Archive for September, 2011

Discarded Leadership

14 Sep

When is the experience and expertise of the older generations irrelevant? When do we discard the leadership skills and wisdom learned through years of experience?

I struggle with this. The management and leadership concepts practiced in past generations are typically ineffective in today’s organizations . . . but . . . how do we value those who are older? How do we honor them, engage them, and value their contributions?

Although the following is written about men, it is just as applicable for women. Although today’s world moving at an ever-increasing rate . . . more rapidly than at any time before, we must not ‘discard’ the wisdom and leadership experience of our older generations, their ‘offering’ is invaluable.

Rainey writes the following in his book Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood:

“About a dozen gray-haired men sat at the table in a prestigious country club, all former executives and highly successful. Leaders. Champions. Bright, intelligent minds. These were the risk-takers who had led big lives, checkered with success and failure. Married between 45 to 60 years, these men clearly had plenty to impart to younger generations.

As I prepared to speak to them I couldn’t help but think that their gray heads only added to their dignity. They had asked me to talk for ten minutes about what FamilyLife was doing to strengthen marriages and families, and as I unpacked what we were doing, I mentioned that I was going to be speaking a couple of days later at a gathering of executives about the three qualities of a patriarch.

What happened next was fascinating. It was like I’d touched an open nerve. For 45 minutes they peppered me with questions, peeling back their hearts and sharing disappointments, frustrations, doubts, and desires. They talked about how their adult children were critical of them, pushing them to the fringes of their lives. They were treated as unnecessary, except as babysitters, and they felt their family really didn’t want their influence or involvement.

They said the only opportunities their church afforded was ushering, serving on the stewardship committee, and giving to building programs. They lamented that the culture had become so youth-oriented that they felt emasculated, like they were done, and treated as though they had nothing to give back.

Here were these men who had once been kings of their families, their businesses, their communities. Here they were for the first time in their lives uncertain about what their roles should be. Like broken antiques gathering dust in the attic, they were without purpose . . . 

War-hardened and savvy, these sage soldiers wanted to fill their nostrils with the smoke of the battlefield and engage in the fight again. They really didn’t want to trade their swords and armor for a five iron and a golf shirt. They realized they were made for something far nobler than watching cable news in a La-Z-Boy recliner.

I sat there astonished at what amounted to grand theft. Men, older men, robbed of their glory, no longer dreaming because of a collusion of forces that had cruelly swindled them out of their courage to step up.”


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Truth or Consequences

10 Sep

Do you remember the television show Truth or Consequences? On the show, people had to answer a trivia question correctly (usually an off-the-wall question that no one would be able to answer correctly, or a bad joke) and had about two seconds to do so before Beulah the Buzzer was sounded. If the contestant could not complete the ‘Truth’ portion, there would be ‘Consequences,’ usually a zany and embarrassing stunt.

We deal with this issue every day . . . speak truth (or not) and encore the consequences. It would seem obvious that if we speak truth, people will respond with appreciation and, if change is needed, respond appropriately. Conversely, if we speak something that is not truth, there should be accompanying negative consequences.

However, have you ever said something that was truth and had the receivers just ignore you? How about having truth rejected? Then there are those who know what has been spoken is truth but reject you and are ready to do whatever it takes to remove you from the equation.

There are typically four responses we receive when we speak truth others. They:

accept truth,

ignore truth,

reject truth, or

want to kill the messenger.

Sometimes I wonder if how we speak would help the situation. The authors of Crucial Conversations would have us believe we can navigate through most conversations effectively if we have certain skills.

Is this possible?

Jesus knew how to communicate truth in every situation yet he was ignored, rejected, and even killed for speaking truth.

Jeremiah, the prophet, faced a similar situation. Before he turned twenty years old, he was called by God to speak truth to a nation. For almost fifty years, he warned the people to turn from their evil ways, yet he watches as they reject truth and end in destruction – in exile at the hands of the Babylonians.

Jeremiah lamented over a dying nation, a nation rejecting truth. His call to prophetic ministry was a lonely life. Not only was he called to remain unmarried, both he and his message to his nation were rejected . . . no positive response, no change in the lives of the people.

Although he kept prophesizing (truth) and giving warnings, his message was disdained – right up to the time the nation went into exile. The men of the nation, including prophets and priests, went about committing vile acts . . . trooping to the house of prostitutes and even lusting after their neighbor’s wife.

God challenged Jeremiah to find one man who lived justly and he would spare them all. Jeremiah could not find one man in all the land who lived according to God’s precepts. And, even though the prophets and priests knew all the right things to say, their lives were far from godly and truth was not in them.

Isn’t it interesting how you can use the right clichés and still be a liar?

From the least to the greatest, they were greedy for gain. They would go about saying ‘peace . . . peace,’ but there was no peace. They came out with reassuring remarks but they were not true. And, when Jeremiah confronted them with truth, they wanted to kill him.

If you stand for truth, you will be the object of mistreatment.

Remarkable what people do when they are faced with truth. You’ll be viewed as the weirdo on the team, the prophet of doom, the one who won’t get in step, or the one who doesn’t love his country (depending on what group you run with).

Yet the day Babylon conquered Judah and while the king was watching his sons being killed, do you think he remembered the words of Jeremiah? After they gouged out his eyes and led him into captivity, do you think he remember Jeremiah’s warnings? While the people were being carried off into exile, do you think they reflected on what Jeremiah said for almost five decades?

Consider us today. We believe we can spend what we do not have and escape the consequences of bankruptcy. We believe we can live in debauchery and not reap the consequences in our families and our own bodies. We believe we can remove truth from our schools, our government, our churches, and our lives and not reap the consequences of a society that has lost its moral compass.

Truth or consequences . . .

Leadership, true leadership, requires men and women who are truth speakers . . . even if truth is rejected.



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The Quest for Significance

06 Sep

I have been asked to post this again . . . move it ‘up to the top.’


I struggle with this . . . we all do to some degree. We all want to be recognized for what we contribute whether it is at our workplace, with our family and friends, at our church, or with other endeavors. We want others to know we are important . . . that our contribution matters . . . that we matter.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be appreciated or recognized. The dilemma arises when our quest for significance leads to idolatry . . . the propensity to ‘do what we do’ because of the praise we receive from others and their desire to be associated with us.

King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3-4) took this to the extreme when he made an image of gold and demanded all fall down and worship it. He later boasts that the great Babylon is a tribute to his mighty power and for the glory of his majesty. While the words are still on his lips, his dream is fulfilled. For the next twelve months he is driven from people, eats grass like cattle, his hair grows long, and his nails look like the claws of a bird. His sanity returns when he acknowledges all praise and glory is God’s. And for those who walk in pride HE (God) is able to humble.

Everything we have and everything we are is because of the grace and mercy of God. Our meaning in life – our significance – does not come because of what we do, but because of whose we are . . .


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