Character

Character word cloud

Maybe it’s because I had another birthday yesterday, or maybe it’s because that birthday was also Election Day.  Maybe it’s because I work with a school whose mission reads, in part, to “cherish character.”  But lately I’ve had character on the brain.

Character in leadership.

Character development.

Character habits.

Dr. King envisioned a day when Americans would be judged “solely by the content of their character.”  Our answer to that culturally is to try and not judge anybody at all.  That is, until the tide of public opinion breaks the dam of political correctness.  Or the electorate gets a belly full of whoever the incumbent is.  Or the arrogant, narcissistic preacher or politician or boss-person overestimates their awesomeness one time too many.

In spite of our fascination with techniques, charisma, methods, or technology, people of influence still have to deal with the Character Connection.

You have to deal with it when you look in the mirror, when nobody else is looking.

You have to deal with it when you’re on the pedestal, when everybody’s cheering.

You have to do it in the outhouse, when everybody’s jeering, or they have forgotten you.

In spite of our efforts to prove otherwise (and we’ve had some pretty spectacular efforts), character earns the politician the right to legislate and pontificate.  Character earns the right for the preacher to articulate truth. Character earns the business leader the right to profit in the marketplace of both money and ideas.

And a loss of character can undermine them all.

There are lots of ideas – good ideas – about what forms and sustains character when it comes to leadership. [click to continue…]

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Anchor

In a world that’s fall-down-drunk on the idea of self-everything I have some good news that may not come across as good news.

You have a keeper.

Not like keep-you-in-a-cage, though I’m quite sure that’s how some people would interpret it.

More like faithful protector, watcher, provider, attender.  And keeping for your Keeper is as natural as being human is for you.

The Lord  keeps all who love Him…( Ps 145:20a).

I love Psalm 145 because it contains a long list of the practical attributes of God, as His followers experience Him.  Things like gracious and merciful and righteous and sustaining, to name a few.  But here’s one I’ve never paid much attention to before now.  It is the Lord’s nature and faithful character to keep those who love Him. [click to continue…]

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Another semester has passed, and in the transition to summer school, I’ve been reminded again that some of the most powerful expressions of language often come from people who are just trying to get an A in a class.

I shared a collection of seven profound insights I gained from students here.  Today I thought I’d take another swipe at it.

Read these slowly.  Enjoy the insightful use of words and truths.  This is good stuff… Click here – you’ll be glad you did…

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There seems to be a for Dummies book for everything – over 1,600 titles and growing.  They must be doing something right.  For 20 years, Wiley has published “a reference for the rest of us” covering such far-ranging titles as running a bar, acne, Windows, and wikis.  There’s one for Christian prayer and yes, one for leadership.  The premise for each of the books is always the same:  keep it simple and clear, offer cheat sheets, keep it light-hearted, and give easy-to-comprehend “get in, get out” tips.

With all due respect, maybe it’s time for a different approach.  Maybe instead of presuming ignorance and moving up from there, somebody should presume that he or she is writing to geniuses.

They just may not know it yet.

Nowhere is that more real than in the area of leadership.  Often both leaders and non-leaders approach the subject as if becoming a leader is a power we gain to overcome weaknesses, information we gather to overcome ignorance, or favor we gather to overcome anonymity.

But what if you already had the power, the understanding, or the favor?  What if you’re already a leader, but just didn’t know it because nobody ever seems to recognize your unique genius?  What if you’re beating your head against the wall trying to get better in an area where you routinely stink it up – all the while ignoring or running from areas of your greatest power and influence?

Maybe it really is time for a different approach.  How about Leadership for Geniuses? [click to continue…]

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(From the forthcoming book, Coach Lightning)

(Note:  Anybody can be an influence to people sitting right in front of them.  But it takes a special kind of character to continue to shape lives you first touched 50 years ago.  The following is an excerpt about the way Morris Brown did that, and how his influence lives on to this day.  You can see other excerpts here and here.)

Benjamin Disraeli, the British statesman, once said, “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.”  That’s what you discover when you talk to the people whose lives were touched by Morris Brown.  You hear the language of wealthy people.  And they’ll tell you that Coach Brown was instrumental in revealing their riches to them.

One of the greatest contributions any leader, teacher, or friend can make in terms of influence is to “raise the bar” in the pursuit of excellence.  Morris did that time and time again.  Don Hunt calls him a “beacon in my heart and soul” to this day.  From the days of Little League baseball until today, Don says, Coach Brown’s life and actions remind him to strive to be the best person that he can be.

It’s interesting to note that in all the conversations or interviews about Coach Brown’s influence, nobody went to a chalkboard and started drawing the X’s and O’s of a football locker room.  Morris influenced players and students by first influencing them as people.  As he helped raise up a generation of excellent people, the on-field or on-court play took care of itself. [click to continue…]

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Who’s on First?

by Andy Wood on December 6, 2010

in Following Your Passion, LV Cycle

It’s a famous scene in the movie “City Slickers.”  Curley, the cowboy character played by Jack Palance, says to Billy Midlife-Crisis-Angst Crystal:

“You city folk, you worry about a lot of [stuff]…  You all come up here about the same age, same problems.  Spend about 50 weeks a year getting’ knots in your rope and then you think two weeks up here will untie ‘em for ya’.  And none of you get it.  Do you know what the secret of life is?”

“No, what?” says Crystal.

“This,” Curley says, holding up one finger.

“Your finger?”

“One thing.  Just one thing.  You stick to that and everything else don’t mean [nothing].”

“That’s great, but… what’s the one thing?”

“That’s what you gotta figure out.”

Tough times have a way of bringing out complicated questions.  Ever since Cain killed Abel, or Job’s friends made a “sympathy” visit, people have responded to adversity by haggling and hand-wringing over the deep, often-unanswerable questions in life.  Questions like, “Why is this happening to me?” or “Who’s responsible for that?”

During times like that, we all need somebody who can again bring us back to consciousness. [click to continue…]

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Maybe I’m weird (okay who said that?).  But this video fascinates me, and I can watch it over and over.

Maybe it’s the technology involved in capturing the motion.  Or…

Maybe it’s because it illustrates an important truth I learned years ago:

Q. – Squeeze an orange until something gives, and what comes out? 

A. – Orange juice.

Q. – Why does orange juice come out?

A. – Because orange juice is what’s inside.

Q. – So what comes out of you when you get squeezed?

A. – Whatever is inside.

The Squeeze.  Can you relate?  The truth is, sometimes the world or the devil or life-in-general comes calling, and there ain’t room enough in this here peel for the both of us.  Something’s gotta give. 

And out it comes… whatever is on the inside.

That’s why I just smile whenever I hear somebody blurt out something, then hurriedly say, “Oh… I didn’t mean to say that.”  [click to continue…]

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An interesting op-ed headline appeared in The Chicago Tribune a few days ago.  It read, “Govern like a leader, not a politician.”  The author, Mike Lawrence, proposed that the current financial mess in Illinois would only be solved by politicians who had the courage to do unpopular things (raise taxes, I presume) rather than trying to please people.

Oh… leadership.

Ooh… politics.

Can they ever really coexist? [click to continue…]

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A Hurt and An Altar

by Andy Wood on April 30, 2010

in Tense Truths

Yesterday I was talking to an old friend on the phone, and heard myself say something before I realized what I was saying.  (Does that ever happen to you, or am I just weird?) 

Before I tell you what I said, I guess I need to fill in some white space first.

A few days ago I had an experience that left me disappointed and hurt.  The details aren’t important; what is important is what happened in my heart as a result of it.  I will tell you that it was a church wound (one of the most difficult of all), and that I had similar initial feelings to other kinds of pain in my life.  I wanted to go into a cave and hide.  I was fearful of being hurt again.  I wanted to be angry and pout.

But almost immediately, I noticed another kind of result in my spirit.  I was sobered.  Humbled.  Unusually aware of the holiness, wisdom, and love of God.  Emotionally and mentally aware that God is no man, that I can fool, manipulate, or even impress Him.  Even more aware that neither I nor any man can despise the profound work of grace He has made in my life.

And regardless of how any of us behave, He still owns His church.  I can sit on my high horse or hide in my cave all I want, but at the end of the day, He is still God, and still expects me to reflect His character and power.  And He will even use busybodies, gossips, accusers and politickers in Church World to make His case.

Ouch.

I don’t know that I have ever been in a painful situation in which I was more aware of the awareness of God.  And if I may say so, even in the pain, I felt safe and loved.

Here is what I said to my friend, after I filled in some details:  [click to continue…]

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job-applicationSome of the rules have changed.

  • Time Magazine, in it’s provocative “Ten Ideas Changing the World Right Now,” reports that having a job is cool again.  Rather than regarding employment as a necessary evil to be escaped as soon as possible, jobs are now considered an asset.  (Nothing like losing something to recognize its worth, I guess).
  • Someone just told me about his father, who for eight years tried to make a go of his home-based business and now, in his 60s, realizes the need for an employer.  He’s finding it difficult.
  • My favorite job/career-hunting book, What Color is Your Parachute?, which has been updated annually since 1970, was back on the best-seller list in December.

So with the new demand for paying day-jobs and the shortening supply, I thought it might be helpful offer some strategies for improving your chances.  [click to continue…]

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