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Leadership Weekly

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Redefining Success

So the LORD was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did. He revolted against the king of Assyria and refused to pay him tribute. — 2 Kings 18:7

What does it mean to be successful?

Success usually brings to mind financial achievement or being number one. Others would define success by the bumper sticker: "He who dies with the most toys wins." Some like to think that success is being busy--on the go, racing from one appointment to another, and having too much to do with too little time to do it.

The problem with these definitions of success is they exact a high cost. The Executive Digest has noted, "The trouble with success is that the formula is the same as the one for a nervous breakdown." That's sobering, uncomfortable, and too often true.

Maybe the definition of success that you are familiar with is not the correct one. I would encourage you to reassess your definition of success before it is too late. May I propose a new look at the word S.U.C.C.E.S.S.?

Service. There is no such thing as success without service. The secret of success lies in meeting the needs of others. And when we are meeting people's needs, we will discover fulfillment.

Understanding contentment. Let's not measure success by how much we own or how much money we have but by a sense of inner contentment. Real success is always internal, never external.

Character. Character is of greater value than how much money or status we have. A man's best test of character is revealed in how he treats people around him. So measure your success not by your possessions and achievements. Measure success by the quality of your character and conduct.

Compassion. What really matters is not money, power, and ego but issues of the heart--such as compassion, kindness, bravery, generosity, and love. Do you love people more than things?

Excellence. Excellence is not being the best but being your best.

Significance. The popular notion of success has not cut it. A growing number of people yearn for significance more than success. Significance comes by giving ourselves to something that is greater than us and that will outlast us.

Sacrifice. A problem in our society is that we are spending our entire lives looking for something worth living for. It would be better if we found something worth dying for. Success under these guidelines will bring you into harmony with God's guidance. read more

Find Us Faithful

Don't be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life. — Revelation 2:10

Faithfulness is not a word we hear often these days. Sometimes we hear it at retirement parties: "After twenty-five years of faithful service, we give you this gold watch." Or we use it to describe our dog: "My dog may be old and ugly, but he's faithful." The word is employed to describe the most famous geyser in America, Old Faithful, at Yellowstone National Park. Old Faithful is not the biggest geyser in America. And it's not the most powerful geyser in America. What makes it famous is its faithfulness! It's like clockwork. Dependable. People appreciate constancy, even in a geyser.

It's not easy to find someone who can be counted on. One who will be faithful to the end. One who is dependable through thick and thin. The fact is that not everyone who volunteers actually comes through. Not everyone who says they will perform a task actually does it. Not everyone who makes a commitment can be counted on.

Faithfulness is not just a religious duty that we employ on Sundays or when we are supposed to be Christian. When we tire of our roles and responsibilities, it helps to remember that God has planted us in a certain place and told us to be a dependable and reliable accountant or teacher or parent or engineer. Christ expects us to be faithful where he puts us.

In the eleventh century, King Henry III of Bavaria grew tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch. He made application to Prior Richard at a local monastery, asking to be accepted as a contemplative and spend the rest of his life in the monastery.

"Your Majesty," said Prior Richard, "Do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That will be hard because you have been a king."

"I understand," said Henry. "The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you."

"Then I will tell you what to do," said Prior Richard. "Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you." (Steve Brown, Key Biscayne, Florida)

Not bad counsel. Go forth and do likewise faithfully. read more

Getting the Right People on the Bus

At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles. — Luke 6:13

A popular business book states that effective organizations get the right people on the bus, meaning the right people in places of leadership. When the right people are in the strategic roles, the company can ascend to any height. But, if the wrong people are on the bus, the organization is doomed to flounder regardless of the vision, values, strategies, marketing, and management of the leadership.

Putting the right people in the right place at the right time is a critical need for an effective leader. Select the right people, and churches, business, and organizations thrive. Select the wrong people, and the door swings open for problems that stifle growth and productivity and hurt credibility.

The concern of Jesus was not about programs or structure or organization but about people. Jesus selected his disciples before he ever organized an evangelistic campaign or even preached a sermon in public. People were to be his method of reaching the world. It was just that simple.

No evidence of haste is apparent in Jesus' selection process, only determination. Initially one might wonder if Jesus selected the right people for the right job. They lacked the professional training, academic training, and sophistication of their day. One might wonder how Jesus could ever use them. They were not the kind of people one would expect to turn the world upside down. But as it turned out, these men became the leaders of the early church. Their influence can be felt throughout the pages of history. Jesus got the right people on the bus.

As a leader you would do well to select people that display these qualities:

Calling–They are motivated by something deep within themselves, not by the accomplishments of outward adornments.

Character–They possess a high standard of living based on a personal code of morality that doesn't succumb to the whim of the moment or the dictates of the majority.

Commitment–They display spiritual authenticity over time.

Compatibility–They show a job fit, a relational fit, a skill fit, and a passion fit.

Contribution–They function as a part of a team.

Coachability–They are trainable and teachable.

Get the right people on the bus, and it makes all the difference in the world. read more

Compass or Clock?

But I am trusting you, O LORD, saying, "You are my God!" My future is in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly. — Psalm 31:14-15

A friend said, "My problem is that I have surrendered my time to work, to other people, and to bad habits."

That truly is the problem, not only for my friend but also for many of us. We should first surrender our time to God. God owns it anyway. Unfortunately, we often ask God to wait in line for leftover time. No wonder life seems out of sync! We need help with our task to manage properly what has been entrusted to us until Christ returns or wants it back, and that includes our time.

Think about a compass and a clock. Two very important tools with two very different purposes. One would be wise not to confuse the two. To surrender our time to God is to be governed by a compass rather than to be controlled by a clock. A compass provides a sense of direction, purpose, vision, perspective, and balance. A clock measures duration, the expenditure of time. A compass determines effectiveness--doing the right tasks. A clock determines efficiency--how long it takes to accomplish a task. Each has its place. But, the compass must come before the clock; therefore, effectiveness before efficiency. The "mega priorities" of the compass subordinate the "mini priorities" of the clock.

A compass, therefore, becomes a symbol of an internal guidance system that provides us with our values and convictions based on God's Word. This non-negotiable governs our lives. In the same manner that the magnetic force pulls the compass needle, it is God who governs the drive of our lives. We surrender to his force.

Our time should be surrendered to God daily. I asked a friend who is engaged in many pursuits successfully how he managed it all. He said, "I give my first minutes to God, then I commit the remainder of the day to his Lordship. And amazingly I work more effectively and efficiently."

Have you surrendered your time to God? Is your future in his hands? read more

What's Love Got to Do with It?

If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God's secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing. — 1 Corinthians 13:2-3

Influential individuals often demonstrate a care and compassion for the people they are around. This love propels them to make a difference. Without love nothing else matters. The famous love essay, written by the influential apostle Paul, reminds us of the need for love.

Love keeps the flame of influence burning brightly. Teilhard de Chardin said it this way: "The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire."

What is love challenging you to do in your life, at your church, in your community? What sacrifices are you willing to make to see God's dream for you become reality?

A college professor had his sociology class go into the Baltimore slums to get case histories of 200 young boys. They were asked to write an evaluation of each boy's future. In every case the students wrote, "He hasn't got a chance." Twenty-five years later another sociology professor came across the earlier study. He had his students follow up on the project to see what had happened to those boys. With the exception of 20 boys who had moved away or died, the students learned that 176 of the remaining 180 had achieved more than ordinary success as lawyers, doctors, and businessmen.

The professor was astounded and decided to pursue the matter further. Fortunately, all the men were in the area, and he was able to ask each one, "How do you account for your success?" In each case the reply came with feeling, "There was a teacher."

The teacher was still alive, so he sought her out and asked the old but still alert lady what magic formula she had used to pull these boys out of the slums into successful achievement.

The teacher's eyes sparkled and her lips broke into a gentle smile. "It's really very simple," she said. "I loved those boys." (Eric Butterworth, "Love: The One Creative Force," Chicken Soup for the Soul) read more

The Purposeful Life

Pilate said, "So you are a king?" — John 18:37-38

Jesus responded, "You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true."

"What is truth?" Pilate asked.

It's an age-old quest. The search for the meaning of life has always dogged mankind. Why am I here? What am I striving for? How do I make my mark in life, and what does it matter if I do or not? Finding no answers to these questions, many become defeatists; some become suicidal, while still others become tyrants.

During Pilate's interrogation of Jesus, Jesus volunteered that his purpose was to testify to the truth. Looking at Jesus with both pity and contempt, Pilate must have wondered what Jesus meant. A prisoner, beaten within an inch of his life, betrayed by his friend, deserted by his followers, and about to be hung on a tree until dead; what "truth" could Jesus possibly testify to that would hold any meaning for Pilate? Having been a witness to the heartless cruelty of man toward man, Pilate looked at Truth Incarnate and asked, "What is truth?"

The true condition of Pilate's heart was revealed when he turned to the screaming mob and, in an act of appeasement, sentenced Jesus to death. The words Jesus spoke on the cross while he was dying testified to the truth of his unparalleled love for man. Jesus' death testified to the tragic truth of man's rejection of God. Ultimately, Jesus' resurrection testified to his victory over sin and the glorious truth of God's passion for the redemption of man.

Jesus knew his purpose in life and fulfilled it with resolve. His victory over sin and death gives us the opportunity to live a purposeful life today. As Jesus testified to the truth of God and man, so we are called to testify to Jesus. Every day our lives can and do give evidence to the power of his loving sacrifice. Since we are liberated in Jesus, we can live in freedom toward others, unrestrained and generous in our compassion and fervent in our witness to our Savior. Our lives can be lived with purpose, determination, and joy in the knowledge that we are freed from the consequences of sin and the finality of death. read more

The Power of Partnership

Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. — Philippians 1:4-5

Partnership is the ability to accomplish more together than apart. It recognizes that a team is stronger than a lone individual. A group committed to each other will help the struggling and the fallen.

Mother Teresa said, "You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together, we can do great things." An anonymous author wrote, "It is better to have one person working with you, than three working for you." Andrew Carnegie confessed, "I owe whatever success I have attained, by and large, to my ability to surround myself with people who are smarter than I am." John Wooden, perhaps the greatest basketball coach of all time, reminded his team, "The man who puts the ball through the hoop has ten hands."

Call it whatever you want--teamwork, association, synergy--partnership is the remarkable ability of two or more people working together to accomplish more than what each could do alone.

This truth is a fit reminder to God's people that when we are working together in harmony, the talents and gifts of the body minimize the weaknesses and shortcomings of the body, thereby making a stronger unit. Just as a baseball team needs nine players on the field or the game is forfeited, the local church needs everyone participating, or the strength of the body is weakened and the advancement of the gospel is threatened. If you took away one musician from an orchestra, the symphony would be incomplete. So, too, if one member of the family of God is missing, the church is incomplete.

We need each other. You need someone, and someone needs you. read more

The Force of Faith

It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches. — Matthew 13:32

There is strength in smallness. It only takes a spark to get a fire going. A small rudder steers a large boat. One idea can spur an individual to change the world. And faith, regardless of its size, can change a desperate crisis into a hope-filled event.

Jesus' parable about a mustard seed is a parable about smallness effecting greatness. The mustard seed was known for its smallness. In fact, the term was proverbial for smallness. The mustard plant was an herb. There was a particular variety of mustard plant in Palestine in Jesus' day that grew rapidly from a minute seed into a bush and then into a tree. Mustard seeds were so small, the naked eye could barely see them. Yet the result was a strong-branched growth in which birds could not only perch but also build nests.

How often have you said when you felt like giving up, "I wish I had more faith?" Or, how do you respond when you are going through a difficult situation and someone says, "You need more faith?"

According to this parable, more faith is not needed. The issue is not the size of your faith but the object of your faith. Faith needs to be directed toward God. Even the smallest amount of faith can lead you to a strong finish.

In 1972, NASA launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10. The satellite's primary mission was to reach Jupiter and complete a life span of three years. Remarkably, by 1997, twenty-five years after its launch and more than six billion miles from the sun, Pioneer 10 was still beaming back radio signals to scientists on Earth from an 8-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night light.

The seed of faith planted within us is like that tiny 8-watt transmitter. We can keep going and going and going. God has implanted with us all the faith we need. As long as we keep our heart focused on him, God can work. read more

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