loren Eric Swanson: June 2006

Monday, June 26, 2006

In Italy

I'm currently in Italy with Liz taking a class with Bakke Graduate University called "From Trent to Rome." I was hoping to download my daily reflections on what we are seeing, hearing and learning but this is the first time I've had Internet access. Who would have thunk I could access every day in the remotest parts of India and China but can't connect in Italy. We've been staying in the equivilent of places St. Francis would have stayed so technology has not been a high priority. Got to go. The mule that's been working the water wheel, which is driving the electricity is due for a straw break and so I will lose my connection in the next couple of seco

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Global Learning Community--Day 3

Had a great day yesterday. The meeting facility is great. We have found a schedule that seems to work for all of us. We start with breakfast at 9am with our first session at 10am. Yesterday we started with a 20 minute clip from Discovery Channel's "We Built This City" and looked at the city of London. One author writes this of cities:
“Two central themes have informed this history of cities. First is the universality of the urban experience, despite vast differences in race, climate, and location. This was true even before instant communication, global networks, and ease of transportation made the commonality among cites ever more obvious. As the French historian Fernand Brauden once noted, ‘A town is always a town, wherever it is located, in time as well as space.’”[1]

“This leads to a keen generalization about what characterizes successful cities. Since the earliest origins, urban areas have performed three separate critical functions—the creation of sacred space, the provision of basic security, and the host for a commercial market. Cities have possessed these characteristics to greater or lesser degrees. Generally speaking, a glaring weakness in these three aspects of urbanity has undermined life and led to their eventual decline.”[2]

“Cities can thrive only by occupying a sacred place that both orders and inspires the complex natures of gathered masses of people. For five thousand years or more, the human attachment to cities has served as the primary forum for political and material progress. It is in the city, this ancient confluence of the sacred, safe, and busy, where humanity’s future will be shaped for centuries to come.”

After debriefing on the London film we read and discussed an article by Tim Keller on the City and then had lunch. We had a brief session after lunch and then participants were free until dinner...and what a dinner it was--bacon wrapped filets, baked potatoes, shrimp. It was Babette's Feast.

We finished last night watching a movie called, "To End All Wars" directed by David Cunningham. David is Loren Cunningham's son. Loren Cunningham is the founder / president of YWAM. It was a powerful movie. After the movie was over we all just sat there impacted by the power of the gospel that was portrayed in the movie. Afterwards we reflected on what we saw and heard. Because the movie is set in a Japanese POW camp in Thailand and we good several Asians present the reflection was powerful.
[1] Kotkin, Joel, The City: a Global History, Modern Library, New York. (2005) preface
[2] Kotkin, p. xvi
[3] Kotkin. P. 160Rich Lotterhos has been fixing some incredible meals.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Global Learning Community--Day 2

Great day yesterday. Incredible weather here in Estes Park and an incredible time as leaders from Asia, Europe, Latin America, India and the US gather to think, dream and plan around impacting the cities of the world with the kingdom of God. The temperature reached a record-breaking 97 degrees in Estes Park.

After our Fast Fire Updates on the past six months (What's Working, Greatest Success, What's Stuck, Biggest Surprise) we had lunch then heard from three newcomers on their city models--Viju Abraham from Mumbai, Jack McGill from Orlando and Elijah Kim from Boston.

The afternoon was free for conversation and recreation and after a dinner of Pork Tenderloin we went to the media room and watched a transformational film called Babette's Feast followed by a reflection time.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Global Learning Community--Day 1

Yesterday, and through the evening 30 city leaders drove into Estes Park and wound their way up to Lost Antler Ranch for the forth semi-annual gathering of the Global Learning Community. Ryan McReynolds will be creating a live real-time weblink at www.globallearncomm.blogspot.com if you want to follow what we are doing.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Sharefest Boulder

Yesterday, nearly 2,000 people from five churches in the Boulder area culminated a two-day "extreme makeovers" on eight public schools that ended in a public celebration service at Mackey Auditorium on the University of Colorado Campus followed by a barbecue catered by KT (Memphis) Barbecue.

I'm starting the fourth five-day gathering of the Global Learning Community today so will post more pictures later.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Bob Buford, Leadership Network and the Medici Effect

What do Army Generals, Orchestra Conductors, and Jazz Musicians have in common?

More than you might think.

Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Effect, the book I mentioned in my last museletter, talks about learning at the “intersection” of fields, disciplines, and cultures. He begins the book by describing Peter’s Café, a watering hole in the Azores where sailors from all over the world -- traveling to and from Europe -- hang out to exchange ideas, learn from one another, and enjoy the world’s diversity. Reading Johansson made me realize how much I am drawn to intersections.

In the last several years, Leadership Network has created learning-at-the-intersection experience for groups of pastors, taking them inside DreamWorks SKG, Apple Computer, and Southwest Airlines. We do the same now for Halftime couples.

Courtesy of my great friend, the indefatigable Frances Hesselbein, I was invited to hang out at one of the best Peter’s Café-type intersections I’ve ever experienced. The location was West Point and gathered were a dozen generals (three of the twelve Four Stars) from the U.S. Army, a dozen corporate CEOs selected by The Conference Board, and a dozen social sector leaders selected by Leader to Leader Institute. I was out of my comfort zone, but I quickly got in the flow and learned a lot. Wow! What smart and dedicated people. Mature and accomplished, but still eager to learn.

The three days were introduced by our host, the Army Chief of Staff, General John Scoomaker, a very John Wayne-type of guy, who, right out of the gate, told us of his leadership challenges. He said:
We’re in the most dangerous period of history in his lifetime.
The Army is going through the largest transition since the Civil War. We are creating a culture of service from a command-and-control/kill-the-enemy system. It’s like trying to build an airplane in flight. We call it the Army of One. Each soldier must learn how to manage him or herself and be self-sufficient, on their own in an unfamiliar environment.
Only three of ten people in our primary recruiting group (males age 17-24) can qualify to be admitted to the Armed Services today. Six of ten people surveyed couldn’t find Iraq on a map. Two thirds couldn’t find Mississippi on a map.
It’s a crisis. We must recruit 170,000 to retain 100,000.

In another Peter’s Café-type interaction, it felt like the business and social sector CEOs saw their worlds changing at warp speed too. What a time to be leaders. So who did the sponsors put before us to stir up our “Peter’s Café conversations?”
A well-known executive coach, who taught us about sensitivity in listening to peers and subordinates.
A third world expert, who taught us the realities of the countries where people live on less than $1 a day. (He flew from India to be with this group.)
The president of the University of Pennsylvania, who spoke of what it is like to reform an academic institution, one of the most conservative systems in the world.
A symphony conductor, who talked of rethinking leadership style using an orchestra as a metaphor for leadership.

Hearing these four vastly different perspectives (not a word about tanks and guns!), I found myself asking over and over: “What does this tell me about what today’s Army leadership is thinking about?” The answer, clearly, includes the human side of enterprise and learning at the intersection from leaders in completely different cultures and disciplines.

Here is an example of learning from the orchestra conductor. First of all, he seated us throughout the orchestra. I was seated between a flutist and an oboe player -- just across from a Four Star General. The conductor had the orchestra play a piece, then he wove in his comments on leadership, interviewed some of the musicians, and then played more. Some of his observations about leadership:
“It is my responsibility to wake up the talent I know is there. How do I lead? I draw forth what is there. I don’t tell them what to do. They are all professionals. I don’t make it happen. I help it to happen if they want it to happen.”
“The work is to split the musical atom and let the energy flow.”
“The first thing I do is let them play and listen to see what they bring.”
“I don’t say a word of correction until I’ve danced with them for a while and kept my mouth shut.”
“It is my work to preserve the idealism and let it flow!”


A week later and back in Texas, I found myself at another intersection. This time, the site was a mega mansion in Highland Park, about the most opulent real estate I have strolled through since I visited Versailles as a tourist -- columns, fountains, gardens, tons of marble and granite. It was freshly minted grandeur.

The program, presented by John Edward Hasse, the curator of American Music at the Smithsonian Institution, was titled, “Leadership Lessons from the Jazz Masters.” Listen for the resonance with what I had heard from Army generals and a symphony conductor just a week before. Here are the seven lessons:

1. Listen Closely
When there is no exact “script” – as there is often no score in jazz – you have to listen closely. Duke Ellington wasn’t listening for the shortcomings of his players, for the inevitable mistakes. He was listening for their greatness.

As in jazz, there’s often no word-for-word script in businesses, churches, and other organizations. If you have no exact script, you have to listen closely so you can anticipate the next move in your group

2. Find Your Own Sound
In today’s competitive environment, how do you pull ahead of the pack? One of the important ways is to differentiate yourself from the competition, to stand out from the grays or sameness of the pack and, in living color, show your — or your organization’s — uniqueness.

Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis taught us that you have to be authentically yourself, to find what’s right for you. You have to find what you do best, and find what is best for you.

3. Take Risks - Improvise
For jazz musicians, improvisation is the heart and soul of their art. The great masters of jazz are capable of creating -- on the spot -- solos of originality and brilliance.

4. Remain Fresh – Innovate
The very art of jazz is about making something old and familiar into something new and fresh -- Recombining existing elements into a novel idea, into something original.

5. Jam
You might view a jam session as an effort to break down hierarchy. In a jam session, rank doesn’t matter. What matters is your ability, your willingness to take a risk, your spirit of both camaraderie and good-natured competition, and your wits in the heat of the moment.

6. Collaborate Creatively
A critical aspect of effective leadership involves working collaboratively. Jazz masters know instinctively that “None of us is as smart as all of us.” They work for the combined good and mutual benefit of the organization as a whole.

7. Find and Nurture Great Talent
Duke Ellington led the greatest jazz orchestra in history. He treated each musician as if he or she were very special — a jewel — important to the whole team. The results were spectacular. He inspired them to perform at, or beyond, their best.

So What About You?
Put a check mark by the lessons that apply to your work and relationships.
Think of an orchestra as a metaphor. What role would you play?
Name your best-ever, out-of-the-box learning experience.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Bob Buford, Leadership Network & the Medici Effect

Learning about Leadership … Management as a Liberal Art

Thank heaven (literally), we seem to be getting over the idea that management only (or even mainly) has to do with getting an MBA and going into business to get as rich as possible as fast as possible. My travels the past two months have again convinced me that management has to do with the productive interaction of human beings who are committed to producing results in all sorts of sectors – in social sector organizations, in the U.S. Army, in orchestras, in megachurches and, yes, in business too. Leaders in each of these sectors have a lot to learn from their peers in other fields.

And another thing? My recent experiences make me believe that I can probably learn more from smart people in other fields than I can from digging an ever-narrowing tunnel to get the last bit of incremental knowledge in the field I have inhabited for years (translate that as “my comfort zone”). A really interesting book by Frans Johansson, called The Medici Effect, calls this “learning at the intersection.”

“The idea behind this book is simple: When you step into an intersection of fields, disciplines, or cultures, you can combine existing concepts into a large number of extraordinary new ideas. The name I have given this phenomenon, the Medici Effect, comes from a remarkable burst of creativity in fifteenth-century Italy.”

The last two months have meant a lot of travel for me -- someone who doesn’t have much patience for airline purgatory. But Linda tells me, “You have to go to learn,” and I learned a lot on these trips. By traveling to both coasts and to the Midwest, I have been with all kinds of leaders on their home ground.

Here’s one case (with more to come). In mid March, I found myself with an unconventional church leader, Mark Bankord. Mark is an asset manager Monday through Thursday each week and then, Friday through Saturday, he leads the new Heartland Community Church in Rockford, Illinois. Mark’s title is “Senior Directional Leader.” He is reinventing a centuries-old leadership paradigm for churches that says the top role has to be called priest or pastor and that the person who occupies that role must be mainly a public speaker or a pastoral core person. Mark is a bold and magnetic leader. My pastor friend Robert Lewis and I were “live” as speakers on a recent Sunday in Rockford, but, most weekends, the message is delivered on DVD by the likes of Bill Hybels of Willow Creek. Willow does five services – two on Saturday. Four thousand people attended the weekend I was there. Lay volunteers do everything else, including all the individual, highly personal touches. Heartland has hundreds of these volunteers and the church’s full time staff numbers 50. Three staff members are ordained; forty-five come from lay backgrounds.

This is happening all over the country. As large churches “go small” via small groups, new church plants, and multiple sites, most of the leadership is drawn from lay people who serve as cell group leaders, campus pastors, executive pastors, and all kinds of roles that used to be occupied by seminarians. As you can tell by the titles, most of these roles didn’t exist several years ago. Mark Bankord is a pioneer, ahead of most churches I know, and his is a model well worth thinking about.
Every megachurch leader I know tells me that leadership development is the major constraint on growing a church. Bringing lay people into working roles as either volunteers (“unpaid staff”) or paid staff increases the pool of recruitable “labor” a hundred fold. This is a major shift in the way churches operate as energetic people become more than spectators and religious events involve more people from more fields of knowledge and experience. The result is a richer mix, a Medici effect. For Mort Meyerson, Ron Steinhart, and my other Jewish friends who read these muse-letters – there’s no reason this idea can’t be done in synagogues too.
The central idea I have learned from Mark Bankord and others is that a leader’s job is to release and direct energy, not to supply it. There’s a wealth of talent just dying to serve as senior leaders learn how to transform latent energy into active. I have continued to learn that lesson at other intersections: from U.S. Army Generals at West Point; from orchestra conductors and jazz musicians; from micro-lenders serving in Africa; from YPO entrepreneur-types in Tucson; from social venture capitalists in Dallas; and, even, from a university president at Claremont Graduate University in California.
It’s been an active two months on the road. Next time, I will muse on what orchestra conductors, jazz musicians, and four-star U.S. Army Generals have in common.