Monday, March 9, 2015

The 3 C's of Leadership; Part 3

There is no such thing as a “born leader.” There are people with personality types and temperaments that we more associate with leadership than others. But leaders, personality types aside, are developed over time.

Since leaders are developed through a process of growth, learning, practice, failure, success, more learning, more practice, more failure and success leading to more growth, there are a lot of variables at play in that development.  What if they learn the wrong things? What if they practice what is not necessary or receive poor instruction from a role model, mentor, teacher or other influencer?

The 3rd “C” – Competency
If this happens, then all the character and clarity in the world will not matter. A leader cannot succeed without rubber-meets-the-road competency.  A leader has to know what she or he is doing, be doing it for the right reasons, and be good at it. So how is this done?

My own experience is that a leader, or a person growing into a leader, needs to be attentive to these things:

Finding a Mentor
Not everyone will want or be able to be a mentor. That is just as well. If they cannot or will not, you probably do not want them anyway. Great leaders want to invest in the next generation of leadership. If they do not want to make the investment, they are not likely to be a great leader, and why would you want that person as your mentor? So in addition to find a person with proven clarity, character and competency of her or his own, you want to find someone who is willing to invest in you. If you are already in leadership, find a more seasoned leader for this role, or even a peer group of other trusted leaders who can speak into your life and leadership.

Make Growth Top Priority
Whatever is not growing is likely dying. But the hard thing about growth is that it always means change. And when we get comfortable, we resist change. There is a reason that the #1 best-selling brand of easy chair (not “challenging” chair) is La Z Boy. Author, John Ortberg comments on this saying that the company is not called “Risky Boy” or “Danger Boy,” but La Z Boy, because that is
the goal – to be lazy.  It is a risk to get out of the easy chair and embrace change and growth and new learning and the inevitable failures you will experience. But these experiences, if you are wise, will teach you more than sitting in a comfortable, familiar, safe and inviting chair ever could. Not many victories are won in a recliner.

Never Stop
Remember that the goal is always growth. There is no final destination for a leader. Each goal set before you is only a rest stop. You arrive, stop and look around, take time to be refreshed and celebrate your progress and achievement, and then get back on the road to the next stop on your journey of growth.

As you grow in the clarity of your vision, the quality of your character and the development of your competency, may you find you in the journey and have the confidence to know that your life and your work matter and make a difference. And may your life and legacy be a blessing to this world and the people you love.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The 3 C's of Leadership; Part 2

Some of us are real characters. You probably know a few people who are so distinctive in the way they interact with the people around them that they have acquired the tag by those who know them as a character. That can be good or bad, depending on how the character you know speaks, behaves and interacts with others. You may be a character, yourself. If so, I hope you are one that those around you enjoy.

The 2nd "C" - Character

But I am talking today about the kind of character that all of us were meant to possess. You may have heard it expressed as doing what is right even when no one is looking. While that is a good way of stating it, I want to look at what is behind that. There are three primary traits that one must develop in order to become a person of character. They are discernment, demeanor and discipline and.

has to do with being able to tell right from wrong. This might seem obvious, but the current state of world affairs and the number of scandals in politics, media, corporations and in our communities tells us that right and wrong are elusive concepts to a lot of us. So here is how I might define it, and historically, I feel like I am on solid ground here. The right thing to do moves you, the people around you, the people affected by you, and the organization depending on you, in a direction that honors both your vision and human dignity. Discerning the right thing to do honors and adds value to others without diminishing the value of anyone, or placing them on the margins.

It makes organizations successful over the long haul because it earns them the kind of respect that marketing, or even a great product, cannot provide alone. But more than that, discerning the right thing to do and then implementing it gives all of those in an organization the sense that they are doing something or worth and meaning. And because this attitude pervades the organization, employees feel valued, trusted and appreciated, and are therefore more loyal, trustworthy and productive.

Demeanor is the next trait to acknowledge as crucial. Your attitude says everything about you. I would rather have a marginally skilled employee or partner with

a positive attitude than a highly skilled one with a bad attitude. Skills are easier to learn than attitudes are to develop. It is well known that people make all kinds of judgments about you within the first 90 seconds of meeting you. Your attitude – positive or negative, open or protective, welcoming or defensive, engaging or detached – will do most of the shaping of those judgments.

Once you know the right thing to do and the attitudes you need to have, then you have to discipline yourself to grow in exhibiting the right kind of thoughts, behaviors and attitudes. Discipline is not the same as trying real hard. When I was younger, I was fairly athletic. I was instantly mediocre, at least, at everything I tried. But to get beyond mediocre, I had to do far more than try. I had to discipline myself by engaging in certain activities (aka, practice – yes, we’re talkin’ practice here, not the game, not the game, we’re talkin’ practice, man) hat helped me develop certain skills and abilities to the level of proficiency needed to compete and win. It is the same with right and wrong, and with attitude. If you entertain and welcome and dwell on the right thought, if you engage in the right behaviors and actions, if you intentionally put on the right attitude and demeanor, over time these things will shape a character in you that is authentic, winsome and attractive. 

It will not happen overnight! You will need to your mind with the right kinds of thoughts and ideas. You may set aside time each day to make sure you read good books or articles or
listen to podcasts that will add value in this way. You will need to engage in actions that serve others ahead of yourself. It may not even be work related. It may be serving a charitable organization. But anything that gets you outside of yourself and investing in those who can do little or nothing for you will shape your attitude and behavior like nothing else can. There will be setbacks if you are a normal human being. Self-serving attitudes are woven deep into the fabric of our psyches. But over time, and with commitment, you can develop the kind of character that those who want to wish it into being will never know. This is the kind of character that will prevent you from being knocked of course in pursuit of your vision, and it will draw in the kinds of people who can help get you to where we are going. 

May you develop a strength of character that adds value to your own life and all of those around you. May your commitment to doing the right thing with the right attitude by engaging in the activities and entertaining the thoughts that will shape the kind of character that will serve you and your world well, be unwavering and strong. And for those of you willing to acknowledge the value in this, may the grace of God in Jesus Christ give you the strength you need to live a God-honoring life.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The 3 C’s of Leadership; Part 1

Any leader needs to stay focused on what’s important. John Maxwell has said that the problem with vision is that it always leaks, and therefore must continually be recast. 

But who recasts the vision for the leader? All of us need those outside voices that we can trust to speak valued truth into our lives. But you can also speak into your own life simply by committing to write down the important things, and revisit them regularly. For me, this is one of those valued, frequent stops. It is the 3 C’s of Leadership. For my own sake, over the next 3 days, I will post one of the 3 C’s. If you want to follow along, that’s great. It’s always good to walk together with others who want their leadership and their lives to succeed.

The First “C” - Clarity

When my father was teaching me to drive, I tended to drift from side to side in my lane on long straight stretches of highway. There are a lot of those in Texas. Dad had been a pilot in World War II and told me that one trick he used to stay on course when flying visually was to pick a spot on the distant horizon and lock in on that spot. He said it works in driving too. So I would do that. I would pick a spot in the middle of the lane I was in as far ahead as I could see, and lock in on it. That was where I wanted to go. It is amazing how something as simple as where I fixed my focus stopped my side-to-side drifting.

The truth is, there are much broader applications of this simple exercise for those of us in leadership. It is easy to get distracted by something other than the vision (I am assuming a general understanding of the term, vision) we have cast and has received buy-in from others in the organization who are now committed to that vision. The key is to recognize and have clarity about where you are going, and pick a spot on the foreseeable horizon that is the next benchmark in getting there, and lock in on that. This will keep your leadership from drifting and wandering out of its lane. That can be almost as disastrous in organizations as it is on lonely Texas highways.

A good thing to do from time to time then, is to revisit the vision, and evaluate how well you are doing at staying in your lane - staying on course. No doubt there are times we have to change lanes or even change roads and directions entirely. But that’s another discussion. As long as the vision has not changed, being clear on what it is, and assessing the effectiveness of your strategies and tactics in achieving it will help you dial into the next step in its pursuit.

So how clear are you on your organization’s vision or your own personal vision for yourself or your family? Are others buying into it too? Are you regularly recasting it for them and for yourself? Is your lack of vision causing your to drift, or do you have a spot on the horizon toward which you are moving?

May you always be clear about the vision you pursue. May it be one that adds a positive value to this world and the people in it. May it be a vision that demands and develops a strength of grace and character in you as you live into it. And may the journey this vision takes you on bring you and those who join with you, great joy. Be encouraged!