I help with the local high school football team. Great kids. Great program. It’s a true community of young men. It’s a brotherhood, a family. They make me a better person and I can only pray in some way its reciprocal. On December 21st, 2011, the first day of Christmas Break, one of our sophomores was in a car accident. He’s now a C-4 quadriplegic. His life forever changed. On Christmas Day, I remember praying, “God I don’t understand how a virgin gives birth, and I don’t understand why a 16 year old athlete becomes a quadriplegic.”

A Christian for over 20 years, I question God frequently. He seems cool with it. Every relationship has seasons, and ours is no exception. There are seasons when He and I are pretty tight, and there are seasons where He and I aren’t seeing eye-to-eye. One thing I’ve realized, it’s through my questioning that He draws me into the deepest seasons of introspection. I’ve been in such a season for the last 3 weeks. Galatians 6:4 “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.” I can’t fix his situation. I can’t change places with him. Feeling useless really pisses me off. I learned at church to “pray likes it real.” I had been trying, but the only thing that seemed real was that this kid can’t move.

Romans 9:16, “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” Every time someone gets admitted into this kid’s room, he prays for them. Another kid involved in the wreck accepted Christ at his bedside. Last week, five of his friends and his own brother, rededicated their lives. How humbling to realize I’ve been distracted by his diagnosis, and he’s been busy changing lives.  

During a recent visit, his dad asked him how much he loved him. Another person and I picked up his hands and held them out. He told his dad, “This much.” I haven’t been able to get that moment out of my heart. I doubt I ever will. Today at church, the worship leader referenced Exodus 17:10-13 “So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. Joshua overcame the Amalekite army.”

#13 has a battle ahead. He’s adamant he will walk again. We need to be there to hold his hands up and keep them steady so he can win this battle. Galatians 6:2 calls us to fulfill the law of Christ by carrying each other’s burdens. Family’s family. 

– unfiltered mentalist fighting for second

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Bark less; wag more

I used to have a Goldendoodle named Ragan. Sadly, my life at the time was not conducive to providing a quality home, so I found a better home where he could thrive. Dog’s can teach you a lot about leadership, loyalty, respect, and obedience. I came across a blog titled, “Leadership Qualities Dogs Respect.” It lined out three simple qualities that dog’s respect and in return will change their behavior:

1. Consistency: communication between different species is not an easy task, especially when one species can talk and the other can’t! Inconsistency makes that task all the more difficult. By adopting consistent behaviors in yourself, setting consistent boundaries and keeping some sort of consistent routine – your dog will have an easier job of figuring out what you expect.

2. Lead by example: dogs tend to mimic our actions. Don’t rely on them interpreting our intentions correctly. If we yell at our dog for being aggressive, this can lead to more aggression from our dog. They don’t necessarily understand that we are angry and upset with their actions, they just follow our lead. When we learn calm approaches to dealing with this sort of problem, our lead is followed with calmness in return.

3. Reward good behavior: behavior that is effectively rewarded tends to increase or continue. Therefore it makes sense to reward the behavior we want to see in our dogs. In the same way we get paid to work, our dogs expect to be paid too. Life in the pack works that way; food, security, shelter, play and social contact are the rewards dogs work for.

The same holds true if you replace the word “dog” with “those you lead.” I’m not degrading followers by comparing them to dogs; I’m merely applying the application. As a leader you must be consistent, you must lead by example, and you must reward positive behavior. By doing so, you will find those you lead wanting to bark less and wag more.  

– leading from a cornfield

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– leading from a cornfield

The proof is in this picture I took the other day. Yes, I lead from a cornfield. Well actually, this year they surprised us with soybeans. We have 125 employees, 4,654 clients ranging in age from 3-21, and we’re on the road 24/7/365. Our purpose is transportation. Our mission is safety. Our goal is equity. Our conviction is compassion. We see first-hand what some of our clients endure in regards to living conditions – from mansions to river camps; from the wealthy, to the homeless. Some are exceptional; others are not. Some are still in diapers; others think they deserve the freedoms of adulthood. For these reasons, monotony doesn’t exist in our department. Likewise, it should never exist in the life of a leader.

Monotony leads to complacency, but complacency dissolves in the presence of leadership.  Leadership requires an unselfish humble tact for honesty, accompanied with a controlled assertive aggression for forward progress. Due to forward progress, the dissolution of complacency should occur naturally. The operative word is “should.”

Leadership isn’t text book. If it were, you wouldn’t get 158,000,000 results in 0.1 seconds Google Searching “Leadership Books.” I feel confident that such a large number is reflective of the nearly 7 billion people in the world. Leadership is about people, and even identical twins have separate personalities.  A leader must learn how to lead each person individually prior to knowing how to lead the group as a whole to maximum synergy.

– leading from a cornfield

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Peter Peter, Pumpkin Eater

This video is a classic comedy jam packed with leadership truisms. To understand the importance and value of the first follower in a movement, let’s turn to the largest historic movement on record – Christianity. For the sake of comparison, we’ll consider Jesus to be the “Lone Nut,” or the “Shirtless Guy.” Who was His first follower?

Referencing Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, and Acts 1:13, you will find the first twelve followers (the disciples) listed in the order they were called and chose to follow. Each passage reflects a different order in which Jesus called his first twelve, but each passage starts with the same first follower – Simon Peter. Who was this guy?

In Acts, Peter is portrayed as a model disciple for others to emulate. He is generally treated as a model for Christians to emulate as well. All the gospels describe Jesus as calling Peter the “rock” upon which His future church would be built. This may sound strange because the gospels also relate many examples of Peter’s faithlessness – for example, his three denials of Jesus.  

Yesterday, we discussed leadership providing freedom for failure. Please note, we never discussed providing permission for failure. Leaders must have high expectations and never permit their followers to fail, but it will occur. Therefore the freedom to do so must be made available. Jesus made it available to His “rock” and first follower.  

Who was your first follower? Who is courageously following your leadership and showing others how to follow? Are you reciprocating that effort by encouraging, supporting, and developing that person? Are you giving that person the freedom to make mistakes?

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” – George Bernard Shaw

– leading from a cornfield.

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Point the Thumb; Pull the Finger

The caricature above ended up on my office door one afternoon following a department wide meeting. Yes, I always have sunglasses on my head. No, I don’t have an acne problem. That is my short beard and receding hairline. I digress. The meeting’s agenda involved learning the value of “Pulling the thumb before pointing the finger.” I find this concept very important in any situation, especially the world of leadership.

Part of leadership is coaching. Coaching requires a humble tact for honesty in identifying weak points while providing suggestions for improvement. It requires support and encouragement. It also requires providing freedom for failure. Yes, failure. It’s proven that human’s learn most through their failures. Never forget that the people you lead are human. So are you. As a leader, if you are quick to pull the thumb at yourself before pointing the finger at others, your followers will do likewise.      

What the picture fails to show is the caricature’s caption which reads, “Point the thumb…pull the finger!” How clever. I’ve always heard, “Mimicking is the greatest form of flattering.” I can only hope that’s true.

– leading from a cornfield.

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