loren Eric Swanson: August 2006

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Kingdom Playgrounds...in Omaha

Got some good news from Ian Vickers from Christ Community Church in Omaha yesterday. Ian is a great guy--former church planter in France where he helped plant nine churches--not a small feat for any country in western Europe. He is now serving as director of their community ministry. A couple of months ago they handed out $20K to the congregation as the first part of a "Kingdom Assignment." The multiplied total that was turned in Sunday was $238K!

After church 1,400 people from CCC got on busses, served a bag lunch and were driven to one of 35 sites in the community where they painted, cleaned up, fixed up. One group of 25 went to the youth detention center and played basketball with the boys and ordered in pizza. The kids were overwelmed with the kindness of 25 adults. "It was like taking 1,400 people on a mission trip." The best part was that 438 of the 1,400 signed up to be involved in the organizations / institutions they served!

At a local hospital, where nutritionists figured out a healthy diet for starving children, the youth involved in this day of service put together packets of rice, vitamin-enriched chicken bullion, soy protein, etc that blend together for a tasty meal. How many meals? Get this...85,000 meals that will go in a container of medical supplies that will be shipped to Mali in September where CCC has been working for a number of years. Wow!

Monday Ian got on a plane and flew to the gulf coast to continue with the rebuilding. Working with a local church, the local pastor took Ian to a building that they were hoping to buy for their church one day. Now get this...as they were praying, the denominational superintendant AND the owner of the building showed up independently of one another and the papers were drawn up on the spot. Just an average weekend for a kingdom worker.... Every-day people using their talents to build the kingdom.

I love the words of Robert Lupton in his monograph on “Kingdom Playgrounds” where he paints such a compelling picture of using everyday talents for the kingdom.

Strange things happen in kingdom playgrounds. Adults become children and learn to play again. They bring their best tools and talents (the toys of the kingdom) and dream together. They invent ingenious methods to feed and clothe the poor, methods that enhance rather than destroy. They create new economics in destitute neighborhoods, and build homes and businesses and hope where despair has reigned.

In these kingdom playgrounds, impossibilities become probabilities and visions become reality. Here children discover the secrets of how kingdom magic really works.

In kingdom playgrounds God’s children play with great intensity. At times they may grow weary, but they are never bored. They learn that their gifts, which they once thought were useful only for making money in the marketplace, are the exact abilities needed to work in God’s kingdom. In these unlikely places, Gods children discover that the serious work of eternity is simply the joyful employment of the talents they desire most to express….[After the work is done] [t]hey return once again to their adult obligations, not knowing that they were never created to be adults anyway: “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3)[1]

[1] Lupton, Robert, Theirs is the Kingdom: Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America. Harper, San Francisco (1989) p. 88

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Leadership Community, Group 4, Meeting 2

Hey, the vacation is over! Today, 14 of the most innovative externally focused churches will be convening for the second time in Dallas at Leadership Network's facilitation space for the second gathering of this leadership community. Six months ago, when we first convened, and every church shared their model of what they were engaged in, outside the walls of their church, their was a notable silence as we all realized that God really is up to something new in getting the churches into the communities of the world. Gotta run but I'll write something tonight.

Wouldn't you know Leadership Network went from a Website to a blogsite. So to see the progress we made today, please go to: http://externallyfocused.typepad.com/externally_focused_4_2/

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Three Perfect Days in Nerja

Having a great time in Spain. The toughest decisions are 1) When to get up, 2) How many helpings of Ayo´s paella should I have (I had three the other day) (Note giant pan of paella cooking in the background), 3) What flavor of icecream to sample downtown. Liz and I realized that this is the first vacation we´ve had together in a long, long time...and we are really enjoying it.

The weather is spectacular--around 90 degrees... very nice under a beach umbrella. The water is Mediterranean (of course) blue and around 78 degrees. Just perfect.

Monday, August 07, 2006

No place like Spain

Liz and left Friday for a week at the Costa del Sol in Spain in a little costal town called Nerja that I "discovered" ten years ago when traveling with Andy and Jeff on the way to speaking at a Crusade event in Zaragoza. Four years ago I got on www.vrbo.com (vacation rental by owner) and found this condo overlooking the Med. (It is owned by a wonderful woman from LA who seems almost like family now.) Our family (minus Jeff who was in Basic Training) enjoyed a week here and this was our time to come back...just Liz and me this time...for some R&R. This was a great use of frequent flyer miles! This is my favorite place to be.

We arrived into Malaga on Saturday afternoon and opted to take the bus here instead of renting a car--very convenient. We got settled in time to take a swim in the Med--warmly refreshing and silky smooth.

I won´t write much more since this is time to live life...not write about it and we´re planning on every day, between now and Saturday to be the same: Get up...take a walk...go to the beach...swim out to the bouys...sit under an umbrella and read and nap. Lunch at Ayo´s around 2pm for the (recognized) best paella in the world...back to the beach...repeat morning schedule...dinner...walk to town...get an icecream...walk home and go to bed. Just like vacation should be!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Over the Edge of the World

Just finished listening to Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe (P.S.) (Paperback) by Laurence Bergreen. Great story of adventure.

I'll attach a copy of the route he took. Unbeknownst to me, he personally made it only half way. And they still named a straight after him!

Bob Buford does it again

Thought you might enjoy Bob Buford's insights on finishing well from his latest: www.activeenergy.net

From the Mind of Bob…Musings for Friends
Halftime Incarnated II: What anyone can learn from Bill Gates and Warren Buffett about “Finishing Well” …
Peter Drucker gave me the primary concept of this museletter when he encouraged me to conduct the interviews that are the substance of my fourth book, Finishing Well. He told me that the distance between the exceptional people and the average is constant. People learn from pioneers who convince us that things are possible and then we do it for ourselves. To date, more than 2,700 people have scaled Mr. Everest. On a single day in 2001, eighty-nine people managed that feat. This year, about 250 made it. It’s my opinion that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are going to set a new norm for all of us who want to spend the second half of our lives for social purposes. The Economist magazine, which is my pick for the best news magazine in the world, calls this new innovation “Billanthropy!” in their cover story.

Thinking about Gates and Buffett has caused me to reflect on the principles that emerged from those sixty-two conversations I had with people who are exemplars in Finishing Well. Like Gates and Buffett, sixty of the sixty-two interviewees came from backgrounds of modest means and achieved first half success and recognition that they are now turning into second half significance. Here are four Second Half significance principles that emerge as I think about those interviews and particularly about the world’s two wealthiest men and their own just-announced, second-half decisions.

1. Finding a New Purpose for a New Season
We now live our life in seasons. Ten years ago, Gates and Buffett were intensely involved in their wealth-building enterprises. At that time, both men were asked about philanthropy and both said they weren’t ready yet to allocate time or money to social investing. Obviously, the season in life has changed dramatically for both of them. Bill Gates, Sr. told me, when we talked in Aspen, that his son had been doing Microsoft for more than thirty years and was ready for “something more.”

In Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes, there is a wonderful poetic riff written by Solomon, the richest and, most say, the wisest man of his time. The whole chapter is worth rereading. Solomon begins,
“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven”

Well, the season has arrived for the two richest men of our time. Bill Gates was quoted in The New York Times as saying, “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to cure the top twenty diseases.” That’s what I’d call a new passion and a new purpose in life. That’s what I would call Finishing Well.

2. Repositioning Yourself Over Time to Finish Well
The three ways I have discovered to do this are the parallel career, low-cost probes, and testing your way in. Bill Gates set his parallel career in motion in 2000 when he turned over the chief executive reins to Steve Balmer and started the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Since that time, Gates and his wife, Melinda (raised in Dallas!), have devoted from twenty percent to fifty percent of their time exploring what needs to be done to solve social ills around the globe. In their recent announcement to spend fulltime on these purposes, Gates appointed Ray Ozzie to his position of chief technology officer. Microsoft’s stock didn’t drop with this announcement because everyone had been well prepared. For his part, Buffett has spent the last several years making certain that the greatest innovator of our time was really just that and developing the relationship upon which he has made the largest philanthropic bet in history ($30 billion). Lots of probing going on as these two prepared to reposition themselves for Second Half significance.

In my case, I decided thirty years ago to invest whatever time and money I had in building God’s kingdom on earth. I acted on that conviction twenty-two years ago by beginning a parallel career that has turned out to be Leadership Network, which focuses on two movements – helping large, fast-growing churches grow faster and promoting the transition from success to significance for Halftimers. I transitioned to fulltime work in these two areas seven years ago when we sold Buford Television, putting the majority of the funds aside for Leadership Network. And as the expression goes, “I want to be giving while I’m living so I’m knowing where it’s going.” These dedicated funds will be fully spent within the next eight years.

3. Building on What You Do Best
Warren Buffett claims to have been “wired at birth to allocate capital.” He has just allocated the biggest chunk of philanthropic capital in history. Buffett became the world’s second richest man by picking great managers of business capital. Now he has done that within the social capital world by partnering with the most successful entrepreneur of our time. In doing so, Buffett continues to do what he does best – making money. He has outsourced his philanthropy to Gates, whose gift in managing large and complex scalable enterprises is unparalleled. When someone had suggested to Gates that he interconnect a few libraries, Gates’ answer was, “Why not do all of them?” “Billanthropy” is a genuine innovation. It’s not focused on guilt, but on impact; not on duty and obligation, but on measurable outcomes.

This results and performance focused approach is the major innovation in philanthropy since Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller created the field a century ago. Born out of the risk-taking venture capital culture of Silicon Valley, a from-scratch entrepreneur, not an aristocrat, Gates is a new breed: a venture philanthropist. As The Economist puts it, “He backs schemes, assesses them and then dumps failures.” He gets behind strong, entrepreneurial leaders and he does it with a hands-on approach. He’s engaged and passionate. He leads. He doesn’t just wait for pitches.

4. Do it now. Do it yourself.
Like most all the people I interviewed in Finishing Well, and, I must say, like my own approach, the rule is: Do it now. Do it yourself.

The Economist review of “Billanthropy” says that foundations face two dangers: the first is egocentric aristocratic management: “Administrators (who) come to like the perks and power of deciding who is deserving.” Warren Buffett has approached the task of allocating the bulk of his capital with uncharacteristic humility. He allocates the bulk of his capital to the proven better management of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation rather than the foundations of his children or his late wife, which he is taking care of separately with smaller amounts. It’s important, however, to note that Buffet tithed to his family first.

The second danger, says The Economist, is the vanity of philanthropist. Here’s how they put it:
“They often like the notion that their foundations will live on after them, carrying their name down from generation unto generation. But, after the founder has died, foundations tend to become sclerotic and directionless – the fiefs of administrators who have lost sight of the original aims. So if you aim to be a truly philanthropic philanthropist, spend your money fast: do as much good as you can when you’re alive, and let posterity go hang.”

I couldn’t have said it better. So be it with me as well!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Serving the city and beyond

This is the Article from the Orange County Register on Alexa McNabb's "Extreme Logo Makeover"

Event: Logo art for Meals on Wheels among projects by 5,000 volunteers.
By Samantha Gonzaga, Staff writer

LONG BEACH - What happens when about 25 artists, graphic designers and marketing experts collaborate to give a national nonprofit a visual makeover?
You get eight pieces of concept art for a logo to present to the city's Meals on Wheels chapter. And if the nonprofit's national board approves it, the logo will be used for all 4,000 chapters.
The Meals on Wheels project was organized by Collaboration Works!, a nonprofit collective of professionals who volunteer their time assisting businesses and nonprofits with branding. The group was among 5,000 volunteers who participated in Saturday's Serve Day, an annual event that draws together 100 nonprofits and 28 Los Angeles and Orange county churches from all denominations for one day of community service.
About 250 project sites were planned Saturday.
"We create an environment where artists could thrive," said Alexa McNabb, founder of Collaboration Works! "We achieve a lot in a few hours. Everyone leaves like they just had eight espressos."
Throughout the day, volunteers brainstormed, sketched and discussed the visual impact of the final selected concepts with equal measures of humor and thoughtful analysis.

Throughout the day, volunteers brainstormed, sketched and discussed the visual impact of the final selected concepts with equal measures of humor and thoughtful analysis.

McNabb's group is not new to Serve Day. Last year, its volunteer professionals designed a logo for the Assistance League's Howard

Asian Art Collection, a small museum that houses 2,700 late 19th and early 20th century Chinese and Pan-Asian artifacts.

Previous Serve Day projects have designed the logo for Collaboration Works! itself and provided marketing, advertising and promotion workshops for "The State of the Art Project," a nonprofit film studio for the city's youth.
The challenge presented by Meals on Wheels this year was creating a design that not only conveys the group's service, but the compassion underscoring it, said Brian Chung, a marketing representative for Kawai America.
"We're really uniting people here," he said of the Serve Day exercise. "We're uniting people who want to serve."
Jeff Parker, a Long Beach resident and graphic designer, agreed. "I'm coming into this as someone who wants to serve the city."
Samantha Gonzaga can be reached at samantha.gonzaga@presstelegram.com or (562) 499-1284.

Only lame stuff happened on my birthday

Today's my birthday and a friend sent me an e-card from the History Channel that infomed me of all the great people who were born on August 2. You have to figure that 1/365th of our 6 billion plus people that are alive today and the countless who lived previously, that we'd find a few more notable people!

So today, honoring the 8 months we lived in Cosa Rica, I'm celebrating "Our Lady of the Angels" holiday that all true Costa Ricans celebrate!

1533 - Theodor Zwinger, Swiss scholar (d. 1588)
1672 - Johann Jakob Scheuchzer, Swiss scholar (d. 1733)
1674 - Philip II, Duke of Orléans, Regent of France (d. 1723)
1696 - Mahmud I, Ottoman Sultan (d. 1754)
1703 - Lorenzo Ricci, Italian Jesuit leader (d. 1775)
1754 - Pierre Charles L'Enfant, French-born architect and city planner (d. 1825)
1788 - Leopold Gmelin, German chemist (d. 1853)
1815 - Adolf Friedrich von Schack, German writer (d. 1894)
1834 - Frédéric Bartholdi, French sculptor (d. 1904)
1835 - Elisha Gray, American inventor and entrepreneur (d. 1901)
1865 - Irving Babbitt, American literary critic (d. 1933)
1868 - King Constantine I of Greece (d. 1923)
1871 - John French Sloan, American artist (d. 1951)
1875 - Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Russian-Lithuanian artist (d. 1957)
1878 - Georg Hackenschmidt, wrestler (d. 1968)
1882 - Red Ames, Baseball player (d. 1936)
1890 - Marin Sais, American actress (d. 1971)
1892 - Jack Warner, Canadian film producer (d. 1978)
1896 - Lorenzo Herrera, Venezuelan singer and composer (d. 1960)
1897 - Max Weber, Swiss Federal Councilor (d. 1974)
1899 - Charles Bennett, British screenwriter (d. 1995)
1900 - Helen Morgan, American actress (d. 1941)
1905 - Karl Amadeus Hartmann, German composer (d. 1963)
1905 - Myrna Loy, American actress (d. 1993)
1907 - Mary Hamman, American writer (d. 1984)
1910 - Roger MacDougall, writer (d. 1993)
1912 - Vladimir Zerjavic, Croatian statistician (d. 2001)
1914 - Beatrice Straight, American actress (d. 2001)
1915 - Gary Merrill, American actor (d. 1990)
1924 - James Baldwin, American author (d. 1987)
1924 - Carroll O'Connor, American actor (d. 2001)
1925 - Jorge Rafael Videla, Argentinian dictator
1925 - Alan Whicker, British journalist and broadcaster (“Whicker’s World”)
1930 - Vali Myers (artist), Australian painter (d. 2003)
1931 - Pierre DuMaine, Catholic bishop
1932 - Peter O'Toole, Irish-born actor
1934 - Valery Bykovsky, cosmonaut
1935 - Hank Cochran, American country music singer and songwriter
1937 - Garth Hudson, Canadian musician (The Band)
1939 - Wes Craven, American film director
1941 - Doris Coley, American singer (Shirelles) (d. 2000)
1942 - Isabel Allende, Chilean author
1943 - Max Wright, American actor
1945 - Joanna Cassidy, American actress
1945 - Alex Jesaulenko, Australian Rules footballer
1947 - Massiel, Spanish singer and Eurovision Song Contest winner
1948 - Andy Fairweather Low, British guitarist
1948 - Dennis Prager, American radio talk show host and author
1949 - James Fallows, journalist, The Atlantic Monthly.
1950 - Lance Ito, American judge
1951 - Andrew Gold, American singer, musician and songwriter
1953 - Butch Patrick, American actor
1954 - Sammy McIlroy, Northern Irish footballer and football manager
1955 - Caleb Carr, American novelist and military historian
1957 - Mojo Nixon, American musician and actor
1959 - Victoria Jackson, American comedian
1959 - Apollonia Kotero, American singer and actress
1960 - Neal Morse, American singer (ex-Spock's Beard and Transatlantic)
1961 - Linda Fratianne, American figure skater
1964 - Mary-Louise Parker, American actress
1966 - Tim Wakefield, baseball pitcher
1969 - Fernando Couto, Portuguese footballer
1969 - Richard Hallebeek, Dutch guitarist
1970 - Tony Amonte, American hockey player
1970 - Kevin Smith, American actor, director, and screenwriter
1971 - Michael Hughes, Northern Irish footballer
1972 - Justyna Steczkowska, Polish singer
1974 - Jeremy Castle, American singer and songwriter
1975 - Xu Huaiwen, Chinese-born badminton player
1975 - Mineiro, Brazilian footballer
1977 - Edward Furlong, American actor
1982 - Grady Sizemore, American baseball player
1982 - Hélder Postiga, Portuguese footballer
1986 - Mathieu Razanakolona, Malagasy skier
1988 - Brittany Hargest, singer, Jump5
1992 - Hallie Kate Eisenberg, American child actress

With the death of German President Paul von Hindenburg, Chancellor Adolf Hitler becomes absolute dictator of Germany under the title of Führer, or "Leader." The German army took an oath of allegiance to its new commander-in-chief, and the last remnants of Germany's democratic government were dismantled to make way for Hitler's Third Reich. The Führer assured his people that the Third Reich would last for a thousand years, but Nazi Germany collapsed just 11 years later.

August 2
1776 Delegates sign Declaration of Independence
On this day in 1776, members of Congress affix their signatures to an enlarged copy of the Declaration of Independence.
Fifty-six congressional delegates in total signed the document, including some who were not present at the vote approving the declaration. The delegates signed by state from North to South, beginning with Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire and ending with George Walton of Georgia. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania and James Duane, Robert Livingston and John Jay of New York refused to sign. Carter Braxton of Virginia; Robert Morris of Pennsylvania; George Reed of Delaware; and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina opposed the document but signed in order to give the impression of a unanimous Congress. Five delegates were absent: Generals George Washington, John Sullivan, James Clinton and Christopher Gadsden and Virginia Governor Patrick Henry.

August 2
1876 "Wild Bill" Hickok is murdered
"Wild Bill" Hickok, one of the greatest gunfighters of the American West, is murdered in Deadwood, South Dakota.
Born in Illinois in 1837, James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok first gained notoriety as a gunfighter in 1861 when he coolly shot three men who were trying to kill him. A highly sensationalized account of the gunfight appeared six years later in the popular periodical Harper's New Monthly Magazine, sparking Hickok's rise to national fame. Other articles and books followed, and though his prowess was often exaggerated, Hickok did earn his reputation with a string of impressive gunfights.

Holidays and observances
Costa Rica - Our Lady of the Angels.
Bulgaria/Republic of Macedonia - Ilinden (St. Ilya Day), a day of remembrance of the Ilinden Uprising.
Feast day of Ilya the Prophet in the Russian Orthodox Church.
Roman Catholicism - the feasts of at least 4 saints:
St. Peter Julian Eymard
St. Stephen
St. Alphonsus Mary de Ligouri
St. Etheldritha/Alfrida
Day of Airborne Forces in Russia.
Tisha B'Av, Jewish Day of Mourning over the destruction of the First and Second Temples

The Leader of the Future

An Interview With Ron Heifetz in Fast Company, May, 1999

It's hard to imagine discussing "the leader of the future" without having a discussion with Ronald Heifetz -- one of the world's leading authorities on leadership. Heifetz, 48, director of the Leadership Education Project at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, is a scholar, a teacher, and a consultant. His course at Harvard, "Exercising Leadership," is legendary for its popularity with students and for its impact on them. His students (many of them in mid-career) include leaders from all walks of life: business executives, generals, priests and rabbis, politicians. His clients have included senior executives at BellSouth, who brought him on to conduct a two-year program on leadership in a fast-changing world, and the president of Ecuador, who is struggling to lead that nation through tough economic times.

What makes Heifetz's approach to leadership so compelling is that he is so honest about what real leadership demands. The book that rocketed him to prominence was called Leadership Without Easy Answers (Belknap/Harvard University Press, 1994). The role of the leader is changing, Heifetz argues. The new role is "to help people face reality and to mobilize them to make change." And making change is painful: "Many people have a 'smiley face' view of what it means to lead. They get a rude awakening when they find themselves with a leadership opportunity. Exercising leadership generates resistance -- and pain. People are afraid that they will lose something that's worthwhile. They're afraid that they're going to have to give up something that they're comfortable with."

So why bother to lead? "There are lots of things in life that are worth the pain," he says. "Being a leader is one of them." In a series of conversations with Fast Company, Heifetz offered ideas, advice, and techniques for the leaders of the future.

How Leaders See

There is so much hunger for leadership in business today. Everyone wants better leaders. What do great leaders do?
The real heroism of leadership involves having the courage to face reality -- and helping the people around you to face reality. It's no accident that the word "vision" refers to our capacity to see. Of course, in business, vision has come to mean something abstract or even inspirational. But the quality of any vision depends on its accuracy, not just on its appeal or on how imaginative it is.

Mustering the courage to interrogate reality is a central function of a leader. And that requires the courage to face three realities at once. First, what values do we stand for -- and are there gaps between those values and how we actually behave? Second, what are the skills and talents of our company -- and are there gaps between those resources and what the market demands? Third, what opportunities does the future hold -- and are there gaps between those opportunities and our ability to capitalize on them?

Now, don't get the wrong idea. Leaders don't answer those questions themselves. That's the old definition of leadership: The leader has the answers -- the vision -- and everything else is a sales job to persuade people to sign up for it. Leaders certainly provide direction. But that often means posing well-structured questions, rather than offering definitive answers. Imagine the differences in behavior between leaders who operate with the idea that "leadership means influencing the organization to follow the leader's vision" and those who operate with the idea that "leadership means influencing the organization to face its problems and to live into its opportunities." That second idea -- mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges -- is what defines the new job of the leader.

Most companies have a remarkable tendency to underestimate their external threats and to overestimate their own power. Why is it so hard for leaders to convince people to face reality?
Companies tend to be allergic to conflict -- particularly companies that have been in operation for a long time. Being averse to conflict is understandable. Conflict is dangerous: It can damage relationships. It can threaten friendships. But conflict is the primary engine of creativity and innovation. People don't learn by staring into a mirror; people learn by encountering difference. So hand in hand with the courage to face reality comes the courage to surface and orchestrate conflicts.

Leaders of the future need to have the stomach for conflict and uncertainty -- among their people and within themselves. That's why leaders of the future need to have an experimental mind-set. Some decisions will work, some won't. Some projects will pay off, some won't. But every decision and every project will teach you and your organization something about how the world is changing -- and about how your company compares with its competition. In other words, facing reality means facing up to mistakes and failures -- especially your own failures. In the mid-1990s, Bill Gates made a big decision about the Internet. He decided that the Net wasn't going to be all that important. Then he changed his decision, because the people whom he was listening to contradicted his earlier decision. In the mid-1980s, Ken Olsen, the cofounder of Digital Equipment Corp., decided that personal computers weren't going to be all that important. He didn't change his decision very quickly, and Digital suffered as a result. These days, leaving any big decision in one person's hands is like playing Russian roulette. It's much safer to run multiple experiments. You never know which ideas are going to flourish and which ones are going to die.

If everything is subject to change, how can leaders help people keep their bearings?
Not everything is subject to change. If the role of the leader is first to help people face reality and then to mobilize them to make change, then one of the questions that defines both of those tasks is this: What's precious, and what's expendable? Which values and operations are so central to our core that if we lose them, we lose ourselves? And which assumptions, investments, and businesses are subject to radical change? At the highest level, the work of a leader is to lead conversations about what's essential and what's not.

Examples from politics abound. The civil-rights movement posed several questions: What's most precious about America? What values do we stand for? Do we stand for freedom and equal opportunity? Or do we stand for how we are living today? By posing those questions in such terms, Martin Luther King Jr. and the movement's other strategists generated conflict within the hearts and minds of many people around the country. People faced an internal contradiction between the values they espoused and the way they lived. Millions of people had to decide for themselves what was precious about their country and what was expendable about the supremacist lessons that they had learned.

Now, that is a very difficult inner conversation for anyone to have. Imagine how hard it was for Lew Platt, CEO of Hewlett-Packard, to lead conversations about breaking up that company -- and about leaving the HP name with the computer business rather than with the test-and-measurement business, which is where William Hewlett and David Packard got their start. I wasn't privy to those conversations, but my guess is that they were quite emotional. You can understand the business logic: HP's technology is so established in the test-and-measurement world that the company can survive a name change in that business without losing market share. The HP name isn't what's precious. Even so, if you grew up in that business, immersed in the legend of Hewlett and Packard's innovation in a garage, it might seem awfully precious.

How Leaders Listen
With leaders, the sense of sight -- vision -- is closely linked to the sense of hearing. People who love their boss often say, "She's a great listener." What does it mean to be a "great listener"?

Most leaders die with their mouths open. Leaders must know how to listen -- and the art of listening is more subtle than most people think it is. But first, and just as important, leaders must want to listen. Good listening is fueled by curiosity and empathy: What's really happening here? Can I put myself in someone else's shoes? It's hard to be a great listener if you're not interested in other people.

Think about some of the best-known leaders in the airline business: Jan Carlzon at SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) in the early 1980s, Colin Marshall at British Airways in the early 1990s, Herb Kelleher at Southwest Airlines today. These executives are always flying on their own airlines' planes. They're always talking with customers. They're always encouraging ticket agents and baggage handlers to be creative about helping customers to solve problems. They're in "dynamic listening" mode, asking questions all the time -- and not getting seduced into trying to provide all of the answers. If you're the boss, the people around you will invariably sit back and wait for you to speak. They will create a vacuum of silence, and you will feel a compelling need to fill it. You need to have a special discipline not to fill that vacuum.

What else does it take to be a great listener?
Great listeners know how to listen musically as well as analytically. As president, Jimmy Carter relied on "rational discourse" to weigh the pros and cons of various initiatives. He would have people prepare papers, and then he would sift their views in private. Doing it that way enabled him to listen to their arguments analytically but not musically. What do I mean by that? Jimmy Carter did not enjoy being in meetings with people who were posturing, arguing, haggling. But there's an enormous amount of information in the haggling, and that information tells us quite a lot about the values, the history, and the personal stakes that people bring to an argument. It's difficult for someone who's lost the last six arguments to say in a policy paper, "I've lost the last six arguments. If I don't win the next one, what am I going to tell my people?"

But in a conversation, the tone of voice and the intensity of the argument give clues to that subtext. Listening musically enables leaders to get underneath and behind the surface to ask, "What's the real argument that we're having?" And that's a critical question to answer -- because, in the absence of an answer to that question, you get superficial buy-in. People go along in a pseudo-consensus, or in a deferential way, but without commitment.

If curiosity is a prerequisite for listening, what's the enemy?
Grandiosity. Leaders need to check their sense of self-importance. But you shouldn't think that grandiosity arises from bad intentions. It usually grows out of the normal human need to feel important. I don't know any human being who doesn't want to feel important, who doesn't want to matter to other people. And those of us who have a strong need to be needed -- I happen to have that need, so I know a lot about it -- spend our lives solving other people's problems. It makes us feel needed: "Surely you have a problem that I can solve." But that orientation creates its own kind of problem. The more we demonstrate our capacity to take problems off other people's shoulders, the more authority we gain in their eyes -- until, finally, we become a senior executive or a CEO. And, by then, the tracks have been laid so deeply inside our brain that it becomes hard to stand back, hard to listen, hard to learn from others. Our normal need to feel important -- "Let me help you" -- has been transformed into grandiosity: "I have all the answers."

How Leaders Fail
Why do so many people dislike their bosses? Why do so many of us not respect our leaders?

For decades, I've been interested in that question -- because it sounds like a paradox: "Our leadership isn't exercising any leadership." Why do so many people feel that way about those who lead their companies or their communities? One reason is that people in positions of authority are frequently asked not to exercise their leadership. Instead of mobilizing their constituents to face tough, frustrating challenges, they are asked to protect those constituents from having to make adjustments. It's very hard for a congressman to go to his district and say, "Good news: The Cold War is over. Time for 10,000 of you to lose your jobs." He has been elected to his post to protect people from challenges that will require adjustments to their way of life.

That's why leadership is dangerous. Sure, you have to protect people from change. But you also have to "unprotect" them. It's dangerous to challenge people in a way that will require changes in their priorities, their values, their habits. It's dangerous to try to persuade people to take more responsibility than they feel comfortable with. And that's why so many leaders get marginalized, diverted, attacked, seduced. You want to be able to stir the pot without letting it boil over. You want to regulate disequilibrium, to keep people in a productive discomfort zone.
How do you keep people in a "productive discomfort zone"?

Attention is the currency of leadership. To a leader with formal authority, attention comes naturally. Fidel Castro can give a two-hour speech, and people will pay attention. So can Nelson Mandela. The president of the United States can give a State of the Union address that lasts an hour and 15 minutes. The big questions for that kind of leader are "How do I use that attention? What do I focus it on? When does a broad agenda become too broad? How do I push the organization without alienating my core constituency?" You have to remember: Drawing attention to tough challenges generates discomfort. So you want to pace the rate at which you frustrate or attempt to change expectations.

That means distinguishing between "ripe" and "unripe" issues. A ripe issue is one in which there is a general urgency for action. An unripe issue is one in which there is local urgency -- a readiness to change within just one faction. The work that it takes to ripen an unripe issue is enormous -- and quite dangerous. It needs to be done, but it's different from working a ripe issue.

Lyndon Johnson exercised wonderful leadership in helping to ripen civil rights as an issue. Six weeks after Kennedy's assassination, he called Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the NAACP, and said, "When are you going to get down here and start civil rights?" Then he gave Wilkins counsel on how to lobby Everett Dirksen, the senate minority leader. Johnson was ripening an unripe issue: He couldn't get out front on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but as an authority figure, he could provide counsel and cover for leaders without authority -- leaders who could then disseminate a sense of urgency. He did the same thing with King. Basically, he said, "If you open the door, if you create the political will, I'll drive through that opening." Johnson was asking King to ripen the issue for him. He was expected to be president for all the people. So, unless King and other civil-rights leaders generated the necessary political will, he couldn't move on that issue. He was prevented from exercising leadership by virtue of his authority.
What about grassroots leaders -- people without formal authority?

Again, it starts with attention. People who lead without authority, who lead from below, must draw attention to the issues that they raise without drawing too much attention to themselves. Grassroots leaders often generate "sticky" attention -- attention that sticks to them personally, rather than to their agenda. To use a different metaphor, it's never comfortable to be a lightning rod. The easiest way for an organization to neutralize the disturbance that you represent is to neutralize you.

There's a second big difference between people who lead with authority and people who lead without authority. If you're leading without authority, other people's attention spans are going to be short whenever you try to communicate with them. Forget two-hour speeches -- most people aren't willing to give you more than 30 seconds! So you have to use their attention wisely. You have to make your interventions short, simple, intelligible, and relevant.
I've met many in-the-trenches leaders who blame the people above them when they fail to make progress on their agenda: "I know where we have to go, but my boss doesn't get it. He's standing in the way." That's usually a complete misdiagnosis of the situation. Don't attack your boss. Look at the situation from his or her point of view. You should treat his or her attitude as a barometer of stress in the organization.

Let's say there's a well-meaning person -- we'll call him Max -- who has an imaginative idea, an idea with plenty of merit. Max speaks up in the middle of a meeting, off the agenda, and offers his inspired intuition. What the boss notices is how Max's colleagues fidget, roll their eyes, demonstrate their impatience. That's because they're all saying to themselves, "I've got an agenda item that I need to get covered, because my troops are expecting me to bring home the bacon. And there goes Max with his enthusiasms again." The boss immediately picks up on that attitude and takes Max down.

Now, the boss isn't the problem. Max is the problem. Max has to find a smarter way to intervene in behalf of his agenda. He has to understand the dilemma that he's creating for the boss, and he has to figure out how to help the boss resolve that dilemma. Remember: Most bosses are already operating near the limit of how much distress they can tolerate -- of how much disequilibrium, confusion, and chaos they can stomach. Naturally, they're inclined to suppress additional disturbances. So Max needs to understand the pains of change that he represents and to choose his tactics accordingly.

How Leaders Stay Alive
Leadership is hard -- on the people who work with leaders as well as on leaders themselves. How do leaders maintain the stamina, the energy, and the passion that they need to keep pushing ahead?

I'm working on this question with a Kennedy School colleague, Martin Linsky. We're writing a book for leaders that will be called Staying Alive. To sustain yourself over the long term, you must learn how to distinguish role from self. Or, to put it more simply: You can't take things personally. Leaders often take personally what is not personal and then misdiagnose the resistance that's out there.

Remember: It's not you they're after. It may look like a personal attack, it may sound like a personal attack -- but it's the issues that you represent that they're after. Distinguishing role from self helps you maintain a diagnostic mind-set during trying times.

There's a second point: Because we get so swept up in our professional roles, it's hard to distinguish role from self on our own. That's why we need partners who can help us stay analytical. And we need two different kinds of partners. We need allies inside the organization -- people who share our agenda. And we need confidants inside or outside the organization -- people who can keep us from getting lost in our role.

Leaders also need a sanctuary, a place where they can go to get back in touch with the worth of their life and the worth of their work. I'm not necessarily talking about a physical place or an extended sabbatical. I'm talking about practical sanctuaries -- daily moments that function as sanctuaries. One sanctuary that I recently developed for myself involves getting an email that's sent out by a rabbinic friend, who's a mystic and a biblical scholar. Every day, he sends out an interpretation of one word from the Bible. It's just a few screens long, but as I'm going through my email every day, I take a few minutes to read this thing, and it roots me in a different reality, a different source of meaning.

I'm not peddling any particular kind of sanctuary; we all have to find our own structures. Unfortunately, though, people who get swept up in fast-moving companies often treat their partners and their sanctuaries as expendable luxuries rather than as necessities: "I don't have time to have lunch with my friend"; "I don't have time to go to the gym in the morning, or to pray or meditate." I live in Boston. No one would live in Boston without owning a winter coat. But countless people think that they can exercise leadership without partners or without a sanctuary. To stay alive as leaders -- to tend the wounds that we inevitably receive when we raise tough questions -- requires maintaining these structures in our lives.

You make leadership sound so hard, so demanding. Do you worry that more people are going to start opting out?
Recognizing the challenges of leadership, along with the pains of change, shouldn't diminish anyone's eagerness to reap the rewards of creating value and meaning in other people's lives. There's a thrill that comes with the creation of value -- and of course there's money and status -- and those rewards are surely worth the pain that comes with the territory. There are lots of things in life that are worth the pain. Leadership is one of them.

William C. Taylor (wtaylor@fastcompany.com) is a founding editor of Fast Company. You can reach Ronald Heifetz by email (ronald_heifetz@harvard.edu).

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Good to Great Pastor

The Good to Great Pastor
From: http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2006/002/7.48.html

An interview with Jim Collins.
Jim Collins's book Good to Great has been a favorite among church leaders since it appeared in 2001. Six years of research resulted in a well-crafted and captivating account of what enables some companies to go from good to great and what prevents others from doing so. The popularity of the book, coupled with his ability to craft clear explanations for complex issues, has helped Collins become the dean of corporate advisers.
Though the research for Good to Great focused on businesses, the book found traction in the not-for-profit world. Leaders of churches, hospitals, schools, museums, and charities sought to adapt these lessons from the business world to their organizations.
After learning that about one-third of those buying Good to Great were dealing with the unique dynamics of the non-profit world, Collins recently published a 35-page monograph, Good to Great and the Social Sectors. We interviewed Collins to ask about the implications for churches.
How did you learn about great church leadership?Well, I have to begin by understating my expertise when it comes to churches. I don't presume to know the church world better than those who live and lead in it.
What I did for the monograph was take the framework of Good to Great, and puzzle with people from churches, be they good or great, and ask, "How are your contextual realities different, and what would you want to know the answer to?" I wanted to know how the lessons of Good to Great look in social sector organizations where their fundamental contribution to the world cannot be priced at a profit.
How do you define "greatness" in a church?Greatness does not equal bigness. Big is not great and great is not big. In fact, the bigger you become the harder it may be to remain great.
For my purposes, an organization must have three things to qualify as great:
1. Superior performance relative to its mission in the world.
2. A distinctive impact on its community. So you'd say, "If this church disappeared, it would leave a serious hole in this community."
3. Endurance. Making an impact over a long enough time, so that it's not dependent on the personality of one leader. If a church is effective during one pastorate, it may be a church with a stellar pastor, but it is not yet a great church.
How does business sector greatness differ from church greatness?The biggest distinction is the role of money. In the business world, money works both as a fuel to achieve greatness and as a measure of greatness. By definition, you're not a great Olympic runner if you don't win gold medals; you're not a great NFL team if you don't win Super Bowls; you're not a great company if you don't deliver great financial returns.
But in a church, money is only a means or an enabler of true performance, which is successfully reaching people with the message, creating a sense of community, and contributing to the community.
The subtitle for your monograph is "Why business thinking is not the answer." How is business thinking misapplied in the social sector?The mistake social sector organizations often make is to implement "business practices," but they imitate mediocre businesses.
For instance, bringing in an outside change agent. That's what many average companies do, but great organizations have the discipline to grow leadership from within. There's also the practice of using incentives. Average companies spend a lot of time incentivizing desired behavior. Great institutions discipline themselves to get people whose character is naturally to exhibit great behavior.
Since discipline is so key, where do you most often see breakdowns in discipline?Not being rigorous about who's put in leadership roles. In churches and other social sector organizations, the work is too important to let key seats on the bus be occupied by the wrong people.
Second is being unclear about your goals. You must ask, "What do we mean by great results?" Your goals don't have to be quantifiable, but they do have to be describable. Some leaders try to insist, "The only acceptable goals are measurable," but that's actually an undisciplined statement. Lots of goals—beauty, quality, life change, love—are worthy but not quantifiable. But you do have to be able to tell if you're making progress. For a church, a goal might be: Young people bring other young people here unprompted. Do they talk about the church with their friends? You may not be able to measure that, but you can assess it.
Third is undisciplined action, most commonly seen in the inability to stay with a coherent program long enough to get flywheel momentum.
Average organizations constantly lurch from one initiative to another. They're always looking for the next big thing, when the next big thing might be the thing they already have.
What role does leadership play in great churches?One of the things from Good to Great that really resonated with church leaders was the Level 5 Leadership finding, that leaders who took companies from good to great are characterized by personal humility and by a fierce dedication to a cause that is larger than themselves.
I was delighted how the Level 5 concept took hold, and yet the deeper I got into it, the more I realized that Level 5 Leadership looks different in a non-business setting. A church leader often has a very complicated governance structure. There can be multiple sources of power, constituencies in the community, and constituencies in the congregation. With all of that, you're going to run into trouble if you try to lead a church as a czar. Church leaders have to be adept in a more communal process, what we came to call "legislative" rather than an "executive" process.
What's the difference between legislative and executive leaders?If you walked into the Senate, as one of a hundred senators, thinking, Okay, here I am. I am going to lead this place as if I'm CEO, you're going to fail because you don't have that kind of power. Whereas if you're Sam Walton at Wal-Mart, you can say, "I am Sam Walton; this is my company; this is what we are going to do," and it will work.
Legislative leaders are in a complicated body where you have to bring together multiple pieces Executive leaders don't ultimately have to convince other people to go along. Concentrated executive power is far less prevalent in the social sectors.
How does a legislative leader display "rigor," a key word in your book?You might think a legislative leader just looks for consensus and therefore lacks rigor. But that's not Level 5 legislative leadership. Good legislative leadership requires no less rigor than executive leadership. In fact, it may require more.
Lacking the concentrated executive power, the legislative leader must generate power in order to accomplish the mission. Take Francis Hesselbein, the highly successful leader of the Girl Scouts of the USA. She learned the power of language and how to find the coalitions and how to connect different groups and shared interests. Without concentrated power, the leader has to be smarter in order to create the conditions for the right decisions to be made. That's rigorous.
Also, legislative leadership is not about unanimity or making sure everyone feels good. The legislative leader asks, What needs to happen to produce the best results relative to our mission? I know everyone won't like it and it might be hard on some people. And I know I don't have the power to just make this happen. So where can I find the sources of power that allow me to get what needs to happen to happen, even if it isn't popular?
I've never found an important decision made by a great organization that was made at a point of unanimity. Significant decisions carry risks and inevitably some will oppose it. In these settings, the great legislative leader must be artful in handling uncomfortable decisions, and this requires rigor.
How does a good church begin moving toward greatness?By getting the right people in key seats. These right people then ask, "What are the brutal facts we must confront?"
Notice what I did not say. They do not begin with a vision to rally people around. They say, "Let's get some strong people in key seats who care about the cause we're engaged in. Even though we don't know the strategy or the end vision, there is an allegiance to the mission. Then they confront, Why aren't we great? What do we need to do to move the flywheel toward a higher level of performance?
That's a very different approach from saying, "I am going to be a charismatic leader who lays out a vision and motivates everybody to go there."
So where does vision come into the process?Much later in the process than most assume. To become great you basically extrapolate from the results you're already getting, ask, How far could this take us? and then commit to doing it. The vision emerges from small successes. This is something we didn't understand when Jerry Poras and I wrote Built to Last. We thought you set the vision and build momentum toward it. What actually happens is you build momentum and see that something is actually working and then you see how far it can go.