Think Before You Ask

Startup Stock Photos

One of my greatest desires for Restoration City is that we would be known as a church that’s serious about developing leaders.  I pray often that God would give us the privilege of planting a church one day that’s pastored by someone who came to faith through Restoration City.  That means we need to be really effective in reaching the lost, making disciples and giving gifted people the freedom to lead.  It also means we need to create a culture where we’re regularly learning about leadership.

To that end, our staff team is currently working through Liz Wiseman’s incredible book, Multipliers.  It’s easily one of the most impactful books I’ve read over the last few years and I recommend all the time to people wanting to grow in their leadership.  The basic premise of the book is simple:  It’s better to be a genius maker than a genius.  The best leaders are the ones that tap into the genius of the people around them instead of relying on their own genius.  One of the implications of this idea is that as leaders, we all need to decide if we want to be the person with all of the answers or the person who develops other leaders.  You simply can’t have both.  Many of us think leadership development is nothing more than drilling our genius into other people’s heads.  Nope.  It’s about releasing the genius God has placed in others.

As good as that all sounds, it’s incredibly hard to do.  I know many leaders who think the only reason they have their job is that they know better than everyone else in the organization.  In that view of leadership, the organization exists to execute the genius of the leader but the leader has nothing to learn from the organization.  Two words of caution if that’s how you see yourself.  One, no one likes working for you and your best people will leave.  Ultimately, you’ll be left leading a talent free team that can’t think for themselves and that’s a recipe for disaster.  Two, decision fatigue will exhaust you and deteriorate the quality of your answers.  So, you end up leading a team blindly executing bad ideas.  You can figure out how that’s going to go, genius.

The real question is how we prevent ourselves from leading this way or make changes if we’re already leading this way.  Frankly, that’s what the book’s about, so you should read it!  But our team has latched onto one little anecdote and is working to ingrain it into our culture.  In chapter 6 of Multipliers, Wiseman tells a simple story from a summer internship with a management training company.  Her boss had asked her to edit a marketing brochure and next to one section she wrote “AWK” to indicate it was awkwardly phrased.  Her boss agreed but came charging back into her office and said, “Don’t ever give me an A-W-K without an F-I-X”.  He didn’t just want her to point out problems, he wanted her to think through solutions. As simple as that is, it’s an incredible leadership development moment.

We’ve tried to internalize that as a staff team with the following leadership plumline: Ask me anything, as long as you have a recommendation.  Or, if you would like a shortened version, “Think before you ask.”  It’s a plumline that helps us simultaneously pursue two goals: One, keep leaders engaged.  “Ask me anything” forces a leader to stay involved and accessible.  No one wins when we throw people into the deep end to sink or swim on their own.  Two, it forces team members to think through an issue and decide what they think they should do before bringing it to their leader.  You only get to ask the question if you have a suggestion.  We’re deliberately fighting back against the “hey, what do you want me to do?”  followed by, “Do x,y,z” interactions that dominate most workplace conversations.

That means as a leader I find myself using the following phrases more and more regularly:  Good question, what do you think?  I don’t know, what do you want to do?  If you had my job, what would you decide?  You’ve thought more about this than I have, where have you landed?  What do you think would best serve our leaders/people/mission?

When I answer my team’s questions with one of those questions I’m setting us up for one of three possible outcomes:

Outcome #1: Affirm their recommendation.  This is the best case scenario.  I basically get to say, “See you already knew what to do!  Next time, just do it.”  It’s a home run for your team  member’s morale and it gets one more decision off your desk.

Outcome #2:  Correct their recommendation.  This is the most valuable scenario.  As the leader, you need to understand why they arrived at the answer they did.  Once you understand that, you get to explain how you arrived at the answer you did and show how that solution better serves the organization. This is one of the most valuable forms of leadership development there is.

Outcome #3:  Change your mind.  If this isn’t an option on the table, don’t kid yourself, you aren’t really interested in developing leaders.  You’re just interested in being right.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming your answer is correct – the person you’re developing may well be right.  This is the invaluable scenario.  Nothing builds credibility with your team like being willing to learn from them.

You’ll know you’re getting the idea when you come to the conclusion that being a developer of other leaders is harder in the short run but far more beneficial in the long run.  It’s easy to spend all day enthroned behind your desk spouting answers.  But no one grows, you get depleted and the mission suffers.  Trade the easy way for the meaningful way and see what it does to your team, your organization and the leaders who work with you.

 

Be A Grown Up And Put The Phone Down

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I read an article in Bloomberg last week that stunned, convicted and challenged me greatly.  Researchers have found that middle aged Americans spend more time on social media than millennials.  In fact, 35-49 year olds spend an average of 7 hours per week on social media – that’s a little over 15 days per year!  It’s horrifying to me that people in the prime of their life (I say that as someone who sits right in the middle of that demographic!) are wasting this much time.  It’s coming at the expense of marriages, kids, careers and significance for Jesus.  It’s all so sad.

And all so familiar.

I’m not sitting in judgement of those people.  If anything, I’m aware of how much of myself I see in that statistic.  As I’ve searched my own heart, I’ve realized my social media obsession is driven by two primary factors:

We’re dissatisfied with our lives.

Truth be told, I think a lot of us are disappointed in ourselves.  Life doesn’t seem to be working out according to our plan.  We aren’t as extraordinary as we had hoped and are, in fact, struggling to keep up with the ordinary demands of life.  Ten years ago, we dreamed of being a CEO and now we’re just trying to pay the mortgage.  We wanted an amazing marriage and are learning to make peace with a domestic partnership.  We dreamed of significance but now we just dream of retirement.

And social media provides an incredible opportunity to avoid all of that.  Why deal with our own lives when we can look at someone else’s?  Plus, if we stay on social media long enough, we’ll find someone who makes us feel better about ourselves.  So much of our social media obsession is driven by a toxic combination of escapism and comparison.  All of the irate political banter, selfies, latte photos and vacation envy helps us avoid our situation.  But it’s a lot like getting drunk – it may distract us in the moment, but our problems only grow and our ability to deal with them only shrinks.

So, stop judging or envying others and get busy living your own life.  Deal with your problems.  Find your own joys.  Embrace your reality.

We’re unsatisfied in our souls.

The prophet Jeremiah had never heard of Twitter but God gave him tremendous insight into the human soul.  “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:12-13)  For many of us, social media is a broken cistern.  It isn’t holding water.  It’s leaking like crazy and our marriages, kids, careers and churches are suffering.  But we’re only trying to trap water because our souls are thirsty.

It’s not just that we’re looking for an excuse to avoid the laundry.  Our souls are crying out for relief – refusing to give up on the belief that we were made for more and demanding we find something to satisfy that thirst.  As a Christian, I know that thirst can only be satisfied in Jesus.  I know when I’m walking closely with Him, immersed in His Word and connected in prayer, I don’t care that much about Facebook.  But when I’m not abiding in Him, the thirst of my soul demands satisfaction and I’ll run to Instagram.  It’s so sad because living water is ours for the taking.  Our souls don’t have to thirst.  We just need to learn how to satisfy them.

So, what do we do about all of this?  Let me suggest one simple solution.  And, no, it’s not to get rid of all social media.  There’s plenty of good, inspiring content out there to be found.  It’s a small change born out of a realization I had in my own life – when my phone is in my hand, it’s like whiskey in the hand of an alcoholic, I’m almost powerless not to check it.  When it’s in my pocket, it’s not much better.  But when it’s in my bag or in a drawer in the kitchen, I don’t really care about it that much.

Just that little separation helps me resist the temptation to check out and actually stay present with Laura and the kids.  I can actually get work done.  I can actually go to the gym.  I can actually address the areas of my life I’m not satisfied with.  I can actually make progress, focus on God’s Word, find rest and end up much happier.  No doubt, God is doing a lot of work in my soul to deepen my satisfaction in Him.  But my contribution to that work is putting the stupid phone down and creating the space for him to work.

Leadership: Self or God Focused?

self-focused

It’s terrifyingly easy to be a leader with God focused words and a self focused heart.  We know the right things to say: we’re honored and humbled to play even a small part in God’s story; we’re just grateful for the chance to serve; He must increase, we must decrease; etc, etc…  But all too often those platitudes aren’t an expression of our heart.  If anything, they’re a false veneer carefully constructed to hide what we’re really feeling: when will I get the credit I deserve; why hasn’t God given me greater responsibility; why isn’t this easier; how come that joker’s church is growing faster than ours; why wasn’t I invited to speak at that event; etc, etc…  It’s an exhausting place to be.  I know because I’ve been there.

It’s a lonely place where burnout or moral collapse is lurking right around the corner.  But it’s also a place where God does some incredibly deep work in our souls.  It’s the place where we decide whether we’re going to be a God focused or a self-focused leader.  It’s the place where we learn the value of keeping our heart focused on God and shaped by the gospel.  It’s the place where we resolve not to spend the rest of our lives parroting someone else’s words but rather live out of the overflow of what God is doing in our own hearts.

Whenever I see myself sliding back into self-focused leadership, I think about Ezekiel.  He got a master class in God focused leadership early in his ministry.  Through him, we see what a God focused leader looks like:

 

 1. God Focused Leadership Starts With A Call From God

Ezekiel never had to wonder why he got into this whole leadership thing in the first place.  The answer was incredibly clear:

Ezekiel 1:3 – the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the Chebar canal, and the hand of the Lord was upon him there.

Do you have that kind of clarity?  That’s not just a question for pastors and elders but for Community Group leaders and ministry team leaders as well.  What got you started?  Did God prompt you to do this or did someone else talk you into it?  Were you following Jesus or just trying to make a name for yourself?  Were you more captivated by the gospel or the thrill of being in charge?

2. God Focused Leadership Is Sustained By Awe 

God focused leaders know the key to staying in the game is awe of God and His Word. We see both in Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 1:28(b) – Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Ezekiel 3:15 – And I came to the exiles at Tel-abib, who were dwelling by the Chebar canal, and I sat where they were dwelling. And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days.

Ezekiel wasn’t bored by God.  He was overwhelmed and on his face, sometimes literally.  God’s Word only intensified that awe:

Ezekiel 3:1-3 – And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.”  So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat.  And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.

Ezekiel 3:10 – Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears.

Leadership that isn’t sustained by awe is usually sustained by duty or desperation.  Duty says I don’t dare quit.  Desperation says I can’t possibly quit.  Maybe it’s a fear of letting people down.  Maybe it’s the fear of no longer getting a paycheck.  Maybe it’s the fear that no one will pay any attention to you if you aren’t leading.  Maybe leadership has become pure muscle memory – you don’t even know what you would do if you weren’t leading. None of that leads to ministry vitality or personal flourishing.

Keeping our hearts focused on God and shaped by the gospel is our highest priority as leaders.  It’s more important than the work we do, the roles we play or the responsibilities we have.  A neglected soul will be the biggest threat to your leadership.

3.  God Focused Leadership Endures Difficulty

Ezekiel’s ministry was not an unbroken string of pain-free success:

Ezekiel 2:5-6 – And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.

Ezekiel 3:7 – But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.

If Ezekiel had been driven by man’s approval, he would have quit early on.  If all he wanted to do was make a name for himself, he would have been out.  If he was in it until it got hard, he wouldn’t have even gotten started.  But he keeps going – staying obedience to God’s call on his life and sustained by awe.

In a world of self focused leaders, I’m praying God will raise up a new generation of God focused leaders in His church.  Leaders who will shape culture, lift communities and transform lives for the glory of Christ and the good of their cities. It’s possible.  We just need to stop focusing on ourselves and start focusing on God.

Personal Leadership Dashboard

dashboard

How healthy you are as a leader has a direct impact on the people you lead.  The better you’re doing, the better they’ll be doing.  Unfortunately, the reverse is true as well.  If you’re struggling, they will too.  That’s why you have a responsibility as a leader to take care of yourself.  Self care isn’t a frivolous luxury; it’s an absolute necessity.

In my experience, one of the greatest obstacles to this kind of self care is a lack of self awareness.  It’s not so much that we know we’re in trouble and won’t do anything to address the problem.  It’s much more that we’re in trouble and don’t even know it.  For many of us, life is a lot like driving a car with no dashboard warning lights – we won’t know there’s a problem under the hood until we’re broken down on the side of the road.  That’s a real problem for a leader because when we’re broken down by the side of the road, we take others with us.  So, we’ve got to come up with ways to gauge how we’re doing as leaders.  We need to see trouble before it leaves us on the side of the road.  We need a personal leadership dashboard.

Think of your personal leadership dashboard as a series of gauges that gives you a quick snapshot of how you’re doing.  When I talk about how you’re doing in this context, I’m not talking about metrics that gauge the health of your organization.  I’m talking about your overall sense of well being.  Personally, I’ve defined six gauges that show how I’m doing: mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially and relationally.  It’s quite possible you will come up with a different number of gauges or give them different labels.  That’s great!  The key is to make sure your gauges accomplish five goals:

  1.  FOCUS on factors that legitimately impact how you’re doing as a leader.  In other words, you’re acknowledging the things that do and should impact your overall sense of well-being.  If I’m emotionally burnt out, I’m in no position to bear any of my team’s burdens, so that belongs on the list.
  2. IGNORE factors that might but should not impact how you’re doing as a leader.  This is jut as critical – it’s consciously refusing to assess how you’re doing based on factors that aren’t legitimate or helpful.  For example, last Sunday’s attendance at Restoration City is not measured by any of my gauges.  Like every other pastor, I’m tempted to reduce how I’m doing to butts in the seats and dollars in the offering.  Gauges help me fight back against that.
  3. DETERMINE key questions that define each gauge.  For example, my financial gauge is defined by four key questions:  Am I systematically, cheerfully and sacrificially giving to the Lord’s work in response to the gospel?  Am I saving money each month to be used for future family goals?  Am I spending within the resources God has entrusted to me, avoiding debt?  Am I comfortable with how much financial margin we have in our lives right now?
  4. ASSESS quickly and accurately how I’m doing as a leader.  I want a quick readout (I use a 1-10 scale) with 2-3 bullet points that explain why I gave myself the score I did.  Even if I take the time to write it down, it usually takes less than 5 minutes but is amazingly helpful in anchoring the ambiguous “how are you doing” question in some very concrete answers.
  5. SHAPE decisions, responses and actions designed to address problem areas.  This is where the gospel enters the process for me as a Christian.  Gauges reveal heart issues and heart issues always have gospel solutions.   Think of it this way – a personal leadership dashboard shows you where you most need to apply the gospel in your life.

Once you use this dashboard often enough, it almost becomes instinctive.  When I’m having a bad day, I often find myself scanning my gauges to get a quick sense of what’s going on inside of me.  It’s amazingly helpful – I realize the world isn’t falling apart (something I would have no control over) but that I am feeling disconnected from my wife (something I know how to fix).

If you’ve never set up a personal leadership dashboard, I want to encourage you to carve out the space to think through your own gauges in a way that achieves the five goals listed above.  I also want to recommend this to you as a really easy leadership development tool to use with others.  It’s a great way to focus conversations on how a person is truly doing and then be able to discuss how the gospel speaks into those issues.

Social Media Rules

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Last week a friend asked a really honest question in response to a blog post I had written.  She wanted to know whether I thought social media has had an overall positive or negative impact on Christians and the church.  Most days, it seems hard to tell.  There’s so much good, inspiring content and there’s so much bad theology and narcissism.  There are posts that make us want God’s best for our lives and then there are online catfights between celebrity pastors.  There are bloggers trying to inspire and there are blogs that exist to criticize, tear down and divide.  It all feels like a real mixed bag.

As much as I understand where the question is coming from, I think we need to shift it a bit.  Asking whether or not social media has been good for Christianity is a lot like asking whether the printing press has been good or bad.  After all, the printing press made both the Bible and Mein Kampf available to the masses.  There are great books and worthless books, great tweets and worthless tweets.  Neither Facebook or magazines are inherently good or bad.  The real point is that social media is here to stay.  Sure, there will be specific platforms that come and go (remember mySpace and that one day everyone cared about Google circles?).  But humanity has found a new way to communicate and I don’t think we’re going to put it back in the box.

The real question is how to use social media well.  It’s in that spirit that I want to share the four verses that have shaped how I think about social media in my life.  Three of them apply to how I consume social media and one applies to how I contribute to social media:

Consume

  • “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil. 4:8)  This one just about says it all – I don’t waste time on junk that doesn’t add value to my life.  Political rants, cat videos and photos of your family vacation (if I don’t know you) are all out.  So is anything that stimulates comparison in my heart, whether it shows up in the form of pride (oh look, I really am better than you) or envy (I would just be happy if I had that).
  • “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;” (Ps. 101:3)  Yes, this is the theme verse for anyone fighting pornography.  But it also eliminates a lot of the silly chatter on our NewsFeed…not inherently evil, just worthless.
  • “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16)  It’s possible to waste a lot of time online…guessing you already knew that.  I often set a timer to pull me out of Facebook land after 5 minutes.

Contribute

  • “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thess. 5:11)  As a pastor and leader, I try to post with others in mind, not with a desire to show off, glorify myself or waste your time.  I don’t mind posting things that encourage us by shaking us out of our complacency but even that is done with the intent of building one another up.

I’m not perfect in following these rules (especially the one about not wasting time), so if you see me slip up, call me out!  But the more I try to follow these verses, the freer I feel.  I’m guessing they’d do the same thing for you.

 

Leaders Are Delegators

White Board

As we bring our “Live From Love” series to a close, we’re spending two weeks focusing on the life of the Old Testament King Josiah, the only man in the Scriptures described as loving “the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might.“(2 Kings 23:25)  This past Sunday we talked about how our love for God leads to a life of ongoing repentance.  In doing that, we skipped over some leadership development gold in 2 Kings 22:3-7 that I want to pick up on today.  You’ll see it pretty easily as you read the text:

In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam, the secretary, to the house of the Lord, saying, “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may count the money that has been brought into the house of the Lord, which the keepers of the threshold have collected from the people.  And let it be given into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the Lord, and let them give it to the workmen who are at the house of the Lord, repairing the house (that is, to the carpenters, and to the builders, and to the masons), and let them use it for buying timber and quarried stone to repair the house. But no accounting shall be asked from them for the money that is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly.”

Josiah is a master delegator.  He empowers a team to do what he could never do on his own.  He’s able to inspire a group of people to work together to accomplish a goal, which is foundational to effective leadership.  Perhaps this kind of delegation is expected when renovating a temple – no one can do that on their own!  But the reality is that we need to practice this kind of delegation frequently in our lives as leaders.  Think of all the things we do every week as a church: lead 10 different community groups, load in and load out production equipment, lead worship, preach a sermon, disciple kids, serve our community, administer an organization, reach college students in DC, etc, etc, etc…  I don’t think there’s one of us that really think we can do any one of those tasks on our own.  But all too often we find ourselves trying to do what we know is impossible – take on a massive project without anyone else’s help.  

If that’s you, then take a few minutes to consider the model Josiah gives us for effective delegation.  His delegation is anchored in four key principles:

Clear Vision

Josiah doesn’t leave it up to his team to decide what they’re going to accomplish.  He fills the vision vacuum – they’re going to repair the temple.  And He’s not just envisioning a minor facelift.  They’re going to have to buy timber and quarried stone to get this done.  He’s speaking into the aim and the scope of the project.  That’s what good leaders do.  Some leaders are so afraid of being called a micro-manager that they abdicate this part of the process.  That’s not leadership.  It’s the exact opposite.  It’s abdicating leadership to someone else who will fill the vision vacuum you’re perpetuating.

Adequate Resources

Some leaders thing it’s enough to walk into a meeting, drop a little vision bomb and then check out completely.  Not so fast there, little leader!  Maybe you and your team have worked together for so long that they can take your vision and run with it.  But you always need to stay engaged around the fundamental question of whether or not the team has the resources they need to execute the vision.  Josiah deploys money, senior aids and resources to the project.  He gives the team what they need to get the job done!  That seems so simple when we read it in the abstract but I can’t tell you how many times I see leaders set their people up for failure by casting some glorious vision that the team has no chance of achieving because they lack the resources (money, time, people, skills, training or tools) they need to get it done.  That’s not leadership.  That’s just frustrating people.

Freedom To Execute

As much as Josiah leans into the vision and resource conversation, he leans out of the strategy and tactics conversation.  He realizes that the carpenters, builders and masons know a heck of a lot more about renovating a temple than he does.  So, he does one of the hardest things for a leader to do.  He shuts his mouth and lets others take it from there.  He lets his team do the job he’s called them to do and he gets out of their way.  If you violate this principle, this is when people will call you a micro-manager.  To put it even more bluntly, this is when you prove that you aren’t really a leader.  You’re more of a taskmaster with a lot of assistants.  Trust me, you don’t want to go down that road.  You can’t possibly be an expert on every area of a project.  So, if you insist on calling all the shots, you’re insisting on an inferior result.

Trust

In a leadership move that must have driven his accounting department crazy, Josiah tells the workers not to worry about saving their receipts.  He trusts them to buy the right materials, in the right quantity to get the job done.  He trusts they aren’t going to take some home for their back patio.  He trusts that they aren’t going to be lining Uncle Al’s pockets with some kickbacks.  He gives them cash and tells them to get it done.

Granted, most of us aren’t going to go that far (and good stewardship requires some financial integrity) but don’t miss out on the significance of what Josiah is doing.  He’s looking for concrete ways to tell his guys that he trusts them.  Most leaders pay lip service to the idea of trusting their people.  Josiah knew he needed to find specific ways to communicate that trust.  In his case, that meant no receipts.  In ours it might mean allowing people to make decisions, be flexible in their work schedules, feel valued even when they make a mistake or not have us hovering over their shoulders every minute of the day.

Josiah shows us what it looks like for a leader to lean in at the right time and lean out at the right time.  He does it all to bring about a goal far beyond what he could do on his own.  That’s God’s call for all of us who are leaders.  Let’s follow Josiah’s example and be real delegators.

Leadership Lessons From Metro

Metro

Just a little over five months ago, Paul Wiedefeld became Metro’s new general manager, taking the reigns of a mass transit system in crisis.  Since then, he’s shut the whole system down for over 24 hours and announced a massive safety overhaul that will delay millions of people for months.  Along the way, he’s been subject to a fair amount of criticism and Facebook grumbling.  I get it.  It’s the 2nd busiest rapid transit system in the country with over 200 million trips taken per year.  Shutting the whole thing down messes up a lot of people’s days.

While I don’t know anything about how to run a mass transit system, I’m always looking to learn from other leaders.  From what I can tell, Wiedefeld has demonstrated four attributes of an effective leader:

Consistent With His Values

Before Wiedefeld even started at Metro, he sat down with the Washington Post for an interview and made his values and top priority clear, “I’m going to wake up every morning thinking about the safety of the system, and I’m going to go to bed every night thinking about the safety of the system.”  So, don’t be surprised when he’s willing to shut the whole thing down to get this right.  So many times leaders declare something a top priority but then allow a bunch of other factors distract them.  That kind of distraction blunts our effectiveness.

Realistic In His Assessments

It stands to reason that you can’t fix 30 years of neglect without some pain.  As logical as that is, there’s something in each of us that doesn’t want that to be the case.  We’re always looking for the quick and easy path to awesome results (get out of debt by Christmas, rock hard abs in 3 minutes a day, or whatever).  It just doesn’t work that way – big change takes hard work.  Every leader is tempted to sugar coat the truth in the name of placating people and avoiding pain.  But nothing ever gets better that way.

Courageous In His Decisions

Wiedefeld would have to be a total idiot to not realize that shutting the system down and the upcoming maintenance surge were going to be unpopular.  No doubt he knew the frustration that was about to get directed at him.  But he moved ahead anyways.  It’s a reminder that if we aren’t willing to make the tough call, we have no business calling ourselves leaders.  Leadership isn’t about doing what’s popular.  It’s about doing what’s right – even when that costs us something.

Transparent In His Communication

There’s amazing power in honesty.  As much as people may not like what they hear, they’ll recognize a straight shooter when they hear one.  And, more often than not, they’ll follow someone with the courage to tell them what’s really going on.  This should be so freeing for us as leaders – it means we don’t need to worry about spin.  It also means we had better avoid the traps of half truths, distortions or manipulations.  Just tell people the truth!

My point in writing this isn’t to weigh in on something I know nothing about – running a mass transit system.  But I do want to be a better leader in my context, the local church.  And I love drawing principles from other leaders in the hopes of upping my game.  Wherever you’re leading, I encourage you to do the same!