The Cost Of True Leadership

leadership

Of all the leaders in world history, Winston Churchill has been identified as the best of the best. His unwavering decisions during the difficult years of World War II changed the course of the war and the course of human history. One such decision he had to make was very painful, but absolutely necessary. In making it his leadership, motives and sterling character all came into question by those who knew him best. However, by making it he qualified himself as a leader among world leaders and secured his place in world history.

The British secret service had broken the Nazi’s secret transmission code and informed Churchill that the Germans were going to bomb Coventry. The Prime Minister knew he had only two alternatives. He could evacuate the citizens and save hundreds of British lives. This however, would be at the expense of letting the Germans know that their secret code had been broken. Secondly, he could take no action at all and that would mean hundreds were going to die. This course of action would also keep the German’s secret information flowing to the allied forces. It was no easy decision but he alone was the one who had to make it…. and he did!

Churchill chose the latter and by making that difficult decision many of those in his own administration bitterly criticized him. He was painted as a heartless warmonger who did not care for his own countrymen. They whispered behind his back and some of his own staff showed clear anger for what appeared to be a thoughtless and callous decision. It is reported that many nights Churchill could be heard weeping and crying out to God in his private chamber as he agonized over that decision, and all the lives that had been lost because of it.

He stubbornly refused to change his mind and the outcome indeed did prove to be fatal.  Hundreds died in Coventry when the Nazi bombs began to fall. Yet, because the knowledge of the broken code was never revealed it turned the tide of the war. In the end it allowed many battles to be won and it let the Allied forces feed false information to the German army on a regular basis, thus confusing their efforts to outmaneuver the advancing armies. It is estimated that this one decision, which was so bitterly opposed, saved tens of thousands of lives and actually helped to end the war much sooner. Because of this decision, Churchill went down in history as one of the most loved and faithfully followed leaders the world has ever known.

When it comes to leadership, there is no substitute for doing what must be done in a difficult season. It’s true that not all decisions look like they are right in the short term. However, a real leader has insight and can look beyond the moment of emotional crisis to see what the final outcome needs to be. It is clear vision for the future, rather than yielding to the tyranny of an immediate problem, that causes genuine leaders to stand their ground and rise above the rest.

True leaders learn how to graciously take the angry criticism of a few cynics in order to do what ultimately is best for all. They are not swayed by popular opinion and don’t second-guess themselves because others don’t agree. Yes, they do tap into the wisdom of those they trust, before a decision is made. However, in the end, they must be willing to stand, even if it means they are standing alone, in order to achieve the vision that has been cast.

What about you? Do you believe you have leadership material within you that is trying to get out? If so, let me suggest a few things you can do to move in the right direction. If you will apply these things you will be amazed at how quickly your position will change. Leadership begins with the simple things and it also ends there as well.

First of all connect to and support the vision of your current leaders. No doubt they have made some difficult decisions and they need to know you are one of the few who will faithfully stand with them. Secondly, get the wisdom of those around you before you make any decision. People need to know you are a team player if they are going to follow where you are going. Last but not least, honestly communicate with and encourage everyone you meet. If people know you have their best interest at heart they will trust that you are going to value their ideas and honor their input.

When it comes to leadership, there are not substitutes. Honor, integrity, communication and trust will unlock your full potential, and the full potential of those who follow you. If you lack any of the above, it will hang you on the gallows of self-interest. Manipulation of others for the purpose of self-advancement may be practiced in some circles, but nothing of lasting value is ever built when we stand on the backs and dreams of others in order to reach our own goals. The point being, true vision is always focused through the lens of humility and honor. If these have been missing in your life it has impacted you more than you realize.

If your leadership has been held up, gone unrecognized or simply been ignored, it could be related to those key issues just mentioned. You may have to go back and apologize to those you stepped on, or wounded. You may have to rebuild a few burned bridges so that important roads of destiny are reconnected. If you are serious about fulfilling your call to leadership than let nothing stand in your way. I believe this could be a turning point for many. All it takes is a decision to begin moving in the right direction and the rest will follow.

Now lead on…. and have a truly great day!

Ripple Effect

ripples

The U.S. standard railroad gauge, which is the distance between the rails, is four foot eight-and-one-half inches. Why such an odd number? Because that’s the way they built them in England, and engineers who had been educated under that English system built American railroads. So why did the English use that measurement? Because the people who built the pre-railroad tramways, all used that specific gauge.

They used the four foot eight-and-one-half inch distance between their wheels because the people who built the tramways used the same standards, pattern forms and tools they had used for building wagons. And yes, the wagon axels, and wheels in Europe, were all set on a standard gauge of four foot eight-and-one-half inches. They had been that way for as long as anyone could remember, and that exact gauge had been taught and passed down from one generation to the next for centuries.

The obvious question now is, “Why were wagons built to that specific scale?”, and the answer is amazingly simple. Europeans knew that any other size would not match the old wheel ruts in the roads they traveled on. That in turn would cause damage, a rough ride and very slow, very uncomfortable travel from one place to another. The growth and development of Europe would have slowed down considerably had they used any other wheelbase. The results of changing this standard gauge would have literally changed the entire history of modern civilization.

So who built these old rutted roads that were made of stone blocks, and have stood the test of time? The Rome Empire built the first long-distance highways in Europe. They were engineered for the benefit of their legions as they conquered the known world. The ruts were made by a thousand years of Roman war chariots rumbling over them. Four feet, eight-and-one-half inches was the exact width a chariot needed to be in order to accommodate two horses running side-by-side.

Think of it, a measurement made by some unknown chariot maker, 2500 years ago, accommodated two Roman warhorses and changed the course of the world. Because of this simple act, every living person on the face of the earth, and every nation on the planet, is still under the influence of the Roman Empire. Even though it vanished off the face of the earth more than 1500 years ago, we still feel the effect. I wonder if it ever crossed the mind of that chariot maker that one decision he made would somehow ripple across time and literally change the entire world?

Like it or not, we are all interconnected in more ways than we can imagine. Time and distance really do not separate us all that much. As we go our way each day, the decisions we make which seem harmless enough, can have far-reaching implications. A self-serving unkind word, a text while driving, an impatient attitude with a store clerk can be devastating at many levels. An outburst that needlessly criticizes another, drinking and driving, or a moment of arrogant disrespect can be multiplied down through time and literally change our world and everyone in it.

We do these things on a daily basis and think nothing of how they might be magnified. The ripple of anger you start may become a tsunami of rage that devastates the shore of many lives. That in turn changes them and impacts everyone they meet, which then rolls on through countless others. Consider this; in 1905 a young boy in Europe named Adolf is slapped across the face and continually humiliated and abused by his drunken father. He grows up, joins the army with this hatred seething in his heart and then Adolf Hitler finds  his place in world history. He becomes a world changer all because of the actions of another!

Perhaps it’s time for us to stop and think about how our actions do make a huge difference. It’s easy to be kind, when we could have been angry, or to show mercy, when judgment was in our heart. It’s better to speak the truth than lie and not take responsibility. When you take the time to measure things out correctly, and do what is right, it’s a world-changer. Until we get hold of this reality, we will continue acting as if we can do what we want and it makes no difference.

We are all like that unknown chariot maker. A simple, insignificant act today will have a ripple effect tomorrow, far beyond anything we can imagine. Like it or not, we are all interconnected in this magnificent dance of life. How we dance today will determine who is dancing, and what the music will be tomorrow. If you want the future to turn out for the best then dance well today, and tomorrow is sure to take care of itself!

Picking Up The Wrong Monkey

I learned a hard lesson the other day on why it is so important to think things through before you jump in to “get her done”. Not that I am opposed to helping when I can, but I have now accepted the fact that I don’t have the answer for everybody. Every opportunity which presents itself where I can assist is not necessarily my monkey to carry. There are some monkeys I simply need to let somebody else pick up. What just happened to me this week is a sad case in point.

About six months ago I upgraded my phone from a Nokia e72 to an LG Optimus E970. The Nokia was a good phone but I needed better access to the internet when traveling. I had just gotten the LG for my wife and it was wonderful. So, I bought another one on ebay and ported my number to the new phone. The old phone went in my top drawer and I left it inactive on my Straight Talk account as a backup.

About a two months ago one of the young men in my church broke his Nokia e72 and was without a phone. Thus, I thought it was a good idea when another of the young men said “Hey Pastor, why don’t you give Chris your old phone. His just died and he really needs one”. Without giving it a second thought I did a noble and good thing. I gave him my old phone. He was happy, I was happy and all the world was at peace once again.

Then the unthinkable happened. I dropped my new phone and the touch screen cracked. After a few frustrating days I knew I had to have a new phone so I went and bought one. The sales clerk easily made the switch to a new Galaxy S III and then tossed out the SIM card from my broken phone. However, at the last moment I decided to keep my old phone and I left the store with both. I was such a happy camper!

That evening, after considering the massive outlay of cash for the new phone, I decided to look into the price of repair for my LG. To my shock, I saw how reasonable it would be. Thus, the next day I mailed my old phone out to Arizona for repair and returned my new phone to the store.  Within minutes I got the cash credited back on my bank card and I happily headed out of the door.

However, something hit me when I was driving back home. I forgot to think through one minor but very important detail. My Nokia e72 was my backup phone and it was not on my account. When I shut down the new phone there was no back-up phone for the sales clerk to port my number to. He had not only deleted my phone, he had also deleted my phone number. It felt like the life was being sucked out of me as I realized I had just lost the number I had been using for the past 20 years!

“Why is that such a big deal?”, you may be asking? Well, this messed up all of my 1200 contacts. It impacted my business cards, letter head, security conformation texts, my bank accounts, credit cards, checking account, etc, etc, etc….  All of these are invalid now because the phone number connected to them is gone. Think of it, all texts, sms, and the like are now unable to find their target. Every app between my phone and computer is unconnected. Every program or account I have on line, every on line purchase, calendar sync, global contact, rocket lawyer contract and political official I know uses my old phone number. Beyond that, every family member, friend and fellow minister around the world are all being told “this number has been disconnected and is no longer in service”. Why? Because I did not take a moment think through what would happen when I gave my phone away!

One simple act that is not well thought out can ended up causing a massive amount of work and trouble. Doing what is good instead of what is best, can send our lives into a black hole of disconnected chaos that will have to be laboriously put back together. The point is that at times, it is best to just give things a bit more thought. Instead of rushing in to rescue every person from every need, think about it first. If you do, many of life’s great difficulties will be avoided. Living can then take on a majestic, peaceful rhythm that is pleasing in so many unsuspecting ways, when we just pause to consider the consequences.

How many monkeys have you picked up in life just because somebody had a need, and you had the answer? I have now learned that some answers are much better off being spoken by somebody else! I have also learned that the monkey you pick up today, that is not yours, will have the tendency to transform itself into a gorilla tomorrow. When all is said and done, it’s always best to pick up only the monkeys with your name on them. Once you have those in place, you will be able to help others pick up their monkeys without destroying all that holds meaning for you. Perhaps this would be a good week to do a monkey check in your life and let go of every one that does not have your name on it. You’ll be better off for it and so will everyone around you! 

Life Without Regret

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to live life in a way that was pleasing to you and to everyone around you? Don’t misunderstand me, I realize this is probably impossible in the world that we live. People have their own idea about how things should be and this lends itself to a great deal of controversy. Perhaps the best we can do is learn how to live our life in a way that helps others and works best for us. What I mean is, we need to live our life passionately and without regret.

That concept, living life without regret, seems like a foreign idea to many people. Let me assure you it certainly should not be that way. To get there we must move beyond the false belief that it is our responsiblity to make sure the people around us are happy. People are responsible for themselves in that department. If your joy depends on what I do, then you have left me in control of your life. In case you missed it, not having “self-determination” is about as unhelathy as it gets for everyone. This is what we call “co-dependency”. Do yourself a huge favor, grow up and learn to take control of your own life. It’s your train so you might as well drive it!

Once we get past the fear of making mistakes it is possible to move into a realm where each day can be lived with a sense of satisfaction, purpose and genuine fulfillment. Such a life begins when we find our purpose and our place of passion. Only those with purpose and passion live, I mean really live. The rest of humanity slogs along from day to day wondering why they are here and how much longer they will be stuck in the waiting room of life. They think that winning the lottery, getting a promotion or findinng that perfect “someone” will bring things together. What they fail to realize is that untill THEY are “together”, and have a vision of their own, there will always be more puzzle pieces than picture to their life.

Are you ready to cross over into your real life, the one you know you were created to live? If you said yes to that question then let me encourage you, be bold and begin to take a few risks. Get outside your comfort zone and learn what it means to walk the less traveled road. Rekindle the dream that is in your heart and begin to believe things can be different. Allow yourself the pleasure of making decisions and the joy of learning from life’s mistakes. Once you do you will never go back to your old standard. Take it from someone who has lived on both sides of this fence, the grass really is greener on the other side! To quote Jim Cook, a very wonderful man who is now in heaven “it’s amazing what you can do if you’ll only try”. Get out there today and try. You might just be surprised at how wonderful life really is!