As I’m sure many of you did, I watched MTV’s Video Music Awards aka #VMAs2013. As there is from all of the awards shows, there was a lot to learn from the video music awards. Culture, Agenda, Style, Pushing The Limits, Trying Too Hard, History, Generational Gaps, Class, The Fact That Justin Timberlake is Timeless and the list goes on and on.
One of the more astonishing things to watch from the 2013 VMA’s was the performance of Miley Cyrus. It wasn’t just the fact that the performance was weird, ridiculous, unnecessary and that it made you feel sorry for Miley.
The performance for me made me really pause and think for a moment. It made me ask some questions and really think about Miley and what’s going on in and around her. Questions like: What is she thinking? Why is she thinking it? Is she oblivious to what’s going on around her?
After her performance I sent this simple tweet:
“That awkward moment when everyone can see the train wreck coming except for the one driving the train. – Miley Cyrus”
That tweet was retweeted countless times as it resonated with many people who saw the performance and felt the same way that I did.
One thing that I always try to do is draw leadership and life parallels to almost any and everything. As I was watching Miley it made me think about “Why So Many Leaders Are Like Miley Cyrus.” Here is the deal, I don’t hold Miley totally responsible for the train wreck road that she’s going down, I blame those around her and those closest to her. Those closest to her and those she is choosing to listen to are the ones saying, “Be yourself Miley, it’s okay, don’t listen to the haters or they are choosing to remain silent to the Miley train that is screeching down the tracks of destruction.”
I see this same scenario with leaders all the time. Although they may not be running around with a teddy bear onesie, horned pig tails, half naked, with a posse wearing teddy bear backpacks; however they are making poor decisions and creating destructive cultures. Even more problematic, those closest to the leader and those at the highest levels in the organization are often cheering on the negative leadership behavior or standing on the sidelines remaining silent to the leadership train screeching down the road of destruction.
Every leader and high profile person always has an inner circle that will either help keep them accountable or sit and watch their train come completely off the tracks. “Yes Men and Yes Women” are never the answer… Choose your inner circle wisely.
There are many attributes that leaders from all facets possess. A number of these attributes are positive and unfortunately some not so positive. Organizations, teams and people in general are always searching for desirable attributes in leaders they want to work for. Not only leaders they want to work for, but leaders who inspire them to work harder and faster all while developing their personal leadership.
The types of leaders that inspire and produce greatness all around them are always highly sought after; however the are often hard to find. A few key indicators that an organization, team or department is led by one of these great leaders is the the fact that they generally have a positive, healthy and productive work environment with minimal turnover.
If we take it a step further and look beyond these key indicators, we can generally find that these great leaders can be identified by a set of inherent characteristics. I have broken these inherent characters into 11 key attributes.
11 Key Attributes Of Great Leaders
- 1. Honesty – Tell the truth; even if lying is easier — tell the truth. || “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” ~Thomas Jefferson
- 2. Integrity – Do what’s right; even if nobody is watching — do what’s right. || “There are seven things that will destroy us: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Religion without sacrifice; Politics without principle; Science without humanity; Business without ethics.” ~Mahatma Gandhi and I will add an 8th “Leadership without integrity.”
- 3. Visionary – Have some vision for where you’re going; empower your team to get you there and if you don’t do anything else — have some vision for where you are going. || “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” ~Thomas Jefferson
- 4. Self Awareness – Know who you are; the good, the bad and the ugly, know who you are. || “He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.” ~Lao Tzu
- 5. Risk Taker – Be willing to try new things, new strategies and embrace new ideas; even if the ideas aren’t yours — be willing to try new things, new strategies and embrace new ideas. || “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ~Harold R. McAlindon
- 6. Caring – Truly care about those you lead; people can care less about how much you know until they know how much you care — truly care about those you lead. || Great leadership is always less about the “leader” and more about the “ship” ~Scott Williams
- 7. Stand For Something – Lead by convictions; know why you do what you do and why you think what you think — lead by convictions. || “You must stick to your conviction, but be ready to abandon your assumptions.” ~Denis Waitley
- 8. Spirit Of Development – Develop other leaders; without leadership development, the pipeline of leadership is halted — develop other leaders. || “My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.” ~Jack Welch
- 9. Good Listener – Be willing to listen; if you’re always talking, there is a good chance you are not listening — be willing to listen. || “To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation” ~Chinese Proverb
- 10. Lifetime Leaner – Learn from anything and everything; no matter how many degrees or titles you have, you always have the capacity to learn — learn from anything and everything. || “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” ~John F. Kennedy
- 11. Humility – Stay level-headed and don’t think that you’re better than others; no matter how much success, praise or fortune you receive, stay level-headed and don’t think that you’re better than others. || “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.” ~St. Augustine
What do you think about these 11 attributes? Share your thoughts and experiences.
Leadership is all about value. If you are not adding value to your team and your organization, you are not leading. Genuine leadership value is more than just raw data, numbers and hitting benchmarks. Genuine leaders always bring hope, inspire people, move things forward, make people feel valued, make everyone and everything around them better and oh yes… They Produce Results!
Unfortunately in this day and age of everyone wanting to be and claiming to be a leader. Individuals are misleading themselves and others about their so called leadership prowess. They think they are a leader because they have the position, the office and the big chair. Those things don’t make you a leader, they are simply symptoms of what could be leadership. The position without genuine acts of leadership means nothing. It’s just a little man or little woman sitting in a big chair.
“A large chair does not make a king.” ~Sudanese proverb
Sometimes people confuse success with doing the right thing. They justify doing the wrong thing by saying, “I must be doing something right, its working” or “God must be in it, it’s growing.” As ESPN Analyst Lee Corso says, “Not so fast my friend!” You can totally think you are doing the right thing and appear to be having success, but actually you are doing the wrong thing and setting yourself up for a bigger fall.
If you don’t know whether what you are doing is “Right or Wrong,” seek God and ask the people around you. Not the “yes” men and women around you, but the people that will tell you the truth, those that will call out right and wrong, those that will tell you that you are being prideful and those that will tell you that your thinking needs to be re-calibrated. Ponder This: Do your closed doors look different than your open windows?
The unfortunate thing about success or the appearance of success is it overshadows weaknesses and encourages justification of the negative influences of your life, career, organization, ministry, marriage, parenting etc.
Don’t be fooled by asking yourself the questions, “Am I succeeding? or Is it working?” Instead, look in the mirror and ask yourself this question when making decisions, “Am I doing the right thing?” Remember you might be Succeeding While Doing The Wrong Thing!
Succeeding While Doing The Wrong Thing is another word for FAILING.
It’s always the right time to do the right thing.
Often times leaders are not always measured on their wins or successes, but rather their mistakes and failures. A leader is supposed to have wins, therefore they are often times overlooked; however those mistakes stick out like a sore thumb.
I have had the opportunity to both work in leadership positions and provide leadership consulting for publicly traded corporations, political entities, correctional organizations and ministries. In recent years I’ve had the opportunity to speak at conferences and consult with churches all around the world. Over these years, I have made and witnessed many leadership mistakes. As I look at mistakes in the the context of ministry leadership, there are 7 common mistakes that seem to be prevalent among ministry leaders:
7 Mistakes Church Leaders Make
- 1. Blame It On Ministry- Ministry leaders will blame their unwillingness to make tough decisions on the fact that “It’s Ministry” or “I know they are not doing so and so, but we are a church.” Yes it might be a church or a ministry role; however that’s no excuse for not holding people accountable, expecting excellence and demanding a high level of performance. If secular leaders are expected to perform, shouldn’t ministry leaders be held to even a higher standard… Not only perform, but perform w/ integrity! Don’t Blame It On Ministry!
- 2. Copy Cat- Often times ministry leaders try to replicate what they see popular churches, ministries or pastors doing. Don’t get me wrong it’s important for ministry leaders to learn from what other successful ministries are doing and apply those ideas, concepts, practices, systems and theories contextually to their ministry. The problem with Copy Cat’s is they listen to a pastor at a conference or see something another ministry is doing and try to 100% replicate it, without understanding the history, context and DNA behind those decisions, practices or systems. Don’t be a Copy Cat!
- 3. Only Learn From Within Christian/Ministry Circles- Ministry leaders make the mistake of limiting their learning circles; they only learn from other christian leaders, christian books, other pastors, church leaders etc. Ministry leaders should open up their arsenal to learn from what industry and major corporations as well. Specifically, as it relates to leveraging technology, leadership principles, HR practices, talent search and understanding customer service. In most cases, industry is normally 10+ years ahead of the strategies/practices that ministries are implementing. Industry, including the sports industry can teach ministry leaders a lot of valuable information; ministry leaders must be willing to seek and learn. If we open our eyes, we can find those God moments an learning all around us. Don’t Exclusively Learn From Within Christian/Ministry Circles!
- 4. Hire The Wrong People- Just because Johnny was successful at so and so church and has so and so seminary degree; doesn’t mean he or she is the person that is going to take your ministry to the next level. Don’t limit your hires to individuals that only have ministry experience. Don’t hire someone simply because they have a good heart or because they were a good volunteer. Every hire is of extreme importance to the success of the ministry, take your time and give each hire the time and effort they deserve! Don’t Hire The Wrong People!
- 6. Think They Own Their Staff – Just because your staff members have signed on the dotted line and accepted their calling to work for your ministry doesn’t mean they can’t leave and go somewhere else. Often times ministry leaders can get bent out of shape because a team member decides to leave their ministry for another ministry. The reality is this – the staff are not yours in the first place, you must learn to live with an abundance mentality and God will send you more than enough great team leaders. If someone wants to move on, create an environment where they can come to you openly about their decision without repercussion. If God is the one doing the “calling,” He can pick up the phone and call a team member to a different ministry at any time. The staff are not yours, they’re God’s, your ministry is not yours, it’s God’s. Don’t think that you own your staff!
- 6. Trade Success For Learning – Success can be the greatest impediment to future success. Success overshadows failures and covers up blind-spots. As ministry leaders have more success, they tend to have the attitude of: “What can I learn from so and so? What can so and so teach us, look at where we are?” Ministry leaders must be lifelong learners and not allow their success to be a substitute for learning, development and growth. Don’t trade your success for learning!
- 7. Don’t Seek God- This one should be common sense; however many times a leader will make a huge decision without taking any time to seek God. Seeking God Should Always Be Part Of The Equation!
Share your experiences or thoughts on any of these 7 mistakes! Feel free to add more to the list.
Inspired by the film Unconditional and Papa Joe Bradford’s outreach to at-risk children, My buddy Ben Stroup writes a new book called “Unconditional Love.” Ben gathers real-life stories celebrating the best in ordinary people who have found extraordinary ways to act as the hands and feet of Jesus in their time and place. Through them we see what matters most in this life, we stir our God-made desire to help others in need, and the world becomes a better place.
I was able to ask Ben some questions about his new book. Hopefully Ben’s answers to these questions can give you some insight into the idea of “Unconditional Love” and a better understanding how how this book can have a positive impact on you, those who come in contact with you and the world as a whole.
1. In your new book “Unconditional Love” you make reference to the idea that love is rarely received in its purest form… What exactly do you mean by that?
It’s nearly impossible for people to act without thinking about how it might benefit them. Most people live with a little skepticism about people and their intentions anyway. We’ve all been burned. That’s why we are so surprised when we discover—or receive—kindness that has no strings attached. It’s so rare, in fact, that we never forget the experience or the person.
2. Why is the concept of unconditional love so complicated?
Because human nature is flawed. To do something without condition requires a great deal of soul-searching, risk, and willingness to fail. You are reckless when you give something like love away without any thought or guarantee it will be returned—especially to someone who hasn’t “earned” it. But reckless love is what it takes to establish a genuine connection with someone else and bring out personal transformation.
3. In what seems to be paradoxical in nature, you tell us the way to receive unconditional love is to give it away. What do you mean?
I think AA nailed this principle. “You have to fake it until you make it.” We can’t recognize unconditional love until we give it away. Perhaps more accurate is that we are not prepared to receive love without condition until we are humble enough to show it to others. Unconditional love is not a state of being but a verb—an action. It describes something that is in motion and being shared with others
4. The book Unconditional Love is inspired by the film Unconditional that profiles the real life ministry of Papa Joe Bradford. What inspired you most from Papa Joe’s story?
He didn’t have to share love and hope with others—especially other people’s children. He could have remained a quiet person who chose to live his life independent of the people around him. Any no one would have thought less of him for doing that. Instead, he chose to respond to the hope and promise so readily found within the eyes of a child. Joe Bradford became Papa Joe because he was willing to love children he didn’t have to love.
5. How can a book like Unconditional Love empower others to step out of their comfort zones and make a difference?
So many people will read the stories in the book and say, “I can’t do what they’ve done.” They will miss that each person included in the book said the same thing about themselves. But their desire to help someone around them in need was greater than their fear that their efforts would be in vain. Each person said yes to an opportunity to help someone in need. As a result of the purity of their intentions and willingness to go all-in, their impact was multiplied.
Just say yes when the opportunity presents itself to help someone else in need. Don’t worry about the rest. Unconditional love can be as simple as a handshake and a pat on the back or as complex as starting an international charity. Everyone can do something.
6. What are some questions we need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves as we try to discover how we can use our gifts to make an impact?
- Who have I helped today?
- What skills, talents, or resources do I have that others might benefit from?
- How can I teach—and show—my children what it means to love without condition?
- What is holding me back from responding to a need around me?
- What do I need to change or adjust in my life to be ready and available to show unconditional love to others?
7. Last Question: In your book you pose the question “How will this idea make God famous?” Can you go a little deeper as to the heart behind that question?
The Bible tells us Jesus emptied himself of all privilege and power so that he could give himself away. In doing so, we have life forever. Our lives were given to us so that we—in turn—would give it away. Before we can show love without condition, we, too, must empty ourselves of all privilege and power. Then—and only then—can we be sure our actions, intentions, and sacrifice point to the Originator and Giver of unconditional love. The paradox is that we discover life in all its fullness when we give it away freely—and unconditionally.
You can pick up a copy of Unconditional Love here.
Oftentimes people wait until they are “ready” to take that leap, risk, opportunity, chance or step. The problem with this approach is they will never be “ready” therefore they will never get started. If you look at “ready” as a destination, I repeat – “You Will Never Be Ready!” If you begin to look at “ready” as a state of willingness, you will stand “ready.”
If you remain willing, you will remain ready.