Archive for the 'Leadership' Category


Servant Leadership is what?

Photo Credit -“Servant leadership” is a term bandied around.  What do you picture when you hear it?  One genuflected and spineless or better stated genuflected because they are spineless?

Servant leadership in the home, marketplace or church is not wimpish and certainly is not devoid of authority.  What is absent is the drive for pomp and prestige, the willingness to scramble up the “ladder” on the heads, hearts and hands of others.  For sure servant leaders exercise authority, but they do so for the good of those they lead even if such leadership requires sacrifice on their part.

Jesus said this about leadershp:

25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:25-28 ESV)


the discipline of self-management

Photo credit - //“Great leaders are great managers-not just managers of projects or other people but mostly of themselves.”

Self management is the second discipline of extraordinary spiritual leaders that author Reggie McNeal addresses in his book Practicing Greatness.

McNeal catalogues some particularly problematic emotions (e.g., anger, hostility, fear, bitterness) that a leader needs to manage, rather than be managed by.  His section on “Grief and Loss” caught my attention. I am working through a vocational change and a ‘death of a vision’.  I thought that an acceptable approach would be to replace what was lost with something new.  The author cautions against such a simplistic approach and advises that appropriate grieving involves expression, reflection and processing in community.

Managing expectations is also part of healthy self-management.  In talking about the expectations others have for a leader, McNeal says, “A leader who shapes expectations remains healthier than one who is primarily shaped by them.”  He is not calling for leaders to be completely unmoved by the expectations of others, but over the long haul a leader should be influencing people’s expectations in a way that is in line with the organization’s goals and the leader’s personal strengths and convictions.

Self management also includes staying healthy in body, mind and soul.  The author covers some expected health tips but surprised me when he advocated carving out and protecting time to muse about items bigger than the daily to-do list.  I recognize that the urgent and the mundane often misplace the strategic and the creative.  The author fills this section out by urging leaders to avoid negative people, disorganization, second guessing past decisions and environments that tempt us.

McNeal concludes this chapter identifying two things that if left unmanaged by the leader could sabotage his effectiveness.  The first is his mood and outlook; a positive and upbeat mood will have a positive ripple affect, whereas pessimism and anxiety will lead to negative repercussions.  The second is money; mismanagement of personal assets tarnishes and impedes a leader’s ability to manage the assets of others.

Previous posts in this series.



Poor self management was warning sign #5 given by Mark Sanborn, in his recent article “Why Leaders Fail”.  Mark is a Christian who works in the field of leadership coaching.  He writes, “Leaders who fail to take care of their physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual needs are headed for disaster.”

Mark’s caution applies to all men, regardless of their formal roles as leaders.  We are not going to lead our wives, our kids, our peers, or ourselves for that matter, if we perpetually disregard the need to replenish our reserves.

Sabbath is a God-given life rhythm intended to restore us in our relationship with God, others, and self.  God modelled this rhythm when on the seventh day he rested from all the work of creating the material world (Ge 2:1-3).  He enshrined this rhythm into the fabric of Hebrew society (Ex 20:8-11).  However, this restorative rhythm was corrupted and over time became a burden of man-made “do not’s”.

Jesus challenged that legalistic view of keeping Sabbath.  Instead he called people “to do good on the Sabbath” (Mt 12:12).  The “good” is to engage in that which will rejuvenate self and restores our relationship with God and with others.

This is not a one-off emergency pit stop, but a weekly interruption of our worries and busyness.  It is an intentional disengagement from our employment.  It is a setting aside of the tools of our trade, tangible or technical, so that we might be refreshed — margins re-established that we might once again bear the responsibilities that are ours.

What does this look like in practical terms?  I can’t nor should I give you a “one-size-fits-all”.  For me, it means designating an email-free day.  Emails regularly bring reminders and requests associated with my vocation.  Sabbath is about intentionally taking a break from that, so that I can be rejuvenated.  I am also learning that I need to purposefully engage in activities that refuel me.  Time with spiritual friends, reading, running and Café Misto at Starbucks are some that renew me.  What about you?  What chorus of activities restores your soul?


the discipline of self-awareness – the dark side

My apologies if the title of this blog sounds a little Star-wars-ish.  Reggie McNeal closes out his discussion of this first of seven disciplines for spiritual leaders by asserting that “all leaders have a dark side, because every human being struggles with dysfunction to some degree” (p. 29).

There are leaders who are Compulsive.  They try to control everything, in part because they believe that every aspect of the organization they lead is a reflection upon them personally.  Outwardly they may appear “together” but their inward lives are in turmoil.

Narcissistic leaders often have grand plans yet suffer from low self-esteem.  Others’ achievements threaten them while their own successes are never enough to satisfy their drivenness.

A third type of dark-side leader is the one who is Paranoid.  They are suspicious of others, guarded in their relationships, often jealous of gifted people.  They might use unusually methods to stay informed in effort to maintain their leadership.

Codependent leaders easily find themselves consumed and controlled by the cares and needs of others.  Their schedules are out of control and personal boundaries are not well managed.  They are attracted to helping others as the means by which to meet their own inner needs.

The last category is Passive-Aggressive leaders.  They have the tendency of resisting the demands of others by procrastinating, being stubborn or being forgetful.  They may blame others for lack of support, but if they receive support they might complain of others interfering.

As I reflect on my own leadership I don’t think I fall fully into one camp (if I did I am not sure I would admit it!).  However, depending on the situation I can see a tendency to be a “control freak” or to think it should be “more about me” or to blur boundaries because helping others makes me feel good.

What about you?  Anyone dare to share?

Link to other postings about Practicing Greatness by Reggie McNeal.


The Discipline of Self Awareness – how to grow

Understanding our family of origin is key for developing self awareness.  Often our families are the source of both gifts and deficits.  It is during these formative years that many of us learn communication patterns, conflict-resolution skills, attitudes toward authority and capacities for intimacy.  A leader who can name the impact his family of origin has had is in a better position to accept the responsibility for how he feels or behaves.

Many spiritual leaders discover that they have inappropriate boundaries that mark where their responsibility ends and the responsibility of others begins.  These unhealthy boundaries might express themselves in several different ways: assuming responsibility for another’s emotions, isolating oneself from others, failing to respect others’ boundaries and insulating oneself from the needs of others.

All of us have life experiences, some positive, some negative and some even traumatic, which all significantly shape who we are as people.  Self-aware leaders learn to recognize those marking experience and to evaluate their impact.

Great spiritual leaders are not naive about their God-given strengths and giftedness.  They have a growing understanding of what they are good at and what they are not.  Moreover, they know how they prefer to process information, which enables them to appreciate the preferences of others who differ from them.

Next in this series we delve into the darker side of self awareness.


The Discipline of Self Awareness – Defined

The first discipline of extraordinary leaders that Reggie McNeal tackles is that of self-awareness.  This discipline is the leader’s intentional pursuit of understanding himself, how he is perceived by others, his motives for doing things, his passions and his pressure points.

Leaders with little self-awareness may be unknowingly guided by addictions and compulsions that will create huge problems.  They may be ambushed by destructive impulses and disoriented by emotions that hinder their plans and effectiveness.  They may overestimate or underestimate their abilities and respond to situations with inconsistency.

Leaders with a healthy self-awareness have gained a useful ally – themselves.  They understand themselves and their mission and they know what behaviours and values support that.  They have a solid estimate on what they bring to a situation and also what they don’t bring; they know where they need to grow and are engaged in strategic learning.

How do leaders improve their self-awareness?  That will the topic of the next post in this series.



Practicing Greatness – Introduction

“Deliberate mediocrity is a sin” is the quote that Reggie McNeal uses to open the introductory chapter to his book Practicing Greatness: Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders.

Until he heard a speaker use the above quote, the author had thought that one couldn’t seek greatness and be a good Christian at the same time.  Maybe you have had similar misgivings.  If so, you might want to join us as we journey through Reggie’s book.

What is ‘greatness’?  The author makes 3 key points in this regard.  Greatness is not a striving after the power trappings of the world, it is a journey toward humility.  Greatness is not strictly about character, but it is also about effectiveness and competency.  Finally, greatness is about serving others, inspiring and encouraging others to become more than they have been.

Great leaders are groomed over time and through circumstances.  Practicing greatness requires the spiritual leader to grow in 7 key ‘disciplines’.

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Self-development
  4. Mission
  5. Decision making
  6. Belonging
  7. Aloneness

In the remaining chapters, McNeal expands on each one of these ‘disciplines’ in order.

Do you accept McNeal’s definition of greatness?  What would you add?


This blog is a place to wrestle with loving, leading and labouring according to the Jesus Way.


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