Archives For character-based leadership

Faith in Everyday Life

January 19, 2015

Are you the kind of person that believes that religion is like opinions… everyone has them, but the world’s a better place if we’d all keep ours to ourselves?

I’m not a fan of religion. I follow a person, Jesus, and try to conform my life to what his book says. Continue Reading…

Sources of Leadership

September 30, 2014

Even after almost 5 years, I still believe there are only 2 sources of leadership? What is the source of your influence?

Continue Reading...

I recently read a post on leadership titled “Why Leadership Training Doesn’t Work” by Geoff Surratt. He talks about two findings he and “church leaders” have discovered about leadership and leadership training.

  1. “It turns out some people don’t make good leaders. Not everyone is a leader.”
  2. “[L]eadership classes don’t develop leaders. At the end of six weeks (or nine weeks or two years), students become graduates, not necessarily leaders.”

I agree with both of his main premises. Leadership classes do not develop leaders, and some people don’t make good leaders.*

But, this post exemplifies how the church misses the boat on leadership. In short, I agree with everything he said, as long as you define “leader” as the one who is “in charge.”  But is that the best definition of “leader?”

What if leadership is nothing more than intentional influence? What if great leaders are those who intentionally influence great numbers of people to accomplish great things?

People can be “in charge” and never lead.  We who write about leadership often refer to those in-charge (whether leaders or non-leaders) as “managers.”  Managers manage. It’s not good or bad, it’s often necessary.  But management is not leadership.

Leaders always influence others, whether in-charge or not. At our core, we influence. We can’t help it; we were created both to influence others and to be influenced. Once we understand God intended us to relate to one another, influence one another, serve one another, we become responsible for the type of influence we have on others.

In the church, because we often talk about “the leader” as the one who is “in-charge,” we separate the position from the person. We tell people to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23), yet little of this relates to being in charge.  We disconnect the simple fact that one of the greatest reasons for doing demonstrating this fruit is so that others “might see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” (Matt 5:16)

We who believe in Christ are all called to glorify Christ. We are all told to work out our salvation. As we work out our salvation we develop ourselves as people who intentionally influence others.  What else could you call that person but a leader?

Even if I’m no good at being “in charge,” I’m responsible for how my life looks to others. As a Christian in the world but not of the world, I’m called to be as good a leader (intentional influencer) as I can be. I should find opportunities to develop as a leader all throughout the church, but it seems the focus there is to get me to join someone else in what they’re doing, rather than find that thing I’m best equipped and most energized to do. I’m constantly either being called to follow, or to decide to be in charge of some sanctioned activity that conforms to some pre-conceived model.

My dream is to find a church where each leader is launched in their own leadership in their own sphere of influence. Imagine a church where members and staff understood clearly that “equipping” means training everyone to be the leader God intended them to be!

We are all leaders. We all influence. And the church, of all communities, should be where we are equipped and challenged to be the leader Christ created us to be, with our kids, with our coworkers (21st century “neighbors”) as well as wherever we’re called, even to the ends of the earth.

Do you feel mobilized and equipped to find your mission?  How can I help you?

Photo © berc –

* The point of this authors post was about how Jesus trained leaders.  It’s a great call to a mentor or life-based leadership development model based on the life and methods of Christ.  I don’t want to take away from the author’s insights calling us to leave program-based training in place of a life-based model. 

My dad’s name is Jack Henry. Born the 3rd of 4 to a couple in western Pensylvania, his dad worked in the coal mines when he could but he was sick so much that everyone in their family had to pitch in. His older brother by 7 years moved away when Jack was pretty young so Dad threw papers and ran errands and had other odd jobs that helped support the family.

They ended up in Akron, OH and at age 17, he faked his age and got a job with a trucking company. For reasons we never fully knew, he joined the military in 1948 and spent a couple of years in Germany right before the Korean War. After the army, back at the trucking company, he started to move up in the union, which was a career strategy of sorts in the mid 1950’s in northeast Ohio.

In 1957, he married Shirley Henry after dating a few years, and shortly thereafter, I came into the picture. My father has always done what needed to be done and he worked 2 and 3 jobs at the same time he went to Akron U at night for 7 years to complete his degree. He was also quite a driver. I remember 5 different trophies we had from different truck driving rodeo’s in the late 1950’s. As kids, we broke a couple of these during pillow fights in the den.

He also became the secretary of the Akron Teamsters Union, and around 1960 he tells a story of attending a union dinner and looking critically at the people who held the positions of leadership in the union. He decided that night that he didn’t want to end up like them. He didn’t respect their leadership or their lifestyle. His future wouldn’t be in the union. Risking ridicule, he pursued a management position at the trucking company and became a safety supervisor. About a year later, a $5 per week promotion moved us from Akron, OH to Chattanooga, TN, which was culture shock in the early 1960’s. But Dad did what he had to do. Promotions required transfers and if he was going to move the family ahead, he had to move the family ahead.

We moved again in a year to Nashville and less than 4 years later to Louisville, KY. In 1969, we moved to Atlanta, GA in June and to Memphis, TN in August, right before I started 7th grade. Mom made Dad promise that we’d stop moving when I started high school and he kept his promise by 3 days. He had to keep it again, passing up an opportunity or two in the early 70’s.

Dad built a great business in Memphis in the 1970’s. He was VP of a small trucking company that prospered throughout the decade. People both enjoyed working there and worked hard. Everyone had stories about working for “Mr. Henry.” Everyone called him Mr. Henry. To this day, if anyone calls me Mr. Henry, I simply ask, “Where?”

Working around the company throughout high school, he would assign me to supervisors, each with the freedom to make sure I worked. There would be no special treatment for the boss’s kid. About the time I turned 18, his company voted to go union and he made a deal with another Terminal Manager in town. That man’s son would go to work at Dad’s company and I’d go to work at the other company. It became a great lesson for me. My father’s standard was pretty high and I found it easy to do a good job for the new company.

At age 55, he took his life savings and invested it in a trucking company of his own which has been in business and profitable for 25 years. His greatest pride has been building a self-supporting organization that gave people an opportunity to earn a living. Profit is necessary for that. So is quality. My Dad had a career that helped others feed their families, send kids to school, build houses, fund charities, and do other great works. Every life is part of this bigger picture, creating value for future generations. My dad taught me to be responsible about my contribution, making sure I give more than I take so there is room for society to prosper.

He went out on a limb with that company and moved my family, and his first grandchild back to Memphis to work for the family business. Dad shouldered a lot of responsibility in those early days that I never gave him enough credit. We tried twice for me to work for his company, the first time it lasted 6 and a half years and the second time only 2 years. It’s hard for oldest sons and dads or oldest daughters and moms. So I’ve been out of the business since 1996 and the business is now under different ownership.

As I look back I see the one overriding principle my father taught me: who you are matters. It’s much more important than what you say or what you intend. It’s much more important than who you know or how much stuff you have. Jack Henry always did what he had to do. He sat at the hospital for hours never leaving my side in the hours after a bad car accident in 1979. He fought me all throughout my teen years and my early adult years. He took his responsibility to raise his children and provide for his family seriously. He took seriously his responsibility to have a profitable business so that people could grow. He lived his life doing what he believed he owed society; taking care of his family and making sure they were productive members of society. My brothers and I have all been pretty successful, but the sheer force of who Dad is has forged us to be who we are.

Your who-you-are is the only message you have. It’s the only story anyone will remember of your life. My father set the standard in our family. His “who-you-are” wasn’t what I thought it should be so I spent several years in rebellion. Dad isn’t perfect – no one is – but he is who he is. I didn’t understand until recently, but his life has shown me that who you are matters. Bring the best “who-you-are” to the world and make an impact that will last. My life is shaped by his life.

Thanks Dad. I appreciate your generous spirit, your loyalty and your commitment to fairness and responsibility. You blessed me and my family with your life. I love you.

Impact is defined as strking one thing with another; influence, effect, the force exerted by a new idea.  Impact is difference.

Steve Jobs famously said, “We want to put a dent in the universe.”

As someone who believes that Jesus is who He claimed to be, it follows that I would believe the Bible.  The Bible has quite a bit to say about our impact.  Some of the verses that inform my idea of impact include:

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Matthew 5:16 Let your light shine in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.

Matthew 28:18-20 All authority on heaven and earth has been granted to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all men baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; teaching them to do all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

So I’ve been wondering about my impact as a believer.  How am I doing laying up treasure in heaven?  When I get to heaven, will I have done the best I could?  Certainly not.  I’m aware of too many times when I could have made a more positive difference. I’m aware of more times I could have gone to the trouble to serve someone, or sacrifice something in the hope that I was doing something to glorify Christ.

So for the next few months on this blog, I’m going to share my thoughts on my relationship with Christ, what I learn about Him and what I think He’s telling me to do.  At the core is my understanding of that Great Commandment from Matthew 28. Jesus has all authority. I’m to go, and make disciples.  Where and to whom do I go?  How do I make disciples? Must I look like a preacher?  Must I be on staff with a church?  Must I quit my job? Do I stand on the street corner and shout? Do I sell all of my possessions and move to some foreign country?

What type of impact am I to have?  Do I make good use of the resources God’s provided? Or do I fall short?

My goal is to produce a series of articles that may become some shared learning on how at least one Christian in the workplace can make an eternal difference.

Note: Maybe you’re certain that my assumption that I’m going to heaven is arrogant. That thought is not based on my opinion, but on some clearly stated things in the Bible and I’d be happy to share that with you.  Simply leave a comment below and I can explain further.

Photo © frenta –