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UNLEASHING POTENTIAL IN STORYCENTRIC COMMUNITIES

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Time Calms Kings

Time Calms Kings

Time’s glory is to calm contending kings To unmask falsehood and bring truth to light To stamp the seal of time in aged things To wake the morn and sentinel the night To wrong the wronger till he render righ To ruinate proud buildings with thy hours And smear with dust their glittering golden towers. -Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece   Today finds me sitting by the Atlantic’s seashore in The Gambia, West Africa. Children are kicking up sand as they play soccer on the beach. They seem oblivious to this week’s FIFA scandal that has cast suspicion over just about every major decision in the soccer world over the past twenty-five years. Eighteen officials are charged with offences including racketeering, fraud, and money laundering. Their cozy lifestyles of kickbacks and obscene per diems are finally on global display. Time has its insistent way of bringing truth to light. Remember

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Leadership In The “Worthiness Era”

Worthiness Era A middle-aged woman complained on Facebook about the lousy service she received at a local hot dog counter. She wrote, “The hot dogs were delicious, but the waiter was down-right rude.” She continued, “I’ll be looking for hot dogs someplace else.” Her post got lots of supportive responses.  In the “Worthiness Era,” good products must be matched by good behavior. We’ve heard enough news of Fortune 500 companies that shirk taxes while padding profits.  Firms that make a widget, rake in revenue, but foul the planet.  CEOs  abuse their privilege, then bail out with a multi-million dollar parachute. Is this just more evidence that bad guys finish first?  Maybe. But a different story is unfolding. Despite the discouraging headlines, noted economist Laurie Bassi asserts that we have entered the “Worthiness Era.”1 And in it, the good guys are poised to win. This new season results from a convergence

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Spotting Leadership Potential

Spotting Leadership Potential

The real leaders in many organizations are not obvious by their positions. Often they are hidden, but identifying them for development and future leadership is critical to the organization’s success. Based on observation in diverse organizational sectors that span the globe, here are four indicators to spot leadership potential. Identifying people for leadership roles who possess these latent abilities – even if they are still in raw form – is crucial since these characteristics are more difficult to cultivate within adults. Virtue – this term may seem like a throwback to the Victorian era, but virtue cannot be overlooked when looking for effective leaders. Essentially, virtue is the ability to align internal motives with external leadership behaviors. Virtue is the courage to adhere consistently to a strong internal ethical code in the public sphere, even in difficult and shifting circumstances.  This characteristic is an absolute bottom-line requirement. The hidden leader

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The Toxic Leader’s Seductive Promises

The Toxic Leader’s Seductive Promises

Following Toxic Leaders Most of us claim to be repulsed by toxic leaders, those who engage in destructive behaviors that result in serious and enduring harm to their followers. But the troubling reality is that people often follow them, and remain under their spell even when we clearly know their corruption and cruelty. Exploiting Followers What are the forces that entice followers, again and again, to accept and often favor these piranhas? In The Allure of Toxic Leaders, Jean Lipman-Blume1 identifies three empty promises they use to seduce people to follow them: The promise to keep us safe. Dependency on parents and caretakers during childhood often instills a deep-seated ambivalence in us toward authority. We learn both to desire and despise it. Nevertheless, most of us as adults tend to transfer our ambivalence to other authority figures – bosses, ministers, therapists, politicians – in exchange for the promise of security. Consequently the

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Lionizing J. Edgar Hoover

Lionizing J. Edgar Hoover

J. Edgar Hoover A 2011 film featured Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s Director for nearly fifty years. DiCaprio aptly depicted this 20th century symbol of unbridled political power whose abusive leadership was well known. Yet presidents, the press, and ordinary citizens venerated Hoover even as he perpetrated reprehensible acts, including blackmailing politicians and railroading innocent people to protect informants. Today the FBI building in Washington, D.C. still proudly bears his name. Hoover’s legacy follows a predictable response pattern to leaders who manipulate, mistreat, and undermine their followers: we frequently lionize them. Toxic Leaders Most people claim they abhor toxic leaders. Yet we often follow them – from the Catholic Church’s Cardinal Bernard Law, to the Italian former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, to “junk bond king” Michael Milken – and remain under their spell even when we clearly know their corruption and cruelty. The Allure of Toxic Leaders

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Emotional Intelligence and Communism

Emotional Intelligence and Communism

I was teaching Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to a group of Christian executives. The attendees were gathered from various locations throughout Europe. I took my usual approach to present the topic, explaining that leaders who adjust their behavior to the needs of those they lead – self-regulation – are better at motivating others. I demonstrated through research and several true stories that this leadership behavior often generates a greater level of worker satisfaction that results in a higher level of productivity for the organization. As I labored on, Branko, who grew up under the communist regime in Serbia, became visibly agitated. He knows well the communist philosophy, tactics, and terminology of motivation. Finally, when he could no longer endure my presentation, he raised his hand and blurted out, “Your approach to Christian leadership is severely flawed. Your teaching implies that our ultimate motivation for practicing self-regulation is to get more productivity

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The Badgers Are Good For Basketball

The Badgers Are Good For Basketball

The magical ride of the Wisconsin Badgers included a national semifinal victory over the previously undefeated Kentucky Wildcats. Although their season ended in a heartbreaking loss for the national championship, the story of Wisconsin’s coach and most celebrated player is one for the record books. After Catholic prep school in Lisle, Illinois, Frank Kaminski came to the University of Wisconsin to play basketball for Coach Bo Ryan. As a freshman, Kaminski was a lackluster performer. His season-high scoring effort was nine points. Kaminski’s second season was pretty much a carbon copy of the first. He averaged 4.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. He mostly rode the bench. But Coach Ryan spotted promise in the shy, gangly kid from Lisle. So Ryan pushed him to give nothing less than his best. He made Kaminsky sweat and fight for a starter role. And Ryan communicated to Frank that he could be

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Benchmarking and Vanilla Ice Cream

Benchmarking and Vanilla Ice Cream

Benchmarking is an aspect of strategic planning that has been widely accepted in recent years. It is the practice of comparing one’s organizational products or performance to others considered industry bests. Much can be said in its advocacy, but it has one potentially serious liability: benchmarking can result in vanilla ice cream. Benchmarking Best Practices The typical benchmarking process happens when management identifies “best practices” in their respective field, and compares the results and processes of those studied to one’s own results and processes. In this way, the organization learns how well – or how poorly – they are performing in an attempt to make adjustments that emulate the effective organizations. Tools used in benchmarking include Performance Benchmarking, Informal Benchmarking, SWOT, and Best Practice Benchmarking. Countless authors, consultants, and coaches have established benchmarking as an industry standard that informs the “what” and “how” of organizational development. Benchmarking the Why However,

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Another Dent In the Universe

Another Dent In the Universe

Steve Jobs, digital visionary and legendary founder of Apple, once said about his company, “We’re here to put a dent in the universe.” Jim Bowman, communication visionary and founder of Scriptures in Use, has put another dent in the universe. Jim was a successful advertising executive with Tucson Newspapers. His wife Carla was a tenured teacher in the Tucson school system. They retired from their careers in 1987 and went as missionaries to serve the native peoples of Latin America. Communicating the Scriptures: Soon after Jim arrived in Mexico, he recognized that communication was difficult. It wasn’t the language – Jim is fluent in Spanish – but most of the men, women, and young people whom he was trying to reach either could not or did not read. So Jim began to communicate the Scriptures through storytelling, drama, and music. The response was immediate and dramatic. He developed a program

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What al Qaeda Can Teach the Church

What al Qaeda Can Teach the Church

A Decentralized Leadership Structure Osama bin Laden, former core leader of al Qaeda, and mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was killed by US Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011. Yet al Qaeda has continued to advance throughout the Muslim-majority world since bin Laden’s death. Multiple reasons contribute to their persistent progress, but one key issue stands out: al Qaeda’s decentralized leadership structure. Within a few months after bin Laden’s death, it was tragically clear that national security had not stopped al Qaeda’s growth. Their spread of terror is not dependent on any single leader. Al Qaeda has a formal core group at its head providing overall direction, but there is a critical underlying structure that makes them more adaptive and resilient. Al Qaeda is a network made up of many affiliate-to-affiliate relationships, growing and multiplying independently, making it very difficult to control or defeat them. These affiliates have evolved and now

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Hillary’s Distorted Lens

Hillary’s Distorted Lens

Hillary Clinton’s private email server “scandal” has dominated most news outlets this week. In her role as Secretary of State, all emails on that server were supposed to be a matter of public record. Her resistance to turn over some of those emails has drawn sharp criticism from both sides of the political aisle. Julie Pace, AP White House correspondent wrote, “It’s difficult for [Hillary Clinton’s] complicated explanations about allegations to compete with the simplicity of political perception.” Her response signals a blurred lens through which she sees reality. Moreover, her organizers – smart and talented as they may be – seem to have contributed to her distortion. Hillary needs to revisit King Arthur’s Roundtable. King Arthur’s Roundtable A leader’s conscience acts like a judge, alternately accusing and defending us. If the leader’s lens is clear, its role is to identify wise and unwise paths of action. Unfortunately, this lens

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The Leader’s Lens of Conscience

The Leader’s Lens of Conscience

Human conscience acts like a judge, alternately accusing and defending us. Leaders rely on it. If the lens of conscience is clear, its job is to tap us on the shoulder and point out whether our walk matches our talk. In a perfect world, conscience acts as a safeguard to let me know I’m on track or as an arbiter to tell me I’m off course. Unfortunately, in real time, leadership gets complex and messy. The leader’s lens of conscience bends with the warp and woof of life. The more it warps, the harder it is for us to make a proper distinction between right and wrong.1 But this doesn’t slow down the operation of conscience. It just keeps humming along, even when the lens is not clear. So leaders do the wrong thing – lying, character assassination, philandering, pilfering – you name it – and then blow off correction or curl

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