Sunday, March 29, 2009

Week 3

This week, we'll be reading and discussing chapter 4 - Leadership style. (You can go back and read Chapter 3 some other time if you're interested.)

We know you're excited to be coming back to Willmar this week (we're excited too!) but please don't forsake this assignment!

We'll slow down a little for break and only cover one chapter during the two weeks you're gone (chapter 7.)

This week I’d like to focus on a few points that Graham makes, but I want us to take some of his words a little further and deeper than he does.

In the secular leadership environment that he is coaching people for, “compensating” for weaknesses is good management advice. But Christ calls us to a greater degree of wholeness than merely compensating for our weaknesses. In fact, He tells us that these weaknesses are the areas where His strength is made perfect.

This chapter offers lots of practical reasoning behind the advantages and disadvantages of various character traits, and I think its all essentially good information. But we have an edge on the secular leadership world here, because we already understand and accept the fact that we are broken, imperfect people. In recognizing this fact, we are able to use our weaknesses as strengths by clearing the way for the author and perfecter of our faith to come in and make complete that which cannot possibly be complete without Him.

In my mind, there is no point to leadership if, in the end, it does not point towards the One in whose name we lead or advance His purposes. And since making us complete is among His purposes, it follows that there is something much more mission-fulfilling to be done with our weaknesses than merely compensating for them. We can actually use them to enhance His glory… and that is the end we lead in support of! So rejoice in your weaknesses!

We have not been made complete on our own. But through the body of Christ, the Church, He has made us complete, and equipped us for every task He has set before us. Each of our weaknesses is offset by a strength in another. As a leader, one of the constant battles I fight is the temptation to think of myself as self-sufficient.

So, back to the point… I agree that it is important to identify both the strengths and weaknesses inherent in our leadership “styles,” but we must be very careful that we don’t use this discussion of “style” to justify our actions or shortcomings (“that’s just who I am – deal with it!”) Scripture clearly teaches that our knowledge of Christ should transform us (see Colossians 3, Romans 12, and countless other passages.)

Even without the spiritual perspective, Graham identifies that some styles are inappropriate, regardless of how “authentic” they are for us (I noticed particularly that sarcasm was on his list, and I must admit that I cringed a little bit.) For us, this list could be expanded to include any style that doesn’t reflect Christ in us. And, as drawn as we are to the idea of “authenticity,” it’s worth mentioning that it is not inauthentic to “suppress” these parts about ourselves and instead seek to grow – this is what Christ calls us to do, and it’s what we’re calling our team members to do. (We could insert an entire tangent about fruit of the spirit here.)

While we’re here, let’s give a little press to this concept of authenticity. Authenticity is tested and defined by those around us. No matter how strongly you believe it, you can’t objectively declare yourself to be authentic. (In fact, chances are good that the louder you shout about how authentic you are, the more people are going to stop their ears against your shouting.)

I wasn’t really impressed with the value of the metaphor exercise where you ask someone else what kind of animal they are when they’re leading, but I do think it’s critical that we not assess ourselves in a vacuum. We need the input of people who can tell us straight up where our perceptions of ourselves are not aligning with how others perceive us. Enter one Biblical way to “compensate” for our weaknesses: listening to the wise council of others.

The last thing I want to highlight here is this thing Graham defines as the Pucker Factor. I find this to be a mostly practical discussion of something that tends to happen intuitively. But the one very interesting thing to me about the Pucker Factor (which is somewhat annoyingly described as an absolute equation) is the illustration that it can actually remain low if group competence is high enough.

This is interesting to me because it would be an indication of a great leadership success. If you find yourself in a challenging situation in which your group recognizes the gravity and employs their ability to avert it, you’ll find yourself among people who have been liberated to do what’s needed in the best possible way... and you’ll be the one who has liberated them.

Now, I’m obviously not advising that you use a potentially dangerous situation as an opportunity to observe what your team is capable of. You clearly have to know that information before you’re in a situation where you need to know it, and you need to be prepared to intervene in high PF situations. Knowing whether or not you will need to intervene will depend on how well you have gotten to know your team, and to what degree you have empowered them in low PF situations.

My chief complaint about this chapter is that it seems to place a high value on self-sufficiency. I think this is a trap, not only for us as leaders, but for us as Christ-followers. I believe the better path to leadership success for our purposes involves exploiting every opportunity to empower others. Doing so provides the opportunity for those we lead to be formed more in Christ’s image, and this is at the core of our mission, coequal with serving our partners.

I encourage you all, as you discover your leadership style and its associated strengths and weaknesses, to take particular note of the weaknesses, and “compensate” for them by empowering others. And the first person on your empowerment list will be your co-leader. Be thinking of specific ways to empower them.

I have no specific reflection questions this week, but I do want everyone to share their thoughts from the chapter, or on what I’ve written. If you’re stumped for material, consider sharing some of what you believe your strengths and weakness are, and allow the community to share back with you whether or not your assessment of yourself lines up with what others see as your strengths and weaknesses.


  1. “While we’re here, let’s give a little press to this concept of authenticity. Authenticity is tested and defined by those around us. No matter how strongly you believe it, you can’t objectively declare yourself to be authentic. (In fact, chances are good that the louder you shout about how authentic you are, the more people are going to stop their ears against your shouting.)”

    I think that this is our great battle as leaders and musicians. I often find myself scoffing at things based on my “authenticity” that I have no business scoffing at. Something that I struggled with as a team leader, and still do as a teams manager, is balancing team members’ needs for “authenticity” with the reality of the current situation.

    Here’s where I admit to a weakness of mine: compromise. At the root of things, I’m a big-time people pleaser. That’s often the way that I lead, which caused me to have some serious struggles my first year on the road (talk to me about it in person if you want the details). While we are to lead by following Jesus’ example of service to those we lead, we have to recognize that sometimes serving our team means making hard decisions that won’t please everyone. The sooner we demonstrate the fact that we’re not out for our own interests, the better (that’s what Jesus did) because then our teams will trust us that we are looking out for them. It’s really hard to preserve this dynamic when you’re making decisions based on what pleases people, not what’s best for them. I learned that lesson the hard way (and I’m still learning!).

    Another weakness: denial. I don’t self-evaluate enough, because I’m afraid of what I’ll find. I liken it to not opening the credit card bill till the last possible minute because you don’t really want to know how bad it is.

    I think that this aligns well with some of Graham’s thoughts about defining your own leadership style…

    I agree wholeheartedly with Chris about Graham tending towards self-sufficiency in this chapter and I think that Chris is wise to point out our obligation to avoid self-sufficiency. I’d suggest that instead of self-sufficiency we tend towards self-evaluation and, as a result of that evaluation, an openness to the Spirit working in us (through the Word, through others, through any way possible) to overcome our weaknesses.

  2. Ok,so I know that no one wants to be first on this one, but seeing how it's the last day for this chapter, I'm just gonna suck it up and do it. I don't really feel I have anything else super awesome to add to the discussion, so I'm just gonna run with this strength/weakness thing.

    I think one of my strengths as a leader is presenting a clear objective, mission, making my/my organizations expectations for the group known and get the team behind it. I guess to put it simply, I have buy-in. I haven't yet had to fight to be the leader in a group.

    Another thing I see as both a strength and a weakness is, like Paul, comprimise. However, I fall on the other end of the spectrum- I don't try to please everyone, I instead am prone to be a little more authoritarian than that and tell people to 'suck it up'. I've gotten way better at not just dismissing group members, however depending on the situation I'll just make the decision and declare it set. I try to make sure on big issues or matters that need examining and 'soft-edge' leading I don't just decide on and walk away. However, for all the everyday stuff, I'm not a big fan of democracy-style leading, at least not at the beginning of our time togther. I'm like the teacher who is really strict at the beginning of the year, but about a month in is really cool- I choose to establish clear boundries first and then once those are in place I let the team have more freedom and fluidity with each other.

    So, hopefully that makes sense. I know there is way more I could write, but I'm gonna keep it short and save the rest for discussion. =)

  3. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels like this but I know for me I am always in constant comparison to other leaders, especially those that have been a huge influence in my life. I want to see the ways that they are leading and want to copy them in a way. Then when I try that and it doesn’t work so well for me I’m frustrated with myself and leading. At the very beginning of the chapter it talks about knowing your leadership style, which is an imprint of personality onto your skills and experience. Thinking about this makes me realize that although it’s great to look at other leaders and how they lead I can’t be afraid of doing something different because it’s better for me and it’s who I am as a leader. Now like Chris was saying we can’t just say “well this is the way I am and it’s the way I’m going to be so deal with it” but instead we do need to realize that we are being transformed as we seek lives that follow hard after God. I guess for me this is reassuring simply because it’s ok to be myself and lead differently than others.

    The whole authenticity side of leading is a bit difficult to think about because sure we all want to be authentic people whether we are leading or not. However the book leaves out a significant part of who we as leaders are at CTI – Christ followers. Graham talks about taking your style and taking all the pluses and minuses that are there. Sure I agree with that but the awesome thing that we can look to is the fact that we have such a perfect example of servant leadership in Christ and since we are striving to become more like him every day we will continually be changed and transformed into better leaders. This can cause our “style” to change as well but when we are constantly realigning ourselves to God and His “style” we will be able to be lead with confidence.

    For myself I know I can be controlling as a leader. I want everything to be just right and at times I have trouble putting that trust into others. If I just do it then I know it’ll get done and get done correctly, and if not then I am the one to blame and I don’t have to be frustrated with anyone else. Now I know that this is a huge negative and I am working on it. I do love to see others succeed and want them to do things for themselves but if time is crunched or I don’t see things getting done I will just do them myself instead of continually asking others. My teammates can attest to this as I have been controlling at times throughout the year I’m sure. But my goal for this summer is to make sure I put great trust into my co-leader and give them more responsibility than my first instinct may tell me because I don’t want to be controlling and don’t want to take too much on myself as can often be the case. I’d love input on this and if anyone has any good suggestions as how to help me “be transformed” as a leader in this area I would love it.

  4. I'm kinda ticked because I posted my comment on Friday night...but apparently it didn't stick. Stupid Hospital internet. Anyway, here's what I said:

    I have to say: I am SO glad you decided against making us ask each other what animal we see ourselves as. Maybe those kind of exercises work for other people, but for me (being the over analytical melancholy that I am) I would never be able to answer with the first thing that popped into my head, I would first have to analyze it and then get back to you with an answer in a day or two.

    That being said, I liked what Graham had to say about leadership being an art. I felt a lot of freedom realizing that I don't necessarily have to become someone else when I step into that leadership role this summer. I can allow the Lord to use the personality that he created me with to lead in a way that only Gretchen can.

    A very obvious weakness for me that I foresee is, in fact, my tendency to over analyze. That can be a dangerous quality to have when things need to be done or decided in a timely manner. The thing is I think so hard about everything before I ever say anything about it to anyone because I want to be certain that my words are worth hearing and my choices are right. The problem with that is…I’m human and no matter how meticulously I think through something; there’s always the potential for me to be wrong. Bottom line: it’s going to be a good challenge and stretching point for me to have to stop second guessing myself and just step out in faith at any given moment.

    Another thing that was brought to my attention in this reading (and I had the same reaction chris did) is the whole idea of sarcasm being a poor choice in leadership…in ANY situation. I have often been referred to as the Queen of Sarcasm, so you can imagine my lack of excitement at being “dethroned”. I do agree though, I can’t think of a situation where sarcasm would be an appropriate form of authority. I feel like I’m pretty good at pulling back on the sarcasm when needed, but if anyone has any comments/constructive criticism for me…please feel free to share (that was NOT sarcastic).

  5. Sara,

    I love what you write about establishing boundaries and then relaxing them when appropriate. That is really great advice. It's always easier to get less "strict." It can be a huge challenge to try and become more rigid after you've been too loosey-goosey.


    I think that you're right to point out that we all struggle with the devil of comparison. You're also right to point out that it's a good idea (and healthy even!) to do things differently than your mentors. I know that this is something that I struggle to do, because I'm such a creature of habit.


    Paralysis by analysis is something that a lot of great leaders struggle with. In fact, their ability to analyze deeply is often what makes them good leaders. My only advice in this regard is to make decisions based on your analysis and then trust yourself. We've chosen all of you guys based on the abilities to make great decisions that you've all already demonstrated.

  6. I am a Ford... just a Joe Shmo Ford.
    I am a Dog... the kind that you find on the street.
    I am a peperoni pizza- basic with a little kick.

    That's all I have to say about that.

    HA!!! Sorry. About that sarcasm bit... heh. Oh man. Alright. Sorry I haven't posted in a while guys. It's been great reading your thoughts and I apologize for the lak of input. Time to remedy that.

    I was suprised to realize that a lot of my leadership style actually goes back to the fundamentals I learned from interpreting classes. We learned a lot about autonomy in ethics classes because when dealing with the Deaf, you're dealing with a group of people who are rarely given the opportunity to make independent decisions. In a team setting then, I see it as very important to let people make their own choices. My leadership style is pretty hands off, I guess, and it was something I struggled with a lot in the beginning of the year. I value growth enourmously in the life of a team- both as a team and individually. A lot of times I will do my best to communicate all of the information needed to make a decision, perhaps advise, and then let them make the decision. There are two things that could be potentially dangerous here.

    1. There is the temptation for me to just passively wait out the consequences (good or bad) of the decision made and place credit or blame (depending on the outcome of the decision) wholly on the person making those decisions. Bad things can come of that.

    2. The outcome is often unpredictable. Just because I outline all of the choices to be made and point to the one I think is best doens't mean they will chose it.

    So, why do I lead that way anyway? Well, we were talking about the reasons we lead last week. I lead because I want to be a part of making more leaders. I want them to be successful- not that I can make them so, but I do get excited about the prospect of guiding them in that direction. I think an important part of that is letting them test themselves. You can help a friend study for a test until they're comfortable enough to asnwer all the questions correctly, or you can just give them the answers, hope they memorize it, and three days later it means nothing to them. In the end, it's on their shoulders to complete the task sucessfully, but you can still be a part of the process.

    One weakness (of many) that I know I have is one that Chris mentioned as being an uncomfortable ephasis in this chapter- self relience. I often times don't take enough time to analize my decisions (You've got a leg up on me there Gretch!) and rely on my instincts and reactions to do so. In a high pucker factor situation, it's all well and good, but not for everyday decisions. It's something I'll have to work on.

    As far as authenticity goes- I can't say that I struggle with this one a lot, though it's often misinterpreted from those I'm leading. Because I'm a more hands off leader, I come off a being a little aloof, or incompetent. It's a struggle for my pride as well. It may seem that I'm not making any decisions at all, when I'm actually restraining myself greatly from making them ALL. Given my prefrerence, I'd just handle it all. Instead I have to remind myself that I'm basically training my replacement. So when I take no action, I have to find ways to let my team know that it is a confident and intentional decision on my part to let them take some ownership.

    I have a lot to say on this one and tried to keep it brief. I'm afraid none of it was sufficiently completed. I hope at least some of that made sense.

  7. "Paralysis by analysis"... wow.. never heard that one before, but it's a great diagnoses of me a lot of the time.

    Another downside to being paralyzed in this manner has to do with why we're so analytical in the first place. It probably has to do with control. I don't want to let go of a situation or entrust it to another until I fully understand the situation itself. In some leadership scenarios, this is prudent. But in less critical situations, I need to remember that waiting until I've got a grasp on things means that I'm not allowing any other minds to think about them either. This is the essence of non-empowerment. And (see blog title) it does more to hinder people from being part of the solution than it does to liberate them.

    Laura - I love the analogy of helping someone study for a test vs. get them to memorize the answers. The first approach takes a much more significant investment on your part. But it's also the one that will have the lasting impact. And for the record, your leadership style (at least of late) has been a model to me of growing those around you. I've never misinterpreted your failure to act on something as incompetence. On the contrary, such observations have actually challenged me to re-think whether or not I should be as quick to act as I am on some things.


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