May 28, 2007 Leadership Literature

Rob said, "Leadership books ad nauseum speak of leadership as a competence driven enterprise rather than an expression of character. Therefore, in my opinion, as leaders our ultimate leadership activity is the defining, cultivating, and sustaining of our inward self (Prov. 4:23). "

The book referred to the inward self as uncharted territory. I wonder. As Rob alludes, there is no shortage on Leadership books out there, almost as many as the Christian self help books on the market , I would suppose. From my experience, manyof them do focus on character in a rudimentary way.

Sometimes I wonder- of all the great leaders that might immediately spring to mind from History and from our own day, I wonder how many of them ever read a book on leadership. Perhaps they may have more likely read of character- in biographies and in the Bible, especially.

The call to leadership shares much with the call of Christ in every other phase of life. We must certainly study to show ourselves as approved workmen and have a sound estimate of our state of being. But I think this will likely manifest itself in a solid sense of who we are in Christ and move outward in our focus from that stance. One anotherness results.

In focusing on meeting human needs and others, we develop inner fortitude and passion. So character building is paradoxical. It must be intentional on one hand but non -deliberative in another sense. What do you think?
Anthony Foster - May 15, 2007 8:29 pm (3.1)

Reasons behind the criteria

A brief comment about an important point...Seems to me that the underlying Achilles heel of leadership is the propensity to take one's eyes off the pursuit of godly character in lieu of seeking to be a successful leader. If we are to "walk worthy of our calling", we must never compromise our integrity, no matter the cost.It is far better to walk away from a leadership role than compromise one's integrity, because you have invalidated your qualifications for leadership and broken trust when this is done.

If will be interesting to see how the book ultimately treats failure and success. I found the early material in the book fairly one dimensional. In my mind, a person can be a failure at being a leader at a given juncture and still be a great success in the eyes of God. The ends do not justify the means. It is better to walk away from a position than to compromise your convictions. Character is built by following God's way in God's time to God's glory.

I was recently reading how George Stephanopoulos rationalized Clinton's peccadillos during his first term in order to be a part of a common goal, a greater good. I do not believe it can be done in God's economy. I also think that character can be frittered away by small concessions. More on that later. We have to be faithful in the small, mundane things of life, like the ones you mentioned.

Anthony Foster - May 22, 2007 6:07 pm (15.5)

Comments on The Ascent of a Leader by Thrall, McNichol, and McElrath

The authors quote Robert Clinton on page 14 where he states that 70% of leaders do not finish well. He goes on to list 5 reasons that contribute to this shocking statistic.

Clinton's definition of "well"

Clinton’s six criteria are based on three sources: Self analysis, peer/follower analysis and adherence to professed beliefs. This indicates, internal, external subjective and external objective criteria have been considered, not just someone’s low opinion of themselves.

(1) Losing learning posture- This is a killer in all of life, and the nature of life is that we must continually be open to change- to rearrange and become all we can be. Complacency in this area will take you down, down, down. (2) Attractiveness of their character wanes- This one is problematic as it implies it is not their character itself but its attractiveness is at issue. That might say more about their followers than the leader in question. On the other hand, if character is indeed compromised, one abrogates one’s claim to leadership, in my view.

(3) They stop living by their convictions? Then they forfeit much. I almost said they forfeit their right to lead, but leadership is not a right. By grace this type of stumbling in the race may be corrected by encouragement and accountability from those the leader is in relationship with.

The next criteria are where I take some issue with Clinton’s premises. They put the focus on the leader and not the One who is the source of their calling.( 4) Failing to leave behind ultimate contributions smacks of a western modernist view of success and failure. I tend to question the standard by which successes are often measured. We must be concerned with a worthy walk and the glory of God in all things and let that drive our (5)notions of influence and destiny. The final criteria (6) of losing a vibrant relationship with God is a sound one and should be the best measure of a person’s finish.

Anthony Foster - May 24, 2007 12:13 pm (15.8.1)


I don't know whether to attribute the original saying to Swindoll, but I recall in his Study Developing your Serve he said something like: "If you want to see how well you are doing at developing a servant spirit, wait until you see how you respond when someone truly treats you like a servant." That has stayed with me for a long time, and is a measure of humility which we might apply to finishing well.

Anthony Foster - May 24, 2007 12:33 pm (15.9)

A Focused Life

Abook that the Lord used to impact the decisions that led to my pursuit of this program was Os Guinness' The Call. My mind was focused during the fairly intense and introspective study of this book. One set of questions particularly stuck with me in regard to the theme of finishing well. " Do you lead a saturated, overloaded, and fragmented life? Are you pulled around by the nose through appeals to need? Are you frustrated at yourself over the times the best in your life is diverted by the good? Do you long to know the overriding passion and purity of heart of willing one thing? Listen to Jesus of Nazareth; answer his call (181)."

This calling is the nexus where convictions and character coincide, I think. We often hear that we should "be sure of our call" in ministry, but I think finishing well is only possible if this clarity of vocation extends into all of your life. In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

Guinness gives several ways in which calling helps us finish well: "...Calling is the spur that keeps us journeying purposefully- and thus growing and maturing- until the very end of our lives... Calling helps us to finish well because it prevents us from confusing the temination of our occupations with the termination of our vocations...calling helps us finish well because it encourages us to leave the entire outcome of our lives to God (237-247).

As Guinness wrote so beautifully: "God's call to us is the unchanging and ultimate whence, what, why, and whither of our lives. Calling is a "yes" to God that carries a "no" to the chaos of modern demands. Calling is the key to tracing the story line of our lives and unriddling the meanings of our existence in a chaotic world" (180-181). That story line,especially the way the story ends, will be tied to maintaining that clear sense of calling, especially if, by God's grace, we make it to the time when our bodies start to fade, our prospects dim, and we start noticing that so many (perhaps even most) of the vital relationships that have sustained us will only be resumed in heaven.

Anthony Foster - May 28, 2007 3:20 pm (17.1)

Quenching creativity

I have never quite been in such a situation, perhaps because I have been called to creative vocations where a team, shared environment was absolutely paradigmatic to success. The focus was never creativity, nor fun, per se. It was rather about productivity and excellence and it was taken for granted that I as a leader would be managing creative talent.

Such an environment seeks to determine the strengths of the team member and allow them to shine in their performance of their work. It also requires that team members help one another to build up one another in areas where others are perhaps not so strong.

I can see that fear and loathing would ensue where people becomne self conscious and inauthentic in regard to what they are producing or the particular human needs they are meeting. Merit in the workplace should be based on proper motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic values.

I have had a number of bad bosses that I had to shelter my teams from along the way to keep the scenario alluded to in the book from occuring.

May 29, 2007 7:31 pm (

Both /and

Productivity and excellence were both demanded and a natural outgrowth of the synergy generated by putting the right creative team together. I do believe every human has a natural creative side whether they are creating spreadsheets or a sermon or a piece of sculpture. This is due to the presence of the imago Dei. Harnessing that kind of creative potential is an art in itself.

That energy feeds on itself with the right people in the right environment. The author would call this an environment of grace, and relationships of grace, and that is as good a name as any. One has to promote this intentionally and if the wrong people are in the mix, chaos can ensue.

So one has to hire the right personalities and talent and then "manage" that environment to instill a shared vision and passion for excellence. In that kind of environment, the whole (the team)is greater than the sum of the parts and ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

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