Monday, May 17, 2010

Chapter 11 – Visionary Leadership

There's a lot about this book that I love. I'm realizing that one of the things that I love about it is that it is written, ostensibly, by a non-Christian. Before you cry foul and claim that the Program Director has lost his mind, hear me out.

We recognize and proclaim that it's only by God's unending Grace and His Merciful guidance that we are able to do what we do. We know that His example of servant leadership, set by His Son, is the best (and only!) example we can follow…

BUT, there are times when seeing things from a non-Christian perspective allows us to gain some crucial insight we might miss from inside the bubble of Christian culture. I think that this chapter is one of those times.

"A good team is far more than a group of people committed to a common goal." (108)

A group of people can be committed to a common goal and get there without really having a vision. For example, recently, my friends and I had the common goal of going to a Twins game. We didn't have a vision for the evening, or really even a plan for how it would all work out, but we made it to the game on time and had a great evening. In other words, we achieved our goal. BUT, other than the few hours of fun and some memories that will last for a while, there was little else that came out of our evening.

This summer, we can reach the common goal of serving our partners while developing character in the team members. I'm confident that all of our teams this summer will reach that goal. The question is, will it matter?

Vision asks the question: "how will the world look differently for us having accomplished our ministry?" In other words, if we are 100% successful in achieving our vision for this summer, what will it look like?

Read the following quote from CTI's Summer Program Vision:

"Ideally, each young person will leave the summer program with a more missional mindset, and will return home to impact their churches and communities through their deepening character and continuing desire to embrace ministry and discipleship as lifelong commitments."

Reflection Question #1: How will you emphasize the idea of being more than just a group of people committed to a common goal? How will you help make CTI's vision for our summer program happen?

One of the key assets I look for in leaders is their ability to communicate clearly.

Graham points out that a crucial part of visionary leadership is not just coming up with a clear vision, but also communicating it concisely.

Think back to fulltime training last August. You may not realize this, but Chris and I (as well as the other trainers) were constantly stating and restating the vision of the program for you. We'd say it in different ways and through different voices, but the vision always remained the same.

We obviously have a vision for the entire summer program, but you'll need to work to come up with your vision for the people you're impacting this summer. Once you have the vision, the challenge then becomes communicating it ways that are understandable, memorable, and implementable.

Here in the office, we've boiled our vision down to two main statements:

"Supporting global mission and ministry through the impact of music"


"Developing Christian leadership and character in young musicians"

They hang on our office walls. They reside at the bottom of our letterhead. They permeate all that we do.

Reflection Question #2: What communication barriers/struggles will you need to overcome as a leader? How will you communicate your vision to those you lead?

In my mind, the world's expert on visionary leadership is Andy Stanley. I'd like to share a few thoughts from his book, Visioneering, as a way to round out this week's post.

Everybody ends up somewhere in life. You can get there on purpose.

This statement is another way of saying what Graham said in the quote I highlighted above. This summer, go forward with a purpose.

Visioneering requires patience, investigation, and planning. Visioneering requires faith in God's ability to work behind the scenes. Confidence that he will orchestrate what he has originated.

Visionary leadership doesn't happen by accident. Stanley highlights here the need for both planning (we have to do our part) and faith (we have to trust that God's going to do His part).

Things won't always work out the way you expect them to. Be careful not to confuse your plans with God's vision. Remember, plans are often revised. Don't be afraid to alter your strategy as circumstances around you change.

In other words, the vision never changes… but, the way you accomplish it might change. Things will happen (equipment failures, travel issues, team member problems) and you will have to react, but always ask yourself the question: is this fulfilling our vision?

At the end of Chapter 11 in Outdoor Leadership, Graham points out that anyone can develop and communicate a vision. He mentions that some people may struggle, and he advocates for practicing on yourself before you implement this strategy with a group.

Reflection #3: Come up with a small/simple vision for yourself as a way of practicing. Share with us both your vision and how you intend to achieve it. Get used to asking yourself the question: is this vision-fulfilling behavior?


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chapter 8: Taking responsibility

Read chapter 8 before reading this blog post.

"… not only about your duties and obligations… it's about taking full charge of your impact on other people…"

This chapter seems to assert that the impact our leadership has on those around us is important enough to qualify as an "added benefit." For us though, this concept is much closer to "mission critical." Our leadership is all about impacting other people. We may therefore need to give Graham's words a little more weight than he gives them himself.

On page 79, for example, he uses a story to illustrate how a leader might not ever see much of the impact their leadership has on the rest of someone's life. This "you never know" possibility is a kind of side-benefit for Graham's purposes, but it's central to the vision for us: "developing Christian leadership and character in young musicians."

You may not see some of the results of taking responsibility for your leadership, but we fully expect God to use your leadership in the CTI-specific experience to impact areas of our team member's lives that won't even show up on the radar this summer. Bottom line: don't underestimate the importance of such opportunities when they don't seem relevant to the moment. Investing in people will always be relevant to our mission, even if doing so doesn't seem to contribute towards the success of any immediate objective.

Add your own comments to this point as reflection question #1


"Leadership is a contract, and you're responsible for honoring your end of it."

If we're all really honest, I think we'd admit that this isn't the first place our mind goes when we think about leadership. There's always a temptation to let that entitlement bug creep in and convince us that leadership is, first and foremost, a status that we've earned by putting in our time and good behavior, or a privilege and authority that we deserve because of our depth of experience in a particular area.

It's a sober reminder to me to read sentences like "People expect you to lead, and in return, give you the authority to do so." Leadership is, at least in part, something that is given to us by those we lead. We should therefore take particular note of our obligations in this transaction.

Graham lists them as:

  1. The safety and well-being of participants;
  2. Helping the group reach its goals;
  3. Helping create a quality experience;
  4. Meeting certain legal requirements.

We don't need to spend any time on that last one (but, for your peace of mind, we do employ the kind of waivers described in the book.) As far as the safety and well-being of our participants goes, we're very diligent about this in our tour preparation. You also need to apply your common sense, of course, if you're leading a team, and it would be wise of you to help your co-leader understand this part of the "leadership contract" through your meetings with them as they will serve as your "competent person at the other end."

Let's take a deeper look at the middle two points: "Helping the group achieve its goals" and "Helping create a quality experience."

Reflection question #2: Recalling the definition of leadership that we highlighted in week 1: "Leadership is the capacity to move others towards goals shared with you, with a focus and competency they would not achieve on their own", what goals do you think your leadership should help whatever group you are leading to achieve?


The third point, "helping create a quality experience", is the most critical one in my mind. This involves taking responsibility for making the quality of the experience as high as possible for those we lead, as Graham has noted.

He highlighted a few "basic responsibilities for making a trip 'fun'. I found two to be noteworthy for our purposes: building and maintaining positive relationships inside the team, and being a coach as well as a leader. I interpreted this last one not to mean that we should try to pass on our "superior" knowledge or ability in any situation the team encounters (which would be the definition of teaching, not coaching,) but that we should constantly be on the lookout for ways that our team members can test and improve their abilities and skills.

To me this means things like challenging people to refine their testimonies (and to actually give them,) to lead a devotion, to step out and engage people after a concert, to interact with the "unlovelables" in the culture, to "greenline", and in other ways within the bounds of common sense, to not sacrifice the learning opportunities that might result in less "effectiveness" in outward ministry.

I am confident that all of you will embrace this responsibility fully. The hardest part of helping to create a positive experience is not knowing how to begin... it is understanding where our responsibility ends, and learning to be okay with that. The following quote from Robert Birkby ranks as one of my top 5 excerpts from this book:

"Leaders can inspire, teach, entertain, and in many other ways shape the framework upon which an adventure can unfold. Within that framework, however, group members must bear much of the responsibility for the quality of their own experiences. Leaders offer opportunities, but then it is up to those they are leading to make of those opportunities what they will. The choice of having a fantastic experience instead of a disappointing failure is often a matter of perception, both at the moment it is occurring and in hindsight, but the choice is definitely there for each group member to make."

I include this quote as a point of encouragement. It largely speaks for itself. While your responsibilities as a team leader do include measurables like presenting the vision to the team, providing them with direction and encouragement, and serving our partners and their needs while ensuring the safety and health of the team, your internal responsibility is largely to cultivate an environment in which team members are presented with opportunities for spiritual and personal growth. What they do, or don't do, with those opportunities, is outside the scope of your responsibility, because it is outside of your control. And it should be.

We cannot force people to choose the things we think (or even know) are in their best interest. There is, of course, an obvious spiritual parallel here, because this is exactly how God "leads" us. And as surely as it breaks His heart when we choose the ways that He does not want us to choose, it will break yours when your team members do likewise. And yet God may still use the outcome of their choices to form them in the image of His son.

It is understandable that we in leadership often accept too much of the blame for any dissatisfaction among the people we lead, because we understand that we bear much responsible for the quality of their experience. Don't lose sight of the fact that they also bear responsibility for it. And remember that when one person chooses poorly, you still have an obligation to lead the rest of the team. Don't allow the poor choices of a few to derail your focus on giving everyone else the opportunity to choose well.

Add your own comments to this point (if you'd like) as reflection question #3


There were a few other good points in this chapter that I opted not to dig into. If you have anything to share on one of the three points below, please do so as reflection question #4,

-Pp 76-77: Your thoughts, feelings and behaviors affect the world around you (taking responsibility for the emotional spillover from one part of your life into another.)

-P. 82: Don't stand on your authority for the sole purpose of getting your way. (Why? It inhibits the growth of others!)

-Pp. 82-83: Being a good follower. Serving as a model for the supportive "followership" you appreciate when you are in charge.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Week 4 – Caring Leadership


Please read Chapter 7 before reading the rest of this post.



Caring: the willingness to put yourself in another's shoes, to feel compassion, to accept another's well-being as a priority of your own.


I have to admit that this chapter of Graham's book is one of the more exciting ones for me to read and react to. I think that this is an area of leadership that many people look past. In my opinion, it's nearly impossible to overestimate the importance of caring leadership.


One of my biggest "soapboxes" about leadership is the idea that you have get your followers to trust you. Graham draws a direct correlation between caring and trust.


One of the most humbling experiences I've ever had as a CTI team leader came after my second fulltime team was done touring together. We were back in Willmar during Spring Partnership Drive, taking advantage of one of our days off by playing a fairly intense game of ultimate frisbee. Ruth (who weighs next-to-nothing and doesn't have the best physical fitness habits) was playing and giving it her all, but she was obviously reeling from the heat and over-exertion. Before we knew it, she passed out right there on the field. Then it happened: she called out for me. Not her mom, not her teammates, but me….her team leader. I had to fight back tears as she told the paramedics that she didn't want to go to the hospital unless I was allowed to go with her.


She didn't want me next to her because of my abilities to navigate a team through customs or my experience with life on the road. She wanted me next to her because I had proven to her that she could trust me.

To me, that's what caring leadership is all about.


Reflection #1 – Recall an instance when one of the following happened to you: a.) You trusted a leader because of their demonstrated care for you, or b.) Someone you were leading trusted you based on your ability to prove to them that their well-being was a priority of yours.


Graham lists (on pages 68-69) several behaviors that make up caring leadership:


  • Being vulnerable
  • Listening
  • Putting caring into action
  • Following through
  • Letting go of judgments
  • Caring for beginners
  • Correcting with caring
  • Acknowledging others for their strengths and contributions – especially those whose strengths and contributions may be few.
  • Caring for yourself


Go back and read his detailed thoughts on each of these points.


Reflection #2 - Which of these behaviors come naturally to you? Which ones do you struggle with? How can you help yourself grow in the challenging areas?



In the quoted text from Lou Whittaker found on page 69, we read his strategy for delivering bad news to someone: namely, don't surprise them with it.


An underlying point in this account is the fact that most people are their own toughest critics. It must be some result of the Fall that we are harder on ourselves that other people are on us.


The point is this: often "caring leadership" means giving someone the opportunity and encouragement to evaluate their own situation when a hard choice presents itself. Maybe you'll find yourself in a situation where a team member needs to be confronted about some destructive behavior during training, or maybe you'll need to decide whether or not someone should perform at a concert based on their physical health, etc., but the fact remains that all of us have the potential to be forced to have some difficult conversations this summer with team members. In these types of situations it's often best to let the individual make their own evaluation.


Fictitious Example:

You're leading a team overseas this summer and Johnny is your male vocalist. He's a team player in every possible way. He's the first to volunteer to serve and he does it without a single complaint. He carries gear, washes dishes, sings his heart out (and voice for that matter), talks with anyone he can find after the concert and does his best to check on his teammates regularly to see how they're doing. He's the model team member, except for the fact that his go-get-em behavior often prevents others on the team from stepping out of their comfort zone, because Johnny does everything. You also begin to notice that he's wearing down about halfway through the tour and you think that it might be a good idea for him to let some of his teammates help out once in a while. However, Johnny shows no signs of slowing down, so the situation needs to be addressed.


You have two ways to handle the situation:


  1. You forbid Johnny from doing anything that is not absolutely necessary, so that he can rest up, get better and allow his teammates to grow.
  2. You ask Johnny what he feels would be best for the team: for him to continue in his current trend or for him to take a few steps back, preserve his health for the rest of the tour and allow his teammates to grow.


The results are the same in both cases for the rest of the team.


Reflection #3 – Which option is better? Why? Why not? What are the dangers associated with each option?


Graham closes this chapter with a quote from Pete Petzoldt. To me, this quote is a very succinct way to summarize the entirety of the idea of caring leadership.


Reflection #4 – What points from Petzoldt's quote do you agree with? What points do you disagree with?