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Leading Without a Title

September 20, 2017

 Leadership Lanes

NASHVILLE—I get to work with promising young leaders all over the world. Here are some of their most common leadership questions:

  • How do I lead without a title (or perhaps with a lesser title)?
  • How do I lead when I have some leadership responsibilities, but I am not fully in charge?
  • How do I respond when I feel like the senior leader is struggling to lead effectively?
  • How do I balance the tension between presumption and passivity?

My summary of all these questions: How do I lead from the middle? 

Leading from the middle means we are simultaneously leading people and following a leader. Most leaders lead from the middle. Some do it well; Others, not so much.

The presumptuous emerging leader takes responsibility for things that he or she shouldn’t, and he or she makes decisions or judgment calls that are not theirs to make. Depending on the context (and the temperament of the senior leader), this can cause some serious problems for the team.

On the other hand, the passive emerging leader only takes responsibility for the things that he or she has explicitly been given charge of—never responding to leadership needs in the moment and never instinctively taking responsibility in the absence of the senior leader. I have had both kinds of emerging leaders work for and with me. In many ways, we all gravitate towards one or the other ditch. Some of us underestimate our capacity (and responsibility), and others overestimate it.

Wise senior leaders know how to recognize these tendencies in their young leaders and provide helpful counter pressure to their natural tendencies. This means that for some emerging leaders, I constantly encourage them to take charge, even if it’s not exactly in their job description. Why? Because I want them to feel empowered. I want them to start thinking and acting like a leader before they ever get the big title.

With other leaders, I constantly encourage them to slow down and stay in their lane. I encourage them to listen to the entire room before they spout off their expert opinion from their many months of experience or from a recent podcast they consumed. I encourage them to be patient and humble.

It all depends on the leader.

But what do you do if you serve under a leader who is not very empowering, or at least not very organized? How do you know when to step up and take responsibility even when it’s not necessarily in your job description? Or how do you know when to fight your instincts to lead and allow the senior leader (and perhaps the entire team) to struggle or even fail?

As with most things in life, it all depends on the situation. There is no magic bullet. But here’s my advice: when in doubt, it’s always better to be active than to be passive.

Like I said, if you’re the over-zealous, over-confident type, a wise leader will let you know. Hopefully, the feedback will be constructive and gracious, but sometimes it won’t be. How we respond to moment like these will shape us as leaders.

If you want to hear more about “How to Act Like a Leader,” check out this new video from our Multiplication Challenge video series.

Videos

March 31, 2014

MANILA. I saw a powerful video at church yesterday. It made my eyes sweat. It also made me proud to serve on the board of Real Life Foundation. Take a couple of minutes to watch this video. You will be glad you did.

Blog / Discipleship / Leadership / Videos

“Practice Makes Perfect” is a Lie

July 8, 2013

That is one of the greatest sports interviews ever!

Former NBA great Allen Iverson is famous for “talking about practice,” but he was not the first person to talk about it. Here’s what Jesus said about practice.

47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into PRACTICE, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into PRACTICE is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete. (Luke 6:47-49)

You have probably heard that “practice makes perfect” but according to Jesus, practice makes FOUNDATIONS. Most churches have some kind of foundations class. Teaching is good, but foundations are established only when we practice the Word, not when we hear it.

Practice also makes PERMANENT. Look no further than my ugly golf swing for proof. Because I practiced wrong for many years, my swing is far from perfect. The more I practiced, the more ingrained my bad habits became. Practicing the wrong technique did not perfect my golf game, it only made my bad swing permanent. The same is true if you are a piano player, a basketball player, a construction worker, a public speaker, or a parent. Practice makes good and bad habits permanent.

Jesus talked about people who hear His words and “put them into PRACTICE” and those who hear His words and “DO NOT put them into PRACTICE.” The former are building strong foundations that will withstand the storms of life. The latter are building on sand and will be swept away by storms and floods.

We might not be very good at forgiveness, prayer, generosity, or saying no to sin. But if we practice what His word says about forgiveness, prayer, generosity, and saying no to sin, eventually those practices will become permanent, because practice makes permanent. Tragically many practice holding offenses rather than forgiveness, worry rather than prayer, and materialism rather than generosity. This results in bitterness, worry, fear, and greed taking permanent residence in our minds.

As we practice His word we establish strong foundations that storm-proof our lives. Are you practicing His word?

Blog / Family / Videos

Like Kids in a Candy Store, Literally

March 22, 2013

This conversation happened a couple of months ago while visiting relatives in South Georgia. Cousins Ethan and Eli are eight and twelve-years old. They were talking to my sons James and Jonathan who are twenty-four and twenty-two. The idea of working in a candy warehouse was like heaven to the young cousins.

Eli, “James, if you keep working so much you will never find a wife.”

Ethan, “Eli, he’s got money, he’s got chocolate, he owns a candy store. Why would he want a wife? He’s got it made!”

Yep, when my sons go to work, they are like the proverbial kids in a candy store. Literally. Check out this video of the Candy Galaxy experts creating a candy buffet.

Blog / Missions / Videos

Helping Others Never Goes Out of Style

March 5, 2013

HELPING OTHERS NEVER GOES OUT OF STYLE. That’s the motto of the Real Life Foundation, and that’s the battle cry of the Real Life staff and volunteers.

Over a decade ago, Victory pastor Dr Joey Castro, quietly paid the tuition of numerous poor Filipinos students so they could stay in school and stay off the streets. Doc Joey had walked away from his medical career to plant a Victory congregation among disadvantaged Filipinos. The fact that he did not have deep pockets did not stop him from paying tuition out of his own pocket.

In time, Doc Joey’s lifestyle of generosity became the Real Life Foundation,  a Christian non-profit NGO that is passionate about “transforming lives, families, and communities through hope and education.” The primary Real Life programs include Life Scholarships, Life Coaching, and Life Line. For info about helping a Real Life Scholar, click here.

Several years ago Doc Joey and his family moved to a restricted nation to serve as cross-cultural church-planters. Since then Real Life has expanded its programs under the leadership of executive director, Lynn Nawata, who has mobilized an amazing team of volunteers and staff. For me, serving on the Real Life board is a one of life’s great privileges.

One of the highlights of every year is the Race For Life that helps fund scholarships for disadvantaged but deserving Filipino students. Here’s a video summary of our recent Fun Run that included 6000 runners and walkers.

Videos

Harlem Shake: Every Nation World Conference Edition

March 1, 2013

BRENTWOOD, TENNESSEE, USA. Several people have attempted to explain the Harlem Shake to me, but I still don’t get it. Probably never will. But from now on, I will pretend like I get it.

Any way, three days ago, I left the Every Nation North America office for a quick lunch. I returned to a strange video production site.

Here’s the proof that Every Nation people work hard while the boss is out, the official Every Nation World Conference Harlem Shake video.