Monday, March 23, 2009

Week #2

This week’s reading assignment: Chapter 2 of Outdoor Leadership.

If you’ve yet to read chapter 2 from Graham’s book do it now, before you read the following post.

“…You’re leading because it fits with the priorities you’ve set for your life.” (17)

I don’t think that we evaluate ourselves as much as we should. It’s painful at times. Other times it leads to pride. I’d often rather just live in denial than acknowledge the truth about myself.

We don’t have that luxury as leaders. We must constantly be striving to improve ourselves and self-evaluation is a necessary step in that process.

On the wall in my office (directly in my line of sight) I have CTI’s vision broken down into the two essential statements we use as our “marketing” statements:

- supporting global mission and ministry through the impact of music

- developing Christian leadership and character in young musicians

They hang there so I can constantly evaluate whether or not what I am doing is vision-fulfilling. In other words, those statements are there so that I can remind myself of why I do what I do.

Graham points out that we should know why we lead. We must constantly evaluate our motivation.

“The most important aspect of leadership is having a reason for leading beyond investing in your own ego.” Sharon Wood (as quoted by Graham on page 16).

For me leading is about investing in other leaders and inspiring others. I could live for days on the high that comes from seeing someone I’m leading succeed at something I’ve inspired them to do.

Reflection #1 – Why do you lead? What priorities for your life cause you tend toward natural leadership (because you all do)?

Graham points out (and I agree with him) that leadership can be lonely. There are no two ways about that. You’ll work harder, sleep less and worry about more stuff than anyone else on your team, which is natural. Summer leadership (because you will have a co-leader) is a little easier in this regard (than fulltime team leadership) but there are still times that you will feel as though no one else understands, that no one else has to make the sacrifices that you have to make, etc.

That’s why it’s important to have a community of leaders. We can pray for, support and encourage one another in more specific ways that people who have never led a team can do.

What’s important here is to not let that dangerous little thing called entitlement start to creep into your mindset. Graham points out that leadership gives you a chance to be of service to your team, and you should view the burdens you carry (which result from being a team leader and are often the cause of the loneliness he mentions) as an opportunity to serve your team.

Reflection #2 – Do you anticipate loneliness being a struggle for you? If it is, what measures can you take to combat that loneliness?

“One good way to measure the effectiveness of leaders is to measure their impact on those they lead.” (19)

Our success as leaders does not depend on the success (perceived) of the team. It depends on how much of a difference we have made in the lives of those we lead.

And the best way to impact people, according to Graham, is to believe in them.

I often get pegged as an eternal optimist, which is fine by me. I come by it honestly. Give me a situation and I’ll spin it until I find the positive (remember what I mentioned above about denial?) side of things. It also manifests itself in a sometimes naïve belief in people. I think that’s why inspiring others is so important to me…it flows, as Graham puts it, “…from a gut belief in the positive potential of people” (19).

Re-read Graham’s story about Frank on pages 19-20.

Reflection #3 – Do you find Graham’s measure of a leader’s effectiveness (based on their impact on those that they lead) to be liberating or intimidating? Why?

Do you tend to naturally believe in people, or will you have to work to overcome preconceptions in order to believe in your team members?

How will you foster an attitude of belief in one another (similar to what Graham recounts in his story about Frank) amongst the members of your team?

Do you have any personal experience in inspiring this kind of belief in a team? If so, share your strategies.

“It’s inevitable that some leadership challenges will come upon you unexpectedly, while others will suddenly become far more difficult than you bargained for. When that happens, don’t waste time wondering why – it’s not a mistake that you’re there” (21).

Never was this dynamic more true to me than when I led CTI’s Team Mexico in 2007. By that time in my CTI career, I was a well-seasoned (insert cynical retort here) team leader: I had already led two fulltime teams and been overseas three times as a leader (once to a Latin American culture, Bolivia). My co-leader was someone (Gretchen) I knew well and trusted implicitly, and I didn’t even have to focus on music learning (because I was not supposed to have an assigned musical role on the team). By all accounts, I had it made. But then we lost a team member during training (well we didn’t lose him, he left of his own volition). Then we had to send another team member home a week into our tour for medical reasons, which had been my decision to make.

I didn’t have time or energy to question whether or not I was the right person for the job, or why this was happening to me. I just had to trust my instincts and know that the Lord had me exactly where He wanted me.

As Christian leaders we have the added bonus of knowing that we have been placed in leadership by the Lord’s will. Graham notes that we should trust our “inner reserves” (21), but for us it goes deeper than that. We should trust Christ in us, forming us more and more into His image. Then, as Graham says, you can “do what you have to do” (21).

Reflection #4 – Share an instance when you faced unexpected challenges as a leader. Did you question your place as a leader? If so, how did you overcome those questions? If not, what comfort did you draw on to avoid this insecurity?


  1. #1 - Wow, i can honestly say that this section of the blog helped me identify something that has plagued me these last weeks; Why am i doing this? why am I leading? As I read through chapter 2 I found the list of reasons Graham outlined highlighted (I had done so earlier) and it clicked back into my head why. Because I "love the way it challenges every aspect of my being" and because I LOVE seeing people succeed at what they do. For me, this goal had been forgotten during these last weeks of self examination and battle with the reign of entitlement in my life, and it is truely helpful to be reminded of this.
    #2 I don't have to anticipate this. it is. I can answer this question confidently, but what my confident answer lacks is resolution. The resolution is the need to derive our self worth and value from God, not other leaders, not from our teams, or even from our sense of being right or on top of things, but simply from God's choice of us and His faithfulness to give us everything we need, even the emotional stability to function even when feeling lonely.
    #3- Both. Liberating in the sense that I can know what I am shooting for, and intimidating in the sense that this isn't quantifiable. It also isn't readily recognizable to those who are involved in the situation, i.e. I may never see the effect of my leadership, and for a guy who is also something of an optimist, who thrives on the feelings of accomplishment, this can be discouraging, but honestly it flows back to finding my validation and self worth in Christ and in His voice saying "my grace is sufficient for you, and my strength is made perfect in your weakness" In another way of saying this, if anything good happens, or if there is any growth on a team i am on, it wasn't me, it was never me. It was Christ working either through or in spite of me, marginal as I am.
    #4- When I was serving on the student council at my college, the council (STUCO) was undergoing a restructuring. and as the year progressed it fell unexpectedly to me to plan the year end celebration, which included getting a band and setting up entertainment etc. All in less than 6 weeks. I guess in the situation I didn't have time to wonder why me, and just got busy and went. this isn't profound, but I can't think of another situation right now that doesn't involve this year! But it does, as Paulko said, boil down to being confident that you are the person for the job, and not wondering why me. Be confident in the fact that God is ultimately the one who picked you, and He doesn't make mistakes, nor is he disappointed in your performance.

  2. Nate, you make a great point about how measuring our impact on others is not easily quantifiable. It's hard not knowing whether or not you've impacted someone.

    Chris is fond of pointing out that the fruit produced by someone is a pretty good indicator of growth (or not) that is happening inside of them. That's the best way that I can think of to quantify your impact on someone: evaluate whether or not the fruit they produce has changed for the better.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Nate. There's some great stuff here.

  3. Question 1:
    The not-so-deep answer is because I like it and I am good at it. However, I think those 'easy' answers stem from a deeper place within me. I am good at it because I like it and I like it because I love inspiring those I'm leading into action. I love watching my teams find their footing in a new environment, family, culture... and then take off running, ready to share their experiences with anyone who will listen. I strive to facilitate an environment where learning is encouraged, questions are good, and team members can interact with one another on a level deeper than just learning how to play a few pop songs. In short, I find the most joy and satisfaction in my leadership experiences when those I'm leading have found themselves capable of loving one another through service, grace, humility, and leading each other closer to Christ.

    Question 2:
    For me, loneliness doesn't set in as often/hard as it does for others who I've talked to about being in leadership positions. Not to say it doesn't happen- it totally does. There are times when I'm prone to think "What the crap is this teams/team members problem? Don't they understand how hard I work for them? etc etc etc". However, I don't foresee it being a huge struggle for me- feeling like I'm flying solo has never been a huge negative, I guess. If/When the 'lonlies' do strike, I first turn to God and pray, reminding myself that even if I feel lonely, I am never alone. I rediscover my acceptance in Him and go from there. Communing with God and getting back into interaction with my team is what best works for me.

    Question 3:
    Both. It is intimidating/scary to think about certain situations where leading means letting someone get through an experience on their own terms with my encouragement, rather than my carrying them through. Even if I could do it better or faster or whatever, there is only so far I should/can go sometimes. Like with Frank- there was only so much his leader could do for him. Sure, maybe he could have swung down there and pulled him over to safety, but instead opted to cheer him on and encourage him as he conquered the feat of melting ice on his own. Frank wasn't incapable, just not as fast/strong as the rest of the group. Instead of giving up on him, the leader encouraged and exercised patience in watching him overcome the pass. Because of these reasons it is also very liberating- I don't have to do all the work. I don't have carry my team through. That's why we send teams, not solo artists.
    I do tend to naturally believe in people. I've gotten to a place in my life where I can initially trust someone, especially in a situation like CTI teams because I know they've been selected to come on the basis of their skill and maturity levels. However, if my trust in an individual is abused (especially continually), it is very hard for me to give it back. It's not that I can't forgive, it's that I don't want to invest myself in someone who has shown they don't care about whether or not they will hurt me once I open up to them. This is something that I will have to overcome- especially since there is always the possibility of a team member screwing up royally and requiring a whole load of grace and a second chance from my end.
    I think the best way to foster an attitude of belief in one another is to posses that attitude of belief yourself. People are generally affected by the moods around them, so if you as a leader are positive and encouraging and working to create a 'family' then those looking to you for their cues on how to behave be on a CTI team will most likely follow your lead. If you walk around indifferent or frustrated at whatever is going on that day, then they will think that what they've signed up for sucks and end up nitpicking and whining about the entire experience.
    As for personal experience, I was actually reading through the note cards I had both my summer teams fill out for each team member at the end of our tours. I found a theme running through most of the cards from both teams- the thing that stood out about my leadership style the most to my team mates was that because I was excited to be there and shared Christ's love with not only those we worked with but with them, they felt like they could in turn love on the team and others. I strove to make people feel like they were 'home' with me and the team- that we were family. As I read those cards, I realized that I had achieved a level of that. I can't pinpoint things I did, but I do know it all came from the 'soft-edge' part of my leading.

    Question 4:
    The last week my 2005 team was in Aussie we went into the center of Brisbane to explore the city and enjoy our one day off. When we were getting ready to leave, 3 of the guys went ahead to get the cars and pull around to pick the rest of the team up. I can't remember why I wasn't driving like usual, but I wasn't. Next thing I now, Tyler came hurrying up to me and told me that one of our drivers ran into another one of our drivers at an intersection due to a left-vs-right-turn brain fart. For about 10 seconds I freaked out. After the momentary panic, I got the rush of adrenaline and mindset to take care of it- I had Tyler pull cars around and check our gear, rounded the team up from around the neighborhood, and called our contacts and Lanning to let them know. It all worked out and with way more grace than I thought possible.
    So, I never doubted my place as leader or whether I could get through the situation whole. I did freak out a bit, but I mostly just relied on the adrenaline rush that I got from that freaking out to get me through solving the problem and facing my superiors with the responsibility of reporting a major case of "crap just went down and I take full responsibility". That was probably the hardest part to go through-- I didn't doubt I was capable of being a leader at that moment, however I'm sure I wished briefly that I wasn't. =) I mostly just relied on God and bit of common sense to help me make it through.

  4. #1) It is quite interesting because I have always been put into a leadership role naturally so thinking about why I lead and what are my priorities in life that cause this is a good thing for me to do. Like Chris said, evaluation can lead to pain or even pride which are two things that make me want to shy away from thinking to hard about this one. But in all honesty, I know that for me I lead because I want to build confidence in others and help them become the leaders they can be. I desperately want those I am leading to walk away with more self-confidence and new awareness of who they are in God and what they can do when He is placed first. I know the exact reasons why I lead are also true for me as a leader – I want to have more confidence and also gain a new awareness of God working in and through me. Sure I have something to offer others but only because it is what God has been doing in me, nothing on my own.

    #2) Most definitely. I want people to love me as a leader and don’t want to feel the separation that one feels at times as a leader. I hate being lonely. Now being alone is fine, but being lonely completely different in my view. So I know it could be a potential struggle for me, so in order to combat those possible feelings I will for sure have a few verses to instantly glance at to remind me that the burdens I may be carrying are a way I serve my team and that God is right there next to me, carrying me through it all good and bad. Personally, written words of encouragement are my thing and I think I will have to take with me notes from others too that will keep me going when those feelings of loneliness come. Of course though like Sara points out, God is the ultimate one to come to. His love and friendship is like none other. ☺

    #3) Of course it’s intimidating because what a horrible thing to think back on times that I’ve lead and haven’t done the best job or didn’t make the impact I could have because myself got in the way – my effectiveness wasn’t what is could have been. But it is also quite liberating for me to think about because I know that if I am willing to put God above all else and do what He has called me to do I can rest in the knowledge that my leadership will be effective. Like Nate, we may not be able to see what we have done but then how much more encouraging when we do see a life changed or new confidence built under our leadership. After all as much as we would all love leading to be about us and what we do, it simply isn't. I know the best leaders in my life were the ones who pointed me to God even if they had "the skills".

    I think for me, I would lean towards the naturally believing in people. I want the best to be the truth. I know my mom and I have talked of this before and we came to the idea that if we can treat people for who they can be and who God is making them to be, they will start acting like that. But if instead we are so focused on the bad or negative things they will continue to act in that way. So, treat others the way you want them to be instead of sometimes they way they are. I think it can be true with believing in them. Instead of worrying about all the preconceptions, put them aside and believe that they can and will be able to do all that God is calling them to do and I can be a major part in helping that come to pass by stepping in and believing in them from the start. Belief in each other and encouragement for one another are two things I pray my team has this summer. I know it’ll take some work on my part to start it up and make it seem natural but I think by coming together right from the first day and deciding against a having critical spirits and realizing that we are in this all together as one body of Christ working towards the same goal so we need to have faith in one another.

    #4) I shared this instance last post about the girl on my soccer team who was making horrible choices and how we needed to decide what to do. Well it came later that year that she was still getting in trouble and we as leaders were put in charge of meeting with her and deciding if we were going to let her continue playing soccer. I remember having her come and sit down to speak with us. I had a really hard time with this because I want so badly for people to be able to change and have the chance but in the end, she couldn’t lay down what was required of her and wasn’t willing to put the effort that we would require as a program. So, we had to let her know that she couldn’t come back the next year. It was so hard to do and the whole time I wished I was not in charge so that I could just not deal with it all. But through it I learned so much and grew in my confidence that although at times leading is hard, sometimes I just have to do what I have to do knowing God has put me in that position.

  5. Sara, I love what you say here:

    "Because of these reasons it is also very liberating- I don't have to do all the work. I don't have carry my team through. That's why we send teams, not solo artists."

    That's a lesson that I have to learn over and over again.

    I guess it all goes back to Graham's definition of leadership (liberating others...). We constantly need to be reminding ourselves that we're only able to do so much for our team members. At some point in time the rest depends on them.

    This doesn't mean that we don't give everything we just means that giving everything we have is enough.

  6. I really enjoyed Carrie's thoughts about loneliness here. I hadn't really ever thought about the difference between being alone and being lonely, but it is quite stark.

    I think that having verses on hand to combat these types of feelings is a really great way to remind yourself of your true comforter.

    These tough instances that Carrie mentions (the ones when we wish that someone else was in charge) are the ones that form us the most in the image of Christ. They are often moments when we have to depend even more on His strength because we lack the ability to do it on our own.

  7. Well, I guess I'm going to be the first to weigh in from the "non-optimists" camp - I'm unlikely to be pegged as an optimist by anyone who really knows me. Consequently, belief in people is not something that generally comes naturally to me - I'm more inclined to pick up on and highlight the weaknesses in others than I am to build them up in their strengths. So I have more experience "waiting for people to fail" than I do in believing in their potential success.

    This is obviously not to my credit. I agree that the climate we create through our belief or lack of belief in our followers is a MONUMENTAL factor in their inevitable success or failure. People have absolutely no trouble sensing my disapproval or lack of belief in them. This has sometimes meant that they've had to find their motivation to succeed in proving me wrong rather than in my constant encouragement. This, of course, makes it difficult for me to celebrate their success with them. So at best, any success that I can achieve through leading without really believing in people doesn't feel all that much like success in the end.

    This is a critical point, and as a perfectionist, it's one that comes up time and time again in my own leadership. Since I've identified this as a consistent weak spot in my own character, I've got to look out for it all the time... constantly identify it and bringing it to God.

    Which brings me to another essential point that Paul highlighted - this issue of reflection. I noted that Graham talks about reflection in several contexts... not only reflecting on why you lead, but also taking time to evaluate after every trip. And I agree with Paul - we don't evaluate ourselves as much as we should - probably because it is painful at times.

    I think regular reflection is a critical component of stewardship for us. God has given us the gifts of opportunity and influence. Regardless of how qualified or unqualified we may think ourselves to be, we cannot deny that the Master has entrusted us with both opportunity and influence. Dare we bury those things in the sand to return them to the Master some day uninvested? Shouldn't we develop them, regardless of how small or insignificant we think they are?

    Nate highlighted in two separate places that it is God who has chosen us for the job, and that He's given us everything we need. To me, this means that our perception of our own worthiness/readiness/qualification isn't even an issue for debate, and we'd better get busy investing what God has given us instead of questioning why He chose us to give it to. And this regular evaluation of ourselves through reflection is one of the first steps we can take in that investment process.

    Note, however, that it has to be coupled with a submissive spirit that desires to yield back to God the deficiencies He reveals to us through such evaluation. For me, as an example, this means constantly asking Him to help me see others as He sees them so that I can join Him in cheering for their success instead of waiting for their "inevitable" failure. I know that this is a weakness for me, and, as G.I. Joe used to tell me when I was a kid, "knowing is half the battle."

    But knowing is _only_ half the battle. Once we reflect, and know... we have to submit, and change. Until we turn that corner, we haven't really invested what our Master entrusted us with.

  8. "The only person who can truthfully assess the health and well being of a leader is the leader. Dishonesty will always lead to dysfunction." Perry Noble, Pastor of NewSpring Church in South Carolina.

    I just read this today and found it applicable to our current discussion on the blog.

    I agree with Chris, self-evaluation is only the first step. It's what you do with what you find out about yourself that really matters.

  9. I really like how Chris puts it with his "knowing is only half the battle..." the other half is the submission and change part. It's so true, and yet the most difficult to get right. The devil for me is evaluating myself without getting stuck there.
    It's a strange thought to think of evaluating weather you evaluate yourself too much. I guess that's a sure sign of overvaluation! All bad jokes aside, I have made a conscious effort to not over evaluate myself, and to trust God a little more than I am inclined to!

  10. 1:This is a hard question for me, because I’ve never really thought about why I lead. I think my main desire is to help people realize how wonderful life is, and how perfect God is, even in our trials. So I think leading (in any capacity) gives me the opportunity to disciple people in that way of thinking. I have this idea that if people see me live my life, and I’m full of joy, then they might be encouraged and find freedom to do the same. It comes down to this (and I’m realizing as I type here) if I could enhance someone else’s life by leading in
    one way or another…why wouldn’t I do it?

    2:All my life I’ve been pretty lonely, so I don’t really anticipate things being any different this summer. Judging by Full-time this year, I know I’ll struggle at least a little. However, I do think it will be less noticeable than it has been during my full-time experience. I’ve noticed in myself that when I feel like I’m experiencing something that no one else is experiencing, that’s when I feel the most alone. Even if it’s a really good experience, I notice how lonely I am if there’s no one there to rejoice with me in that experience. So, while my team is going to have a completely different experience than I will, I think I’ll still be distracted from loneliness simply because summer teams get very close very quickly and go through a lot of things together in a very short amount of time. I don’t know if that made sense but…that’s what I think.

    3:I think there’s both liberation and intimidation in Graham’s measure of effectiveness. On one hand there’s freedom in knowing that even in your mistakes you have the opportunity to have a positive impact on people. For example, if you “fall/fail” with grace, those you are leading are more likely to maintain respect for you, (maybe even respect you more) than if you are a terrible sport, a sore loser and completely unforgiving. Our failures can be the perfect chance to show others how to keep pressing on.

    On the other hand, it’s quite intimidating to think that whatever happens this summer is going to stay with team members long after they are out from under our leadership. Either we leave them with memories of good leadership and spiritual growth, poor memories and a bitter taste for the ministry, or worse: we leave them with nothing of worth because we didn’t allow them to be challenged or grow in any way.

    4:Scripture! There’s no better way to mold our attitudes than by Truth. Remembering that Christ is living within us and that His power is made perfect in our weakness always puts things into a good perspective. I also think that talking freely (and without judgment) about our (meaning each team member) weaknesses will help us to know what areas we can support each other in. After all, if we don’t know where someone is struggling, we can’t help them very well, and we certainly can’t see them grow in those areas.

    5:This kind is kind of my answer for the previous question as well but…I’m going to refer to Good ‘Ol Mexico ’07 just as Paul did, because, really that was the most challenging leadership experience I have had. Because the buck didn’t really stop with me (it stopped with Paul) I wasn’t at liberty to actually make a decision. What I was at liberty to do was help the situation(s) go more smoothly by cultivating attitudes. I didn’t know what to do with one team member leaving because he/she didn’t feel called there, and the other leaving because of health issues. I just knew that I didn’t want anyone to walk away from the experience being bitter or judgmental toward another team member. So I was very careful about how I talked about the two team members who left and how I acted toward them as they were leaving. I figured my team was going to watch how I acted in the situation and follow suit….luckily they did. They were al full of grace and support for their departing team members. I was nervous about being in the situation I was in but I didn’t think for a second that it wasn’t where I was supposed to be.


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