Pioneering is hard. It is especially hard for those around them. It is even hard for the pioneers themselves.
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Through God’s strength, I’ve pioneered a lot of things in my life. I parented my kids in an entirely different way than I was raised (and am still plowing that ground). I broke up the fallow ground of publishing, starting from nothing. And my family and I planted a church in one of the most unchurched places on the planet: France. So I get pioneering.
In 2009 my wife Gail and I traveled to Africa at the invitation of Rich Stearns, president of World Vision. It was our first trip to “the dark continent.” We had always wanted to go to Africa; we just never seemed to find the time.
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Like Truman Burbank (played by Jim Carrey) in the movie, The Truman Show, we pretty much lived in a “constructed reality.”
Good leaders create a vision, passionately articulate the vision, and relentlessly drive the vision to completion.”
– Jack Welch
Every leader needs a clear vision. However, much like common sense, vision is anything but common and rarely clear. When it’s fuzzy or cloudy, it needs a lens to make things more clear.
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Before we look at organizational vision, consider the literal example of vision and the human eye. Very few people have perfect 20/20 vision. According to the National Eye Institute (of America):
Earlier this month, my wife Gail and I took a much-needed vacation. We rented a house on a lake in the mountains near Monteagle, Tennessee. We were there for two weeks.
After my book launch and our daughter’s wedding, we were both feeling the need to get away. We wanted a place where we could rest, reconnect, and refill our spiritual and emotional tanks.
I’ve had more than twenty bosses in my career. I worked well with nearly all of them. But surprisingly, I learned the most from the worst ones.
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The truth is that most of my supervisors were average. Sadly, I really can’t remember much about them.
There is no doubt about it: Great companies foster high levels of communication. When team members understand what is expected of them and what’s going on in the company, you win.
Keep the communication from happening and you will find that fear soon sets in, which is quickly followed by gossip.
The lead story in the news a little more than a year ago was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s infidelity. Apparently, he has fathered at least one child out-of-wedlock. There are likely more.
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To be honest, this whole thing made me angry, especially when I consider the impact this had on his wife and children. He is also one more negative example for our own children and grandchildren.
Leadership is a verb, and productive leadership is an art. The art part is when you use your experience and judgment to apply proven practices to the situation you are in to produce effective results.
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While you can always wing it, or luck into success, you can use patterns and practices to find the shortcuts and make your success more repeatable.
Presentation software can be a wonderful tool if used correctly. It can also be a dangerous distraction that interferes with communication rather than facilitating it. The line between the two is thin.
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Over the course of my career, I have sat through hundreds of presentations. Most of them were done with PowerPoint. Most of them are done poorly.
As a leader, the health of your marriage directly affects the impact of your leadership. I have witnessed this time and time again. Being effective at work or in ministry begins by being effective at home.
Early in our marriage, Gail and I attended a church led by a dynamic, thirty-something pastor. He was an extraordinary communicator. He was a wise and empathetic counselor. As a result, the church grew rapidly.
Many people have written on what it means to be a leader. Almost everyone identifies influence as the primary characteristic. By definition, this means that leadership and position are two different things. You can have a title, and a position of power, but this does not mean that you are a leader. Even people without these things can exert influence and thus leadership.
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But leadership is more than influence. It certainly includes influence, but it is more. I believe it includes at least five characteristics. When I speak on this topic, I call these “the five marks of authentic leadership”: