationalize or justify most anything but doing the right thing for themselves and an organization seems to be a challenge for some highly educated people.

3) Leaders are transparent. There is no hidden agenda. There are no secrets. Leaders do not play escape and evade with people in their organization or outside their organization. They are open and honest about all aspects of their work.

4) Leaders consider everyone with whom they come in contact as important. They forgive easily. They encourage different points of view even from ardent criticizers for out of this group can come some of the most ardent and loyal followers.

5) Leaders do not bear grudges nor do they take criticism personally. What matters most is the success of the organization but the cost will never include a disregard for the people who devote their time and energy to the organization. Integrity is never compromised.

How many leaders do you know that fulfill these requirements?

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Leadership in Church World

Women and Their Role in the Church

It’s difficult to have a discussion about women having a voice in our churches without having a parallel discussion about the theological basis (complimentarian versus egalitarian) or differences that exists with policy. Further, I would be interested to see the ratio of men and women in leadership in churches that say they do not gender discrimunate. Further, maybe we should really take a hard look at the ratio of men and women in leadership in the private and public sectors while we’re at it.

My opinion but in this instance regarding church leadership we see the flawed logic in strict biblical interpretations. Women CAN be and ARE good leaders and teachers in our churches. In fact, I have seen women who were better leaders and teachers than many men so the argument about disenfranchising half the population on the planet due to gender goes out the window. Giving women, or anyone for that matter, a voice is only right. Having women right beside men in leadership/teaching positions building the kingdom on earth appears to me as how God designed us. Anything less falls way short…by half.

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Legalism in Leadership and Management: A Matter of Emotional Intelligence

Sometimes the stalwart response that managers or human resource people like to give with employee requests is, “Sorry, but we don’t want to set any precedent.” I get that but setting precedent relates more to disparate treatment than not granting or allowing an employee request. A simple example of this would be an employee time off request that could put staffing levels below what is normally needed. Certainly, a manager would be on safe ground to throw down the below minimum staffing level card but is that really the issue?

Leaders need to lead through common sense that might not be so common for some. First things first. Scheduling and staffing requirements are always a management right. A simple employee time off request can be accepted or rejected depending on many situations. Unless one is talking about disparity involving a protected class, i.e. race, ethnicity, gender, etc. it is the prerogative of an immediate supervisor to accept or reject the time off request. Throwing down the precedent card is irrelevant to the situation. Managers need the latitude to manage. The granting of typical time off requests will depend on the reasons and more often the real question is what is in the best interests of the organization? Some managers interpret the answer to be very legalistic in that 1) Employees need to be productive at work (presuming they don’t work at home), and 2) The organization needs employees to produce whatever they produce. End of story.

This legalism is typically a trademark of a new manager or a manager who needs to work on his or her emotional intelligence. If the objective is to truly do whatever is in the best interests of the organization then it stands to reason an employee requesting time off for a family circumstance rates right up there if anything for the boost in morale.

Employees are more likely to go above and beyond in the future when they remember how well they were treated in the past. Leading in this manner is like money in the bank for the loyalty that is generated. Legalism in management is debilitating. It inherently restricts leaders from effectively leading. Most Human Resource or Human Capital people recognize this if they have spent time in the trenches. Seasoned leaders also know this.

The point to be made is that the legalism displayed by some managers exhibits their myopic view of what management is all about. Routinely throwing down the precedent card when a simple management decision can be made shows poor innovation and leadership. Excessive legalism can be indicative of poor emotional intelligence and is something that can come back to haunt the mediocre manager.

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A Brief Synopsis of Some Terms Leaders Need to Acknowledge

All the while leaders are leading they need to have certain elements in their peripheral vision. They represent key issues they need to be mindful about when dealing with staff and situations. Ignoring these terms can be costly to the organization.

Hostile Work Environment – The exhibited behavior alters the terms, conditions, and/or reasonable expectations of a comfortable work environment for employees. Actions are typically targeted toward a protected class, i.e. age, religion, disability, race, etc. Typically, the behavior severity is pervasive over time; however, a second form of severity occurs when an employee’s career or professional development progress is inhibited.

Deliberate Indifference – Policy makers (Management/Administration) act with a conscious disregard for the obvious consequences of their actions. In essence, management ignores obvious requirements.

Failure to Train – This is typically a companion to Deliberate Indifference. The best example of this is an organization knowing requirements for a specific task and not implementing the necessary training to function adequately.

Failure to Supervise – Supervisors are required to perform at level of overseeing what goes on with subordinates. Even the lower standard of mere negligence can put an organization in jeopardy.

Pattern and Practice – Organizations operating under “business as usual” run the risk of being held accountable for improper behaviors. Time after time situations have occurred and have been ignored or glossed over.

Due Diligence – Organizations need to understand the standard of care to address situations. Not everyone is an expert but the “reasonableness” standard is usually applied to address situations. Managers need to give their attention to issues especially relating to employee or monetary supervision.

Fiduciary Responsibility – Even under the “reasonableness” standard organizations are required to ensure the monetary flow is accurate, legal, and ethical. When questions arise they need to be answered. Nobody in an organization is exempt from this. This one issue has gotten many people in trouble within their organizations. Boards have a fiduciary duty to maintain an accurate accounting of the internal funds and structure. When we think of a violation of fiduciary responsibility we might think of Enron or Arthur Andersen, however, even church leaders, church CFO’s and their boards have been made accountable for a lack of fiduciary responsibility when there was negligence of monetary maintenance and violated their fiduciary responsibility.

These are only a few of the watch terms leaders need to know. Moreover, these are the terms that one will typically find in the verbiage of a law suit. Let’s not make this any harder than it is. If people are treated fairly and honestly none of these issues will exist in an organization.

Source assistance: FBI Law Bulletin 2005

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Toxic Leadership: Why Intelligent People Follow Evil Charisma

When we speak about leaders like Jim Jones or Charles Manson we have to be mindful these are extremes. Their toxic leadership had the effect of enticing their followers but there is more to it than that. On a more limited basis we see intelligent people following a leader and the organization right into the ground. How does that happen? What group speak is being used that nearly mimics the sirens of Greek mythology? Once a toxic leader leaves do others within the organization have to be reprogrammed?

First, we need to understand what attracts people to a toxic leader and what makes them stay. The most common toxic leadership type is closely allied to the narcissistic personality. Given a free rein the narcissistic leader is fairly easy to identify, i.e. it’s all about him or her. Further, the narcissistic leader thrives on control and puts organizational machinery in place to perpetuate control indefinitely. The organizational mission might appear sound but the methodology is dysfunctional and that dysfunction is carried through staff, many of whom start thinking the dysfunction is actually okay or normal.

Our wills were made to surrender to God. Narcissistic control freak leaders who beget narcissistic control freak management staff have a hard time with this because it is 180 degrees from what they learned. Just as a child in a dysfunctional family understands how wrong his or her situation is the dysfunction continues as that’s all the child knows when he or she grows up. The abusive parent begets an abused child who matures into an abusive parent and the cycle continues unless there is a radical change in thinking.

The toxic leader solidifies his or her standing by several methods that can be carried on with dysfunctional staff:
* Fear and Intimidation – Threatening staff or the implication of threats keeps employees under control
* Being Exclusive – Maintaining only those relationships where authority is blindly accepted and never questioned
* Deception – There can even be a dramatic difference between what is said and what is done. The same mantra is also chanted for those who question leadership or policies, “That’s not very professional,” or “Well, maybe this isn’t the place for you,” or “You really need a heart check on this one,” or “You need to assess pride issues.” The bottom line is that issues are rarely addressed. Instead questions are turned to their origin or the person posing the questions. The questions proposed can bring up legitimate issues. That is irrelevant. Control is the name of the game and control is maintained by 1) not even addressing the issues, and 2) directing comments toward the individual proposing questions. Remember deception perpetuates control.
* Information control – Employees and congregations can only make informed choices with the information that is given. If information is controlled then behaviors can be controlled.
* Time control – If employees and volunteers are busy then they have less time to actually think about what is going on within the organization. “All hands on deck” are so frequent the usual response by employees or volunteers is “Whatever,” and then either following the “All hands on deck” alarms like the docile Eloi in H.G Wells book The Time Machine or being conspicuously absent with “emergency duties” that are typically not an emergency.

These are the main features of the dysfunctional leadership remnants even after the toxic leader is gone but you can see what the problem is. In management circles this is termed the following of an evil charisma. Staff can only blame the previous regime for so long and then the management team needs to take full ownership. In church world this would include the board, elders, and the existing team from the old regime.

What is the antidote? What’s obvious is there needs to be a change. Typically, a house cleaning is in order as the remaining leadership has serious credibility issues. Unfortunately, some people will say anything to keep their jobs and therein lies the problem. If the remaining leadership team has a credibility issue then saying the right words means little. An outside evaluation needs to be performed and recommendations followed. To do anything less delays the inevitable.

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The Self Leadership Journey

Before people can lead others they need to be able to lead themselves. The problem comes in when their leadership standard or benchmark isn’t that high. Oh, they can speak the lingo all right. They can discuss ad nauseam about team building, inspiring, having vision, metrics, goal planning, goal setting, and goal achievement, etc. but when it comes to their personal situation what you see is what you get. History is important.

When I sit in on hiring or promotion interviews I want to hear what they have learned through the years. I want to hear about mistakes made and what was changed afterwards. Be wary of people who struggle to think of their past mistakes or shortcomings and, more importantly, those who can’t think of any.

Successful self leadership comes with time and experience. It is a 24/7, day by day effort. The best leaders who are good at their own self leadership are sought after to be mentors. Leaders on the rise want to know their secrets.

Self leadership is best exhibited by those who:
* Maintain balance in their lives. This not only pertains to relationships that are personal or work related but the individual way they handle the intellectual, physical, and spiritual aspects of their lives. They know that maintaining balance means everything.
* Constantly practice humility in EVERYTHING they say and do
* Listen a lot more than they speak
* Know there are lessons to be learned in the simplest of circumstances
* Constantly self evaluate. They don’t beat themselves up over the past. They are always looking for a way to do it better.
* Do not place themselves on a higher plane than anyone they serve or with whom they come in contact (Strongly related to the second point)

Self leadership is an art. For those who decide to practice self leadership the leader is always a work in progress. Those who have the stamina and longevity to endure the process know that true growth is found in the journey and not the destination for having self leadership.

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The Leadership Delusion Factor

Leaders who are out of touch with their organizations sometimes miss key indicators of systemic issues that are going on. This concept is affectionately called the leadership delusion. It is most appropriate as leaders are actually deluding themselves thinking that things are running smoothly and only deserve an occasional tweak here and there to keep the organizational machine running. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Leadership delusion typically occurs within organizations with serious morale problems or those governed by micromanager types and/or narcissistic leaders. Typically, line workers will be most painfully honest. Good leaders listen to their people, all of their people not just middle or upper management staff. What are the red flags for leadership delusion?

Consider the following hypotheticals. A church directional leader might be displeased with the fact that only 40% of the staff tithes or contributes to the successful operation of that church. Further, it is common knowledge that employees attended other churches or rarely attended the church in question although it was an employment requirement. Instead of searching for possible reasons for the lack of participation by church employees they are coerced or threatened. The coercion comes from the directional leader and is carried out by middle management. 60% of an employee workforce being uncooperative is significant and means something else is going on. If Achim’s Razor is correct the simplest answer is the right one if all other variables are equal. If staff is seeing a squandering of the resources there can be a group passive-aggressive push back with non compliance of the tithe requirement. If staff experiences the observation of an opulent lifestyle by leadership, i.e. numerous vacation trips, flying first class in the course of church business, etc. by leadership while leadership cries poor mouth it should come as no surprise if there is near anarchy in the different ministries. At its worst, internal sabotage occurs with damage to the facilities or equipment or internal theft. Yes, it can happen even in a church.

In the case of a municipal police or fire department, leaders can delude themselves into thinking things are running great except for a few disgruntled people (typically blaming the union). If there is disparity in discipline and an open favoritism for specific jobs and promotions, once again, it should come to no surprise if leadership experiences the same passive-aggressive behaviors as the church example including the sabotaging of equipment. Yes, it can happen even in a police or fire department.

All organizations are made of people who need to be treated fairly and decently. Few people go to work in the morning thinking, “How am I going to mess over the organization today?” Most people want to do a good job and be recognized for what they do. Study after study reveals money is not the main driving force or motivation for people in a job. Being appreciated, empowered, and respected goes a long way for the overall success of the organization. Leadership that thinks otherwise is delusional.

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