“The Power of Pictures and Pithy Paradigms”—5

Keep the Vision Vital-jpeg“The Power of Pictures and Pithy Paradigms” is a series of timeless truths—each of which will serve to reinforce the Feast of the Heart Vision, Mission, and the main motivation for my own life in Christ and love for those He places in my life.

Everyone reformed, revived, a constructive revolutionary!

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

  • Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth of the Bible.
  • Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed.
  • Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment.

I know you’ve probably said this before: “Wow! This is the most important thing I’ve read [seen, heard, etc] ever! No really… like E-V-E-R!”

After a while we have to be careful to not cross the “never cry wolf” or “Harold Hyperbole” line, right? “John, you’re always saying THIS is the most important or THAT is the most important. Make up your mind, Bro!”

This sort of exclamatory remark or revelation is motivated by a few different and overlapping things, but the one I’m serving up as Feast of the Heart at The Training Table “Today…” (Psalm 95:7-8) is this:

Making claims of this kind is [at the very least] a symptom that we’re alive; we’re indwelt by an organic and ever-expanding Spirit Who’s always pressing us to know, grow, and sow doctrine and delight; we’re actively and intentionally seeking out life-giving growth and service; we’re on the look out for new and transformative ways to add value wherever God has planted us; we’re attentive, discerning, discriminating, and vital beings; we’re bursting with newly-formed wisdom; we’re standing right in the middle of the flowing and foaming stream of Trinity Truth and Love scooping up buckets of living water to quench the thirst of anyone within our reach of influence and concern; and we’re so excited about all of the above that we can’t wait to pass it along.

When we’re living a truly and deeply VITAL life, “WOWS!” are a matter of life and the source of being a life-giving person.

So, now that you’re prepped… even over-stimulated…, “This is the third most important thing I’ve read [seen, heard, etc] EVER!” [The first being a relationship with Jesus, and the second being loving self and others in the light of the first most important thing.]

Do You Want a Worthy Leadership Legacy? Good.

The Devote Yourself to Keeping the Vision Vital!

Did you know that 70% of CEO’s are relived of their duties due to the inability to carry out their main responsibility: Executing the Vision/Mission of the organization? (C.K. Prahalad) Note the key words here: “carry out.”

You see, it’s one thing to create a great Vision and Mission—which too few leaders actually do well, if at all. But it’s an entirely different thing to carry it out—or, put another and the best way, “to keep the vision vital.” Keeping the vision/mission a vital part of any organization’s ongoing activities is at the heart of great leadership. And if this isn’t so, then there’s only one way the culture of any organization can go: Flat-lining. Dead employees walking. Clock-watching folk who can’t wait for the weekend.

For the best of first the people, and then business/organization, leaders of any stripe need to fully immerse themselves into exactly what “keeping the vision vital” entails. Why? It’s actually a leader’s main responsibility, and, super-importantly, the reason for being a leader at all!

Without getting too far ahead of myself, here’s how the leadership guru John W. Gardner put it: “Effective, enduring, and memorable leaders set a vision and use their authority to create an environment where people can contribute to the vision’s success and flourish doing so.  Leaders are environmentalists.” This is so huge.

If you are a leader of any sort, you’re in a God-given place of great responsibly and even greater potential to transform lives. And, don’t miss this one, along your primary path of transforming lives you will—by the very nature of achieving the primary goal—have a successful business/organization of any kind as part of your legacy as well.

Let’s look at three of the MUST’S for any leader to be successful at not simply co-creating, but Keeping the Vision Vital.

As an avenue for helping you internalize the following truisms about good-to-grand-tastic leadership, please imagine yourself proclaiming the following bold, italicized, and vital verbatim to an audience beginning with your self, your God, your spouse/sample family members, your leader peers, your accountability coach, person or group, your board of directors, your business or ministry advisory team, your direct reports… or maybe just with your Labrador Retriever—after all, whom, with any sort of conscience, wouldn’t try and be real with a Lab?!

1) “Anything Important to the WE, Must Begin in ME!”

This is the most important beginning to the journey from blah to awesome leadership. The simplest [yet robust when the details are carried out] Organizational Effectiveness Models has the following components:


Vision—Why do we exist?

Mission—How will we achieve the vision?

Core Values—Who are we? How will we conduct ourselves in order to achieve our vision and mission?

Strategic Roadmap—How do we achieve our vision and mission?

Alignment—Has the vision, mission, core values, and strategic roadmap been clearly communicated to all of our key stakeholders?

Personal responsibility—Are we unleashing the involvement and potential of the people in the organization?

Results—How are we measuring results to assure success and continuous improvement based on our vision, reality, and key stakeholders?

“IN ME?”

The most crucial question and answer that guides all the rest is this: “Have you taken the courageous, painstaking, exhausting, humbling, and glorifying first step of applying this sort of Organizational Effectiveness Model TO YOURSELF?”

Have you, would you, could you, can you—carry out the process of substituting each of the above “WE’s” with the most personal “I” that exists at the present time? AND keep it vital over time?

Any leader’s OUTSIDE-IN effectiveness and legacy will be based on this most important INSIDE-OUT beginning and continuous revitalization. Begin and/or re-begin [renew and share if you’ve already done some work here] “Today… ” (Psalm 95:7-8).

I can’t reinforce the importance of this beginning to assuring a great leadership legacy enough. The role of being “The Steward of the Organizational Vision” will always be a direct reflection or measure of having taken the first step of being “The Steward of My Personal Vision”.

2) “The Heart of Leadership is a Matter of the Heart!”

If any leader will take double-dog seriously the spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical journey required in the aforementioned beginning and seminal first step, his or her heart will be changed. Sure, we all have choices to do any part of life halfheartedly, but that’s exactly what our life will amount to: A HALF-lived life, FULL of regret.

Why go there? Put all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength into the right and best beginning.

And even though there are numerous doors we could walk through to describe the sort of change of heart that is most important to occur in any leader, I’ll put one biggie out there to help move us along to the next stage: Emotional Intelligence.

If we will jump in with both feet, and surround ourselves with the sort of loving and truthful community to help us carry out the process, the following components of Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence Factors will emerge and grow [if we keep it vital and help others do the same] in the heart. [The Biblical references are from me—and for the Training Table audience running the good race and committed to living a Godly, Biblical life.]

Self-Awareness (Ps 139:23-24; Jer 17:9; Mt 5; Rom 1:18-32, 8,   10:8-13; John 3:16; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; Rev 21:1-8)

Definition: The ability to recognize and understand your most core beliefs, value system, emotions, and drives—as well as their effect on others.

Hallmarks: Realistic self-assessment; self-confidence; self-deprecating sense of humor.

Self-Regulation (Ps 17:4, 119:11; 1 Cor 9:25; Gal 5:23; 1 Pet 1:13; 2 Pet 1:6; Heb 12:1; Tit 1:8)

Definition: The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods. The propensity to suspend judgment—to think before acting.

Hallmarks: Trustworthiness and integrity; comfort with ambiguity; openness to change.

Motivation (Pr 21:21; Ps 40:6-8; Mk 12:28-31; Acts 17:11-12;  Rom 15:4; 1 Pet 2:20;                  2 Tim. 3:16-17)

Definition: A passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status. A propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence.

Hallmarks: Strong drive to achieve; optimism—even in the face of failure; organizational commitment.

Empathy (Rom 15:1; 2 Cor 1:3-7; Jn 1:14; Lk 1:32; Eph 2:8; Phil 2:7; Col 1:15; 1 Tim 2:5; Heb 13:3)

Definition: The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. Skill in treating people according to their [heart] emotional reactions.

Hallmarks: Expertise in building an retaining talent; cross-cultural sensitivity; service to clients and customers.

Social Skill (Ps 133:1; John 17:20-23; Rom 12:9-16; Rom 15:5; 1 Cor 1:10, 13; Eph 4:3-13, Col 3:14; Phil 1:3-11, 2:1-2)

Definition: Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks. An ability to find common ground and build rapport.

Hallmarks: Effectiveness in leading change; persuasiveness; expertise in building and leading teams.

It’s Organic. It’s a Journey. Patience and Perseverance is Required.

But the Harvest Will Come and Be Plentiful!

Now, don’t get me wrong: If any leader commits to the best beginning by means of the full immersion version of applying the first principle of “Anything Important to the WE, Has to Begin in ME!”, the above-outlined Emotional Intelligence Factors will not simply leap into a full-fledged, matured, and anecdote-riddled existence.

Any farmer knows that’s not how the farm OR life works. It’s Organic. It’s a Journey. But it must BEGIN, begin in the right way, and be cared for in the appropriate and most robust and “communal” [get other trusted people involved] fashion.

But I guarantee you, the above beginning is one of the very best ways to plow the [often] hardened and neglected soil of the heart; to plant the seeds of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill; and to then commit to steward the baby and fragile tendrils of new life—as “The Fruits of Emotional Intelligence” begin to grow, overtake the heart, yield fruit in their time, and act as a feast for those who are [so very, very] hungry for the sort of leadership every human being is flourished by!

This is complicated, heart-shredding and mending stuff, and no small matter; but when the heart of any matter is a matter of the hearts involved, it’s well worth the investment of as much time, talent, and treasure as it takes.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23)!

Keeping the vision vital will eventually come more and more naturally to the leader who is stewarding the vitality of their own heart and life. And when leaders flat-line, so do the led.

3) “My People: Image Bearers not Commodities!”

Please get this one: Certain things done right will roll-up to surprising outcomes. In this case we’ve started with,

1) “Anything Important to the WE, Must Begin in ME!”

…followed by,

2) “The Heart of Leadership is a Matter of the Heart!”

…and this investment—and the steps towards the end of being the very best leader anyone can be—will always have an impact on one vitally important area of life: How we think about people.

And if there’s anything that ranks up there as the Numero Uno factor for being a human being LEADING human beings—it’s what our worldview, core values, and practical treatment of what it means to be human consists of.

3) “My People: Image Bearers not Commodities!”

As a leadership coach, the following verbatim from employees [via a Gallup Research Workplace Audit: “The Most Important People Issues for Growing the Business”] is about what matter most to people at work [in ANY sort of organization… because organizations are people together] was an invaluable tool to help a leader, a) see what really matters to the people they LEAD, and b) how each “satisfaction marker” was connected to the Organizational Effectiveness Model that a leader is in charge of executing.

The connection: “What gets people most excited, flourishing, and fruitful working here?” And, “How can a leader’s influence over organizational effectiveness assure that we’re flourishing people—to get great business results?”

Make no mistake, we live in a day when, for a whole host of reasons, human beings have been commoditized and minimized in far too many ways. The workplace is no different… or even worse than elsewhere. This is one very important reason why “great-to-stand-out leaders” have to say, “NO! I will never treat the people I lead in that fashion. In fact, I will treat each person as God treats them: His invaluable Image Bearers. This is the highest and best articulation of my role as a leader.”

Please cut me some slack [I get really agitated about this] as I offer a leadership verbatim that is all too common in today’s nightmarishingly commoditized, out-of-balance, and purely bottom-line-driven organization: “If you’re unhappy here, don’t let the door hit you in the ass.” This is the antithesis of what admirable leadership acts and sounds like, but it’s more the norm, not the anomaly, of our day.

Please take a close look at each of these employee/people key satisfiers. NONE of them are tied to extrinsic or financial reward. Once again… sing it with me… The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart! Do you as a leader get that message pretty darn deep within your own heart?

“At work I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.” [RE: Vision, Mission, Core Values, Alignment]

“The vision/mission and values of the company makes me feel my job contributes.” [RE: Vision, Mission, Core Values, Strategic Roadmap, Alignment]

“I have a best friend at work.” [RE: Core Values, Personal Responsibility]

“At work, my opinions seem to count.” [RE: Core Values]

“My work associates are committed to doing quality work.” (RE: Vision / Core Values / Personal Responsibility / Alignment / Job Performance Review Process)

“In the last year I have been given opportunities to learn and grow.” (RE: Mission / Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)

“I have the resources I need to do my work right.” (RE: Core Values / Strategic Roadmap)

“In the past seven days, I have received recognition or praise for good work.” (RE: Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)

“The person I report to seems to care about me as a person.” (RE: Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)

“In the past six months, someone has talked to me about my progress.” (RE: Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)

“There is someone at work who encourages my development.” (RE: Core Values / Alignment / Personal Responsibility)

“The data clearly show that within successful business units employees have clear expectations, close relationships, can see how what they do relates to “something significant,” and have an ongoing opportunity to contribute to that “something significant” while learning and growing as individuals. Further, the behaviors that help to define these seemingly intangible perceptions can be discovered by studying the success within one’s own organization.” (A Hard Look at Soft Numbers. The relationship between employee perceptions and business outcomes, by Curt Coffman and Jim Harter, Ph.D.)

Leaders, Leaders Everywhere, but are the Led Being Fed?

As John W. Gardner said, “Leaders do not invent or manufacture motivation.  They unlock what is there, awaken what is dormant, and tap hidden reserves. It is one of the tasks of leaders to ensure the continuous renewal of the systems over which they preside. The release of human possibilities is one of the most basic of social objectives and leadership goals.”

People are starving for Godly and great leadership. And it’s in scant supply. Will you consider taking the time to take this to heart and ramp-up your concern and influence as a leader?

Please set aside however much time, talent, and treasure as it takes to internalize what we’ve chewed on at The Training Table today. There’s a leader in you that deserves to be grown-up to its fullest measure—and there are people out there who can’t wait to have you show up!

Leaders exist everywhere. They’re not necessarily born leaders; they can be made. God needs leaders. Homes need leaders. Neighborhoods need leaders. Churches need leaders. Organizations of any/all kinds need leaders.

Seek to really LEAD in ways that can transform any organization while assuring the hard work and joy of leadership, a legacy of no regrets, and the satisfaction that innumerable other hearts were revitalized by your commitment to Keeping the Vision Vital.

There are numerous little and big ways that leaders steward the vision/mission, keeping it vital, as he or she goes about doing life and business everyday. These three principles and practices are a necessity:

1) “Anything Important to the WE, Must Begin in ME!” [INSIDE-OUT before OUTSIDE-IN; the personal and organizational effectiveness model.]

2) “The Heart of Leadership is a Matter of the Heart!” [The planting, growth, and fruitfulness of emotional intelligence factors.]

3) “My People: Image Bearers not Commodities!” [The revitalization of what people, human beings… doing things, really amount to—as a core motivation for the release of human possibilities.]

Pull up a chair at The Training Table next week when we chew on the “The Power of Pictures and Pithy Paradigms”—“Will Suffering Make You Bitter or Better?”


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