Ever have a conversation like this?

Whatever happened to ________? I really thought he was going places.

Not sure.  Ever since [insert a distracting or demoralizing event] he never was quite the same.

I’ve witnessed countless scenarios like that one. I even lived out a few of them.

The idea of leadership is that you’re influencing people, formally or informally, to move together toward a certain goal.  If it were easy, anybody could do it.  But because you’re dealing with people, and because leadership often involves matters of the heart, it’s easy to find yourself sucked into leadership quicksand.

At best, it’s a distraction and you lose focus.

At worst, it can paralyze and ultimately destroy your influence.

Here are 10 sloughs to avoid (or get out of today) to allow your leadership to see another day: [click to continue…]

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stained glass 2

How was church today?

That’s a pretty common question in my family.  With four households all involved in some sort of ministry, all living and attending four different worship venues, it’s not unusual for me to ask.

But it’s also important for me to remember that I’m asking a consumer question.

I’m basically asking somebody in my family to evaluate their experience.  To interpret an event.  Yes, to tell me what they got out of it or whether they liked the goings-on down at the church house.

Is that wrong?  Not necessarily.  But it’s a pitifully limited – and limiting – question. [click to continue…]

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Photo by Michelle Newell Photography, Lynnwood and Seattle, WA

(Photo by Michelle Newell Photography, Lynnwood and Seattle, WA)


In a world where fame is measured in 15-minute increments, life declarations come in 140 characters or less, and you literally have nine seconds to capture somebody’s attention, it’s easy to assume you’re nothing special.

When it feels as though you’re in a rat race and the rats are winning, where your value is measured by your performance or the approval of others and neither is all that remarkable, it’s easy to get lost in the ordinariness of just blending in.

When life sometimes feels like that whac-a-mole game, where those who dare to appear above ground get pounded back to their place, it’s tempting just to hide what light you may have so nobody else will see it.

But those are the times – when life is a liar – those are the times to stand on the truth and receive again the message of grace.  Those are the times to believe again that you are the object of God’s delight. [click to continue…]

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Overwhelmed Problem Solver

Then there was that time Jethro stopped by.

Not Jethro Gibbs or Jethro Bodine.  Jethro the daddy-in-law.

Moses and his father-in-law had a strange and wonderful relationship.  Moses the young fugitive had whupped up on some bullies and given help to Jethro’s seven sheepherding daughters.  Moses wound up with a job and one of Jethro’s daughters as a wife.  Then while Moses was off delivering the Israelites from slavery at the hand of God, Jethro kept the wife and kids safe and sound back in Midian.

Jethro was, in effect, the father Moses never had.

Now, after the exodus and taking three million of his closest friends with him to the Promised land, Moses gets word that Jethro is on the way, with Moses’ household in tow.  It was a sweet reunion, and you can read all about it in Exodus 18.

This was more than a family visit.  Jethro had heard all the reports of what God had done.  Jethro was a man of God himself.  He wanted to see first-hand what a people so delivered and provided for by God looked like.  What he got was a sort of Jekyll-and-Hyde experience.  [click to continue…]

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leadership failure

Nobody who takes on a leadership role sets out to blow it.  I’ve never heard of a CEO who dreamed of halving his market share, a pastor who fantasized about getting the right foot of fellowship, or a government leader who longs to go from hero to zero.

But leadership failure happens.  Often. And while it can happen quickly at times, usually there are warning signs.  Unfortunately, most of the time we wait for hindsight to convince us of what foresight and insight have probably been hollering all along.

If you’re a leader, or have the ear of one, you may want to pay attention to these seven warning signals before it’s too late. [click to continue…]

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Leadership TestIn his profile of University of Alabama quarterback A. J. McCarron, John Wertheim describes a scene that took place when the record-setting quarterback first arrived and joined the team as an 18-year-old freshman.

At his first intrasquad scrimmage McCarron was grouped with walk-ons, facing the defensive starters.  He was sacked early and often, and wasn’t happy about it. He didn’t even remove his cleats before marching into Coach Nick Saban’s office afterward.

“I need to talk to you,” he snapped.

“O.K.,” said Saban.

“You want me to show you what I can do, how I can play? Well, I can’t do s— when you put me with walk-ons who can’t even block. I don’t understand why you don’t put me with the [starters].”

“Why? Because today we were testing your leadership,” Saban said, barely looking up. “And you failed. Miserably.”

Life is filled with little tests (and big ones), and they aren’t always what they seem. Tests of faith. Tests of skill or knowledge. Tests of character.  Tests of performance. And yes, tests of leadership.

Most of these tests reveal themselves in the rearview mirror, not in the windshield. It’s only after the fact that we can truly see them for what they are.  What we can do, however, is use hindsight to identify when others faced tests of leadership and learn from their successes or “miserable failures.”  Here are five ways to recognize when your leadership was being tested: [click to continue…]

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Flying moneyEver try one of those teachable moments with your kids that gets turned back on you? As in, Who’s teaching whom?

Twenty or so years ago, we were living in West Alabama and I took Cassie, about age 9, to the local shopping center (translation: Walmart).  It was just before Easter.  We didn’t find whatever it was we were looking for, so we left past the customer service counter.

“Daddy,” she whispered.  “Look… those people are poor!

I looked.

“Those people” were a middle-aged married couple, standing at the customer service desk. They were very humbly dressed, to be sure. And they had all the individual parts to make their own Easter baskets – apparently not able to afford the prepackaged wonders that were for sale in the back.

Ah, Fatherhood! The opportunities we have to engage with our children at teachable moments to give them perspective, wisdom, and character.  This was certainly one of them, and a donned my SuperDad cape. [click to continue…]

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CriticOnce there lived a hard-to please husband whose wife was determined to try her best to satisfy him, if just for one day.

“Darling,” she asked that morning, “What would you like for breakfast? “

He growled, “Coffee and toast, grits and sausage, and two eggs ‑ one scrambled and one fried.”

She soon had the food on the table and waited for a word of praise.  After a quick glance, he exclaimed, “Well, if you didn’t scramble the wrong egg!”

Now that’s hard to please!

Of course, critics are nothing new. As long as people have aspired to rise above the level of the mediocre masses there have been people who attacked their motives for doing so.

As long as people have exhibited qualities of leadership there have been those in positions of power who used verbal attacks, “coaching,” and “constructive criticism” to “keep them in their place” and maintain control.

As long as somebody has offered to try to make something better by (gasp!) changing some things, there have been gossips and fish heads who questioned their right to be there, or anywhere for that matter.

Other than politics, nowhere will you find more criticism than the kind that’s hurled around in the name of God or religion. And if that describes you, I have a message for you:  God just called and He wants His name back. [click to continue…]

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Water CrownEver see something funny that wasn’t intended to be? When language could be interpreted a bit differently than its original meaning?

Example:  One day when the kids were still at home we were on the way to school and passed a local hotel. In their attempt to be friendly to an industry meeting there, they posted this message on the marquee:  Welcome Pest Control.

Yeah, that’s probably not what you want to see when you’re checking in.

More to-date, once a year I teach a strategic planning class for Crown College – a fine Christian school in Minnesota. Like most schools, Crown has an online system for maintaining accounts, library access, classes and the like. In their case, it’s called “”

A few months ago, Jeff, the IT guru there, sent notice that the system was having some technical problems.  The message:  My.Crown is Down.

Go ahead, call me weird. But put in a different context, I just thought that was sorta funny, in a Dr. Seuss kind of way. [click to continue…]

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American 1Of all the nations who have drawn some borders and set up shop, perhaps none has a shorter and more mixed (some would say mixed up) pedigree than the United States.  If the planet was populated by nothing but dogs, we’d be the mixed breeds – the hardy, loveable mutts who may not be able to point to a long pedigree, but will probably live the longest, love the hardest, and fight the fiercest of anybody in the pound.

To be an American is to be a delightful, maddening mix of contributions and contradictions, possibilities and problems.  We’re a living demonstration of what can happen when you let “the help” run the kingdom.

To be an American is to believe in the power of the people.  Your people, that is.  It is to believe that authority resides in the will of the majority, even though at any given time the Commander-in-Chief was elected by less than 21% of the population. Or if that doesn’t work, maybe power can reside in the rulings of some Federal judge who can see things your way until the majority gets with the program. [click to continue…]

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