Even Leaders Need Help

With as much humility as I can muster, I will say that I am a very comfortable public speaker. It is one of my strengths. But, there are a lot of areas where I have weaknesses. The older that I get, the more that technology has become a weakness.

More than admitting a weakness

There is more to this little moment of transparency than just admitting a weakness. This is about being self-aware enough to know your strengths and weaknesses. Clint Eastwood gave us a memorable line from his 1973 sequel to Dirty Harry, entitled Magnum Force. He said in that movie, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” It seems the older that I get, the more in touch I am with my limitations. 

Knowing one’s limitations is just another way of expressing one of the key components of emotional intelligence. Knowing our limitations is being self-aware. And self-awareness leads to being able to self-manage.[shareable cite=”Kevin E Bowser” text=”Knowing our limitations is being self-aware. #self-aware #emotionalintelligence #TheEALeader”]Knowing our limitations is being self-aware. [/shareable]

What does this look like from a practical standpoint?

I am in the midst of some very significant changes in my writing and coaching practice. Some of those changes are requiring a huge technological component in order to support my mission and goals going forward. And I do not have the skills necessary to perform much of the work that will need to be done. 

That is a hard thing for me to admit. I have more than 20 years in various areas of the IT industry. I have managed areas of a data center, I have managed software development teams, and I have managed It operations. Unfortunately, the last time I had a real IT job was 17 years ago. And yet today, I am totally out of my depth when it comes to technology. If I stray too far from my Mac and iPhone, I am in unfamiliar territory. And, truthfully, I don’t know a whole lot about my Mac and iPhone!

What is the practical application of this self-awareness?

Continue reading “Even Leaders Need Help”

Behind Every Great Man

Behind Every Great Man

One of the greatest leaders of all of history is Moses of Biblical fame. Moses is considered a great leader because of the mighty deliverance of God’s people from the bondage and slavery of Egypt.

It is not my normal habit to use too many Biblical illustrations in my writing. But today is Mother’s Day and today I am reminded of Moses and of his mother. Do you recall her name? Don’t go look it up. Try to remember it. Do you give up? The mother of Moses was Jochebed.

The name “Jochebed” translates or implies, “glory of Jehovah” or, “Jehovah (is her or our) glory.” Therefore, you could make the case, based upon this name of the mother of Moses, that the announcement of Jehovah, as the name of God, was not made for the first time when God revealed Himself under that title to Moses in the burning bush. Rather, Jochebed’s name revealed what God himself would later reveal to Moses out in the desert.

What is the leadership lesson on this Mother’s Day?

It is this. Continue reading “Behind Every Great Man”

Is Bigger Always Better?

Is Bigger Always Better?

I don’t have all of my thoughts completely together on this issue. But I am questioning in my own mind the drive of many organizations toward growth at all costs.

As I stated right off the bat, I don’t have all of my thoughts fully baked. Instead, I may have more questions than I have answers at this point. And I’ll get to those in a moment. But first, I have a few observations. Perhaps the best way for me to illustrate my thoughts is through a personal story.

I have attended church my whole life. I was practically raised in the church and attended every time the door was open. (I am thankful for that, by the way.) I grew up in a series of churches that rarely exceeded 200 in attendance on any given Sunday morning. Most of the churches that I have been fortunate enough to worship in have been under 100 in regular attendance. In fact, my ”favorite” church up to this point was right at 200 in regular attendance. It was my favorite for many reasons. I served on my first church board at that church. We went through a building program, a pastoral search and had many other real and exciting experiences in that church. We were part of a great group of young couples and we were heavily integrated into the life of the church through various avenues of involvement. We knew everybody. Everybody knew us.

By contrast, we had the opportunity to worship in one of the largest churches in the metropolitan Houston area. A church with the stated goal of getting larger through acquisition (my word, not theirs) of smaller churches, through satellite churches operating in theaters, and also through traditional growth and influx. I knew the pastor by name only. I think I knew his wife’s name. I didn’t know his children’s names. He didn’t know me. He didn’t know my children. He wouldn’t even have known I was a member if we ran into each other in the grocery store. If I was to have gotten sick, or been in the hospital, or had a family crisis I wouldn’t have had a clue who to call. The Bible study class that we attended right before we left had about 110 people who attended regularly.

This all sounds like I am complaining or whining and that is not my intent. I am just trying to illustrate a reality in the modern church. I then want to draw some leadership applications from those observations and experiences.

What is the leadership application in this story?

The leadership application is that leaders are not absolved of their basic duties as leaders after an organization reaches a certain size. And if they feel that they cannot be effective after reaching a certain size, decisions must be made that will determine if growth will remain healthy, or become too much weight for a leader to bear?

So, here are some questions that are in my head that will be challenging to leaders in small, medium, and large organizations alike:

Is bigger necessarily better? — It is hard not to hearken to the Siren’s call to get bigger and bigger and bigger.

Continue reading “Is Bigger Always Better?”

Toughest Leadership Role, Ever!

Toughest Leadership Role, Ever!

Consider something for just a moment as we prepare for Christmas this week. Can you imagine a more difficult leadership role than being the earthly father of Jesus Christ? I cannot!

My goal is not to make this article an overtly spiritual one. However, given the Christmas Season and my thoughts at this time of year, some observations and some leadership lessons are unavoidable.

Just who was this man Joseph, the husband of Mary and the adoptive father of Jesus?

We really don’t know a whole lot about him other than what we read in the few places he is mentioned in the New Testament. Traditional Christian narrative and theology state that God chose Joseph to be the earthly father of Jesus. We can read in the Gospel of Matthew, that Joseph was a righteous man. His actions toward Mary, his betrothed wife (fiancé), revealed a great deal about his character. It demonstrates that he was a patient, kind, understanding, and sensitive man. When Mary told Joseph she was pregnant, he had every right to feel disgraced and humiliated. He knew the child was not his.

He had “rights”. Our rights have always been an important thing to us as individuals. Joseph not only had the right to divorce Mary but under Jewish law, she could be put to death.

Joseph’s initial reaction was to break the engagement. This was the culturally and religiously appropriate thing for a righteous man like Joseph to do. However, consistent with his character, he treated Mary with extreme kindness. He did not want to cause her further shame, so he decided to do what needed to be done quietly.

But that is not what happened. Instead, Scripture tells us that God sent an angel to Joseph. It may even have been the same angel that visited Mary to bring her the news that she was going to give birth to Our Lord. This angel verified the same story that Mary had told Joseph and reassured him that his marriage to Mary was still God’s will. In fact, it had been the divine plan all along. It is important not to lose sight of that fact. So, Joseph willingly did as the angel told him, in spite of the public humiliation he would face. Perhaps it was this quality that made him God’s choice for Jesus’ earthly father.

Beyond this and the story of the one time that Jesus was left behind following a pilgrimage to the Temple, the Bible does not reveal much detail about Joseph’s role as a father to Jesus Christ. However, we do know from Matthew 1, that Joseph was an excellent earthly example of integrity and righteousness. We know that Joseph trained Jesus in a very necessary trade of the times — carpentry. It was not glamorous. But, probably no one ever described Joseph in those terms.

Joseph is last mentioned in the Bible when Jesus was 12 years old and they made that annual visit to the Temple in Jerusalem. So really, all we know from written evidence is that Joseph passed on the carpentry trade to Jesus and that he raised him in the Jewish traditions and spiritual observances of the Law.

So, what is the Leadership Lesson here?

Continue reading “Toughest Leadership Role, Ever!”

Vision, Foresight, and Observation

Vision, Foresight, and Observation

Are “vision” and “foresight” the same thing? Or, more importantly, are they synonymous with “leadership”? Let me say quickly that I do not believe that they are synonymous. Consider this as a follow up to last weeks article about a quote that has been attributed to Henry Ford. In that article I called him a “foresighted innovator.” I equated foresighted innovation with being a leader. So, does that mean that Henry Ford was therefore a man of vision? Does that mean that he was a leader by many of the other accepted leadership definitions?

I find myself reflecting this week on a Bible passage that you may hear occasionally when some other types of leaders wish to address their followers. Personally, I have seen it used when church leaders want to speak to the issue of visionary leadership. Here is that often misquoted (and occasionally misused) scripture.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish”. 

It is found in the Old Testament in Proverbs 29:18. It is used many times from a church pulpit to exhort us to catch the vision that a pastor has seen and to encourage us onward to the destination that has been seen in the vision.

Having vision, communicating a vision, and catching a vision are all vital skills for leaders and followers alike. But I submit to you that there is a BIG difference between being a visionary person and being a leader.

Let me explain my thoughts this way. Continue reading “Vision, Foresight, and Observation”

What Sharpens Iron?

What sharpens iron?

What sharpens iron? Every leadership “junkie” has probably been exposed to the Biblical passage from Proverbs that gives us the answer to that very question.

It is iron that sharpens iron. Or at least it is some other substance that is as hard as iron such as a whetstone or grinding wheel. If that is the case, that iron sharpens iron, then what are the implications for you and I as leaders?

We often only look at ourselves as the ones that will be doing the sharpening. But what (or who) is sharpening you? We need to constantly be in contact with something or someone who sharpens our leadership skills.

The first time I was exposed to this concept was many years ago in 1990 when Steven Covey published The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “Sharpen your saw” is Habit #7. This habit was encouraged so that we take care of ourselves on physical, mental and emotional levels. Only then would we have the “strength” to remain highly effective.

Only the confident and strong leaders will offer themselves to be sharpened by others. In fact, Continue reading “What Sharpens Iron?”

Five Fundamentals for Young Leaders

5 Fundamentals for Young Leaders

It is graduation season. In fact, I attended a graduation celebration today for some very impressive young women who are graduating from high school.  And it is Summer Intern season where I work. So, youth and optimism are in the air.

I thought I might take this opportunity to offer up some advice for those making the transition from high school to college, college to career, and ultimately, child to adult.

As a young professional just starting out, you may think you can’t lead because of your youth or short tenure within your new company. I am going to invite you to reconsider that thought.

In fact, youth and short tenure can be assets. Young professionals may not bring years of experience to a company, but they bring optimism, enthusiasm, energy, exuberance, a set of new ideas, and experience with new technologies that others in the company may not have. They also bring a fresh perspective — a new look at old problems.

As a young professional, you can still be a leader even though you may not have yet achieved a position of power. In fact, if you exercise your leadership skills as a young professional, your road to a more desirable position can be much shorter.

Consider if you will these five fundamental things you can do to cultivate and exercise your leadership skills without having positional power: Continue reading “Five Fundamentals for Young Leaders”

The Genesis Model of Creative Leadership

God and Adam

Creative leaders draw the best thinking out of the individual team members before calling a general brainstorming session.

This is the assertion in Chapter 1 of Tom Harper’s book, Leading from the Lion’s Den.  In his book he presents leadership lessons from every book of the Bible.  Consider this one from Genesis:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” – Gen 1:1

Many organizations today foster creative teamwork through collaborative instant messaging, chat windows, discussion boards, and project groups.  My company uses a myriad of technology tools as well as recently construction an entire corporate campus to foster collaboration.

Though today’s online cooperation might appear to be a new kind of brainstorming, it is actually based on a tried and true model of creativity. The old standard concept is simple: the best creative thinking is done when individuals have a chance to think before they collaborate.

Not everyone thinks well in groups. The rapid-fire atmosphere of some brainstorming methodologies can be very disconcerting to some otherwise highly creative members of your team. Continue reading “The Genesis Model of Creative Leadership”

Leadership and “Coasting”

Coasting - 1Is it ever OK to just coast along for a while?

That is the question that I am pondering this morning.  You see, I am tired.  I am probably not near as tired as some of you.  But I am still tired.

I am thinking right now of a young man who is probably the hardest working guy that I know.  He is up very early every morning and heads out the door long before the sun is even thinking of rising.  I am thinking of a single mom who is doing a great job with a couple of very “energetic” children.

I can only imagine how tired they must be.

I have just finished a very busy phase of a major project that I am working on.  I have a very busy and hectic schedule for the next few weeks.  And then I will have some down time between projects.  But right now, all I want to do is stop peddling and coast for a while.

Do you ever feel that way?  Is ”coasting” ever an option for leaders?  Is it ever acceptable to just to just put things on autopilot and let things run on their own for a while?  If so, how long is an acceptable time to coast?

Coasting - 2Here are my thoughts.

It is physically impossible to be a hard charger every moment of every day.  As leaders we must have some down time.  Perhaps this is the strongest argument for developing young leaders around us.  Continue reading “Leadership and “Coasting””