Boundaries For Leaders (Book Review)

The first tweet I shared about this book was two months ago. I finally finished it today. It fell victim to multiple books being read simultaneously, not being on my kindle while traveling, and other excuses.


But I did not want this book to be read hurriedly. Dr. Cloud’s works should require margin in the reader’s heart and mind to receive the full impression. And this book, for leaders in particular, should be given the fullest margin.

I had only managed to get through a couple of chapters before last weekend. I determined to give it my full attention and get it finished. Let me say, last Saturday was a memorable reading day. My highlighter was busy. My mind was engaged. My heart was encouraged.

Leaders, no matter what size your tribe/company/organization/ministry, this book has something, probably lots of somethings, for you. For those in church world, that goes for paid staff leaders as well as volunteer/lay leaders. It order to fully serve as a body, we all must pursue being people who get results. If read with an open mind, this book will resource a team to do better for the kingdom, particularly mentally and emotionally. Here are 15 quotes to illustrate:

If you have the right people on board, they will exceed your wildest expectations.

The gap between where we are and where we want to be, which is the goal, does not go away by itself. We have to close that gap. And we have to deal with gaps that, sometimes, are difficult to face but motivating.

Two sets of reality consequences – the promise of positive outcomes and the fear of losing something of value – are among the most fundamental drivers of human performance.

Research shows that a “getting better” orientation goes much farther than a “being perfect” orientation.

The first element missing in many leadership scenarios: the right kinds and the right amounts of time together.

Don’t allow big problems to become elephants in the room. Name the elephant.

Put your smart phone in your pocket, purse, or bag. Some of the best leaders I know have a “no cell phone or email during this meeting” rule.

What you create, and what you allow, is what you get as a leader. Especially thinking.

Great leaders do the opposite of exercising control over others. Instead of taking all the control, they give it away.

When people assign a specific time and place for completion of specific tasks and goals, their chances of success increase by up to 300%.

The best leaders and organizations I know make use of outside sources for coaching and lifelong learning in a very organic fashion.

To be the best you can be, you must develop a hunger for feedback and see it as one of the best gifts that you can get.

“Fearful” is when you let your fears make your decisions for you, so…don’t let fear make your decisions for you! Having fears is normal. Being “fearful” is dysfunctional.

Many leaders allow too much lag time between knowing and doing.

If one person calls you a horse, blow it off. But if five do, buy a saddle.

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Onward (book review)

A few weeks ago I saw Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ CEO, interviewed about his book Onward. He and his book’s message intrigued me, so I downloaded a copy. Plus, I needed to check off a book on leadership in my 2018 reading self-made requirements.


Onward did not disappoint. It was even more than I expected. A bottom line summary is the book tells the story of the transformation of the company in 2008-2009. This transformation involved many things which required excellent leadership by Schultz and the partners he empowered to lead at various levels in the company.

The writing is strongly narrative without too much direct leadership application. However, here are a few leadership principle highlights:

  1. Communication is always important, but it is even more essential when things are not working. Ensuring that communication is narrow, clear, and repetitive to set expectations wins people’s trust.
  2. A core capacity of leadership is the ability to make right decisions while flying blind, basing them on knowledge, wisdom, and the ability to stay wedded to an overriding goal.
  3. People have to stay true to their guiding principles. To their cores. Whatever they may be. Pursuing short-term rewards is always shortsighted.
  4. How leaders embody the values they espouse sets a tone, an expectation, that guides their employees’ behaviors.
  5. Growth for growth’s sake is a losing proposition.
  6. Every enterprise and organization has a memory. And those memories create a path for people to follow.

Besides the narrative of the New Orleans conference, worth the purchase of the book alone, this is the quote I most liked:

Wherever the location, the best beans – the ones with enchantingly complex flavors and compelling characters, known as arabica – grow under some degree of stress, like high altitudes, intense heat, or long dry periods.

This truth exemplifies the story of Onward. We can all learn from these beans. We can all be on the mission of moving onward.

Quiet (book review)

My guess is most readers of my blog have not read Susan Cain’s book Quiet. My encouragement is that you should.

Her book first came on my radar in 2012 when I heard her interviewed briefly about it at a Catalyst conference. I was intrigued but didn’t reach for it until now. Too bad I didn’t read it earlier.

Why? Because she helps you get it-the differences between extroverts and introverts. She helps you embrace your introversion, if you are one. And she helps the extrovert understand you. Yes, that’s possible. She even gives you insights into those people who appear to be one but are really the other. You’re intrigued now, aren’t you?

So who should read this book?

  1. Anyone who suspects they are introverted but aren’t sure
  2. Anyone who knows they’re introverted and struggle with it
  3. Anyone who lives with an introvert
  4. Anyone who works for or leads introverts
  5. Anyone who wonders why they are drawn to have introverted friends

Whoever you are, bear in mind that appearance is not reality. Some people act like extroverts, but the effort costs them in energy, authenticity, and even physical health. Others seem aloof or self-contained, but their inner landscapes are rich and full of drama. So the next time you see a person with a composed face and a soft voice, remember that inside her mind she might be solving an equation, composing a sonnet, designing a hat. She might, that is, be deploying the powers of quiet. P266

This is one of those books to not only read but add to your library. Power Up!

The Autonomy Problem

(For regular readers of this blog, this entry will not be like others. It is not indicative of future entries. Allow me this one and done, please. For first-timers, you’re welcome to follow along for future posts with the same expectations.)

I am a Christian. My father was an Independent Baptist minister (to be clear, that didn’t make me a Christian; that choice was my own). For all 50 years of my life, I’ve been a member of Baptist churches-the first 25 in Independent Baptist (IB) churches, the second 25 in Southern Baptist (SB) churches. At age 29, I took my first church staff position. In these last 21 years, I have served three SB churches in associate minister roles. These churches have varied in weekly attendance from 60 to 1,600. Over my lifetime, my church experiences have included seven IB and SB churches in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Much like being blessed to be an American, I have been blessed God has granted me this history.

Recent SB news hasn’t been pretty; that’s being nice (to be clear, I will not be including links to any news stories or responses from others in this post. Google is your friend). My pastor tweeted this week that he is “heartbroken over the tragic events in our SBC family.” I haven’t asked him this question, but I’m pretty sure if asked if this is the first time his church experience has broken his heart, he’d say no. That’s my answer. Chances are, that’s the majority’s answer. Why is that?

The exhaustive answer to that question would take a series of blogs. I’m only in for one post, remember? So I’m going to zero in on just one, which was actually brought up in a response to my pastor’s tweet. And it’s been an answer for me since I was 12 years old. The answer to why my heart has continued to go through a cycle of being broken and mended is autonomy.

So we’re all working with the same understanding, autonomy is defined as self-governing, free from external control or influence, independent. All IB and SB churches exist under this theological conviction. Is it the right or wrong conviction, some are asking? My answer is, that’s the wrong question. The conviction has been chosen. Frankly, if you don’t like the conviction, consider other churches that have another conviction. The better question I raise is this: how can every Baptist church improve its autonomous state?

It’s easy to point fingers at the other guy, the other church, the other president or professor or minister like you’re the Monday morning quarterback who knows how they could have been held in check. Before we do that, let’s take our eyes off the news and our mobile devices and consider how our local autonomy is going. That starts in every church member’s heart, then moves to their home, and then to their church. Why? Because we all are bent toward autonomy. We all desire to be self-governing, free from external control, and independent. That’s a problem. I know it is for me. Chances are, it is for you also.

Start there. With you. Then your household. Then your church. Ask yourself better questions. 

  • How much is God in charge?
  • How dependent am I on God?
  • Where am I allowing other Christians to speak into my life?
  • How should we best keep each other in check?
  • Where am I tempted to be independent from God and others? How could I address that problem of autonomy?
  • How open am I to accountability in all arenas of my life? How can I establish it?

Scripture tells us to guard our hearts. I believe we need to avoid more broken hearts by guarding them against the autonomy problem.

This is my opinion, one answer to why. I understand the autonomy of one person’s blog. Feel free to offer accountability.

Church Idols

(A post for the church-going reader)

We have idols. Some we know and hear sermons about. Some we don’t recognize or acknowledge and hear fewer if any sermons about. Before I list four of these and suggest how to address them, here’s how I’m defining an idol.

Oxford gives two definitions for idol:

  1. an image of a god, used as an object of worship.
  2. A person or thing that is the object of intense admiration or devotion…

My definition uses the second of Oxford’s with a few caveats.

  1. …which may tempt me to develop anger, gossip, slander, argue, or vilify.
  2. …which may cause division in my family or my church.
  3. …which may disrupt my worship in a church service.
  4. …which may be the source of spiritual attack.

A complete list of these idols would be longer, but here are four of these idols that are continually present in our churches.

  • Translation preferences-if you are disturbed if someone reads from a different translation than you prefer in any setting, this may be an idol of yours.
  • Preaching style preferences-if you are disturbed if a preacher’s style of speaking is other than you prefer or you sit in judgment regardless who is speaking, this may be an idol of yours.
  • Music style preferences-if you are disturbed by the song choices for a worship service and resist engaging with the rest of the congregation, this may be an idol of yours.
  • Leadership preferences-if you are disturbed by the leadership style of a staff member because they lead differently than another past or present staff member, this may be an idol of yours.

We all have dealt with and observed these idols both personally and corporately. For those of us who deal more directly with them on both of these fronts, I offer these suggestions:

  • Read from various translations in your own study time. Open your heart to the truths found in God’s Word regardless of the translation methodology.
  • Give grace to the following aspects of God’s work through a human being: their experience(s), their personality, their humanity, their gifts, their calling, their struggles, their uniqueness. Open your heart to the truths found in God’s Word regardless of someone’s speaking style.
  • Recognize your opportunity to engage music as you choose seven days a week. Open your heart for the short window of time during the worship service where you are not in charge of the choices and allow yourself to engage with the body of Christ.
  • Pray for your leaders. Spend time with your leaders. Accept that God moves leaders in and out of ministry locations. Resist the temptation to compare and grip unfair expectations. Open your heart to God’s work in this season of all the people in your church.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139:23-24)

5 Leadership Lessons from 5 Worship Leading Stints

Over the last 20 years, I’ve been given the opportunity to lead worship for five different stints on three church staffs. Might sound confusing, so let me explain. For one stint I was actually hired to be the worship leader; I was there for four years. Three of the other four stints came while I was on staff serving a different role, but there was a vacancy for a period of time when I put on the worship leader hat also. That leaves one more, which I really didn’t want to do but God told me to say yes. Not the first time. News flash: He’s always right.

I recently finished stint number five. In reflective mode, I’ve taken a look at these stints to remember what I learned, how I grew, and what God showed me. To bottom line it, here are the five leadership lessons these stints taught me.

Lesson #1-Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

It’s possible you have a talent that everyone validates but God has other purposes for you outside that talent. It’s possible putting all your energy on the obvious talent stunts the hidden talent that only God can nurture when you say yes to him and no to the obvious. It’s possible that the best avenue for you to understand this is to give the obvious a shot and find that there is more.

Lesson #2-If you’re the best person for the job, step up.

It’s possible the very reason you are where you are is God put you there to fill a hole that only you can fill. It’s possible that God put you there to help you see what he’s capable of helping you achieve when you make it less about you. It’s possible that unless you step up, everyone will miss God’s best.

Lesson #3-Because you can, sometimes you should.

It’s possible the best way to healing is to do something you have no desire to do. It’s possible that following the accomplishment of a very hard thing your next thing should be an easy thing. It’s possible the only way another person can get unstuck is for you to offer your hand.

Lesson #4-Leading transition is like crossing a bridge-you’re just helping people cross from one side of the river to the other side.

It’s possible not everyone wants to cross over. It’s possible you’re the last one to cross. It’s possible that the only way to finish the job is to keep your eyes on the other side.

Lesson #5-Some leadership seasons are more for you, but you won’t know why until they’re finished.

It’s possible that the only time you can be refilled is when you are willing to be completely emptied. It’s possible that why doesn’t matter. It’s possible that at the end of the season you can walk away fuller than when you entered.

(Photo credit: Randy Tosch)

31 Proverbs Highlights: #11-City Life

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

When the righteous thrive, a city rejoices; when the wicked die, there is joyful shouting. A city is built up by the blessing of the upright, but it is torn down by the mouth of the wicked. Whoever shows contempt for his neighbor lacks sense, but a person with understanding keeps silent. A gossip goes around revealing a secret, but a trustworthy person keeps a confidence. Without guidance, a people will fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭11‬:‭10-14‬ CSB)

When you think about your city, what comes to mind? When you consider the spiritual state of your city, how do you describe it?

These five verses speak into the health of a city’s life.

  • If a city wants to thrive, wickedness must be overcome by righteousness.
  • If a city wants to thrive, blessings should be given to the upright rather than the wicked.
  • If a city wants to thrive, neighbors must pursue understanding one another rather than showing contempt.
  • If a city wants to thrive, citizens must build trust by respecting one another.
  • If a city wants to thrive, it must have clear direction coming from wise leaders.

The Emotionally Healthy Leader: Suggested Reading

Most likely, you haven’t read a leadership book like Peter Scazzero’s. That should tell you something.

Most likely, you haven’t considered how keeping Sabbath could make you a healthier leader. That should tell you something.

Most likely, you’ve never been told to “face your shadow.” That should tell you something.

Most likely, you’ve not fully considered how to lead out of your marriage or singleness. That should tell you something.

Most likely, you think this book isn’t for you. That should tell you something.

Indifference: Get Some

My goal in preparing my heart for planning and decision making is to remain in a state Ignatius of Loyola referred to as indifference. By indifference, he does not mean apathy or disinterest. He simply means we must become indifferent to anything but the will of God. Ignatius taught that the degree to which we are open to any outcome or answer from God is the degree to which we are ready to really hear what God has to say. If we are clutching or overly attached to one outcome versus another, we won’t hear God clearly. Our spiritual ears will be deafened by the racket of our disordered loves, fears, and attachments. In such a state, it is almost a forgone conclusion that we will confuse our will with God’s will. Ignatius considered this state of indifference to be spiritual freedom. If we are truly free, he argued, we wouldn’t worry about whether we are healthy or sick, rich or poor. It shouldn’t even matter whether we have a long life or a short one…Arriving at this place of interior indifference and trusting that God’s will is good — no matter the outcome — is no small task. We are attached to all kinds of secondary things — titles, positions, honors, places, persons, security, and the opinions of others. When these attachments are excessive, they become disordered attachments, or disordered loves, that push God out of the center of our life and become core to our identity. (The Emotionally Healthy Leader, Peter Scazzero, p195-196)

With this definition of indifference, here are some practical questions to test your indifference:

  1. If you’re unmarried, are you indifferent towards God’s marital plans for you?
  2. If you’re a parent, are you indifferent to God’s future for your children?
  3. If you’re a leader, are you indifferent to God’s vision for your business/ministry/home?
  4. If you’re close to retiring, are you indifferent to God’s next for you?
  5. If you’re in high school or college, are you indifferent to God’s career path for you?
  6. If you’re employed, are you indifferent to waiting on God for a promotion, recognition, or pay increase?
  7. If you’re unemployed, are you indifferent to God’s timing?
  8. If you’re unhappy, are you indifferent to what God offers as the way to joy?

If you don’t have indifference, what would it take to get some?

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (book review)

Looking in the mirror-sometimes you like what you see, sometimes you don’t. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is a look in the mirror of how you deal with emotions.

The daily challenge of dealing effectively with emotions is critical to the human condition because our brains are hard-wired to give emotions the upper hand (chapter 1).

Travis Bradberry and Jean Graves have done more than just put a mirror in our emotional face. They’ve given us something to do when we walk away from the mirror to improve the next look in the mirror. They provide access to the Emotional Intelligence Appraisal which reveals your standing in four skills making up your EQ: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. 

EQ is so critical to success that it accounts for 58% of performance in all types of jobs. It’s the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence (chapter 2).

After succinctly giving the big picture of EQ, the four skills, and how to develop a personal EQ action plan in the book’s first four chapters, the final four chapters offer 66 strategies of what you need to say, do and think to increase your EQ. Most likely, your EQ is raised just by reading this content. 

The only way to genuinely understand your emotions is to spend enough time thinking through them to figure out where they come from and why they are there (chapter 3).

When you don’t stop to think about your feelings – including how they are influencing your behavior now, and will continue to do so in the future – you set yourself up to be a frequent victim of emotional hijackings (chapter 6).

What you see in the EQ mirror is most likely the product of skills that don’t come naturally to you. If you desire to improve these skills, this book and the resources at the author’s website give you what you need to like more of what you see in the EQ mirror. They recommend reading this book and reviewing the skill development strategies at least once a year-a good recommendation.

Feedback: What do you know about EQ and how important would you say it is?