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UNLEASHING POTENTIAL IN STORYCENTRIC COMMUNITIES

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The Dark Side of Literacy

Literacy is an extraordinary gift to people and societies. In 1439, Johann Gutenberg was tinkering around with an old winepress and adapted it to become the first movable-type printing press. His invention lit the fuse on a reading revolution. The wide distribution of ideas became possible for the first time in human history, and the mass production of books made it harder to suppress the flow of thought among common people. Printing led to a higher degree of accuracy and standardization of texts. The decrease in the cost of books made it possible for people to learn outside the traditional educational system. In short, reading and writing came within the reach of the masses, thus fueling unprecedented intellectual development, distributing political influence beyond the privileged elite, an improving overall economic security. Literacy is an extraordinary gift to people and societies. The Downside of Literacy However, there is a dark side

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Prudent Leadership

Prudence Democritus, the ancient Greek philosopher best remembered for his atomic theory of the universe, once said, “Do not trust all men, but trust men of worth; the former course is silly, the latter a mark of prudence.” Prudence has been an essential leadership virtue historically, but the word has largely fallen out of use. Prudence was considered one of the greatest of virtues two thousand years ago. A hundred years ago it was part of moral philosophy, and today it is the punchline of a joke. For people of a certain generation it will forever conjure up the memory of Dana Carvey impersonating George H. W. Bush saying, “Wouldn’t be wise; wouldn’t be prudent.” Prudence comes from the Latin term meaning insight, foresight, and wisdom. It is the ability to judge between worthy and questionable actions, and it also has a practical component. Aristotle referred to prudence as “practical

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Lessons from a Zombie

A few weeks ago I was sitting on a plane watching the recent movie release, Maze Runner – The Scorch Trials. One of my sons recommended it. The opening scenes of Maze Runner occur in a devastated and desolate urban landscape with towering skyscrapers toppled into each other; the wealth and highest architectural achievements of a previous generation crumbling to dust. Additionally, many human inhabitants have mutated into something else – something diseased and contagious with a voracious appetite to devour those who are normal and healthy. I was surprised and at first annoyed that this was yet another story of twenty-somethings dealing with a post-apocalyptic landscape; a landscape that included zombie-like creatures (which are never called zombies in this film by-the-way). I groaned at this addition to a long list of similar films and video games. Suddenly it hit me – what the stories of this genre have in

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Just Tell Them The Stories

Tell us the Story I have this recurring memory of sitting on my grandfather’s lap as he would tell us the story of Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch. He didn’t need to read the story from a book, but made the tale come alive with his animations, character voices, and lively descriptions. “Tell it again, Grandpa!” my brother and I would exclaim over and over again. Grandpa also had this signature clicking sound he did with the back of his throat that sounded like the clopping of a horse. It was a sound that no person in the following generations has ever been able to recreate. Grandpa has since passed on from this world, but his stories remain. I grew up with stories. Some of my earliest memories are of when my pastor father dressed up in biblical clothing and in front of the congregation told the Parable of the

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The Leader’s Desire, Design, and Destiny

Desperate Desire Everybody’s got a hungry heart. – Bruce Springsteen What is the longing within leaders to reach audacious goals, to “make a dent in the universe,” to leave a legacy? We are designed with this longing, and only freedom will lead us to our destiny. Plato described the human predicament as a desperate interior yearning that arises from the depths of our humanity for all that is true, good and beautiful. Reflecting on Plato’s perspective, Dominican father and playwright Peter John Cameron wrote, There is no escape from the burning desire within us for the true, the good, the beautiful. Each of us lives with the inextinguishable expectation that life is supposed to make sense and satisfy us deeply. Even the most jaded atheist feels cheated if he doesn’t experience meaning, purpose, peace – in a word – happiness in this life. But just where does this universal expectation

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Are Good Leaders Born or Made?

Leadership Succession – off the hook? Nineteen years ago “Marcell” was living in Thailand when he started an international ministry to rescue young girls and boys caught in human trafficking. For nearly two decades he has travelled the globe with tireless passion. He has built a respected ministry with a combination of hard work and charisma. As the ministry has grown, his staff has come to expect his presence and personal involvement in nearly every new initiative. But Marcell is getting older, and is visibly worn with the grind. He worries about the future of the ministry. But when asked about his plans for leadership succession, he comments, “That’s God’s job, not mine. Just as God anointed me, so He will raise up another to take my place.” Leaders like Marcell believe that God alone is responsible to develop leaders and that, they think, lets them “off the hook.” They

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Has literacy blinded us to brilliance that “refuses to be spelled out”?

Western culture celebrates the production of knowledge, and literacy exponentially multiplies the possibilities for the refinement and application of this knowledge, thus enabling new discoveries. But has this literacy-bound process caused us to be blind to systems of knowledge that are not written down? Do we ignore brilliance in those around us because their expertise is not reproduced in literate forms? Or worse, do we treat those around us with disdain when the artistry of their work should produce admiration and respect? What about the plumber whose soldering for your bathroom shower looks like a work of art? Or the auto mechanic whose lifetime of experience enables him to diagnose and repair a condition that has confounded computer diagnosis and testing? Or the backhoe operator who can operate a machine with such grace and precision that they can “feel” that buried iron pipe through heavy equipment as clearly as we

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Get Them Talking Again

Smart Phones Smartphones inhabit an essential place in our daily lives. We call them “smart” because they allow us to do everything except talk to each other. That’s a problem. We use smartphones to write emails, play games, text memos, order pizza, and get directions. Right now I’m listening to Rascal Flatts through earphones jammed in both ears to drown out the noise of jet engines (and chatty fellow travelers). These technological marvels have nearly eliminated the reason for a phone: to talk to another human being. Healthy Human Relationships Author and psychoanalyst Sharon Turkle chronicles how the smartphone has dramatically shifted the core element of society: human relationships.1 Turkle encapsulates the problem as one of losing both the desire and even the ability to talk to each other. People are avoiding conversations in favor of texting or email. While these forms of communication can be more convenient, there is

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Pray, Then Send or Go: Reflections on Matthew 9:37-38 and the Lord of the Harvest

“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” Matthew 9:37-38 In this passage of Scripture, Jesus gives us three ways to reach the lost: praying, sending, and going. The one command is “pray earnestly.” It’s one word in the original; it has the connotation of pleading for something. We all have the responsibility to plead for the lost, praying specifically that the Lord would send out workers to reap a harvest of lost souls. They are there ready to be “reaped.” This type of pleading prayer is set in the context of Jesus going from village to village seeing the people that were like “sheep without a shepherd” (v. 36). Christ had compassion for the lost and he was asking for his disciples to have that same

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The Word

The Word

That’s right – for the first time ever, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is not a word. Rather, it is an emoji officially called “Face with Tears of Joy.” This image was selected as the ‘word’ that best reflected the mood and preoccupation of 2015. The world’s word police point to a swelling global phenomenon. An emoji is a digital image used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication. The word emoji has been found in English since 1997. According to data from the Oxford Dictionaries Corpus, its usage more than tripled in 2015 over the previous year. These pictographs are no longer the exclusive domain of texting adolescents – instead, they have had notable use from politicians and celebrities and brands alongside everyone else. Emojis have been globally embraced as a nuanced form of expression, one that can cross language barriers. Emojis and Storycentric Communication

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Leadership For a New Year

Courageous Leadership Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln” highlighted a four-month period at the end of the Civil War in 1865 that is instructive for leaders facing a new year’s opportunities and challenges. The United States’ sixteenth president had declared that he hated the “zeal” for slavery’s expansion. “I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself,” Lincoln said, and “I hate it because it . . . enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites—causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity.”1 Lincoln correctly calculated the task before him, and described the Emancipation Proclamation as “the central act of his administration.” His courageous leadership to end slavery was a pivotal event in American history. Political Risk However, during the struggle he took an enormous political risk when the outcome was far from certain. Allen Guelzo, Director of the Civil War Era Studies

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Measuring Leadership Effectiveness

Measuring Leadership Effectiveness

Leadership Metrics Leaders craft the cultures of their organizations – consciously or not – by what they consistently measure.  If leaders want something to become important – or remain important – in the minds and hearts of organizational stakeholders, they must figure out a way to measure it.  On the other hand, if leaders do not highlight a particular value or provide a means to measure it, that stated value will not likely be an actual value in the organization – especially in times of stress and pressure.   Measurable Metrics A newly-appointed Christian college president decided to initiate a campus-wide focus on the spiritual development of students, faculty, and staff.  As he launched the initiative, he faced unforeseen obstacles. Whereas the stated (written) values of the institution emphasized the importance of spiritual formation; however, academics consistently took precedence over spiritual formation in budget and scheduling decisions. In their attempt

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