Friday, December 17, 2010

a christmas thank you

Christmas is a time of year when we get a chance to say THANK YOU to people who have touched our lives over the past year. I would like to take this space to extend a THANK YOU to several people who have been LEADERS to me over the past year. Consider this my Christmas Leadership Thank You List...
  • Tom Cedel - Tom serves as the President of Concordia University Texas, and I consider him to be the one who gives me practical leadership advice. When situations arise at the Uniuversity that I do not understand or want more information about, he is able to explain to me how he makes his decisions and why he makes those decisions. This is a wonderful learning tool for me as I get a "sneak peek" into the process of decision making at the executive level. I am thankful for the time he gives me and for his great leadership of our institution.
  • Alan Runge - Alan is my direct boss who serves as the Provost at CTX. Alan is the one who pushes me to consider the next great thing I can accomplish. He helps me set stretch goals and never lets me settle for small or insignificant goals. He has a grand vision of what we can and should be doing, and will not let me "coast." His drive to make things happen pushes me when I think it might be okay to coast for awhile. In addition, he is always willing to listen to me and settle me down when I get too excited about something. I am thankful for his mentoring and his willingness to let me shape the job to my strengths abilities.
  • Linda Ford - Linda came onto my radar screen a little over a year ago, and since January has been serving as the Director of The Concordia MBA. She is my emotional leader, who dreams with me about what CAN be and gets excited with me when those dreams become a reality. Her ability to think big picture, imagine the possibilities, push people to do their best and then MAKE THINGS HAPPEN inspires me on a regular basis. At most meetings between the two of us, at least one of us becomes "verklempt." I am thankful for her willingness to dream with me and to join me on an amazing journey this past year.
  • Ralph Wagoner - Ralph is the retired president of Augustana College in Souix Falls, South Dakota who served as my leadership coach for about 6 months over a year ago. Since that time he has stayed in touch and helped me think through situations that frustrate or confuse me. He is the ultimate "question asker" and always has an encouraging word for me. Ralph has a way of helping me think through the big issues of life in a clarifying manner - and then encourages me to go after my dreams. His wisdom is absolutely invaluable. I thank him for his words of encouragement and for his belief in my ability to lead.
  • Billy Moyer - Billy is president of SOS Leadership....and is a mere 25 years old. While he is half my age, he is an inspiration to me in the way he talks about leadership and makes things happen among young leaders. It has always been a dream of mine to find a way for young leaders to mentor young leaders - Billy does that! As I hear him talk about his ideas and the way he is out mentoring young leaders, I get excited and want to join him in that pursuit. I an thankful to Billy for helping me launch our Emerging Leaders Advisory Board - and for inspiring me to be a mentor to others.
  • Ron Kessler - Ron is a coach and consultant here in Austin and serves as the chair of the College of Business Advisory Board. For me, he is the ultimate ENCOURAGER. When I need advice, or encouragement, or just want to talk, I give Ron a call amd we meet for coffee or lunch. By the end of the conversation, I am feeling like a million dollars and am ready to go out and set the world on fire (to use just a few leadership cliches). I have yet to meet someone who does not like (love) Ron - and I feel the same. I am thankful for Ron's consistent encouragement - and his willingness to serve as a mentor for me in my present (and future) leadership capacities.

That's my list - I hope you have a list of people who serve as leaders in your life. Be sure to take a moment and say THANK YOU to them for what they do for you - and for their influence in your life.

A Blessed Christmas to all of you...and God bless us, everyone!

Friday, December 10, 2010

leadership wisdom from the hymnal

In my faith tradition (Lutheran), our worship structure is more formal and traditional, and we use many older hymns in our worship services. We also follow a church year calendar, which began anew several weeks ago with the season of Advent (4 weeks prior to Christmas Day). Two Sundays ago, we sang a hymn with which I grew up entitled Prepare the Royal Highway, a reference to the writings of Isaiah the prophet who foretold the birth of Jesus Christ. As we came to the final stanza of the hymn, I came across this particular line:

His (Christ's) rule is peace and freedom and justice, truth and love.

I was immediately struck that this is what leaders should be doing in their organizations and for the people whom they lead. It is a reflection of servant leadership as defined by Robert Greenleaf. Each of the words defines a place - or state of being - in which one can become completely whom they are meant to be and work at their highest level of effectiveness. Rather than being beaten down, cajoled, or manipulated, people might be able to become something more than they even imagine they could be.

A quick look at each of the words:

PEACE: to be at peace means that I am in harmony with myself and others. It creates a sense of well-being in which I can approach my life - and my work - with a sense of wholeness and being in a relaxed state. This allows for one to think and dream at a higher level. It may not completely serve all professions well, but for those who have to think in their jobs, it provides a place where a higher level of creative thinking can occur.

FREEDOM: I believe there is no higher calling that to help others be "free" - free from having to worry about basic needs as well as free to engage in higher level needs. Greenleaf uses this term extensively in his writings on servant leadership - those who would serve so that others might be more free. A place where people are free to be whom they were meant to be and use the gifts with which they have been endowed by their Creator is a place where amazing work can be done.

JUSTICE: I see this word as describing a place that is fair - and that holds people accountable for acting in a way that is fair to all. Too many times in organizations certain people are allowed to do things that seem to go against the norms and values that have been established (either written or unwritten). The leader who brings about justice brings about a place where people know that they are to treat others for the environment...uphold all that is good and right...and do things that bring about the best for the organization.

TRUTH: It would be difficult to work in an environment where one is constnatly wondering what is the truth. Having to look over one's shoulder...having to wonder if what I am being told is the truth...having to second guess decisions...these all harm the organization and its ability to deliver on its mission and goals. I think this begins with the leader being a "truth teller," being transparent and calling things what they are. This is a value that is often missing within organizations.

LOVE; I use this word often to describe the ideal leader and organization. Many people wonder if I am being too soft, and if work will actully get done where love prevails. For me, this is nothing short of being one of the hardest things to do, and when done well creates an outstanding organization. The leader must love their people - their organziation - their customers - their clients - their mission - and what they do on a day to day basis. That translates very quickly to the organization as a whole and can quite literally TRANSFORM the organization.

In the Christian church, there is often talk about "the kingdom of God." In the Gospels, Jesus often uses the phrase, "the kingdom of God is like..." It is my belief that leaders can bring about the kingdom of God in their organziations when they create an environment in which peace, freedom, justice, truth and love are prevalent and pervasive. It is my hope and prayer that more and more leaders will find ways to do this for their organizations and the people who work with that a for-profit company, a not-for-profit, a school, a goverment organization, a community, a church, or a home.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Christmas Wish List

Dear Santa, this year for Christmas I do not want any toys (well, maybe one or two). What I really want is:
  • leaders who listen more and talk less
  • leaders who know how to ask good questions (see above)
  • leaders who think and act strategically
  • leaders who walk around and get to know people
  • leaders who engage their multiple constituencies at a high level
  • leaders who are not afraid to confront people who go against the organization's values
  • leaders who reward people who live out the organization's value at a high level
  • leaders who have a sucession plan in place - and make it publicly known
  • leaders who do what leaders are supposed to do and not act like managers (or janitors)
  • leaders who know how to follow
  • leaders who share information easily and make it understandable
  • leaders who think organically rather than linearly
  • leaders who "get" community
  • leaders who have a deep self-awareness
  • leaders who are willing to ask hard questions of themselves and others
  • leaders who know how to lead good meetings
  • leaders who craft their message to their audiences
  • leaders who speak passionately and professionally (see above)
  • leaders who "believe the best" rather than "assume the worst"
  • leaders who are always learning
  • leaders who understand the concept of Level 5 leadership (humility AND determinate will)
  • leaders who really understand servant leadership
  • leaders who can say NO and provide a good reason
  • leaders who say YES to good ideas that are fiscally responsible
  • leaders who find ways to exploit others' strengths for the good of the organization
  • leaders who practice the art of forgiveness
  • leaders who bring about peace, freedom, justice, truth and love in their organizations
  • leaders who truly love people
  • leaders who truly love their organizations
  • leaders who know how to relax and have a good time
  • leaders who demand excellence in all they do - and what others do
  • leaders who seek out other leaders for learning and growing
  • leaders who know the importance of a clean desk
  • leaders who know how to dress like a leader in representing their organization
  • leaders who learn how to say "I'm sorry" or "I made a mistake"
  • leaders who take every opportunity to talk about the organization's mission
  • leaders who are willing to step into the fray and make things happen
  • leaders who know when to sit back and allow others to make things happen

I invite you who are reading to add your Christmas wish list for leaders in the comments section below...