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UNLEASHING POTENTIAL IN STORYCENTRIC COMMUNITIES

Leading with Story

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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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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Trajectory is Critical

Trajectory is Critical

This is Part 3 of a Multi-Blog Series. You can read Part 1 and Part 2.   “One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.” About 600 million people heard these words live from Neil Armstrong when he stepped for the first time onto the surface of the moon. As the iconic news anchor Walter Cronkite narrated this historic moment over CBS News on July 20, 1969, grainy images transmitted over television screens of an other-worldly space capsule touching down made the event seem simple and serene. But NASA engineers at Cape Canaveral were anything but calm as the lunar module and its crew made their final approach and landed safely. Trajectory Matters These experts at Mission Control knew that a slight error in setting the trajectory of Apollo 11 on its launch pad in Florida could have caused the rocket to veer perilously off target by the

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Making a Mindset

Making a Mindset

This is Part 2 of a Multi-Blog Series. Read Part 1.   I am grateful for my church heritage that prioritized disciple-making around the world. Introducing men and women to the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ and cultivating them to become mature, reproducing  leaders have been the privilege of my personal and vocational life. But the church’s penchant for lionizing missionaries and pastors – like myself – because of our status as “full-time ministers” has created a collective myopia in our ranks. This poor lens hinders us from seeing the broader landscape that is richly populated by Christian believers with enormous potential to advance the Kingdom as mechanics, marketers, mothers, and medical technicians. The Roots of a Faulty Perception What are the roots of this faulty perception? This mindset certainly doesn’t reflect the New Testament emphasis on the “priesthood of all believers.” How did the idea that missionaries and pastors

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Higher Calling

Higher Calling

“Children don’t judge their own lives. Normal for them is what’s laid before them day by day. Judgment comes later.” -Charles Frazier, Varina. This is Part 1 of a Multi-blog series A High Calling? The church of my childhood graced me with priceless truths. But in church I also heard a half-truth. It is the notion that people who work in vocational Christian ministry have a high calling, and those who work in secular jobs don’t. This half-truth was more implied than overt, more caught than taught. It led me to choices I didn’t know I was making. Only later did I come to know how much this half-truth shaped my life, and how for countless others it has shut off whole worlds that might have been. The Church of My Childhood My father went to the University of North Carolina on a GI Bill to study accounting. He worked

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The Literacy Conversation – Part 1

The Literacy Conversation – Part 1

I think I’ve been getting it wrong all these years. Since that time two millennia ago in Antioch when followers of the Way were first called Christians, the church has carried God’s mission to the world. Evangelism and discipleship methods have varied over the centuries and the local church’s involvement in the advancement of the kingdom of God has looked different from culture to culture and has changed with the times. During the last decade, for example, there has emerged this new term in missiological communities called “orality.” Orality methods are essentially methods of evangelism and discipleship that involve oral-based communication like story, drama, music, and the arts to portray the gospel rather than linear, abstract, literate-based communication that has been done since the invention of the printing press. Missions groups have been recently saying that they would like to begin using orality methods for peoples and cultures that cannot

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The Sleepy Invasion

The Sleepy Invasion The Stage was set. God was about to make His move, to enter time. Would He come with mighty wonders and signs? Would He light the skies as far as one could see? Would angels shout His arrival with trumpets and drums? Would the whole earth rock from the impact of his landing? The Great Sustainer, by whom and through whom and for whom are all things. The Almighty who is more powerful than any army. The One who holds in His hand all life. The moment came for His invasion. And the only sound we hear is the gentle breathing of a sleeping baby. While most everyone’s attention was on Governor Quirinius’ census, few noticed the birth of all births lying in a cattle trough behind a hotel in Bethlehem. In the words of Martin Luther, “He whom the world could not enwrap / yonder lies in

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Thanksgiving Looks A Little Different This Year

Thanksgiving Looks A Little Different This Year

Thanksgiving looks a little different this year. Today I am exchanging turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin for ugali, chapatti, and mandazi. Instead of watching schoolchildren perform plays about pilgrims and Indians I am watching a host of nationalities and tribal groups as they role play stories of old. But one thing remains the same: I am deeply grateful. This week Freedom to Lead is in Kenya. Next week we will go on to Zambia. In these weeks I am rubbing shoulders with men and women leaders from many nations who are deeply committed to the work of Christ and to leading well in their spaces. And I am deeply grateful. My large extended family in Florida is gathering potluck-style on folded tables outside. And while I miss being with them this year, I have a different kind of family right across the table from me here. My Family Across the Table

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Treasure in a Clay Jar

Treasure in a Clay Jar

Frequently I ask people to name the leader who has personally influenced them the most. People typically respond describing leaders who are neither famous nor incredibly successful. In fact, they often talk about leaders who would not even be considered leaders by conventional definitions. Yet these leaders left an indelible mark. They bring to mind the Apostle Paul’s image of “treasure in jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Common on the outside, but the content is priceless.  My mother was one of them. Her Beginnings Nancy Jean Howe was born on January 27th, 1936 into a troubled home. Her father was a musician. Her mother gambled on horses at the race track. The marriage didn’t last, so Nancy was shuffled between sparring parents until her father died when she was twelve. Her mother then moved them to Hawaii where Nancy finished high school. Nancy met Richard – a Navy cook

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The Wow Factor

The Wow Factor

Telling the Story As a global team in a faith-based nonprofit, a big part of our job is to tell our story. Depending on the audience, we might craft the story a little differently or choose to hone in on a specific kind of story that resonates best. But our job is to tell the story. It is the story of Freedom to Lead International. They are the stories of men and women in Asia and Africa who are being developed as Christ-centered leaders in their areas of influence. We tell stories of people who are seeing communities impacted and churches coming together and peace being made. Yes, there are even stories of hardships and challenges with prayerful hopes that God will make his way in these situations. Telling the Story Well As storytellers, however, we want to be a good steward of that which has been entrusted to us. We strive

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Jesus the Master Communicator (part 6)

Jesus the Master Communicator (part 6)

  The past few weeks we began talking about Jesus, the Master Communicator. When we encounter Jesus in the New Testament we tend to view him through the lens of him as our Savior and Lord. But how often do we view him through the lens of Jesus the Master Communicator? In light of this, what are some ways we can adopt this communication style in our own communication of the gospel in formal and non-formal ways? Over these six weeks we are highlighting some of the communication styles of Jesus. To review, here are the first five: Jesus used good stories. Jesus used rich imagery. Jesus asked good questions. Jesus related truth to real life. Jesus spoke “the people’s language”  Today we are wrapping up this series to talk about the sixth way Jesus communicated. 6. Jesus often summarized stories Jesus understood that he was talking with an oral-based storycentric

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