Peace-Mongers and Spineless Leaders

Peace-Mongers and Spineless Leaders

Mega-churches explode in overnight growth, build big, borrow big, and explode big as they collapse. Compassionate non-profit ministries, rich in compassion, often drown in red ink. Christian colleges groan and die under the weight of complexity in a competitive world.

Why is it that people who intend such good through the creation of non-profit organizations often close the doors of the same organizations in embarrassed shame?

The Americanization of Christianity has shaped a religion that is, if anything, nice. Offense is intended toward no one. Being liked is the quest. Overlooking incompetency, arrogance, or laziness is easier than confronting it. And the result is that such organizations spiritualize their problems rather than confront them. They form a culture in which sabotage works. And given the human propensity toward evil, organizations eat the fruit of the culture they nourish.

Edwin Friedman writes in A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix:

In any type of institution whatsoever, when a self-directed, imaginative, energetic, or creative member is being consistently frustrated and sabotaged rather than encouraged and supported, what will turn out to be true one hundred percent of the time, regardless of whether the disrupters are supervisors, subordinates, or peers, is that the person at the very top of that institution is a peace-monger. By that I mean a highly anxious risk-avoider, someone who is more concerned with good feelings than with progress, someone whose life revolves around the axis of consensus, a middler, someone who is so incapable of taking well-defined stands that his disability seems to be genetic, someone who functions as if she had been filleted of backbone, someone who treats conflict or anxiety like mustard gas – one whiff, on goes the emotional gas mask, and he flits. Such leaders are often nice, if not charming (pages  13-14).

Serving as president of a Christian university, I can testify to the gravitational pull of the niceness. Rather than making hard choices, leaders are asked to make people feel good. “Forgive the person; he meant well.” “Love covers a multitude of sins.” “Don’t make waves.” “If you step out on a limb, the cost could be your job.” I’ve heard them all as excuses for not doing what is right for the organization.

The Americanized gospel has shaped us to expect the blessings we desire without any suffering en route. If we’re nice, we deserve to have it. A gospel that does not confront our selfishness, our narrowness, our incompetency, and our arrogance eventually forms us to be saboteurs of any leader who dares stand on conviction that disagrees with ours.

We have grown our own terrorists. Our institutions collapse, not from evil without, but from a cult of niceness within.

What I’m Reading Right Now: Remarkable Book

What I’m Reading Right Now: Remarkable Book

Today, I launch a new monthly series called, “What I’m Reading Right Now.” Each month, I’ll share what articles, books, blogs, etc., have piqued my interest. I hope you enjoy it. Leave me a comment to let me know what you are reading right now and why you find it interesting.

Peter Drucker used to say, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It was his way of saying that the organizational culture of an institution trumps any grand plans and visions for the future. Your vision statement can be scintillating, your strategy map inspiring, your processes airtight, your deliverables measureable—and you will still fail if your culture is incapable of carrying the weight.

Remarkable Book by Randy Ross & David Salyers

So I’ve been reading about organizational culture. Remarkable! book by Randy Ross and David Salyers is a parable about a company. It doesn’t take many pages to know that the principles they write about in their fictional story rise from a Christian perspective on power and people.

Culture is how we behave as a group of people. It is what we have the capacity to build by hiring and firing, rewarding and confronting, highlighting and dismissing. Our daily choices move us closer to or farther from the culture that sustains good work and keeps good people.

One of my takeaways is that leaders need to spend less time on flowery vision statements and strategies, and pay a lot more attention to how their choices inform the culture.

I am praying for grace to do that.

Today’s College Students Are Tomorrow’s Leaders

Today’s College Students Are Tomorrow’s Leaders

College campuses across the country are once again coming to life as students head back to school. The same is true at Trevecca Nazarene University here in Nashville. Our sidewalks and dorm hallways are busier these days as we’re all gearing up for the first day of the fall semester next week.

This has been on mind lately as I’ve been featured on a couple of websites. Please check out my guest posts at Ministry Matters and Student Leadership University.

Must Be Present to Win

Ever been at one of these? They are giving away stuff but you have to be there. No phone-ins or email registrations. You must be present, on the spot, in the moment… or you do not qualify.

Developing leaders is like this. We engage people in the very work we are doing as a shaping experience. At Trevecca Nazarene University, our chief administrative leaders are charged with identifying up-and-coming leaders who have the capacity to assume our role someday. …

Read the entire article at Student Leadership University’s blog here.


My Top 10 Must-haves for College Students

Ah, August.

Summer’s winding down as retail store aisles fill up with pencils, markers, and glue. Ask any parent what’s top of their mind these days and I guarantee you’ll get an answer that sounds a lot like this: ‘back to school!’

Read the entire article at Ministry Matters here.

Here’s wishing all students a wonderful 2014-15 school year!