Leadership Self-Awareness

Here is the third of five entries containing my latest thoughts on leadership. The first two focused on: Screen Shot 2019-08-22 at 4.14.57 PM

  1. Leadership is a sacred trust
  2. Leaders are always developing themselves.

This third point is summarized in the statement

    3. Leadership effectiveness is based on self-awareness.

Self-awareness is the practice of paying attention to one's feelings and surroundings, especially the people with whom the leader comes in contact. For the latter to happen, however, leaders must pay attention to what they themselves are feeling and thinking. This may sound simple, but unless that skill and practice are developed, they may never occur.

I liken it to leaders learning to have an out-of-the-body experience, where they are able to step back and examine what they did, what they are doing, and what they are thinking and feeling. Sometimes a coach or mentor can help them do these things, but they can easily learn to do it by themselves. The best example I can provide is from the life of Jesus when He was touched by an infirm woman: 

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace" (Luke 8:42b-49)

Even though Jesus was busy and on His way to an important meeting, He still felt someone touch Him. The people around Him were incredulous, for the crowd was pushing and jostling Him, but He was aware that something had happened to Him. This is important because His self-awareness led to Him being others-aware, and He was able to significantly help another woman in need simply because He paid attention.

You may dismiss that as a bad example or irrelevant, thinking that Jesus was divine and therefore had supernatural abilities to be in touch with Himself and His surroundings. If that's the case, then let's look at another example from the life of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a servant to the king, serving royalty their food and drink. After Nehemiah heard about the terrible conditions in Jerusalem, he was burdened, so he fasted and prayed even though he was on duty. Then one day the following transpired:

In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire? The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.” Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time (Nehemiah 2:1-6).

If the king wasn't paying attention, he would not have noticed that Nehemiah was sad. What's more, even when he noticed, why did he care? He was the king, the most powerful man in the kingdom. Everyone's job was to make him happy and not use his power to help others--or so traditional leadership thinking has gone. The king could have been angry that one of his servants came into his presence with a sad countenance (that is perhaps why Nehemiah was afraid). The king was an effective leader whom God used because the king had trained himself to pay attention to his own feelings and thoughts, and that caused him to be empathetic and sensitive to those of others. 

Now, even if Jesus was sensitive to the woman's need because He was God, that indicates He can help us have that same sensitivity--but only if we want it. If we want it, then we will do the work necessary to have the skill to more often than not read situations and people accurately so we can lead effectively--just like Nehemiah's king did. We will cooperate with His work in our lives to put us more in touch with the needs and humanity of others as we recognize our own frailty and need. 

The goal in this self-awareness is empathy and not sympathy, for the latter is feeling for someone when they feel badly. Empathy is feeling what others feel, sometimes before they tell us, because we want to know and because we have been where they are, and can identify. Empathy can only be felt when someone has paid attention to their own journey and pain along the way, and has a heart and desire to help others who are on the same journey. 

Many say that feelings are not to be trusted, that we must not be led by our feelings. I disagree. God uses feelings to lead and guide us, and paying attention to them is vital to hearing God's voice, which is the epitome of leadership effectiveness. Heeding the messages of our heart is important if we are going to lead and guide others, for we cannot take them where we haven't gone ourselves, and God will use something as simple as paying attention to get us where He wants us to be--and to be who He wants us to be, which is effective leaders. 


Leadership Development

A few weeks ago, I began sharing five concepts from my Price of Leadership seminar that are not in my Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 11.02.42 AM book version. These five represent my latest thoughts on leadership, and we covered point one in the first post, which is 1) Leadership is a sacred trust. Now let's move on to point two:

2. Effective leaders are always developing themselves.

No one disagrees with this general principle, but as leaders get busier, usually the first things to disappear from their calendar are disciplines to help them develop and grow as individuals, which will increase their capacity to lead. What's more, there is a subtle attitude that assumes the wisdom and ability to lead will magically appear when leaders are promoted. Leaders may also think that what got them promoted to leadership is sufficient for them to lead. All these practices (the absence of training and the assumption that they are already smart and empowered enough to lead) are harmful to leadership effectiveness, and the church in particular is paying a price because its leaders have not grown in their capacity to manage and lead more.

The concept of "more" can be a controversial one in leadership circles. Some believe that more is not better, and at times they are correct. Business or church growth can become an end unto themselves, and increase can be pursued relentlessly or even held out as the one and only measure for success. At the same time, however, God's expectation for increase from his leaders is well documented throughout the Bible. 

Proverbs 14:28 states, "A growing population is a king’s glory; a prince without subjects has nothing" (NLT). One other translation reads, "A king's greatness depends on how many people he rules; without them he is nothing" (GNT). The proverb does not condemn growth, increase, or size. In fact, it seems to endorse it, as does Paul when he wrote,

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of Godbeing strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:9-12, emphasis added).

Paul wanted the saints at Colossae to grow in the knowledge of God, which indicates their knowledge was to increase. By implication, the bearing fruit and being strengthened mentioned in that passage are in the context of growth or increase.

Jesus told a parable about talents (which was a measure for wealth, not natural gifts or abilities) in Matthew 25:14-30. The person who had five talents earned five more and the person with two also doubled his amount, but the one with one talent had no increase. It was this person who was condemned in the story as unworthy because he produced no increase. He did not desire more, and therefore did not grow to manage more.

A man named Lord Acton once said, "There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it." He summarized a problem I mentioned earlier, and that is the attitude that somehow when a person gains a leadership position, he or she will automatically, and somehow magically, be qualified and sufficient for the work at hand. Yet, if there is to be increase, which we have seen that God expects, then that leader must work to increase his or her ability to manage and lead more. That "more" is new territory for the leader, and will require greater skill and wisdom if they are to be effective.

What are you doing to develop yourself and your ability to handle more? Here are some things I do that may be of help:

  1. I read or listen to books almost every day. That also includes updates from my favorite authors in the form of their regular blogs and podcasts.
  2. Reading and listening are part of my written, daily to-do list. I do not leave it to chance.
  3. I don't watch much TV, but when I do, I try to include documentaries and other programs of interest that will stimulate my mind and add to my body of general knowledge.
  4. I attend at least one leadership seminar or workshop every year.
  5. I walk two miles to start each day.
  6. I play word games on my smart phone.
  7. I write daily and I teach university classes regularly, especially classes I have never taught before. That forces me into new areas of learning and growth.
  8. I have my favorite leaders who I study for clues and patterns of their success, and I teach or write about them as much as possible.

I am not suggesting that you do what I do, but if you don't know where or how to start, imitating some of my practices may not be a bad idea. The bottom line is, however, that growth must be an important value for you, or else you will coast through your leadership opportunities, relying on your power, title, or authority to get things done. All those will work in the short run, but none of them will help you grow and develop. Only concerted effort to do so will produce the necessary results, and that effort will need to be maintained for the rest of your life--if you want to be an effective leader and not simply one holding a title.


Leadership Is a Sacred Trust

Recently I was teaching on The Price of Leadership at a conference in South Africa, and much of the Screen Shot 2019-08-02 at 9.16.46 AMmaterial is from my book by the same title. There is some new material, however, that I have introduced while teaching this in Kenya and I realized I have never written about it. Therefore, I will share in five parts what I call my current understanding of leadership, starting with the first point this week.

  1. Leadership is a sacred trust.

The Lord expressed His dissatisfaction with the leaders of His people in Jeremiah, and His words indicate what He expects from His leaders:

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!”declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 23:1-4).

Let's examine what these verses tell us about the Lord's expectations for shepherds and leaders:

  1. Leaders are to gather the people, not be a source of division.
  2. Leaders are to care for the people, which means attend to their needs and carry affection for their condition.
  3. Leaders are to contribute to the welfare of their followers.
  4. The Lord considered their behavior not just irresponsible but evil.

And what is it that leaders are to facilitate in the lives of those who follow His leaders?

  1. The people are to be fruitful.
  2. Their fear and terror should be lessened.
  3. They are to be present and accounted for.

While the terminology of shepherd and sheep is more common in a church setting, it is clear that God holds al leaders to the same standards, whether they are politicians, business people, civic leaders, pastors, or parents. This is obvious because the prophets addressed the leaders of the nations around His people on God's behalf, and it was clear that God had appointed them and held them accountable.

The psalmist made it clear that no one is in leadership by their own will or ambition: "No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt themselves. It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another" (Psalm 75:6-7). That is why leadership is a sacred trust. God bestows the opportunity to lead but then judges every leader's performance, regardless of the field in which they lead.

Jesus was quite hard on the leaders of His day, who felt they were sufficient if not good leaders because they understood the Law and the things of God. They did not care for the people, and Jesus addressed them as the Lord had done through Jeremiah, expressing seven "woes" in Matthew 23:13-39. Here is just one of His seven woes: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to." Notice the similarity to what is in Jeremiah 23, which is a subtle indication that Jesus was not speaking on behalf of the prophets, but He was speaking to the leaders as God Himself.

The church has historically not done a good job of training and equipping leaders for growth and increase. The thinking is that once God promotes leaders, they will then somehow receive everything they need to be effective. That is a flawed concept and the church is paying the price of lost opportunities and scattered sheep, but the same is true for almost every area of human endeavor. People have "checked out" because the leaders have not done their job. In the next essay, we will look at the second point, which is related to this matter of leadership development.


Kenya Library Update

IMG_5919As you may know, I have been sending and taking books to Kenya for nine years now with the idea to start libraries in local communities. The idea to do this came years ago IMG_5920when I attended a book launch for my publisher in Kenya at the Serena Hotel. A cabinet level officer for education was at the event and made a simple request: "Our people are bored. Help us start libraries." I thought this suggestion was unusual for two reasons.

First, I had heard Kenyans were not that fond of reading. I had heard the derogatory but somewhat humorous saying that, "If you want to hide something from an African, put it in a book." Second, everyone else who was there that night was from IMG_5922Kenya. I was the only outsider, and I assumed if the Kenyans present were interested in libraries, they had had their whole lives to do something about their absence.

I decided to experiment and bring in some books during my subsequent visits, and the IMG_5923
interest in getting and reading them was intense among my friends. Then I started bringing suitcases of books when i came or brought others with me. Then we heard that people were shipping containers to Kenya with all kinds of supplies, and I hitched a ride, so to speak, in some of their containers to get even more books over. Finally, I started to fill and ship containers with nothing but books, used computers, and schools supplies to distribute to our partners.

IMG_5924During my last visit, I asked to go visit some of our libraries started by Pastor Peter Kihungi. We have two other libraries outside of Nairobi, but there are four IMG_5925started by Pastor Peter and these are the ones I am reporting on in this update. The first and biggest is in the village of Banana, about a 45-minute ride from Nairobi. There we have built a building to house our largest collection, and we now are equipped with Wifi so the youth can use the computers to access information online. The pictures of this library are pictured above (click on picture to enlarge it).

IMG_5941The second library is at the Kawaida Primary School close to Banana. This is a government school that is relatively new and shows progress every time I visit. The IMG_5942government built the school, but the community must supply and outfit it, so we gave some money for shelves a few years ago. As you can see in the pictures, the shelves are not sturdy enough and have sagged under the weight of the books. You can also see the use the books have had. Frederick, the headmaster, has asked for more books and another investment in shelves, which he promised would be built to handle a heavier load the next time.

IMG_5954The third library is in the village of Kikuyu, where there is an Anglican training IMG_5957center used for all types of educational endeavors. The day I visited there was a cooking school going on, and there are Bible classes and many other vocational offerings made available to the people. This library, like our other libraries, needs help with shelves, tables, and chairs. Many of the books they have cannot be put out permanently, so they are stored in boxes and brought out for special occasions.

IMG_5959The fourth library is located where Pastor Peter is currently pastoring at Christ the King Anglican Church in Ruaka, a growing area due to the recent opening of Two Rivers Mall, the largest mall in Africa, or so I am told. The church recently designated funds to build their own storage cabinets that lock, a significant investment IMG_5960that indicates they recognize the value of what they have for the youth of their community. They also established a nursery room with some of the books for the younger children, using a Disney theme, which is quite common in Kenya.

The need for our libraries is for shelving and library furniture. If you care to contribute, you can use my website to do so, or you can send a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221. If you know anyone or any organization that funds library projects, I know our libraries are worthy investments, and the resources will be put to good use with accountability for the results. If you have donated books over the years, thank you. I am not in the position right now to receive more books, but when I am, I will make the announcement. Right now, if you can help us care for the books we have sent by building shelves and tables, please give generously. Thank you and God bless you!


WEEP Update

In case you missed the announcement, PurposeQuest began partnering with the Women's Equal Education Project in April to provide sanitary products for young women so they can maintain good attendance in school. You can read more about the scope of WEEP's work in this update

Our good friend Belver Odhiambo, daughter of Pastor Francis, is our WEEP coordinator in Kenya who IMG-20180731-WA0049sent these two updates in June, along with pictures. Here is her latest report:

In the 21st century accessing sanitary towels is a necessity and no girl should stay at home during the 'rainy' days or maybe use rugs (yes, the young women use all kinds of substitutes if towels are not available). We say a big thank you to PurposeQuest for partnering with WEEP in making this need a reality by providing for at least 500 girls within Dagoretti Sub-county, Nairobi with  a packet of sanitary towels each month. 

Then here is her earlier report from May:

IMG-20180731-WA0009Sorry for the late update May was a month of many activities but we thank God for everything. We purchased 11 boxes and reached 489 girls altogether. The girls are in good health and are very grateful for the help that has now kept them in school, and they are able now to improve academically. We are also thankful for the big support and ongoing promise which will help the girls achieve their goals in life. Find attached receipts and photos of some girls 

You can partner with PurposeQuest as we support WEEP with $700 so they can purchase all the supplies they need to keep this important work going. You can give through our website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Thank you for your help, and thank you, Belver, for coordinating the WEEP work in Kenya. 

Still Need Your Help

After I posted last week that I needed money for my upcoming trip to Kenya. a generous donor called to IMG_8749 say they would match every dollar you give up to $3,000. What a blessing that is! The deadline to give is next Sunday night, May 19, because I depart the next day. You can give through my Facebook link if we are friends there, or you can give through my website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. 

What we raise from this campaign will empower me to conduct leadership training like I did in 2016 and 2018 (the church's leadership team is pictured here) and also support our other partners in the good work they are doing. It enables me to cover all my expenses as I go and that is a great relief. As I write, I have received $1,186 so if we are going to reach the $3,000 goal, I need your help. Please give today and make the investment to double your blessing through this matching grant. Thank you and God bless you!


I Need Your Help - Again

I am heading over to Kenya in two weeks to conduct some leadership training and to connect with our IMG-20190419-WA0004partners. My first visit will be to Bomet where I will conduct two more leadership two-day seminars, which will make my fifth and sixth seminars in the area. We usually have around 100 to 150 at each so that means we are approaching 1,000 leaders trained in the times I have been there. I am raising $3,000 for those events, which include a video projector, seminar notes, and books. You can give through my website for donations or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. You can also give through my Facebook page.

IMG_20170828_113411In the last several weeks, I have sent money for our little Mary, who is in her second year of secondary school, so she is not so little any more. Pastor Francis reports that she is doing well and her performance bodes well for her chances of going on to university. I also sent money for the Upako teachers, who attended a professional seminar over the Easter break. We are blessed to have teachers who serve the Dr. Stanko Academy on a full-time basis.

Pastor Peter wrote to announce that he opened his seventh area library recently. IMG_3483 Here is his report:

We are well on course to empower Kenya through Education and now we have our seventh library in Ruaka. It's a combination of kids' exclusive library, movie room, and larger library. Thanks for being a faithful partner along with all our supporters. May God bless you in abundance.

Pastor Peter

I sent $300 toward our library expenses.

IMG-20190501-WA0004Then we got this report from Belver concerning the WEEP Project that provides sanitary supplies for young women in various schools. April was the first month that PurposeQuest began supporting WEEP with $650 per month:

We successfully managed to distribute sanitary towels to 534 students in the month of April 2019. Thank you for stepping in, in such a time and may your cup never run dry. God bless! Kindly find some of the girls pictures and receipts attached. Belver
 
There were other requests and expenses that we met in April. I need your help not only for the monthly expenses but for my trip that commences on May 20. Thank You, Lord, for your faithful provision and thank you for your generous support. I look forward to hearing from you in the next two weeks.

Exciting News: Merger between PurposeQuest and WEEP

In 2015, my son, John III, visited Kenya and heard that many young ladies missed a week of school 52487901_10219188894017049_6532024947974340608_nevery month because they lacked the necessary sanitary products to accommodate their monthly needs. He found this situation unacceptable, so he began his own nonprofit organization named the Women's Equal Education Project (WEEP). He engaged a team of ladies in Kenya to assist and began sending money every month so the supplies could be purchased. The ladies then went into certain schools, conducted a training session (I include pictures of John III in the class as the WEEP team trains), the young ladies registered to receive product every month, and then they could be assured of their sanitary supplies. The result: young women were properly using appropriate sanitary products and could attend school every month without interruption. What a blessing.

The program started in St. Theresa Secondary School with 100 girls, no small beginning, and today services almost 300 young ladies every month in that school. In addition, the program has expanded to include the following schools with the number of young ladies registered following:

  • Riruta Satellite Secondary School - 60
  • Riruta Israel Primary School - 50
  • Kids Empowerment Primary School - 36
  • Bethany Primary School - 70
  • Zeal Covenant Primary School - 22
  • Light Christian Primary School - 38
52487905_10219195743988294_8696288148436549632_nThat's a total of 570 women every month who are provided their sanitary products, and 352 women have "graduated" from the program.  All this takes place for a cost of $650 every month.
 
After prayer and discussion, we felt it best if we merged WEEP's operation into my nonprofit, PurposeQuest International, so we could assure the team in Kenya that resources would continue to be available and that the program can and will grow as PurposeQuest's donors embrace this important project.
 
Therefore, as of April 1, 2019, PurposeQuest will officially become the ministry source for WEEP's ministry team in Kenya. 
 
I have agreed to send the team two $325 payments every month to continue their important work. Will 52638808_10219188894257055_6718129716315815936_n you help? You can make a contribution toward WEEP's work through the PurposeQuest website (just mark WEEP in the memo) or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. My thanks to John Stanko III and his team in Kenya for their vision and commitment to this ministry. It is touching hundreds of lives and making the difference between academic success and failure for many women. I am trusting the Lord and the PurposeQuest donors to help continue building on the foundation that has been established.
 
Over the years, schools have asked me many times to provide sanitary products and I have been able to help sporadically. This merger will allow me to help our partners more consistently. I am delighted to do what I can to assist the young women of Kenya, and I hope you share my enthusiasm and will support this program with your prayers and finances. Thank you and God bless you!

Be Careful Who You Tell

Old Testament Joseph had two dreams and immediately told his family, but they were not too happy to Confidanthear they would all be bowing down to him in the near future. Joseph's eagerness to share with those who would and could not understand God's choice of their brother and son as the family ruler cost him more than a decade of his life in Egypt as a slave and administrator before God brought the dreams to fruition.

Contrast Joseph with Mary, the mother of Jesus, who didn't have a dream but rather an angelic visitation followed by divine appointments with the shepherds and then Simeon and Anna in the Temple when she took Jesus there to be dedicated.

After Gabriel announced she was pregnant, Mary did not tell anyone as far as we know, except Elizabeth her cousin, who was also with child in her old age. Mary was wise enough to know not to share what God had revealed to her to anyone except a person who could understand, and that person was Elizabeth--who had her own experience with a miraculous conception. Joseph was not as wise and paid a price.

After her visit from the shepherds and to the Temple, we are told that "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19), and "then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:51).

The point is this: Be careful with whom you share your purpose and ideas for creative expressions. Not everyone is going to understand or be able to nurture and support the dreams and God ideas you have. Don't share them with just anyone unless you are looking for someone to talk you out of what you think you have heard. Then it should not be too hard to find people who will tell you "you're crazy" and who will remind you of your limitations and past failures.

Who is in your circle of confidants? People who will stimulate and challenge you to be more than you are today, or those who have a vested interest in you staying right where you are? The choice is yours and it may make the difference between years of wandering and days of living the life God has assigned you to live.

Choose wisely.


We Measure What We Value

I have written lately that we need to change the way we do church, which is the title of a book I am MeasurePicrevising to re-release this year. Part of the change is to stop measuring what we normally measure, which has been attendance and the offering total. I had an associate write and ask for clarification on this, and this is what I wrote him today:

*****

You had made a comment about more writing about what we should measure if not money and attendance. Here are today's thoughts from Seth Godin:

Don’t steal metrics

A thoughtful friend has a new project, and decided to integrate a podcast into it.

Talking to a producer, he said that his goal was to make it a “top 10 podcast on iTunes.”

Why is that the goal?

That’s a common goal, a popular goal, someone else’s goal.

The compromises necessary to make it that popular (in dumbing down the content, sensationalizing it, hunting down sort-of-famous guests and doing a ton of promo) all fly in the face of what the project is for.

It’s your project.

It’s worth finding your metrics.

A church will measure what is important to it, so the key is first to identify what is important and then find a way to measure it such as kids returning a second week after visiting once, number of "Amens" during a message (a form of feedback; the Cleveland Orchestra measures standing ovations), the number of givers instead of the offering amount, how many more people gave to missions this year over last year, etc. This is hard work, and sometimes almost impossible to measure, but we must try and then allow our metrics to shift and morph over time.

The old standard of behinds in the seats and dollars in the offering tells us something about what we value. When we change our values, God will then help us find ways to measure what is important to us instead of spinning results to convince ourselves things are not as bad as they really are. We need to change the way we do church!