Wednesday, March 23, 2016

DBU MA in Leadership Travel-Study Trip to Washington, D.C. - March 2016

DBU MA in Leadership Travel-Study Trip to Washington, D.C. - Spring 2016

This past week, I had the privilege of co-teaching a travel-study course that led a group of DBU students to Washington, D.C. This trip is truly a transformational experience for our students each year, and is a required course in our Master of A
rts in Leadership program because of that. Through this trip, students have the opportunity to hear from key leaders of today, study leadership in the lives of our Founding Fathers, and expand their worldview in a significant way.

Here are a few highlights of this year's trip:

Each year, students on this trip have the unique chance to hear from key national leaders. This year, Congressman Louie Gohmert led our group on a night time tour of the Capitol (pictured above), Ronald Reagan's former Executive Assistant spoke to the group, and several DBU alumni shared their experiences of working in D.C.

We also had the privilege of visiting the headquarters of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. This organization does work around the globe to advocate on behalf of religious freedom, and our students got to hear from their Executive Director (pictured above), a former Congressman who works with them, and their Executive Vice President. They shared about their recent work in Iraq and their efforts to have the U.S. Congress declare the work of ISIS in that region to be "genocide." The day before we arrived, their work came to fruition (as described here), and we were able to hear about how these Christian leaders truly made a difference in the world for Christ.

During our time in Washington, D.C., students visited many historic landmarks, including the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress, and several Smithsonian Museums.

We were also able to visit key historic sites in Virginia, including Thomas Jefferson's Monticello (pictured above), George Washington's Mount Vernon, and Colonial Williamsburg. It was an amazing experience to talk about these foundational leaders in the places where they lived.

Overall, we had a great time in these historic locations, as we learned about the idea of Christian calling to service in the world around us. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Importance of Prayer for Christian Leaders

With today being the National Day of Prayer (read more here), it seemed the perfect time to discuss the importance of prayer in the life of a Christian leader. Most Christians would probably agree with the argument that prayer should be a guiding factor in their daily lives. However, the unfortunate reality is that, for many Christians in America today, there is an inherent sacred-secular divide between their Christian faith and their work lives (Miller, 2007). They find it hard to connect their faith with what may seem like a very secular environment at their job.

But the Bible tells us that everything in our lives should be under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 10:31 tells us: "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." Likewise, Colossians 3:17 states: "...whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Henry and Richard Blackaby (2001) in their book Spiritual Leadership, echo this sentiment when they state that "the single most important thing a leader should do is pray" (p. 148). As they note: "Spiritual leaders must spend time in prayer daily, asking God to guide them in each decision they will make, not just when they are facing a situation but also before the fact" (p. 180). 

So why don't we, as Christian leaders, pray more often about the decisions we make? I would argue that it is a question of our focus. The world barrages us each day with its definition of success--a definition tied to getting ahead, gaining power, and becoming wealthy. In contrast, God's definition of success is much more about quiet faithfulness than it is brash ambition: "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). As Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges (2008) put it in their book Lead Like Jesus: "I have been called not to success but to obedience as a witness to others and as an active agent of God's plan for his kingdom" (p. 24). In essence, as Christian leaders we are called not to success, but to find our significance in God's agenda for our lives. 

So on this National Day of Prayer, I hope you will take a moment to stop and pray. Seek God's face, and ask Him to guide your steps and the steps of our national, state, and local leaders. Seek out His agenda for you and the people you lead. And ask that in your own life and in the lives of those you influence, that His will would be done "on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10).  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Experiential Learning in Action - DBU Students Travel to Washington, D.C. to study Leadership in the Lives of the Founding Fathers

Just a couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of co-teaching a course with Dr. Adam Wright, DBU Vice President and Dean of our School of Leadership, that looked at leadership in the lives of our nation's Founding Fathers. What made this class unique was that it was developed as an experiential learning course where we took a group of 20 students to Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia. The trip was an amazing experience where we were able to dive deeply into the leadership of the Founding Fathers, and it allowed us the opportunity to study leadership in the midst of sites that played a pivotal role in our nation's history.

Here is a short video showing some of the experiences students had on the trip:

Here are just a few of the pictures that we took on the trip, with explanations of what we saw, and the leaders we had the chance to learn from:

Students had the opportunity to hear from a variety of leaders, including: Henry Deneen (pictured above), High-Level Administrator for the National Prayer Breakfast; Jim Kuhn, former Executive Assistant to President Ronald Reagan; Scott Brown, VP for the Christian Leadership Alliance; John Hill, U.S. Attorney's Office; and Emily Davis, DBU Alum and Deputy Communications Director for the American Action Network

Students had the opportunity to sit on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as Dr. Adam Wright shared about the core elements of visionary leadership as seen in the lives of Lincoln, Washington, and Jefferson.

Students had the opportunity to tour the U.S. Capitol, the Presidential Monuments on the National Mall, the National Archives, and much more in D.C. Pictured here is Chelsea Vaughn as she visits the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall.

Students had the opportunity to learn about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and other prominent leaders from the founding generation. In the picture above, students listen to Dr. Adam Wright give a lecture at the University of Virginia's Academical Village (designed by Thomas Jefferson). Students also visited George Washington's home, Mount Vernon, and Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello.

Students had the opportunity to worship at the Washington National Cathedral. Afterwards, we were able to have a tour of this national treasure, which has been the site of Presidential funerals, the Memorial Service after 9/11, and much more. 

Overall, the trip was a unique experience that allowed students to both learn from current national leaders, as well as learn about the great leadership principles from our Founding Generation.

Here are a few quotes from some of our students who went on the trip:

The Washington, DC Spring Break trip was an incredible experience and an impactful course...Walking in the footsteps of the founding fathers and considering their leadership impact encouraged my walk with the Lord and the impact I can have in my current time and circumstances. Anyone who desires to develop his or her leadership skills while having an absolute blast in our nation’s capital should, without a doubt, consider taking this course. - Sarah Dulin, Master's Student

The Washington DC Spring Break trip was a week to remember. It was amazing to be able to take an entire to week to study the different types of leadership. When you first think of leadership, you view it as very one-dimensional, but upon further study with Professor Cook and Dr. Wright, you will discover that leadership is very three-dimensional and can come in many different types and forms...This course stretched me to flip my view of leadership upside down. Leadership is not about position, pride, power, and authority; rather it is about humility, service, and love towards others. If we allow the Holy Spirit to instill these traits within us, then God will use us in great ways in each of our various positions of leadership. -Jonathan Fechner, Undergraduate Student

This class has truly grown my faith and has taught me how to better integrate my faith into my leadership style...Thank you for challenging and stretching me this week. I cannot tell you how much it has changed my perspective. -Annie Wells, Undergraduate Student 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Leadership Lessons from History

While in Washington, D.C. today for a meeting, I took some time to visit the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. The museum was fascinating, and along the way, I couldn't help but think about some of the leadership lessons that emerged from some of the exhibits. Here are but a few:

Lesson #1: Helping Constituents Connect Their Efforts with a Larger Purpose

Leaders often have to ask their followers to do things that are outside of their comfort zone; they ask for them to tread into uncharted territory, or give of themselves in a way that is new and unknown. As this wartime poster shows, it is vital to help your followers connect their efforts with a larger purpose so that they will know how their work has meaning. During WWII, this was done by producing posters like this one that helped the local consumers understand that each war bond they bought would be pivotal in helping to provide supplies for paramarines. By letting the consumers know that each cent they spent made a real impact in clothing, feeding, and equipping the nation's soldier's, these posters allowed the leaders of the day to speak into the hearts of consumers and influence them to spend money on something that they likely would not have bought had they not known the meaning behind it. In the same way, the leaders of today need to find creative ways to show their followers the value and meaning behind every task that they do. Just as this poster highlighted a concrete way that a small action (i.e. buying a small war bond) could have, so, too, must leaders constantly be on the lookout for how to tell the "story" of their organization and the individual tasks that make all the difference.

Lesson #2: Creating Guiding Coalitions to Enact Change

Another lesson I saw that emerged from these exhibits was the importance of having a guiding coalition to help a leader. As John Donne masterfully reminded us, "no man is an island," and this truth is even more profound for leaders. No leader can truly go it alone without the aid of people around him who provide counsel and use their own influence to help the leader enact positive change. 

During the Revolutionary War, General George Washington had to create just such a guiding coalition from many disparate groups. First, he had to unify recruits from across many colonies whose interests were vastly different. Today, we think of America as a unified nation, but at the time, people saw themselves as Virginians, or Pennsylvanians first and foremost--their identity was tied to their colony. So, Washington had to work hard to instill a sense of national pride in his army. But he also had to form alliances with American Indian tribes and French diplomats, and his skill at melding these two groups into his overall war strategy played a pivotal role in allowing the Americans to succeed. Both groups provided unique strengths that Washington desperately needed, and so, it was important that he form a "guiding coalition" not just of people from each colony, but also of Indians and French.

Today's leaders can learn much from Washington's diplomacy during this period. Just as Washington had to unite disparate groups behind a common goal, so, too, must today's leaders unite differing constituents behind common organizational goals. This is especially true in times of change, when the leader will need the gravitas of others in the organization to help him convince others to change the status quo. 

Lesson #3: Leaders Need to Find Ways to Speak Directly to their People

Yet another lesson I learned was that leaders must speak directly to their people in compelling ways. As an unknown author once noted, "A leader without followers is simply going on a walk." Thus, to ensure that the leader influences his people to act, he must speak to them in terms they will connect with and in ways that that will capture their imaginations. 

Franklin Roosevelt was a master at this type of connection with followers. He utilized a fairly new technology--the radio--to speak directly to the American people in a way that no President had done before. His calm, conversational style allowed him to quell the fears of listeners who were going through grave financial difficulties during the Great Depression. Later, these same "fireside chats" from Roosevelt helped the common American understand why it was important to go to war and how they could be a part of the "arsenal of democracy." 

In much the same way, leaders of today must find ways to directly speak to their constituents and tell the story of the organization's future. They must find unique ways to speak into the lives of their followers and not just quell their followers' fears, but give them hope for the future. 

Lesson #4: Leaders Should Publicly Recognize Followers' Achievements

I will share one final lesson I learned today: that leaders must seek out ways to publicly recognize the sacrifices and achievements of their followers. Leaders are only as good as the followers who enact their vision, and so, it is important to publicly recognize the contributions made by people on the "front lines" of the operation. 

The American military has known the importance of this concept from the very beginning, and the Medal of Honor (pictured here) is just one of the many ways that the military publicly honors people whose sacrifice for their country was truly awe-inspiring.

While leaders in business or academia may not hand out medals like the military does, it is still important for a leader to find ways to practically and publicly recognize the best achievements of their followers. By doing so, they let everyone in the organization know that their contributions are valued, and that each person in the organization plays a vital role in the success of the overall operation.

Closing Thoughts

We can learn a great deal about leadership from history, as evidenced by the lessons I learned today at the Smithsonian. It is important for leaders not just to look at the latest fads from today, but also study the time-honored lessons of leadership which can be found in the lives of those who went before. Because I think this is so very important, we have created a course in DBU's Master of Arts in Leadership program called "Great Leaders in History." It provides a look at the lives of 20 unique and noteworthy leaders, and allows us to delve into the many core principles that can be gleaned from their lives. It is truly a unique opportunity to learn from some of the best and brightest in our nation's history and in the history of the world.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

How Leaders Are Different Than Managers (Part II)

In my last blog post, I looked at the basic differences between leaders and managers. In looking at these differences, I argued that managers are concerned primarily with managing processes and creating efficiency, while leaders are concerned primarily with influencing, connecting, equipping and inspiring people to achieve positive end goals. But in order to understand this definition, it is important to break it apart to see the complex set of factors that create these differences. Today's blog post, and those that follow it, will focus on these factors that help us distinguish the roles of a leader from those of a manager.

Factor #1: Manager Seek Stability; Leaders Seek Positive Change

One of the major ways that leaders are different from managers is that leaders actively seek to promote positive disruption in the organization to change it for the better, while it is the job of the manager to promote as much peace, equilibrium, and stability as possible to keep his/her workers functioning at the optimum level of efficiency (Kotter, 1990). As Kouzes and Posner (2003) put it, good leaders are to "challenge the process" to create a better future for their organization.  Thus, while a good manager is focused on today and how to make it the most stable and productive day possible, leaders are focused on tomorrow and how to move his/her people on to the goals that will create positive results down the line.

The appropriate interplay between stable management and adaptive leadership, therefore, can be very contingent on the situation at hand. In times of relative peace, good management is essential to help people continue to do what they do well; but in times of great turmoil, adaptive leadership is key. In such times, the adaptive leader must challenge stakeholders to get outside of their normal comfort zone to look for not only how to solve the problems of today, but build a new tomorrow. As Ronald Heifetz (1994) put it in his book Leadership Without Easy Answers:

In a crisis we tend to look for the wrong kind of leadership. We call for someone with answers, decisions, strength, and a map of the future, someone who knows where we ought to be going--in short, someone who can make hard problems simple...Instead of looking for saviors, we should be calling for leadership that will challenge us to face problems for which there are no simple, painless solutions--problems that require us to learn new ways (p. 2).

For Heifetz (1994), one of the forerunners of adaptive leadership theory, "Adaptive leadership isn't about simple answers, but confronting reality and forming innovative solutions" (p. 22). In being adaptive, then, leaders push their organization to remake the status quo into something better, something more congruent with future realities. This requires that, first and foremost, the leader himself/herself be adaptive--what more recent authors are terming "learning agility" (De Meuse, Dai & Hallenbeck, 2010; Norton, 2010).

But the process of getting followers from the present status quo to the new normal of the future can be an uncomfortable process. As Margaret Wheatley (1992), who, in the early 1990s, sought to meld concepts from chaos theory, quantum physics, and other fields of science with leadership theory, noted:

New understandings of change and disorder have also emerged from chaos theory. Work in this field has led to a new appreciation of the relationship between order and chaos. These two forces are now understood as mirror images, two states that contain the other. A system can descend into chaos and unpredictability, yet within that state of chaos the system is held within boundaries that are well-ordered and predictable. Without the partnering of these two great forces, no change or progress is possible. Chaos is necessary to new creative ordering. (p. 13)

Thus, while the leader must bring a controlled chaos into the organization in order to truly move people on to a positive agenda for the future, it is not easy to find the right balance for how to achieve this in a way that does not cause the system to implode upon itself. As Jim Collins (2001) in his book Good to Great noted, companies who moved from being merely "good" to truly becoming "great" never did so in "one fell swoop;" the process had to be carried out one step at a time, building momentum along the way (p. 14). This fine interplay between chaos and stability, then, is something that requires artful handling, skillful reframing, and the right balance between new ideas and a celebration of the existing stories of the organization (Bolman & Deal, 2013; Gardner & Laskin, 2001). As Lewin's (1951) theory of change so famously put it, the task of the leader is to "unfreeze" the status quo, implement the change, and then "refreeze" the collective consciousness of the organization towards the new reality. As the analogy implies, unfreezing and refreezing a group's mindsets do not happen overnight, and thus it is the job of the leader to constantly be looking for new ways to inject disequilibrium into the system in a positive way that creates the right amount of urgency alongside enough stability so that the people feel that the process is still under control (Kotter, 1996; Heifetz, 1994).

None of this process of change, chaos, and disequilibrium, though, sounds like much fun to the normal employee. And thus we come back to the need for both good management and good leadership within an organization. Employees can only go so far in a given amount of time, and thus it is essential that good managers are in place to help them efficiently manage the processes that are required for the day at hand. At the same time, however, good leadership is essential to create a slow but steady move towards the positive goals of tomorrow.

So we end today's blog post with the realization that good management and good leadership are essential for any organization. But as this first factor in our list of distinctions between management and leadership implies, the roles of the leader and the manager are quite different in an organization. In our next post, we will continue our look at the factors that make these distinctions so very important in the real world.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

How Leaders Are Different Than Managers (Part I)

In coming in contact with students, professors, and business people, I am asked quite frequently what the difference is between managers and leaders. For many people that I talk to, it seems that they consider it to be a difference without a distinction. Inevitably, they wonder: is this focus on "leadership" just a fad, or a buzzword conjured up to sound more important than "management?"

The truth is that there are major differences between the two concepts of leadership and management, and this is not just some "fad" that has been created to sell more books (Kotter, 1990). Each of these important constructs represents distinct and unique roles that are vital to an organization. Without one (management), an organization would crumble under the weight of its own inefficiency; and without the other (leadership), the organization would eventually be crushed under the weight of the status quo. Both leadership and management represent qualities that are desperately needed for any organization to truly thrive. And, in many instances, individuals must learn to be both leaders and managers, utilizing the right dose of each depending on the unique demands of each circumstance (see e.g. Burns, 1978; Katz, 1955; Hersey & Blanchard, 1969).

So how should we look at these two concepts? This blog series will focus on this key issue, and will seek to provide a framework for looking at these two distinct, yet interrelated concepts.

While many authors have waxed eloquent on this topic, I believe that a simple analogy might provide a good framework for this discussion. To do this, I want you to think of a semi-trailer truck--one that is a part of a larger fleet of trucks, and is intended to carry an important load to a destination far away. For the manager of this truck, the most important thing is to make sure that this truck achieves its purpose as efficiently as possible. Thus, the manager creates a maintenance schedule to ensure that the truck is in tip-top shape; he seeks out drivers who are competent, experienced, and will do the job right; and he makes sure to create a dispatch system that lets the driver know exactly where to go, what roads to avoid, and what stops to make. In essence, the manager is there to ensure that all of the processes in place (e.g. the dispatch service, maintenance record-keeping, and job placement) are all as efficient as possible. 

On the other hand, the leader of the trucking company has a very different job. While he certainly cares about how each truck is functioning, and whether or not it gets to its destination on time and in good working order, these are not his primary focus. Instead, he is asking questions like: Based on the shifts in demographics that we can see coming in the future, what routes should we create to maximize our chances for success down the line? How can we improve our relationships with clients by not just getting their products there on time, but creating a mutually beneficial engagement process? How can we foster a better working relationship between the many ethnic groups that comprise our workforce and utilize the best of what each has to offer? How should we restructure our company in order to prepare for a catastrophic event such as a natural disaster, epidemic, or financial downturn? And how do we motivate our workers to think outside the box and create new ideas for making the company better? In essence, the job of the leader is influencing, connecting, equipping, and inspiring people for the purpose of achieving positive goals. 

As you can see from this analogy, both the manager and the leader are absolutely vital to the company. If the leader created a new trucking route, but didn't have a manager to implement the change, the results would be disastrous. And the "leader" will likewise have to don his "management" hat quite frequently in order to supervise the day-to-day operations of the company. As situations change, each executive in the company will have to use the right amount of each skill set--both leadership and management--as appropriate.

So based on this analysis, we are left with a simple definition of the difference between leadership and management: Managers are concerned primarily with managing processes and creating efficiency, while Leaders are concerned primarily with influencing, connecting, equipping and inspiring people to achieve positive end goals.

In the next segment of this series, we will break down this definition into its elements, and look at the factors that play a part in creating this important distinction.