Hang Loose

On a recent family vacation, we had the opportunity to visit Hawaii. For those who have seen this place, you know how majestic and powerful its beauty is. I love the beach and the ocean. So, for me, Hawaii was a very special treat. One expression there is shaka, or hang loose. Over time, these words have expanded to convey more than just a surfer mindset, but a way of life as well. For some, hanging loose may be a state of mind, but I find my ability to find rest and peace, even when in Hawaii, comes best through my relationship with Christ in three primary ways: 

Faith: We all place our faith in something. For some it’s their money, their power, their position and/or their popularity; and there was a time, I was definitely caught in this trap. However, it’s foolish to place our faith in things that fade, rust, and wither (Psalm 119:37). For these are temporal, but placing our faith in Jesus Christ is rock solid and eternal. 

Hope: What do we hope for and what is the foundation of our hopes? Having our hopes in mere wishes and dreams can leave us discouraged and distressed if things don’t turn out like we planned. However, when our hope is in Christ, we are surrendered to His plans for our life. This allows us to pursue our hopes, dreams and life with a very different goal in mind. For when we surrender and realize outcomes are ultimately in His hands, we gain greater confidence in knowing it’s not all up to us and to begin desiring His hopes, dreams and direction for our lives, rather than just our own (Proverbs 10:28). 

Trust: What can we trust in these days? It can be difficult to be sure. People, the media, and even the government can’t seem to be trusted 100 percent. However, there is hope – God (Psalm 71:1). For He can be trusted forever and for always. He always keeps His Word, always tells the truth and always loves us. He is our only firm foundation.

Application: “Ohana” – Ephesians 2:19
When I was in Hawaii, I learned various Hawaiian words. One of my favorites is Ohana, which means family. This is because my family means so much to me, and I have many hopes and dreams for my family. I also desire to be a great father and a great husband and even though I may fall short of this goal routinely, I know in Christ, He will help me accomplish it and finish well. However, the word also expresses a broader sense of family. This is like our Christian family. For when we visited Hawaii, we also went to church and shared in worship with other body of believers there. We were immediately connected, because of our faith, hope and trust in Jesus, and we were family. So, no matter where any believer in Christ may go, we are never alone, or on our own. We have Him and it’s with Him, I discover true peace nothing can match. For with Him, everything is made better, even my trip to Hawaii.

Second Wave 

Jack Welch has been quoted to say, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others“. However, how many organizations have floundered and failed due to poor leadership development? Three strategies can help protect this from happening:

Preparation: Failure can happen when there is no adequate succession plan in place. For example, something may happen to a key leader, employees can retire and/or transfer, and if proper preparations haven’t been made, and no adequate replacements can be found, an organization will most like meander. To compound the issue, poorly prepared leaders might be promoted putting the long term prosperity of that business in jeopardy. The solution to these problems is to always be in preparation mode (Proverbs 24:27). This involves ensuring the next generation of leaders are never ignored through continual training and developmental efforts, and to always be on the lookout for external talent. 

Validation: There are a myriad of examples illustrating the pitfalls failing to equip the next generation of leaders can cause, but one of the most dangerous to avoid is that of entitlement. This is when a person may feel entitled to the next promotional opportunity simply because they have the tenure, or because their boss promised them the role without question. This however is very harmful and dangerous to any organization, especially if the business feels obligated to promote such a person, even though they aren’t qualified. In short, positions of advancement should never be obtained by entitlement, but rather presented as opportunities to be earned. This ultimately benefits all involved because the person is validated in earning the position, rather than handed it. So, as leaders we must work to ensure our teams know promotions must be interviewed for and are never guaranteed, but earned (2 Timothy 2:6).      

Qualification: Another pitfall to avoid is paying too much attention to the “squeaky wheel”. These folks aren’t necessarily not qualified, but they are the loudest in wanting more. Why is this dangerous? Shouldn’t we make our desires for advancement known? Yes, but sometimes the quiet ones, who are reliable, dependable, high performing and also qualified can get overlooked because the louder ones get the first look. For a business or team to be successful long term, we must always be seeking the most qualified, not the loudest. For we may risk not putting the most competent and committed person in the role in order to satisfy, perhaps temporarily, the one always seeking more and gone once the next best thing comes along (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

Application: “Success In Succession” – Proverbs 27:23

There is great wisdom and advantage in intentionally integrating succession planning in all we do as leaders and business owners. If we don’t, we may quickly realize we are on a sinking ship of our own creation. For as John Maxwell has wisely advised, “everything rising and falls on leadership“. So, let us be wise in our development of the talent on our teams.

Heart Of The Matter

When we look in a mirror we get to see the reflection of our physical self. This is very helpful for our reflection helps us see what’s going on with our outward appearance. Examining the condition of our heart however can be a bit more difficult. For there is no mirror and we can be unaware at times at those things out of place. This is why it’s vital to seek God and surrender all the misplaced areas He reveals to us. It’s also beneficial to stop and examine our behavior and thinking as we live out our days: 

Motivations: Considering the motivation behind a particular thought, action and pursuit is very helpful in providing a look at our heart (Proverbs 21:2). When we prayerfully consider what is truly motivating particular patterns in our life, there will no doubt be moments of disgust. For perhaps we get to see the truly shallow and selfish parts of our nature. Whenever God allows me to see some of my motivations, I can’t help but fall to my knees, repent and appeal to Him to restore His motives in my life.  

Intentions: What is the difference between a motivation and intention? Intentions are what we have determined to do. Motivations are our inner promptings. Therefore, as we check our motivations, we must also examine why we intend to do, or say something. What are we trying to accomplish? Motivations and intentions can be both good and negative. Lives surrendered to God are transformed, and thankfully our motivations and intentions become directed by Him (Psalm 37:31). However, it is a sobering reminder to the condition of our flesh when we see how quickly our intentions can be twisted for selfish purposes.    

Actions: Our actions provide the most vivid reflection of our heart. For this is the final outcome of our motivations and intentions – it’s what we actually do. Again, under God, our actions are used for His purposes and good works, but when driven by our flesh, no matter how grand they may appear, they fail in comparison to the most humble of Godly actions (James 2:24).

Application: “Reflections” – Acts 3:19
Admittedly, I don’t always like what I see when I stop to consider my motivations, intentions and actions. For if I’m completely honest, they can all be selfishly motivated at times. However, I am always grateful for the areas He allows me to see and surrender. For in doing so, the more He restores.

Tar Babies

The old American folktale of Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox tells of how Brer Fox once tricked Brer Rabbit by making a doll made of tar. As Rabbit bounced by to speak to the tar baby, he was aggravated by how the doll never spoke back. As a result, he ends up punching the doll and getting all entangled and trapped in the tar – just as Brer Fox had hoped he would. Likewise, there are many “traps” out there set to get us stuck:

Fears: Who hasn’t had to deal with fears? Either fear of rejection, circumstances, situations and countless other justifiable reasons. However, as Christians we are consistently assured there is no need for fear and that we are to be courageous (Isaiah 41:10). Thankfully, by God’s grace, there can be no courage if it weren’t for the existence of fear. So, he knows our temptation to fear and promises in spite of its reality, He is even more powerful to enable us to overcome all our fears.

Doubts: We doubt often times due to a lack of trust. However, God has never and will never turn away from His promises, for He declares He will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). When we take Him up on this promise, we realize we never had any reason to doubt in the first place. It’s the first step of faith to trust without seeing and in that trust, we are blessed. 

Greeds: We can all struggle from time to time with wanting more, and that’s not necessarily bad. For we may want more faith, more wisdom, more opportunity and more hope. However, it’s when our wants turn to selfish motives that we get tripped up (Matthew 23:12). However, a spirit of humility defuses greed because as CS Lewis once said, “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourself less”. Therefore, it’s a difficult thing to be humble and greedy at the same time. 

Application: “Cling Free” – Galatians 5:1
Perhaps this world and our enemy has tar babies set up all over to catch us up in their trap. However, in Christ, we don’t have to be lured in. Instead, we have been set free from such entanglements to live life abundantly in Christ and for Christ. So, next time we see the trapping of fear, doubt and greed pass our way, let us rely on the promises of our Lord and pass them by with an attitude of gratitude for Him making us all the wiser and freer.

Effective Leadership Excels In Others  

There are various styles, and interpretations of leadership, and I do not claim to be an authority on the subject, but merely a student. For it seems the learning and areas to improve are never ending – and that’s a good thing. I have however, enjoyed the experiences of watching and learning from the differing styles of leadership I have had in both corporate America, the church and small business; and I have been able to glean that the best leaders seem to have an ability to address and impact key three areas:  

Elevation: To elevate someone isn’t necessarily promoting them, more than it is having the desire and ability to develop them. Truly impactful leaders look for opportunities to develop the people under their authority. They seek to build relationships with their team, identify their strengths and areas for improvement and then take action to elevate their people through intentional training, coaching and development (Titus 2:7-8). The best leaders resemble  caring parents who don’t leave their childrens learning to happen stance. Instead, they seek to provide quality education, mentorship and support to ensure they mature well. Likewise, leaders care to get involved and develop their teams.

Encouragement: Without encouragement, we are left with assumptions. These might be correct, or incorrect ideas we have about our job performance and the quality of our work. However, with feedback, whether it is corrective, instructive, or reassuring, it can always be delivered in an encouraging way that helps everyone gain clarity in knowing where they stand in the mind of the leader (Ephesians 4:29). This is a powerful gift leaders have and can choose to give. If a leader rarely communicates with their people, they unknowingly create instability within their teams. For their people never truly know where they stand, which can lead to developmental stagnation within an organization. However, with feedback unified with encouragement, team members receive the opportunity to change and improve, thus affecting their overall performance and confidence. As a result, this has a multiplying impact on a team’s overall success. 

Elimination: It is easy for a leader to be sucked into the “ivory tower” syndrome. This is when they lose connectivity with the front line and begin making changes and developing strategies in a vacuum with other internalized leaders. However, the most effective leaders, never lose touch with the front line and realize their success and the organizations success is directly tied to the ones engaging with the clients, making the sales and delivering the service. Therefore, effective leaders invite feedback, ideas and suggestions from their teams and never forget, that one of their primary roles is to eliminate problems for their teams and remove stumbling blocks so that their teams can be most effective. The team isn’t there to serve the leader as much as the leader is there to serve their team (Acts 20:35).

Application: “Transforming Me to We” – Philippians 2:3  
Martin Luther King, Jr., a great role model in effective leadership, once said, “Anyone can be great because anyone can serve“. When leaders break from thinking it’s all about the me, and begin to embrace their true value in making it all about the we, then their teams begin to be transformed one person at a time; and as teams transform, organizations transform and when organizations unite in their ability to serve, even communities can be transformed – and that’s a business model anyone can be proud to be a part of!