UNLEASHING POTENTIAL IN STORYCENTRIC COMMUNITIES

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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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Tell Stories – Build Trust

Tell Stories – Build Trust

Uncommon Bond: What is your story? I was part of an extraordinary work team during the 90s. The members were smart and talented to be sure. But what really made this team special was an uncommon bond of trust that we built by telling stories. Most members of the team were recent college grads, and were at the front end of their careers. Their generation is different from mine; they insisted that the first step in creating bonds of trust is to build rapport based on shared experiences and mutual understanding. They believed that it’s difficult to work with someone you don’t trust, and it’s even harder to trust someone you don’t know. Despite the demands of our fast-paced and hectic work, they looked for opportunities for us to hear one another’s stories. They prioritized storytelling in weekly meetings, over lunch, and during staff getaways. At first I just observed,

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Popping the Lid: Human potential catalyzed by encouragement

Popping the Lid: Human potential catalyzed by encouragement

Fleas can jump up to 200 times their size. Put them in a jar with a lid on it, and they are soon jumping only as high as they can without hitting the lid. One Sunday I was the guest speaker at a small church. I went to the pastor’s home for the noon meal after the service. As we sat at the table, I could tell that this lunch was different; the pastor’s wife had set out the special napkins and silverware. The three children were on their best behavior. The older son caught my attention. He was a tall, lanky kid with cerebral palsy. After getting acquainted, I said to him, “Alan, what subjects do you like in high school?” With a smile, he answered, “Algebra. I love Algebra.” I continued, “What do you want to do after you graduate from high school?” With some hesitation, he responded,

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Hollywood Tells Better Stories

Hollywood Tells Better Stories

  Photo Credit: Tom Rydquist Ministry leaders from several African nations recently told me that story plays a vital role both in shaping and in preserving their cultures. Like all communities, most of their shared core beliefs are passed from generation to generation through true stories, myths, and songs. These narratives embody the essence of what they view as important to their children and grandchildren. Even as they welcome education that brings socio-economic advancement, these leaders are concerned that they avoid the mistake of teaching their succeeding generations with a literate, conceptual approach that disconnects them from their own story. These leaders have analyzed their western neighbors well. To illustrate, story has contributed dramatically to western culture’s evolving views of acceptable sexual behavior within the span of a generation. Our collective perception of sex outside the bonds of traditional marriage has morphed from predominantly negative to overwhelmingly positive. Hollywood’s producers,

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Hearing Impaired vs Listening Impaired

Hearing Impaired vs Listening Impaired

Image from another great article on listening- http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/gospel-listening/ My wife and daughter are hearing-impaired. They inherited a deficiency of the central nervous system that affects their hearing. Most people do not notice their impairment because they listen so well. With the assistance of hearing aids and lip-reading, both are expert listeners. Another member of our family is listening-impaired. The doc says there is nothing wrong with my hearing. But listening has been an impairment I’ve been working to overcome all of my adult life. Part of the problem is that I’m a professional speaker. I was trained to lead by talking. I’ve taken many courses and read countless books on public speaking. For years, I didn’t know that listening – not speaking – is the key to effective leadership. And even on my best days, listening is hard work – especially to people I know best. Listening to a stranger

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