Friday, July 26, 2013

called to disrupt

Lately I have been considering the role of leaders in disrupting the status quo...when does one decide to do so? when is the right time to do so? and what is the end result that would make the disruption worth the cost?  Leaders are the ones who ask the hard questions...Leaders are the ones who always believe things can be better...Leaders believe they can make things happen (and often have the resources to do so)...Leaders are seldom satisfied with the status quo, especially when that status quo is harmful to others and the organization.  So when is the right time to stand up, speak out, and disrupt?

Being Lutheran my entire life, I grew up learning the story of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg because he believed it was time for a public debate on what the church believed.  He had done his homework...he had talked with others...he had contemplated the outcomes...and then began to disrupt the status quo.  Because of his actions, he was brought before the Council and asked to recant what he had said and written.  His famous line still resounds in my head: "Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.  God help me."  And with that, a reformation was birthed that changed the church...and the world.

Many, many, many years later, an aging woman was tired...tired of the long walk she had that day; tired of the way she had been treated for many years; and tired of a system that dehumanized black people.  So she sat down in the front of the bus.  Rosa Parks was so tired, she chose to disrupt the system.  Unlike Luther standing her ground, she sat down and refused to move, despite the pressure of those around her.And with that simple action, a movement was birthed that changed her life, changed the life of her fellow travelers, and changed the life of this nation.

Disruption is difficult, for the following reasons:
  • it puts one out of their comfort zone
  • the end result is unknown
  • it could lead to loss (income, friends, life)
  • it takes an extreme amount of courage
  • others may not follow
  • it is often not seen (at least in the present moment) as the right things to do
  • people will brand you as a trouble maker
  • it is sometimes difficult to put into words (even when you know it is the right thing to do)
So when is the right time for the leader to stand up (or sit down) and disrupt?  I do not know.  It might be when you have collected enough evidence to know that a continuance of the status quo can only lead to might be when enough people have had may be when danger lays ahead and someone has to may be when you are so angry that you have to do something...and it may be when you are so tired that you can do nothing else but disrupt.  My encouragement to you (and to myself) is to tread carefully, gather the facts, wrestle with the idea of whether you are disrupting for your own good or the common good, gather a group to join you if possible, and then act.  And when acting do not look back, because the disruption will have already begun and there will be little you can do to start again.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

my Maine reading maration

As many of you know, each summer I get to spend four weeks in Maine with my wife, and that the highlight for me is the time I get to read...and read...and read.  All year long I put aside books I want to read in Maine, then ship them up ahead of time.  One of our great joys is going to the post office, getting the box of books, opening it up, and then beginning the reading marathon.  When we return, everyone's first question is "so what did you read?"  Below is my list of books read during that stretch.  I will refrain from commenting on them at this point; while there was no theme going into the vacation, several did emerge throughout my time there.  Enjoy the list - and enjoy reading some of them.

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Brothers K by David James Duncan
The Stranger by Albert Camus
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies by David Thomson
Baseball as a Road to God by John Sexton
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabell Wilkerson
Red, White, and Muslim by Asma Hasan
Questions of Character: Illuminating the Heart of Leadership through Literature by Joseph Badaracco
Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson
The Path to Power by Robert Caro
The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command by Edward Coddington

In the Shadow of No Towers by Art Spiegelman
The Book of Job
The Book of Lamentations
The Book of Amos
The Tao Te Ching

The view from my reading chair...

Friday, July 12, 2013


I am back from my yearly month-long sabbatical in Maine where the weather was cool, the books were plentiful, the time with my wife was incredible, and the food was delicious.  All of which is to say that we are already counting the days until next year's trip...


  • It changes one's mindset: I feel better about myself and what I do
  • You learn you are not dispensable and others learn they can make decisions
  • You  fall in love with your spouse all over again


  • Path to Power by Robert Caro - detailing the beginning of Lyndon Johnson's Life (through 1942) and explains how to use power and influence to make things happen
  • Question of Character: Illuminating the Heart of Leadership Through Literature by Joseph Badaracco - explores the deeper (REALLY DEEP) questions of how one can raise their level of leadership through inner exploration (by using great literature as a resource)
  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami - this newest novel by one of Japan's great writers explores relationships, vocation, religion, ethical decisions (and a host of other topics) through a story that will keep you engaged and wondering how it all ends...until the end (which is 1135 pages later - and worth every minute of it!)


  • GAME OF THRONES (HBO) - we got through season 1 and loved the intrigue, the familial relationships, and the play between the different characters.  A great way to spend summer evenings when only re-runs are on
  • HOUSE OF CARDS (NETFLIX) - not only is Kevin Spacey his regular slimy (and amazing) self, this show exposes how politics really works (for good and bad) and how to use influence to make things happen (see Lyndon Johnson above)
  • THE NEWSROOM (HBO) - fell in love with this show but am now unable to watch CNN, HLN, MSNBC, or FOX NEWS.  Will McAvoy (as played by Jeff Daniels) is my new hero - and the the relationships are wonderfully fun to watch and follow
NEXT WEEK...the complete list of books read (for those of you who might be curious)