Thursday, November 30, 2017

Leadership Opportunity: Lateral Leadership

What does it mean to be a leader of leaders?  There is no lack of books about leading those who are responsible to you due to your designated position in the church or organization.  A leadership subject that is not often addressed is how to be a leader among those who are your peers.  I was recently introduced to the term “lateral leadership” to describe this competency.  We may know how to work with our supervisors or how to supervise others, but how do we work with others who are at the same level as we are?

 Here are some things to consider in exercising lateral leadership.

1.  Be a person of integrity.  Of course, this should be true of any leader, but when you work with your peers, trust and respect are essential.  Peers must know that you will follow through on your commitments and share not only responsibilities but recognition as well.  Competency in your work is important, but consistency in word and deed is essential.

2.  Cultivate and value relationships.  In his book, Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time, Keith Ferazzi explains that successful people develop and use the power of relationships so that everyone wins: “You can’t get there alone.  In fact, you can’t get very far at all.”  This is not just a transactional process where there is a direct one to one exchange of “You give me this and I will give you that.”  This is a genuine investment in the lives of others.  Relationships enrich our lives and pay off in unexpected ways.

3.  Give to others. In Give and Take:  Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, Adam Grant poses this question: “Every time we interact with another person at work, we have a choice to make:  do we try to claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return?”  We are dealing here with one’s reciprocity preference.

 Grant observes that people tend to be givers, takers, or matchers in social relationships.  Takers like to get more than they give.  Givers go the other direction, preferring to give more than they get.  Matchers seek an equal balance of giving and getting.  The surprise in Grant’s research is that givers ultimately are more successful than matchers or takers.

Most important, Grant writes, “Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them.  You’ll see that the difference lies in how giver success creates value, instead of just claiming it.”

In summary, the best way to exercise lateral leadership is to be a servant leader.  As Jesus said, “For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” Luke 9:48, NIV)  When we care for and support others, they will value us both as colleagues and coworkers.  When we help them win, we win, too.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Leadership Opportunity: Generation Z

Since William Strauss and Neil Howe started writing about generational cohorts in the 1990s, we have been fascinated by the game of naming and identifying each new generation. We are now addressing Generation Z or Gen Z.  They may eventually have another designation based on the characteristics they exhibit as they enter adulthood, but this is the most common term used now.

Gen Z members were born between 1999 and 2015.  Most are in their teen or childhood years.  I have four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren in this cohort, so I observe them first hand on a regular basis.

One thing we know for sure is that they have grown up with technology at their fingertips--smartphones, iPads, tablets, computers--anything with a screen.  For this reason, some are already calling them the iGeneration.  They are digital natives who have grown up with technology.  For them it is a common and necessary part of their lives.

They are the second largest generation alive today, second only to the Boomers (but we won’t be around much longer).  They are also the most ethnically diverse generation in the United States today, which tells us a lot about the growing diversity of our nation.

Leaders should see this emerging generation as an opportunity and not a threat.  Too often we bemoan the eccentricities of various generations rather than celebrating what they bring to the table.

For example, due to the immediate access that digital connectivity provides them, they may well be more action oriented.  They will have to learn processes that make that action both efficient and effective.  They will be able to access information quickly, but they will need to learn how to evaluate and determine its validity and applicability.  In other words, they will bring some raw abilities that can be channeled in a creative way with the right leadership.

As good leaders realize, with change comes both discomfort and opportunity.  Gen Z will provide both in the churches and in the workplace.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Leadership Dilemma: Enabling

With permission, I share the experience of a pastor friend who was recently involved in the removal of the executive director of a 501(c)3 housed in his congregation.  The person involved was charismatic, charming, and could tell a good story; however, she did not know how to lead the ministry. 

 As my friend recounts the situation, in previous leadership roles this person had always found someone who could prop her up.  These people were enablers who did her work for her, so she never had to step up and take responsibility.  He says, “If you enable incompetency, consider how you are handicapping a person for life and creating unnecessary challenges for future supervisors.”

This happens in not-for-profits, churches, and other organizations.  Why do we do this?  Why do we become enablers who encourage dysfunctional behavior?  There are several reasons.

First of all, we think we are helping the person.  We convince ourselves that although this person has some shortcomings, this a good human being who just needs help in certain areas.  The problem here is that we are keeping the person from self-improvement.  We are making it possible for her to perpetuate dysfunctional behavior.

Second, we believe that we are helping the organization by assuming this person’s responsibilities.  In reality, we are facilitating poor stewardship and misuse of resources.  The organization is paying for something it is not getting.  The organization is paying this person to be a leader, but it is not receiving that service. 

Third, we feel good that we are helping.  This is dysfunctional behavior on our part.  We are feeding our own egos, assuming a place of authority that is not ours, and perpetuating an unhealthy system.  We are only making a bad system worse.

Fourth, we are afraid to confront.  We fear hurting the person’s feelings or making the organization look bad; therefore, we inhibit growth for the person and the organization.

Organizations, supervisors, and co-workers can help a person who exhibits such dysfunctional behavior by confronting it and the sooner the better for everyone involved.  We can launch an intervention that will help all involved. Failure to do so allows the person to make this their default way of functioning, repeating this behavior in one situation after another.

Leaders must confront this behavior, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Leadership Dilemma: Outgrowing Your Mentor

Benjamin Franklin said this about mentoring:

“There are two ways to acquire wisdom; you can either buy it or borrow it.  By buying it, you pay full price in terms of time and cost to learn the lessons you need to learn.  By borrowing it, you go to those men and women who have already paid the price to learn the lessons and get their wisdom from them.”

Mentors are important in our personal and professional development.  They not only share their experiences with us, but they open doors by introducing us to people in our field and sponsoring us to be involved in special projects or events.

Is it possible that one can outgrow her or his mentor?  This is not only a possibility but very likely. In the Book of Acts, we read the story of a mentor-protégé relationship that prospered for a period but ended with some discord.  We sometimes forget that Barnabas was a mentor for Saul, the persecutor of the Way who would become its most articulate spokesperson.

When Saul first appeared in Jerusalem after his conversion, many of the church leaders feared him, but Barnabas recognized that his experience was authentic and advocated for him.  Later Barnabas found himself working with the new church in Antioch and sent for Saul to come join him and invest his gifts there.  With the urging of the Holy Spirit, the church at Antioch sent them off on what we call the first missionary journey to the Gentiles.  Their success led to a controversy among Christians over the acceptance of these new believers based on their faith alone, but Barnabas and Paul (as he had come to be called) stood together before the leaders in Jerusalem to advocate for “an unhindered Gospel” (to use Frank Stagg’s term).  Only when they planned for the next missionary journey did they experience a disagreement over the inclusion of John Mark on the team.  They went their separate ways.

At some point the mentor-protégé relationship broke down between Barnabas and Paul, but evidently neither was ready to acknowledge it.  Paul went on to mentor others, and certainly Barnabas did as well.  What can we learn from this experience?

First, mentor relationships may only last for a season.  There are critical points in our lives when we need mentors. Most of us have had more than one mentor and each filled an important role at different times in our lives.  We must recognize that situations change and relationships do as well.

Second, at some point the protégé has learned everything he or she can learn from the mentor or at least decides that this is true.  Even the best mentors have limited areas of expertise and experience. Barnabas had opened doors of service for Paul and now it was his time to do the same for others.

Third, although it may be difficult, those who are mentors must recognize when it is time to move on from the relationship.  This does not mean that the person will never be a mentor again but just that they have invested all that they can in this particular protégé.  Let’s hope when it is time for that partnership to end, we can find a better way to do it than Paul and Barnabas did!

Don’t be afraid to become a mentor, but learn how to let go when it is time for your protégé to spread her or his wings. If you are protégé, be transparent with your mentor, share your appreciation, and then move on to share that person’s investment in you with other