Conflict

Someone once asked General Norman Schwarzkopf the secret of his success. His reply was simple: “I never walk past a problem.”

That’s the difference between a leader and a politician. Between a leader and a poser. Between a leader and a follower. Between a leader and a talker.

Leaders – those who influence people to take massive action to accomplish a goal or mission – expect problems. But rather than moan about them or wring their hands over how complex they are – rather than kicking the can down the road with Band Aid fixes so a future generation can deal with the real issues – leaders approach problems with the expectation and commitment to solving them.

Anybody can point out problems.  Influencers – real leaders – produce solutions.  Better still, they challenge others on the team or in the organization to solve problems.  So how do you recognize a problem-solving leader or potential leader when you see one?  Here are five ways to tell – even if you’re looking in the mirror to find one. [click to continue…]

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mobbing

Have you ever fantasized about growing wings and flying away to escape the unending stress or tension?

Have you found yourself wishing recently that you could manage to make it through one day without hearing a barrage of angry or critical words or feeling like you must be the only one in the crowd who just doesn’t “get it” (whatever “it” is)?

Have you been avoiding trips to the doctor under the guise that no news is good news, even though you know you’re not as energetic as you used to be?

What’s your latest reminder that the next time the bell tolls – even randomly – your number may be up?

Have you been channel surfing lately for “I Love Lucy” or “Andy Griffith” reruns, just so your TV can remember what it’s like not to hear about another reason to be afraid or another example of urban violence?

Oh, and what’s the latest on the scandal? You know… the same ol’ same ol’ about the latest hero or public figure headed to court or the hall of public shame because they just weren’t who we thought they were?

Are you tired of being lied to by your so-called leaders and oppressed by those in charge?

Are you still reeling from the betrayal of a friend or bitter because someone you trusted and needed abused that trust?

Are you angry enough to hurt somebody yourself?  Do people keep asking you what’s the matter and you keep pretending you’re just tired or something stupid like that?

What if I were to tell you that everything I just described didn’t come from CNN or Fox News, but from an ancient poem – a psalm from the Bible?  (Well, there are no “I Love Lucy” or “Andy Griffith” reruns or TVs in the Bible, but pretty much everything else is there.) [click to continue…]

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Emilie was jealous. Eyes open, staring at the dark ceiling night after night, jealous.

And the focus? Her husband, Chris.

She was jealous of how he could carry an enormous load of stress from his work, simply say a prayer or two at bedtime, and effortlessly fall asleep.

Chris was actually 19th-century pastor Christoph Blumhardt.

One night Emilie couldn’t take it anymore, so she pleaded with her husband, “Tell me your secret!”

He replied: “Is God so powerless that my worrying would help the well-being of our parish?”

Then he added, “There comes a moment each day when we must simply drop what weighs on us and hand it over to God.”

That’s what Paul meant when he encouraged his friends in Philippi:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Stop, drop and roll, friends. That’s how to put out the fire when you’re burning. [click to continue…]

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Portrait of Invisible man in the hood isolated on black

Then there was that time I burned a hole in the back of my bathrobe.

Fortunately, I wasn’t wearing it at the time.

For reasons I can’t remember, but that made perfectly good sense back then, I was up in the middle of the night and trying to read.  For some reason the light wasn’t quite right, so I threw my robe over the lampshade.

A few minutes later I was interrupted by the unmistakable fragrance of stupid. [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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You can’t.

You can walk it out.  You can stand there and look humble while people tell you that you’ve got it.  You can make corrections when you stand convicted of the need for some changes.  You can use it to plead with God or The Man (whoever that is) for justice or a raise or something.  You can even dare to mention it when you run for political office.

But you are not equipped to be the architect or builder of an integrated life – yours or anybody else’s.

This is no self-improvement process, friends.  You can’t build integrity into your life by getting more information, imitating somebody else, or rigidly keeping a code of conduct. You can’t get it with an extreme makeover, a friendly takeover, or a cosmetic rake-over.

Integrity is an inside job.  It’s the result of a transformational process that takes your dis-integrated self and changes you through and through by a power that is not your own.

That said, just as an office building is designed and constructed according to a set pattern, so your Master Designer and Builder follows a blueprint for building wholeness in you.  And while you don’t have the power to do this yourself, your faith and submission to His work can help speed the process.

Each of these stages builds on the other, and I believe the order matters.  And yet, these are all lifetime pursuits that we’ll never perfectly achieve this side of heaven.  Designing and building a life of integrity involves: [click to continue…]

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I know I’m not supposed to worry.

But…

I know I should have more faith in God.

But…

I know this should be an easy, clear decision.

But…

I want to pursue this direction.

But…

I long ago lost count of the number of times a counseling or coaching encounter started there.  Here’s what I know.  Here’s what I should be.  Here’s what I want.

But…

These are the starting points of conversations about something we all encounter – core conflicts. [click to continue…]

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(Subtitle 1:  Nine signs of an integrated life)

(Subtitle 2:  Nine things to look for in a prospective leader)

(Subtitle 3:  Why you love your representative but hate Congress)

Year in and year out, it’s the number one answer to what people want in their leaders, regardless of the arena.  It’s more important than technical competence, talent, or even being nice.  “It” is integrity.

In election years integrity is rolled out as the reason you should hire Candidate A over Candidate B.  And yet who hasn’t shuddered at the extremes to which people in the high-profile political, business or ministry realm are examined for any cracks in their moral foundation or skeletons in their closets?

Hardly a season passes where we aren’t wagging our heads at another icon of power being exposed; Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino is the latest, but hardly the last.  Soon we’ll be hearing some new cautionary tale about how someone laden with talent and brains lost their moral compass in the magnetic field of leadership power.

Hey, I get it.  Both sides of it.  I understand why integrity is so vital from a follower’s perspective, and so elusive from a leader’s perspective.  I’ve also learned the hard way how difficult it can be to restore once you’ve lost it.

But it’s important to go beyond buzzwords and stop crowing about hypocrisy.  When we’re talking about integrity, what, exactly, are we looking for?  When you are about to select a leader in the making, what evidence are you looking for that he or she is a person of integrity?  Or when your integrity has, um, “hit the ditch” (sorry, Coach), where do you start rebuilding it?

Here’s a place to start.  Here are nine signs of an integrated life. No one lives this perfectly.  But people who value integrity in their lives and leadership will be pointed in this direction: [click to continue…]

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The call or opportunity to lead is a call or opportunity for conflict.  I doubt if I’m the first to tell you that, but if so, well, sorry.  That’s certainly true on an interpersonal or team level.   It’s also true organization-wide.  Whether you’re leading a church or a business, a nonprofit or an institution, a state or a nation, the bigger they are, the harder they brawl.  Or squall.

If your goal is to avoid conflict at all costs, let somebody else take the leadership roles, because what you’re saying is that you don’t want to influence anybody.

Assuming you’re still reading, let’s assume that the idea of conflict hasn’t scared you off – at least not yet.  I have good news.  Some of the greatest demonstrations of leadership in history took place when someone rose to face the challenge of seemingly impossible conflicts.  So if your organization is facing competing values and visions, wise leadership can help make it stronger and more successful than ever.  If it’s true that conflict is the moment of truth in any relationship (and I think it is), then the way you lead your organization to face those conflicts sets the course of the organization, sometimes for years.

It’s important to remember that the people in your organization have brains, hearts, and feelings, just as you do.  Resistance to your or the organization’s direction is a way of saying you haven’t communicated the vision clearly.  Or maybe you haven’t anticipated their objections or their priorities.  Maybe you have yet to earn the trust of the people.  Or maybe they are insecure in the roles in which you are asking them to perform.

Here are five ways to work with – not against – the members of your organization to turn conflicts into jumping off points. [click to continue…]

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Have you ever been in a situation where somebody hated you just for showing up?  Maybe you did something really stupid or offensive.  Maybe they hate everybody who shows up.  Maybe they’re picking up somebody else’s offense or acting out long-held prejudices.  Regardless of what set it off, the bottom line is, they don’t like you.

And what’s not to like, right?

Everybody with any intelligence can see how awesome you are.  And yet some arrogant bozo (or bozette) won’t give you the time of day.  Or worse, is outwardly hostile.

What do you do?

Do you out-hostile them?  Or practice your own version of the Cold War?

Do you fire up your iPod with your favorite Willie Whiner and His All-Reject Orchestra tunes and have a pity party?

Do you ask God to whup ‘em or smite ‘em?

Or do you use this as an occasion to facilitate growth, understanding, renewal, and – dare I say it? – respect and friendship? [click to continue…]

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