The Storms of Leadership

Have you ever just wanted to quit? Have you ever felt like the tide was never going to pull back? Have you ever looked around at your circumstances and just wanted to throw in the towel? I know that I have on more occasions that I care to admit. While this might seem to be discouraging, I can actually find great encouragement in the life of Christ and how He handled the storms as they arose.

dg5kvcvv7tu-duncan-maloney

In Matthew 8:24 (NIV) we read that “…suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.” Later, another storm arises and He is seen walking on water. An interesting side note is that Jesus sent His disciples into the boat the night before, knowing there was a pending storm. In Luke 4:30 (ESV), an angry mob brings Jesus to the side of a hill “so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.”

Storms never shocked Christ, never caused fear and never pulled Him from the mission that God called Him to. Storms are seen by Jesus as not merely part of life, but tools for growth in the lives of those who follow Him.

How else can we explain the impact that Jesus’ handling of storms had on Peter? He is transformed from an arrogant fisherman (John 13:6-8) to a well-intentioned but misunderstanding sword wielder. He then takes his greatest moment to defend Christ and instead denies that they ever knew each other. Could this possibly be the same Peter who preaches on the Day of Pentecost, who challenges the Sanhedrin and who is a “founding father” of the Church? It seems that the combination of witnessing how Christ handled storms with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit provided all that was needed for a powerful leadership transformation.

Storms do not define us, but they allow us to better see God. Leadership requires the ability to trust in God in the midst of storms and to lead others in and through storms to safety. We must experience personal storms before we are able to lead others in them. In my life, it is only through the experience of coming out on the other side of storms that I have seen my faith and confidence in God grow. After all, without any storms in life, why would I need the strength and power of God in my life?

As tempting as it might be to wish for lack of storms, I have come to learn that they are a reality of life and are really the only way to grow and expand leadership capacity.

What do storms do for me practically?

  1. They remind me that life is bigger than me – I need God’s perspective
  2. They remind me that I am not in control – I need God’s power
  3. They remind me that I am not alone – I need God’s presence

Each of these concepts allows me to step back, to rest, and to trust in my God. If He didn’t personally run from storms and taught His disciples likewise, then it only makes sense to follow in His steps and look at storms not as something to escape or avoid, but rather to weather by His grace and with His strength. And as a leader, this then provides me both the credibility and experience to pass this on to those whom I am privileged to influence.

As I move into a new year, these three areas of need are going to be the filter through which I pray, I read, I learn and I lead. As these areas grow personally, I trust that God will expand my influence as a leader and will increase my capacity to lead as well. Will you join me this year as I better embrace storms and look for God’s perspective, power and presence in the midst.

~ Mike

How to Lead to the Brim

When I was nineteen, I was on a missions trip to Venezuela for one month. Through a series of unfortunate events (also known as the sovereignty of God), I was enlisted as the interpreter and translator for about three weeks of our trip. While I had taken four years of Spanish and even passed my AP test in high school, I had never used my Spanish in any meaningful way aside from small conversations around town. Yet, now God was asking me to step up, battle my fear and translate the preaching and teaching of our team leaders across the country. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit was able to overcome my own fears and I was used to help share the Gospel with countless people that summer.

Man, talk about feeling like God asking me to step out in faith and engage in an opportunity that I had no idea what the outcome might be! While it might be simple to say this was the only instance, as I look back across my life, I can see a constant pattern of God asking me to do things that would not seem rational. I said yes to starting my Master’s degree with no money and very little confidence only to graduate two years later. I resigned from a church without a guaranteed job in place only to land at the ministry where I have served for the past four years.

God has spent my lifetime working to grow and expand my faith by asking me to do things that just seem to make no sense.

In a certain way, I feel like I can relate to the servants we learn about in John 2. While participating in a wedding at Cana, the host ran out of wine. This would have been a huge social faux pas and the host was now in a bind. Mary speaks with her son, Jesus, and after a short conversation, He becomes involved in the narrative.

clay-pots

While the story might be familiar, there is an interesting section that seems to apply to leaders. After the servants become engaged with Jesus and are waiting for orders, He simply commands them to “fill the jars with water.” He never says how much or even that they had to use all six jars. However, the servants respond by filling “them up to the brim.” (John 2:6-7)

What does this say about their heart and willingness to follow direction? It seems that they were a group who were not inclined to cut corners. Maybe they anticipated a amazing story? Maybe they just wanted to give their best? Maybe they wanted to give themselves extra work by requiring extra trips to the well (least likely option)?

I have no idea what their motivation was. All I know is that the jars were filled to the brim.

Similar to the many stories in my life where I could not see around the corner, I have at least attempted to give God my best and to trust Him with the outcome. Have I lived this out perfectly? Not at all! For every story where I have confidently “filled my jars to the brim” there are plenty more where I went halfway or maybe walked away from the jars without even trying.

So, what does this I have to do with leadership? There are three main areas that the servants model that I hope will become a regular part of my life.

First, they modeled lives of faith. There was not a questioning of Jesus’ commands in any way. We do not read of hesitation, argument, complaints about the extra work or any other form of negativity or doubt. Instead, there is an instant response to the words of Christ. Wow, do I need to grow in this area! Often, my steps of faith come after many moments of questions, arguments, denials and even justification of following my own path. I am amazed that no matter how many times following my path does not end well, that is still my initial response. Definitely an area for growth in my life.

Second, this lifestyle manifests through acts of obedience. The servants simply obey. Behavior that reveals their trust and is displayed to those at the party that they will obey the One who is providing the direction. When Jesus calls us to have a childlike faith, I often wonder if this is part of what He meant. So often children must simply obey their parents without a sense of understanding. If they have loving parents, as we have a loving Father, this turns out well and they learn to continue on the path of obedience.

Finally, there had to be a sense of anticipation on their part. Whether or not they knew who Jesus was, the interaction between him and his mother set the stage that something was about to happen. Can you not picture the servants peeking out from behind a curtain watching the host take a sip of the water? What must their reaction have been upon his declaration that this was better wine than had previously been served? I don’t know about you, but anticipation that ends in fulfillment cannot help but lead to even greater anticipation for the things of God.

May I encourage you to join my journey of learning how to fill my jars to the brim? While I have been blessed to have a few moments where I got this idea right, I want this to happen more often and to be part of my daily life. Oh, how wonderful life would be if I were to live with a sense of faith, obedience and anticipation every time Jesus would give me direction.

Learning to fill,

Mike

4 Steps to Faking it Well

Okay, it’s confession time. I’m not really good at this, but if I was completely honest, I would tell you that I have been “faking it” for awhile. In case you aren’t sure what this means, I have been going through the motions more lately than living with passion. I must admit that I think I put on a pretty good front, except to those who know me well. I can smile and attend church and serve and work hard with the best of them…but lately, something has been missing. I have been empty – a car with no gas, a flashlight without batteries, a coffee cup without, gasp, coffee!


I hope that I don’t get left hanging on this one, as if I was the only person who goes through the motions. The problem isn’t necessarily the going through the emotions, but more what we do when we realize that this is what we are doing. When the realization comes that we are missing our zest and passion for life, what’s next? I was confronted by this just last week in church by something our teaching pastor shared. I basically realized that there was not much about pursuing God that was firing me up. Devotions, prayer, worship, church itself…nothing. No energy – no excitement – no passion! And if pursuing God has lost passion, it’s just a matter of time before other arenas in my life become affected. 

So, how in the world can I turn this around so that I can fake it well? It’s in the steps that come after the realization that I have been faking it. Let me share my four steps with you now (in case you are wondering…I’m currently on step #2).

Awareness – every great movement must start with an awareness that I am not where I want to be. Until I become aware of my lack of passion, nothing will change. This might come by reading a book that grabs your heart, or by having coffee with a good friend, or by a loving spouse sitting you down to have “the talk”. It could happen in church (as it did for me this time around), or at the beach, or any number of places. Basically, awareness confronts me with a choice…am I content with where I am or do I need to make some changes?

Desire – the only way to fake well is to move to this step. Without a desire for change, we are just people aware that we are living without meaning but unwilling to change anything. Wow, that’s a depressing thought! I must decide that the pain of remaining where I am is less than the pain of moving forward. This is not desire that simply sounds nice…rather, it is desire that compels me to action. Currently, I am wrestling with the frustration of my lack of passion and assessing my daily routine to see where change must happen. Where am I spending more time on Facebook than in prayer? Do I play more rounds of solitaire than reading books on family, marriage and parenting? Am I content to disappear into watching a football on TV, rather than going outside to play catch with my son who is gearing up for a season of flag football? Desire is what will pull me from the doldrums and back into a purposeful and passionate life. 

Discipline – this is where it gets messy. I can talk a good game. I have a lot of plans and dreams and hopes for the future. I am always talking about moving forward and improving. I confess that I do not act upon every one of my ideas.  I have many friends with dreams in the sky who never put a plan in place to accomplish anything. You know who I’m talking about…the guy at every party or gathering who has a million excuses why his ideas never came to fruition, but a lack of discipline is never on his list. Discipline turns off the television. Discipline wakes up early to spend time with God. Discipline eats healthy and exercises with regularity. Discipline prefers others before self. Discipline makes a plan, works the plan and never stops until the plan is finished. 

Habits – welcome to your reward for faking it well! Awareness which leads to desire which leads to discipline ends with a change of habits for the better. Habits are activities that we are able to do without much thinking. Brushing our teeth, putting gas in the car, getting dressed in the morning and clicking a remote control are fairly engrained in the majority of our lives. Habits also lead to passion. Doing what I need to do in order to remain connected with God not only ignites passion in my life, but spreads to the other arenas of my life. Family, work and hobbies all become much more enjoyable when engaged with passion and purpose. Habits keep me on track so that when my emotions are not cooperating I am still living in a way that is intentional. 

One danger of habits is that they can become, well, habitual. We can begin doing things without even remembering why we started in the first place. When this happens, we just might find ourselves going through the motions. Of course, when we find ourselves in this position, we can embrace the gift of awareness and…well, you probably get the idea!

Faking it together, 

Mike

Tension Produces Dreams

I have often wondered if life would truly be better if it was simpler. What if I didn’t have to strive quite so much? What if relationships just happened naturally? Wouldn’t everybody be better off if we removed the struggle and pain and work? I mean don’t most people just live for the weekend so that they can kick off their shoes and relax? 


I think that this idea is actually fairly hollow and will not actually lead us where we want to go. An oft repeated story is told of butterflies that must wrestle with their cocoon in order to strengthen their wings so that they can survive once they are loose. Witnessing the birth of my children not only confirmed that I was grateful to not be in the hospital bed, but helped me to realize that the birth of a dream comes on the other side of great tension. 

Tension provides a sense of gratitude for an accomplished work

Tension makes the thrill of jumping that much bigger

Tension helps me know what is worth fighting for

Tension provides the perspective and momentum necessary to take a risk

I have shared before how it took seven months of unemployment before I landed at the job that I currently hold. Talk about tension! The team that I am privileged to lead is in the middle of a 2-year project to create resources for local churches to better serve families affected by disability. These resources are the result of years of tension – conversations, debates and discussions about the best way to serve the church. 

So, how can you make tension work for you?

1) Keep your eye on the prize, on your vision, on the dream. If tension causes you to walk away from this, then it wasn’t that compelling to begin with. Take this as a great opportunity to revisit the vision and make sure that it is truly large enough to be compelling.

2) Remember that life is a journey and tension is simply one of the steps you must take on your way to success. Tension is a well-oiled bike chain, a rubber band ready to launch, or the nervous feeling you get right before you make a leap of faith. 

3) Although it might be clichè, there is a reason that it works – “what doesn’t break you only makes you stronger”. Tension is necessary for world class athletes to become stronger. And without tension you will never learn just what you can truly handle. 

4) Tension brings you to the feet of Jesus. Tension reminds me constantly that He is God and I am not. I cannot, nor am I meant to, proceed through life on my own strength. Tension keeps me humble which is always the best way to be.

I don’t know what you are walking through this week, but I would imagine it includes some tension. Be encouraged to not run from it, but rather to embrace it, to bring it to God and to anticipate the dreams that will be birthed because of it. 

~ Mike

Their Way Might be Better

I don’t know about you, but I live with an underlying pressure that I am supposed to have all of the answers and always know the right decisions to make. It doesn’t matter if I am at home, work or on the football field. When I was starting out as a young pastor, I believed that asking for help or admitting that I was unsure of what to do next was a certain sign of being a terrible leader. I can remember at times making up answers just to appear right and hoping that I seemed confident enough to thwart any potential questions. 


While I cannot say that the pressure has lessened at all, I can say that I do a better job lately of looking to others for help and answers. Even when I am in a role as leader, or maybe especially so, I look to my team for thoughts, insights, plans and ideas. It is ludicrous to think for even one moment that I might hold all of the answers. Even something as simple as finding my car can become an exercise in my natural desire to know everything. When my wife and I were dating, we attended a UCLA football game. Part of the parking lot at the Rose Bowl is on a golf course and we spent almost two hours walking in circles around the course searching for the car. On several occasions she pointed a different direction, but I confidently ignored her suggestions. When the tow trucks arrived on scene, I started to become genuinely worried and we eventually found the car…in the exact direction that she had suggested quite some time before. 

Through the pain of many decisions, I have come to this conclusion regarding the people in my life: their way might be better! Now, if only I always remembered this in the moment. The majority of my disagreements with my wife happen when I forgot this truth. Errors at work happen largely because I ignore this basic premise. So, let me share three problems with ignoring the premise and three benefits from heeding it.

Ignoring this premise leads to:

** a bottleneck of ideas and action. A leader who feels that he or she must know everything compels all activity to flow through themselves which causes a shut down of progress. 

** a sense of arrogance and entitlement on the part of the leader. What else could somebody feel if they know everything about everything?

** a level of stress and pressure that no person is designed to handle. The leader who knows everything must work very hard to maintain that illusion and increases stress everytime he or she must provide information that does not exist.

On the contrary, learning that their way might be better leads to:

** an empowerment of team members and a true sense of personal value which will naturally lead to greater collaboration and success for the team as a whole.

** an assortment of ideas, perspectives and actions to choose from that will inspire both creativity and innovation.

** a true releasing of others in their areas of strength…which should be an underlying value of all healthy leaders

This is not an easy task for me, nor do I believe that it is easy for you. It is humbling and challenging to admit that we might not have all of the answers. However, leadership is less about being right and more about encouraging and supporting others to accomplish their dreams. I can honestly say that one of my greatest joys happens when people have an “a-ha” moment…and this is impossible if I have to know all of the answers. 

~ Mike

Making an Ishmael

Have you ever had a dream that was moving too slowly? Have you ever had plans that were not turning out? Have you ever found yourself going a direction in life that you never imagined and you “know” it must be the wrong direction?

If you are anything like me, these are the moments that the temptation to cut corners, cheat the system or just take matters into my own hands is the greatest! If I was to be completely transparent, my first marriage was the result of this mindset. I decided that it was taking too long for marriage to happen, so I stopped waiting and moved forward in a reckless manner. It is so very dangerous to not slow down, wait on the Lord and allow His plans to play out.


In the book of Genesis, Abraham is given a promise that he will be the father of nations and that his descendants would be as numerous as the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky. This was a powerful promise filled with hope and joy and expectation. However, there was one major hitch – Abraham was approaching ninety years old and had no children. So, he took matters into his own hands, slept with the maidservant of his wife, and had a son, Ishmael. You can read the story in chapters 15-20, but the summary is that Ishmael was not the child of God’s promise, that conflict arose between him and Isaac (the intended child of God’s promise), and that conflict not only fractured Abraham’s family, but the descendants of the two boys continue to be at war today.

So, what is it that drives us to make our own “Ishmael” when life doesn’t go the way that we expect? Why am I unable to read about the life of Abraham and avoid the same traps of impatience and control?

Here are three things that I wrestle with when tempted to make an Ishmael:

First, I lack unwavering faith in God. It is so much easier to trust God and follow His plan when things are going my way. However, it is both the storms of life and the adversity of circumstances that reveal just how deeply rooted my faith is. Am I more like Abraham who changed the story, or like Jesus who slept in the middle of the storm? I need to live in such a way that the storms of life drive me to God instead of to my own means of avoiding the storms. 

Second, I am admittedly impatient. I often joke that God is always late in my life. Upon retrospect, I know that His timing is perfect and it is myself who is unable to wait for the right moment. Traffic drives me crazy because I am forced to wait. One person in front of me in line is too many and I even find myself refreshing my Twitter feed manually if I am feeling especially impatient. Please don’t leave me hanging that I am the only one who struggles with this! The problem is how often my impatience short circuits what God has planned for me. 

Third, I like things done my way and struggle to relinquish control. Deep down, I believe that I am right, that my way is the best way, and my timing is impeccable. I rarely say this, but my actions reveal that I like to be in charge. IF the ship is going to sink, I want it to at least sink on my terms! This is not only a poor way to live, but it is exhausting and exasperating. 

In spite of myself, God’s grace overcomes my inability to trust Him with all of my heart, my lack of patience and my control issues. While I spend a great deal of time making my own Ishmaels, God continues to love and bless and encourage me. And as I look at the story of Ishmael, in spite of Abraham’s shortcomings, Ishamael received the blessings and promises of God in his own life. 

So, how about you? Do you find yourself making Ishmaels and, if so, what drives you to this? Regardless of the reason, remember that God knows, God sees and God loves. He can even turn your Ishmael into the greatest blessing of your life. While I would never recommend pursuing the creation of an Ishamael, remember that He is the God of redemption and that your “Isaac” is just a step of faith away. My first marriage (one of my biggest Ishmaels) gave me the gift of my children and for that I am eternally grateful. 

Start small and see what happens


Bigger is better, right? I mean everybody is impressed by those who climb Mount Everest, but nobody seems to care about me climbing the hill by my house. Bigger phones, bigger dreams, Super Size drinks. There is no stopping the fascination that we typically have with big. We all know the expectation to “go big or go home”! We want to have bigger houses and bank accounts and dreams…just not waistlines 🙂

As a leader, it is very tempting to become focused on the “big dreams” and this is an important part of leadership. Effective leaders know what the big picture is and are able to make decisions in the best interest of their team based upon this perspective.

But is it possible to become so focused on bigger that we can lose sight of the details? Can the desire to grow and achieve too quickly put our team and our projects in danger? I definitely believe so.

SO, what is a leader to do? How can I avoid the temptation to always focus on the next big mountain to climb but forget to take the small steps necessary to approach the base of the mountain?

I need to first remember that it is important to keep the big mountain in sight. As a leader, it is part of my job to keep my team, my family, my ministry heading in the right direction. People are counting on me to know where we are going. It is not a bad thing to even keep a picture of the goal or dream on my wall, my phone and in my head – this is essential!

Next, there needs to be an understanding of the steps that it will take to not only arrive at the mountain, but to slowly ascend to the summit. Whether this is a new set of expectations at home, or undertaking a huge work project, or just working to have a better routine of exercise and healthy eating, nothing will be accomplished well without a plan.

Finally, there is great wisdom in starting small and seeing what happens. Projects that are worth their while will not be accomplished overnight. Exercise plans and book reading disciplines take time to turn into habits. Culture change within an organization might take years to accomplish, if it ever happens. The key is to know where you are going, but to take one day at a time. I am currently part of a project at work that is just beginning to show some progress, but the initial discussions started over four years ago. The cliché is that you eat an elephant one bite at a time.

The great advantage to starting small is that if your idea works, now you have some momentum and experience to build upon. If it does not work out, then you only invested minimal resources and energy but you now have a learning experience that will allow you to adjust your mountain climbing plan before you even make it to the mountain. As great as big dreams and big aspirations are, don’t forget that the biggest of dreams is accomplished one step at a time.

~ Mike

Make a Difference Where You Are

I can remember years ago when I was in children’s minstry having the experience of being greeted in the grocery store by a woman whose daughter was in my ministry. I have had football coaches and players come up to me at church functions to say hello because I was a referee for their games. Once I even found myself on the phone with a customer service representative who turned out to be the parent of a child in my ministry. Enough of these occurences have caused me to become more aware of the fact that I am part of a community. I do not lead in a vacuum and neither do you. No matter how much we might want to compartmentalize our lives, the vivid truth is that there is a greater connectedness between home and work and church and extracurriculuar than we might realize. Authenticity compels me to be the same person regardless of the context where I find myself. 


As a leader, people are watching me for various reasons. Maybe they want to see how a follower of Christ responds to certain situations. Maybe they know that I am leading in one context and are observing my authenticity. Maybe I am just the loudest person in the group (which is very typical)!

So, what does leadership look like in my community? Going back to leadership as influence, community life is all about points of influence. Do I influence in a good and positive direction? Do I provide hope and stability? Am I seen as a healthy role model? Ultimately, do people see Christ or at least become curious about Christ as they watch my life?

In considering my community, there are four basic characteristics that I want to be known for. These apply at home, at church, in the mall or on the football field or anywhere else I might find myself.

First, I want to be known as trustworthy. I want my words to be credible and my actions to be authentic. It is easy to speak the truth when people are watching or I am engaged in a conversation. But what do I do when I am given incorrect change at the store? If, as a football official, I am supposed to uphold justice and fairness, but am seen in the community as a liar, my credibility is severely undermined. There is a great concept of truth that states if you always speak truth, you never have to remember the story. Being trustworthy is actually as simple as speaking truth and sticking to the single story that actually happened. 

I also want to be known as a generous leader. While generosity is most often equated with finances, it also speaks to how I spend my time and how freely I share my story or advice. Leading in the community means that I do what I can to improve and enhance life. Maybe I volunteer at church, serve at a community event or look for ways to mentor upcoming generations. Nobody really wants to be around a stingy or selfish person, so I strive to choose generosity with what I have. 

Effective community leadership also requires that I am caring and compassionate. This is as simple as making it easy for somebody to cross the street when I am driving. I don’t know about your city, but in mine, it has become an adventure to use the crosswalk because far too many drivers are self-absorbed and in a hurry. How would I respond if I arrived at the scene of an accident? What about the kid in line at Starbucks who comes up short for her venti quad super-sugar extra whipped cream drink? I need to slow down a bit, see the world around me, and look for ways to care for others.

Finally, I want to be seen in my community as a leader who stands for justice. I want to be on the side of the underdog and to speak on behalf of the marginalized. Whether this applies to people who have become homeless, families affected by special needs, or just a small child attempting to be noticed by a store clerk, great leadership looks for and acts upon opportunities to elevate the people nearby. I truly hope that I am seen as this type of a leader. 

So, what about you? What does leadership look like in your community? What other characteristics would you add to my list and, more importantly, how are you doing in living up to these standards? Leadership is influence and our communities are a great place to exert the influence that we have – this is how to truly make a difference right where you are!

~ Mike

The Great Rat Race of Leadership

So much of our lives is spent at work. There is great pressure to advance, to excel, to influence and to be seen. Far too many of us have allowed our identity to be more about what we do than who we truly are. I have worked on church staffs and in retail environments and currently am in more of a corporate office setting. Regardless of the purpose of different organizations, there is a general expectation to make a difference, even if at times it might involve cutting corners. In such high pressure environments, is it possible to lead well, in an effective manner, according to biblical principles?


I have learned over the years through challenging circumstances and personal pain that I must be about the calling God has on my life and entrust the details to Him. Promotion, recognition, influence and the like cannot be my focus or I become desperately self-seeking. Rather, I must intentionally keep in mind the following biblical principles when it comes to leading well at work.

Do all for Christ – Colossians 3:17 (ESV) encourages me that “whatever [I] do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…” If I want to lead effectively in the work place, I must remember that I am first and foremost a representative of Christ. For years I have tried to work with the mindset that Jesus is sitting at my desk with me. How much more effectively would I manage my time if this was true? Would I speak with a different tone on the phone or would I reply differently to that difficult email? While this is my reality as a follower of Christ, I confess that it takes great intentionality to live accordingly and do all of my work for Christ.

Submit to authority – In Romans 13:1 (ESV), I am commanded to “be subject to the governing authorities.” While this passage is specifically speaking to government, I can see a fairly easy correlation to my boss and supervisors. I must confess that I am blessed to have a boss who leads with great compassion, vision and empowerment. He is truly about the team above himself and it is a joy to work under his leadership. However, this has not always been the case in my life, nor could I say that I have the same relationship with every leader at my current job. So, what happens when I might not agree with or get along with work leadership? I do not see an asterisk in this verse that God only asks me to submit to authority that I like or agree with. Rather, I must trust that God has established leadership and must submit accordingly. This in no way implies that I cannot share an opinion, or even disagree with leadership, but ultimately the final decision is theirs. If I simply cannot submit, then it might be time to move to a place where I can be a benefit to the organization and not a thorn.

Serve others – The point of leadership is not to take care of and promote myself. Jesus teaches that true leadership is not about lording over others, but rather is about serving people (Luke 22:25-26). Effective leadership in my workplace happens as I am able to look for ways to elevate others. There is great joy in shining the spotlight on the accomplishments of my team; far greater than self-promotion could ever provide. Great leadership teaches us to praise publicly and criticize privately. In the same manner, I need to deflect the praises of others onto my team while shouldering the responsibility when criticism surfaces. This is a great way to serve others at work. Give credit away, don’t pass blame when criticism arises, and trust God to handle the promotions and recognition on your behalf.

Get caught doing good – Speaking of recognition, I would say it is much more satisfying to get caught doing good than to strive for recognition. We have all been in a meeting where somebody is busy talking about how amazing they are. Typically, their own hype does not match the project they are talking about, but even if it does, there seems to be a lack of luster when they have to shine the spotlight on themselves. When I was younger, I spent an inordinate amount of time telling people about what I was doing and how well I thought that I was doing it. 1 Peter 5:6 (ESV) says to “humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” Why would I violate this clear biblical principle and risk missing out on God raising me up? I am fairly certain that He can raise me up much further than I could ever hope to do for myself.

Is it possible to lead biblically within the workplace? Yes! Is it easy? No! I work in a Christian ministry and the struggles to lead biblically still very much exist. Why is this so? Probably because my organization is filled with broken and sinful people, including ME! All I know is that God’s ways are the best and this has been proven in my life so many times over the years. I am growing in each of these areas through circumstances and relationships at work, and my hope is that I am becoming a better representative of Christ along the way.

How about you? Are any of these steps particularly challenging for you? What other aspects of workplace leadership would you add to the list?

~ Mike

Leadership in the Home

I find it interesting how many people do not consider the home to be a place where leadership exists. For many, leadership seems too organizational or formal or political to make sense within the confines of home sweet home. If I am completely honest, leadership at work or church is must simpler than at home. The power of genetics and the many connected emotions make home leadership much more tricky to navigate during a typical day. However, this does not relieve me of the mandate to lead my home well. 1 Timothy 3:4-5 says that a potential church leader must “manage his own household well…for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

1 Samuel shares a heartbreaking story about the high priest, Eli. While he was faithfully leading the nation of Israel, the Bible states that “the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord.” What a brutal revelation of poor leadership within the home. I would hate for this to ever be said of my children. Because of this, I need to lead in such a way that my children know God, that they see me pursue God and that when they are adults, they could never say that they were not exposed to life with God.


Leadership in my home must start with my marriage. This is not some dominating control issue. Rather, I am responsible for setting the tone of my household and it begins with how I treat my wife. Do I love her well? Do I truly cherish and honor and provide for and protect her? Do I look for practical ways to serve her daily or am I about my needs and agenda? Your best way to determine this would be to ask her. My hope and prayer is that she feels cared for and loved better by me than by anybody else in her life. If not, then my leadership is sorely lacking. Epheisans tells me to “love my wife as Christ loved the church.” This is a tall order since Christ sacrificed and gave His life for the church. It’s quite a standard to aim for, but by the grace of God I am hopefully getting closer to leading her well. 

As my children are able to see how I treat my wife, it extends my leadership influence to parenting. My girls should see in me the ideal way they want to be treated by men, both now with friends and someday in the future (many many many years in the future lol) in marriage. My boys should have a role model for how to provide for, how to protect and how to lead their future homes in a godly manner. While there is a certain amount of pressure here, it is more of a privilege that God has blessed me with to shape the future through the lives of my children. Do they see their dad pursuing Christ and running hard after God? How do I speak of and treat others? Complete transparency will tell you that I have a ways to go with my own humanity to provide a great role model, but I hope that they are able to see progress in my life. 

Another aspect of leadership , specifically with my children, is to work hard to not think for them, but rather to challenge them with the idea of “what would be better?” They must decide that pursuing Christ is important to them and then must figure out how to best do that in their individual lives. I can teach and train and model, but ultimately they have to take the ball and make a run for it. If I make all of their decisions and tell them exactly how to do things, then where does their ownership happen? A far more effective manner, and one that I am still figuring out, is to let them pursue Christ and live out their faith on their own and then be there to answer questions and redirect when needed. 

The spiritual, emotional and relational health of my home is ultimately on my shoulders to establish. I can accomplish this through a bunch of rules and regulations, or I can pursue Christ on my own and then allow His Spirit to guide me in how to best lead my home. I want my home to be filled with the presence of God. I want for there to be joy and laughter and peace and good memories. I am accountable to lead according to the end in mind and must ensure my actions line up with my values.

How about you? What does leadership look like in your home? What role do you have in shaping the atmosphere of your home and how are you allowing God to lead you in this way? I would love to get some comments here as I have a lot of learning to do in this area.

~ Mike