Where will you go this Year?

In Elton Trueblood's book entitled Lessons in Spiritual Leadership, he notes that Abraham Lincoln's leadership was influenced not only by a growing self-awareness and events of real suffering, but he was also influenced by Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Washington D.C.

In 2015, I found myself in: New York, Italy, East Africa, the Netherlands, Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis, Washington D.C. and a host of other spots. And my worldview is impacted at various points along the way. Now, if you believe a worldview is simply a stoic framework, then you probably have a bit of trouble with the idea that a sense of place can impact one's own awareness. Yet, I dare say that we are all influenced by and influencers of the places we find ourselves in.

How you influence those places that you pass through and how those same places influence you matter.

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Washington D.C.

A recent Georgetown lecture aired on public television featuring former President Bill Clinton. I find him to be a remarkably interesting speaker and he did not disappoint. His grasp of politics, history, and the world stage are engaging and whether you agree or disagree, he's worth listening to.In the Q/A, he said some profound things about leadership, which stuck with me a bit. For example, each person needs to have the skills and the psychology that fits their context for the times. The latter point was rather new to me, but outstanding. Yes, the psychology of a leader must be an asset to the context he or she is in. Incidentally, the one indispensable book Clinton recommended is the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius...I will look it up.

He also referenced Franklin Pierce, who was President leading up to our Civil War. On the way to Washington for the Inauguration, Pierce and his family were in a train accident and Pierce's son fell during the wreck, broke his neck, and died. Simply awful. But, is it any wonder that Pierce struggled to gain his footing in the White House? He started with that horrible beginning.

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Piswa, Uganda

Last week, I was in Gulu and Kampala, Uganda, respectively. The two cities are about a seven hour drive by car from each other and they are two of the largest cities in the country.

The last time I was in Uganda, I visited Piswa and frankly, Uganda has a little bit of everything. There is the amazing congestion of Kampala, where history and modernity are competing for space. There is the regional poverty on the way to the next city and there are Universities tucked almost out of sight, yet still accessible.


One thing, though, that sticks out in traveling to a place like Uganda is that you are confronted, assaulted may be just as appropriate, with the obvious extreme poverty as well as striking beauty at the same time.

Our Prideful Leaders & The Crack We Give Them

Why is it that, for the most part, you don’t have to look any further for a great example of prideful leadership than the largest church on the block?  We like to criticize our politicians and business leaders for their unchecked egos and unrestrained power, but the truth is we are growing the same kind of crop in our own backyard.

Now if you are already thinking of a way to condemn that first sentence, please take a pause and hear me out. I am not saying that all “mega” churches are being led by “mega” egos.  I am also not saying that it is impossible for a large church to be properly run by a humble pastor who is being held accountable by humble men and women.

What I am saying is that pride, in its purest form, is the crack of modern Christianity – it invades, seduces, and destroys everything in its path.

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Everything Labeled "Emergent"

We live in a world of labels and categories.  Everything has to fit into something.  And perhaps among the widest of these categories is the one labeled, "Emergent." 

I've been told that I'm Emergent.  Sometimes I'm asked, but recently a few people have just labeled me that.  When this issue is brought to my attention I always respond with a question, "What is your definition of Emergent?"  I had one person tell me that I'm Emergent because I used the word "journey" in a message.  Another was concerned because I did an overview of a book of the Bible (Ecclesiastes) in a talk versus going verse by verse and phrase by phrase.   I've had another person assume I'm Emergent because my churches website didn't have the exact words, "Triune God" anywhere on it (as if I don't believe in a "Triune" God simply because it's not explicitly articulate on a website).

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True Leaders in an Interconnected World

(this is part 5 of 5 of a series of posts on leadership in an interconnected world)

If you have been keeping up with the previous posts, then you'll note that Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Rosa Parks, Steven Spielberg, and William Shakespeare all contribute something to leadership in an interconnected world. To review, let me simply make 5 brief points.

In an interconnected world, leaders will have to:

1) work with people of clashing ideologies (see Lincoln in Goodwin's book Team of Rivals)
2) focus on something bigger than their job or themselves (to me Lincoln is the example again, but a case could also be made for Wilberforce)
3) utilize words carefully and understand that words do leave a legacy (see Jefferson's example)
4) know when to stay seated on principle and when to move ahead; sometimes staying still is progress (see also Rosa Parks)
5) understand who the storytellers are and how their influence shapes ideas (see how Spielberg and Shakespeare have shaped ideas)

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The Legacy of Storytellers: Quiet Leaders of Every Generation

(here is part 4 of 5 on leadership in an interconnected world. This particular post is an excerpt of a longer study I have done on storytellers as heroes and the ones who shape our identity and ideals)

In a world increasingly interconnected by visual media and web technology, emerging personalities and heroic personas will often arise in the midst of stories told that withstand the test of time. We are saturated with information, what remains in our minds amidst the onslaught of email, web pages, scrolling television updates, film clips, and advertisements will be personas that we not only resonate with, but who reveals the longings deep within that shape us all. Understanding that “in a world of networks, individuals, companies, communities, consumers, activist groups, and governments all have the power to be shapers,”[1] two artists have emerged above the rest in the cinema and theatre respectively. William Shakespeare continues to be the standard by which theatre is judged hundreds of years after his death, while the films of Steven Spielberg have so captivated our culture, that he is the single biggest money making filmmaker in history. The pervasive use of English as an international language has not only served to disseminate the works of each artist, but also helped each to shape the way people see the world.

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Speaking Out While Sitting Down

(this is part 3 of 5 of a series dealing with leadership in an interconnected world)

In the last post, I discussed the power of words and the legacy that our words can leave behind. The example being, Thomas Jefferson, whose words have transformed our country and have often been the envy of other nations. In this piece, part of leading in the 21st century will not only be linked to skills, but also to a sense of timing as well as self awareness. And here, the example for me is Rosa Parks because she linked both timing and self awareness.

Parker Palmer in his book Let Your Life Speak speaks of Rosa Parks in the following terms:

"Rosa Parks sat down because she had reached a point where it was essential to embrace her true vocation -- not as someone who would reshape our society but as someone who would live out her full self in the world. She decided, "I will no longer act on the outside in a way that contradicts the truth that I hold deeply on the inside. I will no longer act as if I were less than the whole person I know myself inwardly to be."
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Remembering the Power of Words

(this is part 2 of a 5 part series on leadership and legacy)

In part one of this series, I began with Abraham Lincoln and why some of his leadership traits are not only necessary in the 21st century, but in fact, leaders like Lincoln remain elusive and rare. In this series, I am processing in my own mind, but then also building a case that if leaders are going to be effective in a globalized world, then certain traits will need to be prevalent. In looking at the legacy of Abraham Lincoln two primary traits needed for leadership in today's globalizing world stand out: 1) Lincoln's resolute focus on a higher purpose and his commitment to something greater than himself and 2) Lincoln's amazing ability to work alongside people with 'clashing ideologies' and to get people who disagreed to move in the same direction.

Now, in this installment, I want to focus in on yet another trait necessary for leadership in an interconnected world and one that has considerable relevance for bloggers and readers of blogs. Leaders in an interconnected world (particularly where English is often the primary tongue of global business, technology, and higher education) will still need to learn how to use words effectively. And perhaps, the best wordsmith in American history remains Thomas Jefferson.

Historian Stephen Ambrose, though, doesn't set up Jefferson as a great leader. In fact, he writes,

To Amercia "Thomas Jefferson did not achieve greatness in his personal life. He had a slave as a mistress. He lied about it. He once tried to bribe a hostile reporter. His war record was not good. He spent much of his life in intellectual pursuits in which he excelled, and not enough in leading his fellow Americans toward great goals by example. Theodore Roosevelt called him our worst President,"
(To America, p.2)
The enigma of Jefferson doesn't stop there. Ambrose continues,
"He ignored the words of his fellow revolutionary John Adams, who said that the Revolution would never be complete until the slaves were free...Jefferson left another racial and moral problem for his successors, the treatment of the Native Americans...The author of the Declaration of Independence threw up his hands at the question of women's rights,"
(To America, p. 5)
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Learning from Lincoln: Leadership in the 21st Century

This weekend, I finished reading Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, the Pulitzer Prize winning book by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I will make a confession: this book will linger with me for a long time--it's an amazing experience and if you allow yourself the time to get lost in its 19th century world for a while, this book could change your perspective on leadership in the 21st century. Growing up in Northern Illinois with regular trips to Springfield, I encountered Lincoln's heroic status at a young age and as I have grown older, I am simply more appreciative of Lincoln not simply as a leader, but also as a man.

The New York Times, in November of 2005, published the following words in regard to the book by Goodwin and more specifically in regard to Lincoln the leader:

"How did he do it? Goodwin deals with this question better than any other writer. Part of the answer lay in Lincoln's steadfastness of purpose, which inspired subordinates to overcome their petty rivalries. Part of it lay in his superb sense of timing and his sensitivity to the pulse of public opinion as he moved to bring along a divided people to the support of "a new birth of freedom." And part of it lay in Lincoln's ability to rise above personal slights, his talent for getting along with men of clashing ideologies and personalities who could not get along with each other." (the full article can be found here.

Let's reflect on the lessons as identified by this New York Times writer, but let's do so with an eye to faith and leadership in the 21st century.

1) "steadfastness of purpose"--instead of caving in to public opionion or trying to be trendy and relevant, Lincoln seemd to focus his energies on leaving a legacy. And I believe we'd do well to mimic his example.

2) "inspired subordinates to overcome their petty rivalries"--how many times have we seen teams split up or churches fall apart due to 'petty rivalries'? The phrase seems to haunt the present relationships being exhibited in Congress as well.

3) "his talent for getting along with men of clashing ideologies"--this may be one of the single most needed traits of leaders in a globalized era. Now, how will faith leaders within Christendom prioritize what's essential over and above what's not essential? Who will not only lead God's people, but who will also "get along with men of clashing ideologies," so that Christians can press forward with what's important instead of devouring one another in partisan debate?

Of course, there are many more lessons to draw and Team of Rivals is worth its own seminar or college class. For whatever reason, the world seems devoid of leaders who are willing to put a higher purpose above petty debate and rivalry. If you have a leadership role in any organization, do yourself a favor and read Goodwin's book. You won't be sorry and you may find yourself challenged to imitate Abraham Lincoln over a 100 years after his death.

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