Archives For Leading Thoughts

berlin wall handshakeTwenty five years ago the Berlin Wall fell.

Twenty three years ago I spent the summer in Germany studying engineering. During my time there I visited Berlin, and stayed in an East Berlin hotel. It was a surreal experience to sleep and eat in a place that had been cut off from the western world for 30 years.

As a teenager of the ’80’s, I grew up hearing President Reagan say, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Thanks to cable news the world watched in real time as the wall crumbled on the night of Nov. 9, 1989.

History has documented that Harold Jager, an East German border guard, was the “man who opened the Berlin Wall” that historical night.

Jager recalls his order to open the gate was not a decision for which he had approval, nor was it an order he wanted to give. A divided Berlin was all Jager had ever known; his father had helped build and police the wall. Jager had followed in his father’s footsteps. He recalls crying and feeling betrayed that night as he watched the masses of East Berliners cross the border into the west.

However, within a half hour Jager said, “The crowds won us over with their euphoria, we realized that they were overjoyed and and our tears of frustration turned to those of joy.” Jager’s response is not very different from anyone who has experienced a border crossing.

Border crossings are difficult whether they are geographical, generational, or ideological. (tweet this)

This is one reason why it’s often hard for people to come into the Kingdom of God – it’s a border crossing. Even though Jesus said the kingdom is life, joy and rest, it’s hard for people to take the step from entrapment to freedom.

Thankfully, Scripture is full of God-led border crossings and participants who were resistant: the Exodus out of Egypt, entrance into the Promised Land, rebuilding of the Temple, Jesus bringing in the kingdom, taking the Gospel beyond Jerusalem, incorporating Gentiles into the church.

What border crossings are you helping people make? Are they cultural, organizational, or ideological borders? How is your church helping the community cross borders, not just into the kingdom but within the community?

Mr. Jager said when he told his sister, “It was me who opened the border last night.” She said, “You did well.”

I want to hear those same words one day from my border-crossing God.

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Trick or Treat DoorI enjoy trick or treating with my kids.

With four kids we’ve collected enough treats over the years to make Willy Wonka proud and his dentist father terrified.

If trick or treating isn’t your thing, I understand, just hang with me for a few sentences.

Trick or treating is an engagement in which expected visitors show up at a person’s house unannounced. 

That sounds a lot like a church guest…expected but unannounced. For that reason I think there are a few things churches can glean from trick or treating when it comes to welcoming guests.

Two Kinds of Welcome

I have stood at the curb many times as my children were greeted, and I’ve noticed two kinds of greeters – those who leave the porch-light on and those who wait in the front yard.

Porch-light greeters work from the assumption that trick or treating involves knocking on a closed door and then waiting for it to open. Tradition is on the side of the porch-light greeter.

Wait-in-the-front-yard greeters work from the assumption that trick or treaters may be deterred by a closed door or a delayed answer. Innovation is on the side of the front yard greeter.

It’s not that porch-light traditions are wrong.  It’s that culture has shifted and people are not as comfortable engaging through a closed door anymore.

Porch-light greeters can’t hear the sidewalk conversations outside their homes as parents debate whether or not their children should approach the door.

This is where innovation always trumps tradition. Front-yard greeters have replaced the porch light with themselves. They hear the sidewalk conversations because they are out there.

Is your church taking a porch light or front yard approach to welcoming guests?

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organicsA recent news program reported that U.S. organic farmers are having a “row,” as the Brits say, over the organic label.

One side, we’ll call Purists, want the label to apply only to foods strictly raised without synthetic substances.

The other side, we’ll call Pragmatists, want broader availability of organics in the market and are willing to accept the use of some synthetic substances.

It makes you wonder what do organic farmers throw at each other in a food fight? “Who threw this un-certified organic banana at me?”

While I am not one to pick sides in the organic-label war, I do understand the nature of the tension.

Many organizations feel this type of tension between purists and pragmatists around all sorts of issues.

Theology, gender, economics, parenting, politics, policy, standards of dress, on and on organizations wrestle in areas that seem to demand a stance. Should an idea be held to its purest form or should the desire to reach the masses lead to a compromise?

I often find fear at the core of both the purist and the pragmatist positions. Two very different kinds of fear but fear just the same.

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Freedom RidersImages of the American Civil Rights movement both terrify me and make me proud.

They terrify me because of the brutality shown to people of color. They make me proud because the images are so distant from my children’s America that they require explanation.

Not long ago I watched the Freedom Riders documentary with my children. The Freedom Riders were a group of blacks and whites who set out to ride commercial buses across the South in order “to challenge local laws…that enforced segregation in seating.”

In the documentary it is sobering to watch a modern-day interview with John Patterson, the governor of Alabama during the Freedom Riders demonstration. In the interview Patterson admits that he was wrong to have labeled the Freedom Riders rebels, and if he had it to do over again he would support the Riders.

History is full of people who were first labeled rebellious but were later called pioneers. (click to tweet)

It’s easy to see now that leaders like Governor Patterson were on the wrong side of history, but what about in your organization or community?

How can you tell if a non-conformist is being rebellious or pioneering?

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Keep the RulesRecently I spent time on the receiving end of two great nonprofits, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and Ronald McDonald House (RMH). Both organizations do amazing work to serve families.

I’ve spent over 18 years as a leader in nonprofits, so whenever I have a chance to be the customer/patient I pay attention. I’m watching for the insights that can only be mine through the eyes of a recipient.

It is impossible to see all the assumptions you make about your own organization as a provider, but as a recipient you clearly see the assumptions other’s are making in their organization. Often the best way to evaluate what you do is to be on the receiving end of what others do.

The impetus for every nonprofit is a cause, and effective nonprofits clarify a compelling mission around that cause.

RMH keeps families together to help kids heal faster and cope better. My family interacted with dozens of employees and volunteers at RMH who embodied that mission. We also encountered a few who had forgotten the mission and where just keeping the rules.

This past week my recipient eyes noticed that nonprofits attract two kinds of people: mission pursers and rule keepers. Here is the difference:

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oscar statueI recently heard Dustin Hoffman interviewed about his 50 year film career. In the interview Hoffman described himself as a peripheral person.

He noted how his 5’6″ boyish look never made him the automatic choice for a leading role. In 1967 Life Magazine said, “If Dustin Hoffman’s face were his fortune, he’d be committed to a life of poverty.”

The amazing thing about Hoffman is that he changed the idea of a leading male actor. The screenplay for one of Hoffman’s early films was written with a 6′ blonde-haired, blue-eyed leading role in mind (Robert Redford auditioned for the part.) Hoffman not only got the part he got an oscar nomination for his performance.

I’m not one to take sage-wisdom from Hollywood actors but something Hoffman said in his interview grabbed me: “Many times in life a peripheral person is the leading role.” (tweet that)

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confessionOne of the best teachers I ever had began the first class of each semester with a confession of how he had been fired from his last job.

There was something about that opening confession that set the whole class up to succeed. In fact a majority of his students did very well.

One time his students’ success brought him into question before the academic dean. The dean felt sure he was making exams too easy for his students. My prof brought a copy of his final exam and challenged the dean to pass it. The dean declined and dropped his concerns.

A few months ago I came across a post entitled “The 13 Biggest Failures from Successful Entrepreneurs and What They’ve Learned from Them”. These are not light-hearted confessions about failing to show up to work on time or missing project deadlines. I was struck by some of the “black-eye” confessions of wasting money and letting growth exceed the ability to lead.

I have worked in churches for over 18 years and I’ve rarely heard a pastor confess a leadership failure unless it was attached to moral failure. I certainly haven’t heard confessions from 13 prominent pastors.

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Posts Collage

Thanks for making 2013 a great year at SecondChairLeadership.com. Almost 1,000 visitors per month visited the site. Here are the top 10 most-read articles of 2013, and some links to my favorite blogs for 2014.

Number ten: Where is My “X”? Reflecting on JFK

Number nine: Solve Problems to Achieve Success

Number eight: Growth is a Goal, Not a Solution

Number seven: There Should be Books You No Longer Read

Number six: Why Pastors (more than churches) Need To Be on Social Media

Number five: 3 Ways I Use Evernote

Number four: Helping Churches Find Their Social Media Voice

Number three: What Social Media is Restoring & Why Organizations Should Notice

Number two: Donors & Followers: Incorporating Social Media into Fundraising

Number one: Why Some Churches Are Pastored Like a Mom & Pop

My favorite blogs for 2014:

Alli Polin: BreaktheFrame.com

Chris Brogan: Chrisbrogan.com

Michael Lukaszewski: Michaellukaszewski.com

Jeff Brodie: Jeffbrodie.com

Dorie Clark: Dorieclark.com

For coaching, consulting, or speaking, let’s connect in 2014!

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Best Advice 2013Here it is #BestAdvice2013. Thanks to everyone who contributed these words of wisdom. Some advice was shortened to be tweetable.

All the Best in 2014!!!

LollyDaskal.com

ChesterMitchell.org

BenSmithonPurpose.Blogspot.com

 MichaelLukaszewski.com

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I was recently visiting family in south Florida and saw this sign.

Alligator warning sign

It seems the wording could be better, but it’s good advice, especially the part about alligators “mistaking a hand for a handout!”

As a new year approaches what’s the best advice you plan to remember from 2013? Share your advice in 1 or 2 sentences as a comment on this post or tweet/FB post using #BestAdvice2013. I will compile all the comments and post them the last week of 2013.

If you would like your Twitter name included when I publish your best advice, then be sure to include it with your comment.  Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom!

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