Saturday, December 14, 2013

What Makes a Leader?

Here is a synopsis of material on leadership found at the Barna Group website that was published this last April and June. If you'd like to read the full reports, go to these links at

      Report on leadership survey

      Joseph Cavanaugh interview

The Crisis in Leadership is Genuine.

According to a recent online survey by the Barna Group over a sample group of 1,116 adults, randomly chosen from the U.S., who consider themselves Christian*, more than half of Christians in this country identify themselves as leaders (58%). (Hmm.)

And yet, more than eight in 10 (82%) of the same survey participants indicate that they believe the United States is facing a crisis in leadership because there aren’t enough leaders.

What’s more, the leadership characteristics that participants identified in themselves fail to line up with the leadership qualities they expect in others.

So where are the disconnects? Where is this crisis coming from if so many Christians already see themselves as leaders? What are the missing links?

Joseph Cavanaugh, president of Ephesians 4 Leadership and author of a new book on leadership, traces it back to a lack of self-awareness. This cultural problem contributes to a warped sense of calling, and why the first step to leading others well is to gain a realistic understanding of ourselves. His new book:  The Language of Blessing.

This supports the concept for launching our current study.

In his book, Cavanaugh suggests that we embrace the Genesis 12 principle of accepting God’s blessing in order to be a blessing to others.

Interesting concept! Does "blessing someone" sound a little like "servant-leadership"?

Perceptional Disagreement

"Leadership is one of those 'if you see it, you know it' kind of qualities. It’s something Americans clearly value, all the way from their immediate employer to their minister to their president," Barna reports.

The organization's survey shows that more than 8 in 10 (82%) Christian adults believe the United States faces a crisis of leadership because there aren’t enough leaders.

That begs the questions:
  •     What makes a person a leader?
  •     What do people value in a leader?
  •     What do Christians value in leaders?
  •     What is the Christian perspective of leadership?
  •     Is the younger generation looking for a different type of leader?

For the purposes of Barna's research, the following short descriptions on 10 leadership characteristics were given to respondents.
  • Courage – being willing to take risks
  • Vision – knowing where you are going
  • Competence – being good at what you do
  • Humility – giving credit to others
  • Collaboration – working well with others
  • Passion for God – loving God more than anything else
  • Integrity – doing the right thing
  • Authenticity – being truthful and reliable
  • Purpose – being made for or “called” to the job
  • Discipline – the ability to stay focused and get things done

(These 10 differ slightly from the characteristics in our current study. We're pursuing 8 character traits that manifest effective leadership behavior. Look ahead to weeks 3-6, and you'll find these:  Integrity, Courage, Discipline, Loyalty, Diligence, Humility, Optimism, Conviction, all of which are based on moral absolutes that can be found in a person's core beliefs — something we talked briefly about last Wednesday when discussing followers.)

So, What Do Christians Look for in a Leader?

The survey bore out a few answers.

    • More than half (64%) of Christians say integrity is one of the most important traits a leader must have.

    • Other traits Christians say are important include authenticity (40% listed this as a vital characteristic) and discipline (38%).

    • Christian adults chose all three of these qualities above “passion for God”. Less than one-third (31%) listed that as a necessary trait.

    • The traits Christian adults were least likely to select as most important are humility (7%) and purpose (5%).

    • Younger Christians — those aged 18-39 — are slightly more interested in collaboration and purpose than are Christians who are 40 and older. They are also much more likely than older adults to look for bosses who are humble, with nearly one-third (32%) of 18-39 year-olds listing humility as a key trait in a potential boss.

Room for Improvement

Since 58 percent of the respondents identified themselves as leaders, the survey asked what they would most like to improve about their leadership, using the same list of traits.

The area where they said they want the most help is courage (27%), followed by a desire to grow in terms of discipline (17%), vision (15%) and passion for God (13%).

Evangelical leaders are most similar to the broader Christian market in terms of their aspirations to improve as leaders: they want to grow in courage (27%), discipline (25%), passion for God (14%) and vision (9%).

Here are Barna's conclusions:

"1. Christians perceive a significant leadership crisis in America caused by a distinct lack of leaders. Most feel they are leaders, but many of them aren’t confident that their leadership abilities are the most important traits in a leader. This suggests many of them are still striving to meet even their own leadership expectations and it means many Christians may not think of their own leadership as helping to fill the leadership gap they experience. Perhaps this is why they are most interested in growing in terms of courage.

"2. Evangelicals are far more likely than all self-described Christians to say passion for God is an essential leadership quality. That suggests evangelicals are much more comfortable working for people who share their beliefs and may not believe non-Christian bosses they work for are great leaders.

"3. It’s illuminating to learn how few Christians believe they’re called to do what they do. This data presents a challenge to the popular Christian understanding of career as calling since most Christians in the U.S. don’t seem to be thinking about their jobs in terms of calling. Most of the data suggests the concept of calling is not on their radar.  If people don’t feel as if they’re being called to their job, does that really matter to the quality of the work they do or the lives they maintain? It is worth noting the trend that younger Christians feel more of a desire to see their career as a calling—and are more discontent when they feel a disconnect between their career and calling. However, is this perceived disconnect simply the reality of finding a fulfilling job when you’re young and inexperienced—especially in a bad economy? Is it the common angst of young people trying to figure out the purpose of their life? Or is it a sign of a growing trend among Christians to connect their faith more holistically with their life—a desire not to compartmentalize faith, life and work? Additional research and study is needed to clarify the connection between calling, leadership and faith."

Does this suggest that more Christians should turn to the Bible to discover and learn the characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors that manifest in servant leadership?


So, who might you and I be able to influence today?

* That kind of a sample selection delivers a sampling error of +2.8 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Turn, Part 2 ...

It took about an hour last Monday in the emergency room to diagnose my primary condition not as heart failure, as was suspected because of earlier diagnoses, but as pneumonia and anemia. It took about another 7 hours to get a room and start treatments and test for other things.

I didn't know that a human body could sustain as many punctures, prods, scopes, and needles as were pierced into me through Thursday evening when they finally kicked me out. And, Lord knows, I certainly was not among the most needful. All you have to do in a hospital to feel better is look around at others. Then, pray. I can now appreciate what people say when released from a hospital: go home and get some rest!

See, my physical condition got so bad over the last weekend that I didn't think I could go on without help. Chris and Lill were just waiting for the word to take me in. And when Ted called to see how I was on Monday morning, he said that I sounded like I was ready to pass out and that he'd be here in an hour to take me in. That's all it took to convince me. I needed help. Couldn't do this on my own any longer. See, I dread the hospital; and if I gave in, I half-expected surgery, or worse. That's the last thing I wanted after issues with my brothers.

Good news is: I actually feel half-alive today, one week later. What a novel feeling! I was even able to spend quality time in His Word earlier and over the weekend.

After all this testing, they did not find a cause for the anemia that led to a transfusion of two units of blood. They and we suspect it comes from my nose. That big scab inside has a proclivity to open up and hemorrhage so badly that I need a sink or toilet to capture the blood instead of swallowing the volume, which tastes awful and not at all like blood. (Want to know how to make a  nurse panic? Leave your bloody-nose tissues exposed for her to glimpse. That's all it takes. Rockets propel to the ceiling; believe me.)

After two scopes, they did not find anything unusual in my upper and lower tracts. (They call those procedures "surgery". Don't ask me why. But the coolest part of it is coming out of the anesthesia.) Nor, did an abdominal scan show anything out of the ordinary.

Chest? Yep, the x-rays are cloudy. Did you know that your heart and its components transverse the upper part of your lungs? I didn't. The clouds are in the lower parts. That's a good thing, I think.

It seems like they came for blood tests three times or more each day. My veins began to hide every time the cart came near my room. One astonishment: my white platelet count was down to 18000 ppm. The norm that we've been targeting is around 250K. Last regular tests had my level at 318K and 428K. Oops! Now, it's way too low. Then, the good doctors discover a rare side-effect of the medication: can cause lung damage. Wonderful.

Prognosis: You'll have to put up with me. I'm around for a while longer. I will recover. It will take some time for my lungs to clear; and, we're going to investigate the blood and anemia issues further.

I don't know about you, but when I'm laid up like this, I really miss my closeness with Christ. I know he's there, but communicating on a conscious level is really difficult for me. So, I've learned that when I pray for someone who is ill, bedridden, or incapacitated in any way, I not only pray for that person. I pray for what I believe that person would want to be praying for. I try to be specific as possible in that, placing my feet as it were in his/her shoes, because if he or she is anything like me, their communion can't be very efficacious.

Thanks for praying for me over these last several days. I know that He has heard you.

In Him in all ways...

Friday, May 18, 2012

My Turn ...

Thank each and every one of you for your prayers and concern.

It has been an awful month. Danny and I had been talking about how best to approach our brother about coming to Christ. I told Danny that it would really be hard for me because I really did not know him, nor he, me. Seven years separate us; I'm the oldest son; he was the youngest. Dan still thought I would be the best to broach the subject. I could start, he suggested, by sharing some of the heart issues that we had in common and how I was treating mine. See, Pat had an ablation treatment to correct atrial fibrillation in early April. Danny and I left it that I would call him on Easter. He wasn't home.

The very next day, things got really bad. Apparently, there were punctures created in his esophagus and heart from instruments used in this earlier procedure. He was air-lifted from a suburban hospital to Loyola University Hospital in Maywood; suffered a couple severe strokes, and never really regained consciousness. The death watch began a few days later and ended on May 2, Danny's birthday, two days before Pat's 59th.

Chris and I had an anniversary/birthday cruise scheduled for the week of April 22-29. We elected not to cancel. We did not expect a life-support decision until mid-week, soonest. It came a full week later.

It was a physically-trying cruise, and on it, I was to learn a lot more about my physical condition, or lack thereof. I found that I could no longer walk the beach with my wife to any substantial length. I almost lost it swimming 50 yards in the surf to the waiting dive boat. (The surf in Cabo can be pretty rugged.) I failed to be able to snorkel. (How can that be when I am a certified Rescue Diver?). It was physically exhausting to climb the stairs from one deck to the next. On past cruises, we typically would do all 9 or 10 decks at a time to burn calories.

We returned Sunday night around midnight. Chris had been receiving update text messages throughout the week. I think life-support was cut-off on the preceding Thursday or Friday. We looked into reservations. On Wednesday, it happened. Chris made reservations for a Monday morning flight and hotel in Mt. Prospect. I had all the encouragement and support that I needed. I knew why I was going, and couldn't wait to see Danny.

Meanwhile, my condition was worsening: a shortness of breath at rest and from minor exertion; fatigue; weakness; severe edema; no appetite; difficulty concentrating; decreased alertness; a heaviness in my chest; abdominal swelling (I mean big!). I called my doctor's office and told them that I thought it was time to cut back on the bystolic dosage. See, twice I skipped the daily dosage for two days on the trip, and I was able to climb not two flights, but six without suffering the same tiredness.

Was I wrong! We went in Friday morning, did a complete work-up, EKG, modified stress test. My BP was in the 160s.

Diagnosis: I have suffered heart failure. That's scary. It means means my heart can't pump enough blood to meet my body's requirements. Nice, huh? Treatment: it can be treated; initially, no travel; stay near home; a diuretic; Echo EKG on Monday.

The doctor said that I had come as close to the the precipice as possible without going over. A slight push, and I'd be done. Oh, I could travel all right; but he expected to hear of my admittance to an ER in Chicago, or maybe, if I were lucky, to one here when I returned.

So, I called Danny and told him that I would not be attending our brother's services on Monday and Tuesday.

Since then, I haven't had the strength to do much of anything. It's a strain to walk from a parking lot into a grocery store. Coming back, it's easier because I know that I'll be sitting down to drive. Stairs? I hate them. Sleep, at all hours, seems to be the only relief. Add to that, a deep chest cold. But, at all hours, it's short and sporadic.

Yes, I am disappointed for not being where I thought I might be needed last week. Yes, I am disappointed that I missed church services for the past few weeks, and our Wednesday Bible study, and the concluding weeks of BSF. I resigned Wednesday night from our HOA Board; they asked be to take another, less physical position, and I agreed, conditionally.

My EEKG showed no further damage from the one of a year ago. It just points to aortic stenosis. I'll be seeing a cardiologist on June 12 or before if his office gets a cancellation.

I ask you to understand that along with this little malady comes a noticeable depression that's really tough for me to shake. I couldn't bring myself to talk about my condition with anyone, except Chris and Lill and Dan, Nicki, Erin and Jase. I outlined it briefly to Gil, when he called, believing me to be in Chicago; but, I know that I didn't let on just how bad and weak that I feel. Yet, through it all, I know it is for a purpose, and while I cannot focus completely on Christ because of my physical/mental state, I do try. I don't know where it will lead. But, I am not afraid. Just a little depressed. I don't think any man likes to feel weakened. So, it's difficult for the real me to show through.

So, it's my turn to ask that you please keep me in your prayers. Right now your focus is much more acute than mine.

And remember this:  I am still rejoicing!