The Need for Speed

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” –Deut. 31:7-9

When Jim Collins wrote his seminal work on what makes a good company great, he stumbled upon a key ingredient: having a Level 5 leader at the helm. He describes a Level 5 leader as someone who possesses both humility and professional will or courage. There was also a recent article in Harvard Business Review that said that great leaders have to be fast in their decision-making, particularly when they know the right thing to do.

So how do these two ideas connect?

One of the ways to increase speed is through demonstrated personal courage. What often slows decision-making down is a desire to not “ruffle any feathers” or to give “more grace” to people or more time to business units that are not performing. It’s being slow in making the decisions you know are the right ones, but delaying them because the consequences feel risky. The worst thing a leader can do is to hope that the wrong road, wrong strategy or wrong person will somehow lead to the right one. Confidence in the right road and strategy will allow clarity on tough decisions and therefore, can be made with less hesitation.

Why do you think Joshua was told to “be strong and courageous”? We read the passage above and gloss over the fact that Joshua was responsible for dividing the land among the tribes. It seems like this act would be fraught with conflict and tribal leaders jockeying for position to get the biggest and most fertile territories.

So how do we, as leaders, demonstrate personal courage in the face of a difficult decision or a potential conflict?

  1. Don’t allow lag time. Once you know something needs to be done, don’t allow unnecessary time between the decision and the action that needs to occur. Leaders often allow too much time between knowing and doing which does not benefit the people involved or the future of the organization.
  2. Start with the end in mind. Ask yourself: “Where are we headed, how are we going to get there and how does this decision affect that outcome?”
  3. Prepare for the conversation. Prior to discussion, reflect on how the decision was made, who was consulted, what process was used and what other options were considered
  4. Be direct, yet compassionate. Make sure that your non-verbal cues aren’t different from what you are saying. In addition, share the decision in a fact-based and clear manner so there is no confusion. Explain why the decision is in the best interest of the company while showing care and compassion for the impact it will have on those affected.
  5. Explain how the decision was made. It’s important to share the process that was followed, the people consulted and the steps taken to reach the final decision.
  6. Allow for feedback. Make sure people have an opportunity to share concerns and feelings, but also make it clear that the decision is not open to debate.
  7. Focus on the future. Reiterate how the decision will position the organization for greater health and growth moving forward.

Level 5 leaders resemble Joshua who knew the direction and strategy while having the conviction and courage to act quickly. Describe what holds you back from this kind of decision-making?

Two Leadership Lessons I Wish I’d Known

I was asked to talk to a local high school class about leading a business.  Great kids, who were quite attentive (or just may have been glad to not have homework). Leading…hmm…what did I not know back in my high school days?  What did I assume it took?  And as I thought about it, what do my employees think it takes?  What ideas am I intentionally, or unintentionally, communicating about what it takes to succeed at our company?

So I started our time by asking the class - what do you think it takes to succeed in business?  As you might imagine, they listed all sorts of things – intelligence, luck, skill, creativity, who you know, money, good looks (obviously, they weren’t talking about me), power, etc.

I then asked them how things got done in a business – “By hard work,” they said.  “Through planning, by getting the right people together….”   They all quickly came to one conclusion – through people.

How interesting…the first list included a lot, but not people.  And then the realization that people are what makes it all work.

Lesson One I Didn’t Know – People are the thing that makes our business grow.

“So,” I now asked, “how do you lead people?  What is leadership?”  They had all sorts of definitions, but we talked further about two we’ve all heard before:  leadership is influence (Maxwell) and leadership is getting things done through others (various).

Given that, who has influenced you the most?  How did that happen?  The names that came to mind included coaches, teachers, grandparents, parents, friends.  OK – then tell me what you thought about them.  What was it about them that you chose to follow them in those moments?

The thoughts came quickly as I wrote them on the board…“Respect (for me), they listened, he was patient, she cared, they stuck by me when it was hard, he explained things to me, she didn’t get mad when she should have, they forgave…”

Looking at the list, themes came through.  Patient, kind, self-control, humility…  Is that the kind of leader you want to be?  “Yes” was the resounding answer.

Since it was a Christian school, two scripture passages came to the forefront – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and Galatians 6:22-23.  You might want to look them up if its been awhile.   I’ve since learned also of a book call “The Servant” by James Hunter - a great business fable that covers this second lesson.

Lesson Two I Didn’t Know – Lead by loving your employees.

Love people to lead.  Serve.  Go figure.  I wish I’d learned that earlier, and am so glad I know it now.  You?

Changing the Landscape

Recently driving to our family vacation in Colorado I was struck by a virtual sea of wind turbines that dotted the horizon for miles along the panhandle highways of Texas. Having grown up in Texas it occurred to me how much these three armed giants have changed our landscape! Traveling these highways as a boy we saw an occasion tumbleweed, some grazing cattle and a lot of nothing! What struck me as I marveled at the spinning rotors was the thought, isn’t that what we are called to do as Christian Leaders and that is to change the landscape? What was even more remarkable was that a cost of over $1,000,000 each, how many of them stood idol, not really doing what they were made for.

As Christian leaders we understand the ultimate price that Christ paid on the cross and that cannot be measured in dollars. Our calling is to make a difference in the market place, to make a difference….and change the landscape! Are you up to the call? How do you measure up?

As the parallels continued I thought about what these turbines are designed for and that is providing power to millions of households and business throughout the land. As Christian Leaders we are called to not only share the saving power of Jesus but be transformed!

Romans 12:2 NIV says….Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is ---his good, pleasing and perfect will.

So the question is, how are you changing the landscape? Are you empowered by the Holy Spirit and how is that power impacting your leadership? Here are 10 simple reminders:

  1. Share your vision
  2. Live your values
  3. Lead with compassion
  4. Do what right for your people
  5. Serve others
  6. Lead by example
  7. Develop others
  8. Invest in yourself
  9. Be Salt & Light
  10. Pray daily for your team

Keep in mind on a wind turbine that the rotors spin to produce the power. In your life your three sources of power are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirt. May you lead in that power every day!

Building Passport

I have dozens of passports, and I need to renew them constantly. No, I’m not James Bond or Jason Bourne. I don’t fly from country to country using alternative identities to evade the NSA, CIA, or MI6.

I just love people. I enjoy meeting, understanding, encouraging, and working with them. And for that I need a lot of passports.

One for my wife, two for my children, over thirty for my relatives and close friends, and dozens more for coworkers, clients, and the other people I engage every week.

A passport is an authorization to go someplace you have no inherent right to be. In relational terms, it is the permission that people give to others to enter into their lives, to learn their secrets, to know their struggles, to offer advice and correction.

If you want others to allow you into their lives—including your employees and customers—you must earn a relational passport from each person you engage. The best way to do so is to relate to others in such a way that they would answer “yes” to three key questions, each of which encompasses a variety of sub-questions that roll around in people’s minds when they are thinking of opening up to you:

  • Can I trust you? Will you keep your word and follow through on your commitments? Will you guard confidential information? Will you continue to respect and value me if I allow you to see my mistakes? Can I trust you with the “fine china” of my life?
  • Do you really care about me? Will you look out for my interests as well as your own? Will you take time to listen to me? Do you sincerely want to serve me? Why? Do you care enough to push past my outer defenses and patiently help me sort out things I myself don’t yet understand?
  • Can you actually help me? Are you able to deal with my concerns and needs? How are you doing with your own challenges and struggles? What kind of experience do you have? Do you have a track record of successfully solving relational and business problems? If this problem is beyond the two of us, do you have the humility and wisdom to help me find another person who has the experience I need?

Let these questions echo in the back of your mind as you relate to others. Ask God to enable you to answer them by engaging others with his humility, patience, compassion, kindness, gentleness, forgiveness, honesty, and wisdom (Col. 3:12; James 3:17). If you do so, you’ll be well on your way to having more passports than you ever dreamed.

Ken Sande is the founder of Peacemaker Ministries and Relational Wisdom 360 and the author of numerous books on biblical conflict resolution, including The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict.