The Care and Feeding of Any Heart: Leadership is Huge! Part 3
For the next several Training Table feasts of the heart for those “running the good race” (2 Timothy 4:7), we’ll chow down on some meaty issues surrounding the attributes of great leadership—and some problems of sub-par or no leadership as well.
“Never before has leadership been so critical, and never before has it seemed in such short supply.” (Gary Hamel, foremost author on leadership).
Today’s Training Table menu on leadership consists of a smorgasbord of things that poor leadership represents and does. The following insights were authored by Robert Goodell, of WJM Associates.
Granted, the list of crummy leadership qualities below are as good as any, but this meaty meal is as much about BEHAVIORAL CHANGE as it is about bad-boy leadership. Yes, the dearth of leadership is clear; what’s less clear, conscious, and actionable is how we can change.
Please be listening, teachable, positive, and willing to be a leadership change agent!
“Leaders often see their role as protector of the status quo and measure their success by how well they ingratiate themselves with superiors and avoid embarrassing errors. Subordinates are “managed” to conform to the leader’s demands, which can be mercurial and unstable from day to day. Compliance is the order of the day.”
The View of Sub-Standard Leaders by Those They Lead
- People who are promoted into positions of leadership responsibility based on their subject matter expertise alone are often locked into their way of doing things as the basis of their value to the organization. They may not be open to other approaches.
- Poor leaders tend to be preoccupied with their own need for reassurance by others, particularly by superiors, and care little about the development of their subordinates.
- Because of their insecurity, they tend to be overly self-protective or self-promoting in their behavior. Either way, they are ineffective leaders, and their organizational performance is disappointing.
- Subordinates experience such leaders as moody and unpredictable, lacking in integrity.
- They also find their professional development arrested in such an environment. They are disrespected and treated as means to the leader’s ends.
- Poor leaders are threatened by change and seldom produce innovative approaches to new business conditions. Subordinate initiatives are met with skepticism, and if they prove to be successful, the leader often claims the credit.
- Poor leaders look for cues from their superiors on what view to have on new issues. They lack the confidence in their own judgment to form their own independent views. Consequently, they are seen as political animals, and not good role models for their subordinates.
- Because of their controlling nature, poor leaders tend to attract compliant subordinates.
- Poor leaders tend to view as successors those who most resemble themselves and their view of what is expected.
Characteristics Of A Poor Leader/Coach
(As Seen Through The Eyes Of Subordinates)
“Made me feel like a potential ‘ticking time bomb’.”
“Preoccupied with how they are viewed by influential stakeholders.”
“Quick to judge/criticize; slow to forgive and forget.”
- Micromanaged my work (I was not allowed to modify or question existing procedures and protocols)
- Mistakes and oversights were treated as evidence of incompetence rather than as learning opportunities and past errors were rehashed.
- Leader’s moods and behavior were erratic and unpredictable (I had no consistent pattern that I could trust…stress levels were high)
- Tends to be deferential upward and demeaning down
- Blames own mistakes on others, especially subordinates and peers, while taking credit for subordinate work that is praiseworthy
- Fearful and suspicious of change until and unless embraced by own senior management
- Easily embarrassed and offended
- Uses people and values things/status trappings/perks
- Hordes information
- Bases decisions on limited input, shoots from the hip (not always right, but seldom in doubt)
- Holds grudges and past negative evaluations (views tend to persist despite changes in performance and behavior…unforgiving)
- Pompous and arrogant/self-centered
- Labels people and is not open to new insights about them
- Cynical, and can be abusive in relationships
Most leaders are captive to the lesser gods of comfort, approval, and control.
Don’t forget: lesser gods demand just as much as God does, but with none of His mercy!
In the most general way, leadership of all stripes has soured over the past 70+ years for a variety of complicated and overlapping reasons which I have written about over the past 25 years. But today, I’m really hoping to focus on how fallen Image Bearers of God—leaders, humanity—can deeply change.
There is no doubt that the above characteristics and impact of poor leadership is very familiar to anyone who has been touched by lackluster or just plain bad leadership in any realm—in any organization, any home, any relationship, of any sort: As we read the points above everyone of us can say, “Yessiree… Been there, done that! And it’s really a damn shame…” But the roll of dimes behind the nickel is, “Okay, I get it; but how then can we change?”
Change is Challenging but Far from Impossible.
We have to “GoUp! GoDown! GoDeep! and GoOut!”
To start with, the operative word is simply GO! Leaders cannot stand still—unless they are intentionally still for a while in order to get going.
Isn’t the best, most expedient way to change any of the above poor leadership characteristics to simply place a big ‘ol “NO!” or “STOP!” or scold, “Bad Leader!” next to every one of the attributes of poor leadership above?
No way. In fact, attempting to promote change in any leader [or human being] in this way does just the opposite of what is intended. Why? Because, as the bible points out, “the law promotes sin”! (Romans 7, Galatians 2, 4)
Check it out: Because all of humankind‘s heart [the repository of our core beliefs, NOT our feelings and sentimentalities] was spiritually and functionally broken at the time of The Fall (Genesis 3), we not only have enmity, hatred between ourselves and God but we are naturally, sinfully at odds with His commands—and in favor of our own way. This is not some sort of fanciful story or myth about mankind: It’s the real nature of our heart that we see each and every day.
What, after all, is the very first thing you and I want to do… and will do come hell or high water… when mom may have said, “Keep your hand out of that cookie jar!” Yes, our fallen heart, nature is then wholly devoted to getting into the forbidden cookie jar!
“Just Say No!” [the failed War on Drugs campaign] to FallenMan is akin to setting up a Monarch within our heart that demands a “YES!” for a conflagration of counterproductive behavior.
Simply commanding any leader, “Don’t be pompous and arrogant/self-centered any more!” will work to the detriment of any leader [person]. Shame, command, compliance, and willful conformity—devoid of heart-changing grace—will more deeply root the very behavior we hope to… root out!
There is a much more effective yet deeper and more complicated and painstaking way to change our behavior—which is why it’s so rarely executed today: It’s hard, counterintuitive, uncomfortable, revealing, ongoing, and pride-, ego-, pretense-crushing.
Deep Change Has to Happen in and by the Communities of,
“Outside-In Grace”, “Inside-Out Catharsis”, and “Outside-In Service”!
“… until a person can say deeply and honestly, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,’ that person cannot say, ‘I choose otherwise.’” (Stephen R. Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change)
[I paused here to ponder what changing one’s behavior—in deep, holistic, and a for continuously improving quality and period of time—really and truly consists of.]
Change must be based on a biblical worldview… or it’s just another short-lived, self-help program, much more constrained, works-based, heat-not-light-generating, and more likely to fail than human beings [fallen Image Bearers of God] have the potential to experience.
A life of a radical change of heart, deep gratitude for grace, and an undying devotion to serving others is most desirous and possible.
True, Deep, Long-Lasting Change is Very Special… Or Uncommon.
If you want to know how real, radical, and life-changing change occurs, please stick with God… with me… here.
God’s Common Grace provides for a level of change that is well-documented in the mountains of self-help literature. You see, God’s Common Grace “merely” [mercifully, astoundingly] provides us life and protection from the universe’s fast and unremitting [if it weren’t for Common Grace] decay and destruction.
If God’s Hand were lifted from protecting us [RE: God’s Common Grace taken away] from the consequences of The Fall (Genesis 3), we would literally be toast… Burnt-to-a-cinder toast.
God’s Common Grace is uncommonly merciful for it is completely undeserved, unmerited in all regards—AND has a positive yet largely surface impact on CHANGE for the better. God is keeping us alive so as many as He intends be born again can and do—before we die or Christ retruns and it’s too late.
Common Grace mercifully staves off the extent of decay and destruction that “The Fall, Sin Unleashed” would destroy us / all creation with—and provides an opening for good things to happen; but does not provide us the inner change of heart needed to put God in charge… from the inside-out.
Sure, we can devise a ton of neat and helpful “self- and society-help” programs that actually do lots of good… But NOT the GREAT / BEST GOOD we’re offered and have the potential for as God sees it… which is all that matters!
Common Grace exists to allow just the right trials, testing, tumult, revelation, witness, and time for God’s redemptive plan in and by Special Grace to take its course!
God’s Special Grace Goes Like This:
Grace Through Faith: Thorough-Going Change Unleashed!
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:1-10, emphasis added)
Don’t get me wrong, my fellow race-runners; God’s manifold mercies are wide and deep to extend BOTH His Common and Special Grace. But the former is only for the time God’s allowed for the latter to take its course—and then Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead (1 Corinthians 4:5).
God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit take CHANGE so seriously that they worked in the Unity and Separated Powers of the Trinity in order to put change like this, “You must be born again!”
Boom! As Image Bearers born into Capital “S” Sin [by inheritance from Adam] and “little s” sinning [by habit of the misguided heart], the change of heart needed is so completely holistic—and our ability to change it so bereft of the slightest we can do—we have to be spiritually born all over again!
God’s plan, process, and potential for change is more radical and holistic than any self-help, man-made change management program… ever.
Stop. Look. Listen. Are you living under both God’s Common and Special Grace? If you’re alive and breathing, Common Grace is covered: Thank God for that!
But you may still be spiritually dead: You and I need God’s Special Grace [Ephesians 1:4-5], in Christ [Galatians 2:16-17], and by the Spirit [Titus 3:5; Ezekiel 36:25]!
Leadership [people] Change by the Good Book
Transformational, deep, lasting, ever-expanding, redemptive change is complicated. And we do ANY COMPLICATED THING a huge injustice if we over-simply or reduce it to one or two simple causes and quick-fix solutions, or steps for change.
Over-simplification and reductionistic thinking and solutions not only NEVER achieve the sort of change we hope for, but usually adds to the problem immensely.
Three simple [in the abstraction of God’s Plan of Redemption], yet super-complicated [by the sin nature we are all infected by—that resists outside interventions of any kind that threaten our rightful place on God’s throne] “steps and cycles” are in place.
I say “steps and cycles” because there is a process that is organic, linear, progressive, and repeats itself over and over until we die or when Jesus returns to make all things new.
1) The Community of “Outside-In Grace”:
When God, in the form of the Community of the Trinity, reaches down from eternity (John 3:16, Romans 5:6) to do an intervention in our heart [core beliefs], spirit [emotional health], and life lived out, He does so from the outside… and in our hearts: The only way—by definition—that any sort of intervention begins and works. The adage, “Physician heal thyself.” is very apt: There has never been, nor will there ever be, a successful heart surgery done by the patient him or her self!
All lasting change must begin “from the outside-in”: God [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each has a role and goal], a spouse, a close friend, a counselor-coach, a board, a community / accountability group… Outside-In is the starting point.
By grace, The Trinity initiates and works separately and in unity to bring about a change of heart. Since change must begin in the Community of the Trinity, in can never depart from, or be devoid of, or piecemeal… the “paradigm of communal change”: As Christians, we are born from community and must remain in community for any change for good to occur.
When change for bad occurs, is always done in the isolation of, within the paradigm of, our own stinking thinking, poor emotional health, and bad actions! Am I right?
Remember, OUTSIDE-IN… is where we must begin the journey of organic, continuous, and ascending change for the good… It’s where and how you and I need Father God’s Special Grace [Ephesians 1:4-5], in His Son Jesus Christ [Galatians 2:16-17], and by the Holy Spirit [Titus 3:5; Ezekiel 36:25]!
2) The Community of “Inside-Out Catharsis”:
Once we have been “re-born from above, the outside” [John 3:31-36]—and only if we have been born again by grace—are we then free to change in the ways God most desires and we most flourish in the course of changing: From the inside-out—in order to please God and bless others.
From this point on, the catalyst and motivation for deep, good, true, lasting, redemptive change is NOT, “What Would Jesus Do?” but rather “What Has Jesus Done!”
As Tim Keller has said so well in his book, Galatians for You, “Our hearts are moved when we see not just that Jesus died, but that He died for us. We see the meaning of His work for us. For you and for me… personally.”
Community Continues… Inside: Towards discipleship and maturity, holiness, Christ-likeness, and increasing effectiveness: In regards to any, all
“A Holy Catharsis!”
All Punishment was Completed on the Cross.
NOW… Purification, Cleansing, Holiness, Growth, Refinement is the Modus Operandi.
CHANGE, CATHARSIS, FOR THE GOOD, a) it begins by the supernatural person and power of the Holy Spirit to change our heart from stone to flesh, death to life, darkness to light, self-centered living to a Christ-centered life; b) it then continues by continuous applying the very same truth of the Gospel to our heart [core beliefs], spirit, [emotional health], and faith lived out:
The Way, Truth, Life that we came to see and believe to begin with: “I am more sinful than I could ever dare imagine and yet I am more loved than I could ever hope for!”
“The way to progress as a Christian is continually to repent and uproot the systems of works-righteousness [of self, ego, pretension, insecurity, striving, idolatry, pride] in the same way that we became Christians—by the vivid depiction (and re-depiction) of Christ’s saving work for us, and the abandoning of self-trusting efforts to complete ourselves. We must go back again and again to the gospel of Christ crucified, so that our hearts are more deeply gripped by the reality of what He did and who we are in Him.” (Tim Keller, emphasis, [parenthesis] added)
Any leader’s ability to change—and really LEAD as would please God and bless others in the best ways imaginable—is based first on, INTERVENTION: “Community of Outside-In Grace” then HEART TRANSFORMATION: “Community of Inside-Out Catharsis”:
NOTE: “The way to [change] progress as a Christian…” (Keller, Galatians) must be done IN COMMUNITY: Discipleship—change that pleases God and blesses others—must occur in the context of a BIBLE-BASED local church (Acts 2:42); preaching / teaching (2 Timothy 3:16); fellowship/community group (Hebrews 10:25); loving and truthful accountability (Ephesians 4:15; Matthew 18:15-20); repentance and forgiveness (1 John 1:9); and [last but far from least] “Outside-In Service” (Mark 10:45; Ephesians 6:7; James 1:2-7).
Connect the Dots!
Of all of the characteristics of poor leadership noted above, we could contain them in the “buckets” of any leader’s functional idols such as, comfort, approval, and control. Please note how God’s intervention, Christ’s propitiation [died in our place on the cross] and the Spirit’s heart transformation CHANGES us:
All Change: Bitter or Better?
“Comfort, approval, and control; these are functional saviors. When they are blocked, we get bitter. The answer is not simply trying harder to directly control anger. It is repenting for the self-righteousness and the lack of rejoicing in the finished work of Christ which is at the root of the anger. As we make our hearts “look” at Christ crucified, the Spirit will work in us to replace that functional savior with the Savior; and the root of our anger will wither.” (Tim Keller, Galatians for You, emphasis added)
3) The Community of “Outside-In Service”:
Last in the “process and cycle of leadership change” is all about “road-testing leadership”. To some extent—not fully but at least to make a point—the first two parts are done “in the laboratory”:
Now, moving out… into the Community of “Outside-In Service”—proactively, intentionally, missionally, as an empowered leader—into the chaos of this horribly broken world places all the chips on the table!
Servant Leaders… Serve!
The Community of “Outside-In Service” places the leader [human being] into the exciting yet threatening and weighty role and responsibility of road-testing—in his or her own, local community—God’s intervention, Christ’s atoning sacrifice, the Spirit’s change of heart, and the leader’s own self in the game of leadership!
In Christ, we are called to be “all-in”, secure, guided, guarded, self-aware and self-sacrificing, repenting, forgiving, fruitful (Galatians 5:22-23). This is extremely hard… no, impossible… unless the previous two [#’s 1, 2] “processes and cycles” are in place by God’s grace and our own role as disciple-leaders.
Putting our faith into action through serving others promotes a change of heart, emotions, and action like nothing else. Faith and inaction does not mix and will promote bitterness and worse over time!
“Never before has leadership been so critical, and never before has it seemed in such short supply.” (Gary Hamel, foremost author on leadership)
In closing, the plain yet startling truth of Hamel’s well-studied observation and unfortunate everyday anecdote is this: Leadership that pleases God and blesses others is in very short supply because people in top positions [loosely, deferentially called “leaders”] are attempting… at best… to lead by #3: “Outside-In Service”… ONLY.
#3, “Outside-In Service”—devoid of, GOD’S INTERVENTION: “Community of Outside-In Grace” then HEART TRANSFORMATION: “Community of Inside-Out Catharsis”—is akin to running the good race with one’s feet firmly planted in buckets of hardened cement: Sure, we’re alive… tried, striving, straining, working ourselves to death… embittered, cynical, controlling, insecure, threatened, defensive—RE: all of the attributes of poor leadership above!
Deep, Lasting, Secure and Meaningful Leadership and Change
is Only Possible When We are First… Changed.
As I have said in this forum and many others for a long time, “The heart of leadership is a matter of the heart.” That’s not some “sloppy agape”; rather, it’s the heart of the matter of how merciful God is to have a plan in place to change, transform, re-birth the heart from the outside-in, changed inside-out, saved-to-serve outside-in!
This meal at The Training Table is meaty indeed. Please try and digest as much of the feast of the heart as you can: It’s what God uses to nourish us to run the good and Godly race!
In love and truth,