MLK 50 Years Later

Fifty years ago, an assassin’s bullet took the life of the greatest civil rights leader of our lifetime, Martin Luther King. Looking at MLK 50 years later, we see his message more clearly, we hear his words more distinctly, and we wish for the civility in discord that he portrayed.

Today we are polarized by opposing factions that spread lies and do everything they can to split our great nation.  But when I look back on King’s words, I don’t hear hate.  Passion, yes.  Did he fight the establishment? No doubt.  But his message was one of love, not hate.

Servant the leadership, the type of leadership that I espouse and strive to exhibit in my life, is one that has to be rooted in love. A servant heart cannot survive without love.

King noted that love is integral to leadership.  That power and love are completely intertwined:

“One of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites, polar opposites, so that love is identified with a resignation of power, and power with a denial of love . . . What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love, implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”

One writer noted that King’s ministry was formed by the way of love. In his words, “I would recommend to you a way of love. I still believe that love is the most durable power in all the world.” Love is a power, power at its purest, but as such, it is a power that runs contrary to the powers and principalities of the world. It is, as we have seen, power that is only known in our weakness.

The opposite of love is hate. And King also makes it clear what hate does to us:

Hate is a cancerous disease which distorts the personality and scars the soul. To return hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate in the universe. Hate seeks to annihilate rather than convert. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. We must learn that it is possible to stand up courageously and positively against an evil system and yet not resist it with physical weapons and inner feelings of hatred.

I hope we never give up on the goal of having a unified world based on love. It seems like, in some ways, we are more divided than ever. But I see so much good in so many people. I cannot help but believe that MLK’s dream is still alive and well in the hearts and minds of many.

Let me just close by reminding you of the words from Romans 12:17-21.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Strategic Planning for Churches and Non-Profits

Many don’t understand the need for strategic planning in some organizations, especially churches.  A common feeling is that if we just pray for it “God will provide”.  Now I would never want to take anything away from the power of prayer and God’s ability to bless any ministry or organization.  But I also believe that God placed us on this earth to be good stewards of what he has bestowed upon us.  And it’s our responsibility to serve him and make the most out of those gifts.

I see five key components of a church strategy:

  1. Core Beliefs – these are the things that you cannot compromise.  They are at the root of everything you stand for.
  2. Mission – this is what you do. It’s current and real, not aspirational.
  3. Vision – this is where you want to be.  3-5 years is a good standard, but some prefer shorter.  I would not attempt a vision any farther out.
  4. Values – these are the things that set you apart.  These define who you are and what is important to you.
  5. Strategies – These are the specific steps, activities, programs, etc. that you are going to put into place based on what you have discovered in the first four.

Each of these items builds on the other.  They also get more specific to your organization as you work down the list. For example, core beliefs will not vary that much by a church.  Mission will also be pretty similar from church to church. Vision will be a little more varied, based on where you are and your current state. Values will certainly be (and should be) distinctive for you. And strategies will certainly be tailored to each organization.

So why are these important?  Tony Morgan of the Unstuck Group gives these seven “frustrations” of doing church without a strategy.  I believe this applies to any type of organization.,

  1. The loudest person in the room the license to decide what happens.
  2. True leaders will leave if there is no plan or strategy.
  3. It requires more meetings (to discuss minutia).
  4. You are setting the stage for a split.
  5. You never have the opportunity to celebrate a win.
  6. You don’t have the opportunity to unite in prayer around something.
  7. People won’t give if there is no vision (especially true with millennials).

If you are interested in learning more about how to do this in your church or organization, please contact me and I’ll help you get started.

The most important word

The Scout Law

A Scout Is:

  • Trustworthy
  • Loyal
  • Helpful
  • Friendly
  • Courteous
  • Kind
  • Obedient
  • Cheerful
  • Thrifty
  • Brave
  • Clean
  • Reverent

Several years ago I asked my scouts which one of these words is most important.  Hands flew up, “Reverent!” several shouted.  I told them no.  Then one-by-one they guessed at each of them.  Frustrated, they finally said they gave up.

The most important word is “IS”.  It doesn’t say a scout tries to be trustworthy, or is sometimes loyal.  It doesn’t say that you are reverent on Sundays and friendly to those that you like.  It simply says that he “is”.  And that’s an important distinction, and why I think it’s the most important word.

Principle-Centered Leadership

I was reviewing the book “Principle-Centered Leadersihp” by Stephen Covey the other day, and was reminded of the great message he has in this book.  Here’s a summary.

Overall theme:  That “natural laws, principles, operate regardless.  So get these principles at the center of your life, at the center of relationships, at the center of your management contracts, at the center of your entire organization.”  Further, these principles have been “woven into the fabric of every civilized society and constitute the roots of every family and institution that has endured and prospered”.

  • We may not like them, we may not agree with them all, but they are there. And they have proven effective throughout many centuries.
  • Six major religions all teach the same core beliefs – fairness, kindness, dignity, charity, integrity, honesty, quality, service and patience.
  • Principles are different than values.  Even street gangs and German Nazi’s held values.

How we react to these principles impacts every aspect of our lives.  For example, the principle of trust impacts us on four levels:

  1. Personal – Trustworthiness
  2. Interpersonal – Trust
  3. Managerial – Empowerment
  4. Organizational – Alignment

He gives characteristics of principle-centered leaders.

  • They are continually learning.
  • They are service-oriented.
  • They radiate positive energy.
  • They believe in other people.
  • They lead balanced lives.
  • They see life as an adventure.
  • They are synergistic.
  • They exercise self-renewal

Traits that are essential for managers to exhibit this type of leadership are:

  1. Integrity – “the value we place on ourselves”.
  2. Maturity – “the balance between courage and consideration”.
  3. Abundance Mentality – “there is plenty out there for everybody”.

The abundance mentality is the “bone deep belief that there are enough natural and human resources to realize my dream”. 

The need for a moral compass.  Values are maps, principles are a compass.  We need to trade in our maps for a compass.  An accurate map is a good management tool, but a compass is a leadership and an empowerment tool.    Maps change, compass bearings are constant.

The First 100 Days

I was recently asked the question, “what do you do to be successful during the first 90 days on the job?”. The bottom line is that you need to demonstrate to your leaders, peers, customers and team members, that you are ready to take on this new position.

I was recently asked the question, “what do you do to be successful during the first 90 days on the job?”. I’ve been put in leadership roles before where it was a significant change, either through a reorganization or simply applying for and getting hired into a new position. In either case, you need to demonstrate to your leaders, peers, customers and team members, that you are ready to take on this new position.

For me, I am a very relational person. So I believe you have to first focus on the people. This is the case whether you are in a totally new company/role where they are complete strangers, or in a new role in the same company where you may know the people. The key thing is to get to know them. I focus on three groups – team members, clients/customers/peers and the boss(es). I also try to do this both informally (lunch/coffee) and formally (1-on-1s, formal meetings).

Second, I gather a list of the key issues. The truth is, I’ve been gathering them as I got to know the people. Again, the source of the issues come from all three points of view. I’ll likely get different opinions on issues from the three groups. This 360 degree view of the job is important, as it gives you insight from virtually every perspective. Note that your “horizontal” group (clients/customers/peers) may have to grow to vendors or others as appropriate.

Finally, I put together an action plan. I’ve typically called this a “100 day plan”. I try to have it prepared within the first 3 weeks or so (30 days at the most). That’s because it is retroactive back to my first day. In this plan I address key issues, and put together a strategy for tackling each one.

For example, a 100 Day Plan I once put together broke out the action plan into four key areas:

  • Meeting Project Commitments
  • Agree upon project commitments
  • Identify skill and resource gaps to meet commitments.
  • Define our Roles
  • Define our Service Level Agreements (SLA)
  • Layout our support model
  • Resources
  • To meet immediate commitments
  • Long tem (stable environment) requirements
  • Build Know-How
  • Identify key skill gaps.
  • Action Plan to fill gaps.
  • I then present the plan to the team and to key constituents to see if I missed anything and to get buy-in. Then, and this is key, you have to follow up at the end of the 100 days and review how you did.

    Bottom line:  I believe for any transition to be key, you have to first focus on the people, and then put together a measurable, actionable plan to accomplish your goals.

    Taking Credit or getting things done

    “It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”

    I don’t know who is responsible for this quote.  Some say Abraham Lincoln, others refer to a similar quote made by Ronald Reagan, and still others attribute it to some guy named “anonymous”.

    This quote was brought to my attention this week when some very dear friends took time to honor me for work I had done with Boy Scouts.  When I look back on the good things I’ve accomplished in life, this statement does ring true.  I’ve accomplished most when I focused on the goal and not worried about what I would profit in the end. 

    Unfortunately, more and more I find the primary motivator for people is just the opposite.  I’ve certainly seen it exhibited by many in all walks of life.  Here’s to those who don’t operate that way.