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UNLEASHING POTENTIAL IN STORYCENTRIC COMMUNITIES

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Story, Symbol, and Song for All (Video)

Story, Symbol, and Song for All (Video)

  Freedom to Lead International® (FTL) provides leadership development services to leaders in 48 countries throughout South Asia, Africa, and North America. We specialize using methodologies that engage leaders who are more likely to be influenced through oral-based methods (stories, images, drama, poetry, music, etc.) rather than through abstract theory or concepts. We call these people “storycentric communicators.” This video outlines some of the secular research, science, and cultural anecdotes behind this story-based methodology for adult learning. It challenges people in western cultures to realize the power of story, perhaps seeing that this story-based approach is for all of us.    

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The Only Two Motives to Lead

The Only Two Motives to Lead

The Only Two Motives to Lead Patrick Lencioni asserts that there are only two motives that drive people to become a leader.1 I have worked with both.

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Some Naked Truth About Leadership Power

Some Naked Truth About Leadership Power

  The appropriate use of power is a reality for every leader. Here are some reflections about power I have experienced in my own leadership.   1. I am a steward of power, because leadership always comes with power. The exercise of power is not the same as the practice of leadership. As author Jim Collins says in Good to Great And the Social Sectors, “If I put a loaded gun to your head, I can get you to do things you might not otherwise do, but I’ve not practiced leadership; I’ve exercised power.” If people follow because they have no choice, then that’s not leading.   2. The power I have can either create or destroy; it is almost never neutral. Leadership power used wisely has enormous potential to promote individual and common good. God’s creative power brought the universe into being. His redemptive power raised Jesus from the

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Communication Usually Fails Except By Accident

Communication Usually Fails Except By Accident

Communication usually fails except by accident.   – Osmo Wiio In every leadership role I have ever held, my best efforts to communicate have often been misunderstood. If by chance you’re not familiar with Wiio’s Laws of Communication, my experience is all-too-common. Osmo Wiio (1928-2013) was a Finnish economist, educator, journalist, author, and politician. He is best known for his somewhat facetious “laws” around human communication. Here are four of them:   Law #1: If communication can fail, it will. Consider a case where a freshman supervisor is explaining to her veteran team the steps to get a project done on time and under budget. The supervisor attempts to convert her knowledge about project management, which is something invisible and intangible in her mind, into words, drawings, or gestures. It is this visible and audible data that gets “transferred” to the team members. The supervisor and team members may assume they

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What Sets “Christ-Centered Leadership” Apart?

What Sets “Christ-Centered Leadership” Apart?

  Christ-centered leadership (CCL) has become familiar verbiage over the past decade. Like “servant leadership,” its usage is ubiquitous, but its meaning varies among those who use the term. A quick Google search for CCL yields a range of definitions that include acting with integrity, hearing God’s voice, and being anchored in the presence, power, and ministry of God. What distinguishes Jesus’ leadership in light of more dominant leadership models of His day and ours? Certainly, Jesus influenced those He led by developing authentic relationships with them rather than resorting to strong-arm coercion or positional power. But is Christ-centered leadership really different?   After reviewing many leadership theories over the years, I propose the characteristic that most set Jesus’ leadership apart was His capacity to discern and to develop His followers’ potential. He saw people as God’s image-bearers. He saw the future fueled by their collective, Spirit-empowered genius, and consistently

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What Does Your Vision Undo?

What Does Your Vision Undo?

Effective leaders are known for their ability to inspire in others their vision for a preferred future. These leaders imagine how the changes inherent in their vision will benefit their employees, their target population, and their bottom line. But less often do leaders think carefully about what their vision will undo. In a recent discussion with friend Mike Metzger, President of The Clapham Institute, he reflected on a fascinating tendency among many leaders with whom he has consulted. Mike mused that most of these leaders describe with enthusiasm their vision to change their organizations. They talk about how this change vision will yield more profit or transform the world. But according to Metzger, these leaders do not typically give ample consideration to the impact of their change vision on values, core beliefs, or behaviors that are valued by key stakeholders. Only after the change vision has been activated do leaders

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Experience and Power Block Self-Awareness

Experience and Power Block Self-Awareness

A Rare Quality Self-awareness is a leadership buzzword — and for good reason. Leaders who are self-aware build stronger relationships, communicate more effectively, and tend to make better decisions. Yet self-awareness among leaders – especially among more experienced, higher-level ones – is a rare quality. Two Dimensions of Self-Awareness Self-awareness has two dimensions: internal and external. Internal self-awareness is how clearly we understand our own values, passions, aspirations. External self-awareness is how clearly we understand how other people view us. A person’s level of self-awareness is defined as  the difference between how we see ourselves and how others see us. What the Research Shows Research by The Eurich Group, an executive development firm that helps companies succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders, found that only 10%-15% of the leaders they studied actually reflected a high level of self-awareness.1 Contrary to popular belief, this research has shown that leaders

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Leading Through Crisis

Leading Through Crisis

Episode 1 of our new video blog is here! A Roundtable Discussion. How a leader responds to a crisis deeply impacts the culture of the organization. It is not so much about how a leader acts in crisis, but about how he or she reacts. A leader’s reaction to crisis will inform people about what is most important and what is inherently valued. As we all face the current crisis of COVID-19, this is a continuing discussion for leaders. Because we want it to be a discussion we have attempted to talk about it and invite you into the conversation. This video blog is facilitated by Dr. Rick Sessoms, who holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. Joining with him in this discussion are Freedom to Lead team members John Blausey and Michelle Sessoms who speak from their experiences in the business tech world and in overseas missions. As

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Leadership During the Downturn

Leadership During the Downturn

Leaders Facing Uncertain Times We live in uncertain times. COVID-19 is the earthquake that is rocking us at the moment, but the pandemic’s devastating after-shocks will shake people and societies for years to come. As the disease ravages many lives, the economic and psychological impact of this virus will likely wreak havoc on a much greater number of the world’s population. As leaders face the challenging months ahead, how will others remember us when the dust settles? Jim’s story is instructional for leaders during the downturn. Jim’s Story My friend Jim is a gifted engineer, inventor, business leader, author, philanthropist, and noted sculptor. Jim’s story will appear in a book soon to be published; here’s a very abridged version. Jim’s career included coming up with designs for requests from the University of Michigan for everything from a heart lung machine to a smart pump to control drug infusion during the

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Storying Your Data – Part 2

Storying Your Data – Part 2

You can read Part 1 here Organizations in virtually every sector have access to data that can offer an advantage for developing new products, helping coworkers reach their potential, and improving customer experience. Companies on average manage three times more data than they did five years ago. Many organizational leaders devote valuable time diving into these pools of data searching for patterns, problems, or potential opportunities. This analytical work can be energizing when it reveals nuggets of information to gain a competitive edge. But leaders who know how to communicate their relevant data through a story structure have better odds of convincing others to take action. Powerful stories have a similar structure. Whether it’s a personal story told to a friend, a Hollywood blockbuster, or a fable from classical literature, most effective stories have a common three-part structure. Part 1 presents the plot. The main character (the hero of the

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Storying Your Data – Part 1

Storying Your Data – Part 1

The organization I lead generates a bunch of data. We provide leadership development in under-resourced populations, so we have data about the number of leaders that are engaged in our programs. We have data about the number of events we conduct each quarter. We have cool data about the impact of our services on leaders. But when we began telling “Jairus’ story” to our stakeholders, the data has found a voice.  Stories Attach Meaning to Data We’ve heard the phrase “the data speaks for itself,” but the truth is, data almost never communicates clearly for itself. When leaders interact with customers, with funders, with their boards, or with their own teams, stories give them ways to attach meaning to relevant data. With Jairus’ story of leading in war-torn South Sudan, we are able to help audiences “touch and feel” our data.    Stories Improve Human Learning Story matches the way

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Leading with Excellence in Babylon

Leading with Excellence in Babylon

This is Part 5 of our 2020 Blog Series. You can read the previous posts here.   At times the grind of leadership can seem futile. One that could attest to that reality would have been the Old Testament prophet Daniel. He had every right to wallow in self-pity, thinking that his life and leadership were a waste. The Sunday School conception of Daniel’s days was like a continuous prime time flick of hanging out in the lion’s den, interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, receiving historic prophetic visions, and seeing handwriting on the wall. But all these experiences made up a very small part of his work life. Most of his nights and days – week after week, year after year – were spent much like yours and mine. He performed minor routines.  In fact, he had a pretty awful job. Daniel’s boss was the despicable king of Babylon. Daniel’s workdays

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