Friday, September 27, 2013

the books you read

This past Tuesday, I had the honor to be invited to speak to a group of church planters at the 5:2 wikiconference hosted by Crosspoint Church in Katy, Texas.  My friend and colleague Mark Junkans, Executive Director of LINC-Houston, asked me to come and speak to a group of people on the topic of "Taking your leadership to the next level."  Rather than give the group "five ways to improve your leadership" I shared with them two concepts in which they could invest that could dramatically change their leadership - and their lives: 1) the books they read and 2) the people they talked with.  I promised them that I would list the 30 books I shared with them on this blog, so that is what this will be - thirty texts that could dramatically change the way one sees the world...the way one interacts with the world...the way one leads others...the way one sees themselves...and the way one sees God.  We ended the conversation with the idea that to really learn from these texts, readers needed to approach them with an attitude of learning, a willingness to embrace questions, the practice of patience, and with true humility.  Just as God calls each of us to vocations to serve the neighbor, so he gave each of these thinkers and writers the gifts in which they could share great ideas and thoughts with others through the written that we - hundreds or thousands of years later - might be better in our vocations.  I encourage you to consider these works of literature and philosophy...I encourage you to take them up and work through them...I encourage you to read them with your leadership lenses...I encourage you to let them speak into your lives...and I encourage you to allow them to shape and mold you to become the leader God has intended you to be.

10 books that changed the world:

The Analects – Confucius
Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu
The Iliad and the Odyssey – Homer
Nicomachean Ethics - Aristotle
Confessions – Augustine
Lives - Plutarch
The Divine Comedy – Dante
The Prince – Machieveli
The Wealth of Nations – Smith
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – Kuhn

10 works of philosophy every leader should read:

Meditations – Descartes
Critique of Pure Reason – Kant
Genealogy of Morals – Neitzsche
Fear and Trembling - Kierkegaard
Truth and Method – Gadamar
Varieties of Religious Experience – James
Sources of the Self – Taylor
Being and Nothingness – Sartre
After Virtue – Macintyre
Discipline and Punishment – Foucault

10 novels that are important to read:

Don Quixote – Cervantes
War and Peace – Tolstoy
Anna Karenina – Tolstoy
Moby Dick – Melville
The Count of Monte Cristo – Dumas
Jane Eyre – Bronte
Bleak House - Dickens
The Brothers Karamazov - Dostoevsky
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Marquez
Short Stories of Flannery O'Conner – O’Conner

Sunday, September 15, 2013

lessons from Scott

A little over a week ago, I attended the funeral of a friend – a recent friend – who suddenly died at the young age of 41.  I was introduced to Scott Robinson about 18 months ago, and had kept up a conversation with him over that time that enriched my life…and the lives of others.  Scott was a connector, and he inspired me to connect him with others in my circle of friends and acquaintances.  The week he died, I received several messages that said something to the effect of “I don’t know if you heard, but since Scott connected us, I wanted you to know…” or “I just heard about Scott – thanks for connecting us.”  Those who spoke at his funeral kept referring to his love for people, his love for ideas, and his love for coffee (I think all of his meetings were at Starbucks).  As I have reflected this past week on why Scott had such an impact on many of us, I realized that he taught me a lot during a very short time.  Here are the lessons I learned from Scott:
  • Be a connector – Scott’s mission was to connect someone to someone else EVERY day
  • Everyone is worth a cup of coffee – Scott would meet with anyone who came across his path; it did not matter their title or status in life
  •  Embrace new ideas – the last time I met with Scott he introduced me to the concept of gondolas as a way of public transportation in the Austin region…really!
  •  Love your kids – Scott ALWAYS told me about his now 8 year-old twins and the adventures they would have together
  •  Expect great things out of people – Scott’s ability to believe in individuals and their ideas inspired me to do great things
  • Believe in the next generation – Scott was heavily involved in TEDx Youth here in Austin, an event that I hope will continue into the future
  • Embrace family – while not learned directly from him, his sister spoke of this at the funeral and was a good reminder to mend fences while you can
  • Be a dreamer – Scott always believed things would get better and was always looking for people who would work with him on making the world a better place
  • Root for the underdog – Scott was a big fan of the Houston Astros, even if they were consistently bad year after year, reminding me that even losers deserve our attention.
And so it is…I already miss Scott, and his memory will love on with the multitudes of people who knew him and whom he connected with others.  Several times last week I sat in my favorite Starbucks and reminisced about our meetings there.  I am a better person today because of having known Scott Robinson.  So TODAY, determine who that special person is in your life, get together with them this week, and thank them for the influence they have had on you.

Friday, September 6, 2013

who's sitting at your table?

Last night I spent time visiting various classes in our Business School, and had the opportunity to sit in on a Business & Public Policy class, a Managerial Economics class, an Integrated Marketing Communications class, and a Strategic Decision Making class.  As I watched and listened, my mind kept going to how the different ideas being presented and talked about affected what I do on a daily basis as well as the strategic decisions being made by my organization.  For example:

  • what is the economic profit or loss for Concordia with each decision being made?
  • what could Concordia spend money to make money where others aren't?
  • when making marketing decisions, does Concordia focus on product - or placement - or position - or???
  • if Concordia had unlimited funds, where would it use them to ensure long term sustainability?
All important questions - and all questions which probably don't get asked unless you have an expert in certain areas sitting at the table when strategic decisions are being made.  Where is the economist?  Where is the professional marketer?  Where is the financial guru?  Where is the psychologist?  Where is the environmentalist?  Where is the academician?  Where is the historian?  Where is the theologian?  Where is the _______________? The truth is that no one of us is an expert in all of these fields...and yet, many of the choices being made on our campus need this type of thinking in the strategic decision making process.  How might that be accomplished?  Here are a few ideas:
  • Increase the size of your table - bring more people into the decision making process
  • Rotate the seats at the table - bring different people at different times for different decisions
  • Have multiple tables - create groups around the organization to speak toward the decisions being made
  • Invite strangers to the table - bring in outside experts who do not necessarily know the organization but are experts in their fields
  • Create conflict at the table - have people defend their ideas to one another, asking lots of hard questions
  • Change up the guests at the table - new faces bring new ideas
  • Rotate seats at the table - have people wear different hats and support different views
  • Learn together at the table - when was the last time you invited those at the table to read something outside of their field of expertise (for that matter, when was the last time you invited them to read anything at all?)
  • Laugh together at the table - if you're not having fun, the brain is not completely functioning
  • Pray together at the table - giving space and time for quietness, reflection, and dependence on someone other than yourselves helps to create a humble confidence in the group
So take a look at the people seated around your table - who are they? what disciplines do they represent? are they the right people? are they in the right seats? who else needs to be invited? what can you, as the host/leader do to ensure that the decision making process is fresh, complete, and provides strength and energy for your organization?  and are you enjoying the company of those who have joined you at the table?  All questions we as leaders need to keep asking...