Do You Know What They Need?

“Leaders appear when awareness meets need.”

“A person who knows what a group actually needs must be more aware than those in need.”

Deepak Chopra


Do you know what your group needs? 

You family, your staff, your congregation, your customer, you small group bible study, your friend going through a crisis… do you know what they need?

Leaders must wake up every day asking, “what does the group of people I’m responsible for need?”  Not, “what do they need from me?”  Rather, “what do they need, period.  And then how can I help lead them there?”

There have been a number of seasons in my leadership where I have lost sight of this question.  I drifted into doing what I’d always done.  I became less engaged with this question and as a result I quit leading.  Afterall, it’s pretty difficult to lead if you don’t know where you need to go.

Great leaders always know what the group needs before the group knows they need it.  Great leaders anticipate.  They see the future and they plan for it.

So today, stop yourself.  Before you make another move, pause and consider the question:

What do they need?

Turning Off the Critic

Another Sunday in the books. Four services, thousands of attendees, hundreds of volunteers, even a dozen commitments for Christ, and yet I couldn’t shake this gnawing sense of dissatisfaction. In fact, this aching feeling was becoming common every Sunday night as I drove home tired and spent. For all the effort and all the good, it still felt not quite good enough. For all of our great planning and preparation there were still problems. For all of our good communication, volunteers still didn’t always show up. For all of our backup measures, systems still failed in the moments they mattered most.

Rather than see the good that was happening in our ministry, all that wasn’t working was exceedingly overwhelming me. A critical eye consumed me.

Continue reading at Sunday Magazine…

Align Your Stars


Every organization has them.


The employees that shine a little brighter than others.  They’re gifted.  They’re tenacious.  They do whatever it takes.  They believe in the vision.  They are problem-solvers and idea-generators.  They outrun the rest of the pack.  They’re growing.  They’re leading.

As a leader,  it’s your job to align your stars.  You must position them to shine.

Stars only burn brightly when they are in the right seat, empowered to lean into their strengths and develop their gifts.

If a star gets bored and lacks a challenge, or if a star gets frustrated by roadblocks in organizational bureaucracy, they will either burn out or move on.

A star won’t stay where it can’t shine.

What are you doing to align the stars in your organization?

*Original photo source

Ramblings About Lessons in Stewardship

I like to be an owner.  I like control.  I like the responsibility.  Honestly, I like the power.

My current season is becoming a lesson in the greater responsibility of stewardship.

I have prided myself in owning things.  Back in Nashville, I was proud to own my house, the stuff in my house, our cars, the dog.

My new season allows me to own very little.  I’m renting the house we’re living in.  There’s a huge part of me that is uncomfortable about that.  I want to own.  I want control.  In some ways I find myself disconnected from this house.  I’m not as interested… because I don’t own.  I’m not in complete control.  Truth is, this house is far nicer than what I could afford to own here (we won’t even get into the housing market craziness of this place).  But my pride wants to own.  My pride wants to control.

But for this season I’m privileged to rent – to steward – something far nicer than I deserve.  It’s been entrusted to me.  That honor should overwhelm me.  The honor of stewardship.

I realize there are a lot of other things in life that I try to own rather than steward… my gifts and talents, my job, my future.

Most days I treat my responsibilities like an entitled owner rather than a faithful steward.

Seasons like the one I’m in now are a healthy reminder of how little we control and how much we are called to be faithful stewards of all that God has given us.  Ownership is an illusion.  Everything we have is a gift from God.

Our responsibility is to be amazing stewards.

Whatever we have, however we acquired it, we must approach the care of it as faithful stewards of a gift much grander than we deserve. 

Quit Playing Good Cop/Bad Cop

“Go ask your mother.”

“You’re father is not going to like that!”

“You’ll need the boss’ approval.”

“If the leader of that department is okay with it, I’m okay with it.”

We do this all the time.

We pass the buck.  We play good cop/bad cop.

Some of us are wired for mercy.

Some of us are wired for justice.

And because of that wiring we usually become either the good cop or the bad cop for those we lead.

But good cop/bad cop is a bad philosophy for leaders. 

When we perpetuate a good cop/bad cop scenario, we create heroes and villains.

The philosophy doesn’t emerge from dysfunction.  It emerges from that natural wiring and at first it even seems balanced.  We need mercy and justice.  We need grace and truth.  Since both exist there seems to be an equalibrium in the organization.  And for a time there might be the illusion of such, but in reality you’re enabling a dysfunction that will wear down the relational chemistry of your team.

The leader who plays the “good cop” role, while well-liked, will become less respected.  She can never be relied upon to speak truth.  The team eventually catches on and realizes that in her desire to be the “good cop” she’s never coaching you for improvement or constructively giving you feedback.  She leaves that to the “bad cop”.

The leader who plays the “bad cop” wears the organization down.  As the person who is always delivering the bad news, he is avoided.  People dodge when they see him coming.  They know that whatever he has to say, it’s not going to be good.

Good cop/bad cop leadership philosophy divides teams.  It perpetuates unhealthy alliances and ultimately severs relationships.

As leaders, we can not delegate the good or the bad.  We must embrace both as our leadership responsibility.  I must be equally willing to be merciful yet just.  I must be both truthful and gracious.  Every leader must embrace both sides.  That’s healthy leadership.


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Happy Friday!

What God Makes of Our Mess

I’m doing some research about great leaders for my next book.  One of the resources that I read is a little book entitled Greatness by Steven F. Hayward.  It’s about the leadership lives of Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan.  It’s a fascinating read on the parallels of the leadership styles of these two men.

Whether you believe these two men were great leaders or not, consider this quote from the book:

“Alexander Hamilton wrote that the love of fame is the ruling passion of the noblest minds, and we can see in Churchill that the thirst for personal honor was the spur to perform great and noble deeds.”

“the love of fame is the ruling passion of the noblest minds”

“the thirst for personal honor was the spur to perform great and noble deeds”

I get these statements and they mess with me in a big way.

Seeking recognition, honor, notoriety feel as natural as breathing and yet as destructive as poison.

The assumption here is that people who are wired for great leadership potential are also cursed with a love of fame and a desire for personal honor.  Why else would one work so hard to accomplish so much?

It seems that God takes these selfish motivations to give us the gumption and the courage to push through criticism and fear to leap out on ledges where few others dare.

How do we reconcile that mess?



Read to Lead

Read at every wait;

Read at all hours;

Read within leisure;

Read in times of labor;

Read as one goes in;

Read as one goest out.

The task of the educated mind is simply put: read to lead.

~ Cicero

 HT: Huffington Post


What are you reading right now?

Careful Selection

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.  When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.”  Matthew 6:12-13

Choosing the twelve was a significant leadership decision.

These twelve would be the core group that Jesus would invest in the most.  His focus was on teaching and training them to establish the church after he was gone.

Jesus knew his time was short.  He had limited time to teach a group of leaders how to carry on his work on Earth.

While he went about his ministry, he also was strategically building into and investing in this group.

He modeled for us what it looks like to invest in others.  He displayed what it looks like to do the work we’re called to do while also developing others along the way.

None of us know when our season will end.  In our modern world, career change is common and we must constantly think about who we’re preparing to take over for us when we’re gone.

The first step in succession is careful selection.

The verse above says that Jesus spent the entire night before he selected the twelve praying.  It doesn’t say that choosing the twelve was his only topic of prayer but given that the first action he took after his night of prayer was gathering the disciples and naming the twelve, it’s a safe assumption that praying about who those twelve should be was likely a key part of his prayer time.

Prayerfully selecting our teams is essential.  Many of us in the haste and pace of our lives hurry to add staff members without counting the long term cost of that selection.

Building teams is a critical responsibility for every leader.

How much time, attention and prayer are you devoting to selecting your core team?

#LentChallenge – What’s Your Gift?

As I was reading Luke’s account of Jesus birth, I was struck again by the significance of God choosing Mary to birth the Messiah.  Why her?  What stood out about her?  How did she get God’s attention and favor for this tremendous gift?

I don’t know why God chose Mary.  I marvel at how honored I would feel to be chosen for that responsibility.  I anticipate all the emotions that she must have wrestled with.  I wonder what I would have done in her shoes.  How would I have stewarded this amazing gift?

But God has given me (and you) a gift too.  He has given me gifts, talents, experiences and opportunities that he hasn’t given to anyone else.  He has given me these to steward, to cherish, to develop and to release into the world for his good, for his glory.

What he’s asking me to do is the same thing he asked Mary to do, just a different gift.  He asked Mary to be faithful to steward the raising of Jesus.  We too have been asked to be faithful to raise up the gifts that God has given us.  Would Mary have ever dreamed of starving or neglecting Jesus?  Would she have kept him hidden?  Would she abandon him or abuse him?  Would she scorn him or ignore him?  I don’t think so.  Mary knew the tremendous value of this gift that was her’s to steward and she was faithful to that responsibility.

What are you doing with your gift?  Are you cherishing it and developing it or are you ignoring it and squandering it?

Whatever you’re gift, your responsibility is to be faithful.