Are you an Anonymous Leader?

I love reading books on leadership. And recently, The Anonymous Leader: An Unambitious Pursuit of Influence by Ralph Mayhew, a pastor in Australia came across my desk. It is an excellent and convicting book about being a biblical leader, from a fresh angle. I asked Ralph to be my guest blogger today. His post gives you a glimpse into his book. I highly recommend it.

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When it comes to leading people well, a leader can experience a lot of pressure. Every leader feels the weight of the role, and add to this the sometimes ruthless expectations of followers and it can sadly be enough to convince some out of the call entirely.

Leadership, however, is not about us, it’s about how God chooses to use the platform of His influence upon which we stand. Our ears should not be attuned to the expectations of our followers, but the expectations of the one who gave us the platform.

That platform belongs to God and is a gift God gives to every leader entrusting us to steward it in line with his will. The platform is different to the stage of leadership. The platform is where God’s business is conducted, as opposed to the stage where a leader seeks to pursue their ambition of becoming great and increasing their own influence.

Christian leadership has always meant to be about God’s agenda. As we read words like what John the Baptist said ‘He must become greater and I must become less.’ (Jn 3:30) we are beckoned into anonymity. It begins to dawn on us as Jesus washes His disciples feet, that occupying God’s platform of influence, does not require our greatness to be known, but God’s. Leading in the Kingdom of God requires us to become invisible, anonymous, transparent.

Transparency is a great metaphor for Christian leadership. If a leader is able to cast vision, create community, challenge culture, instill values, navigate change and inspire people, all by enabling people to look toward them and be caught in God’s influence, then they have fulfilled John the Baptist’s words.

The Anonymous Leader does this, powerfully influencing others as they align their influence to God’s. They realize that through their influence God’s influence is actually coming to bear on a person’s life. This kind of leader recognizes that leadership is never about them, but all about how they steward God’s platform, which they occupy.

As a leader relinquishes their personal ambitions and strives for anonymity, they truly can embrace the leadership platform God has gifted them with. In doing so the five components of leadership present in ever leader can be stewarded toward anonymity and Kingdom advancement, and away from selfish ambitious desires that lurk in the spirit of us all. Excellent self-leadership begins to see a leader’s passion migrate toward wisdom and away from recklessness. Their trust builds toward integrity and hypocrisy decreases. Their invincibility is ushered into and grounded in humility, leaving their pride to starve. Their confidence is nurtured into security, reducing the pull of insecurities. And their commitment is driven into a depth of resilience and away from shallowness.

The Anonymous Leader constantly strives for wisdom, integrity, humility, resilience and security to grow in their lives, knowing that those they lead and the Kingdom of God in which they lead, will be enriched and benefited because of it.

-Ralph Mayhew, author of The Anonymous Leader: An unambitious pursuit of influence; available at www.theanonymousleader.comHe also blogs

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9 Ways to Respond to the Church Critic

One well-worn adage reads, “The two things you can’t avoid in life are death and taxes.” As a Pastor, I’d like to suggest two more for those in ministry. Two things a pastor can’t avoid: people being late to the Sunday service and…critics. I’ve served in full-time ministry for 35 years and I’ve experienced my share of critics. I’ve responded well to some and not-so-well to others. And I’ve learned 9 ways that have helped me respond better to the church critic.

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9 Ways to Respond to the Church Critic.

  1. Give them your ear, but within reason. Don’t allow someone to destroy you with caustic criticism.
  2. Let your body language communicate that you are truly trying to understand.
  3. Avoid an immediate retort such as “Yea but,” or “You’re wrong,” or some other defensive response.
  4. Breath this silent prayer, “Lord, give me grace to respond and not react.”
  5. Before responding take a few moments to check what you’re about to say. Abraham Lincoln used to suggest counting to 100 when you get angry. That may a bit of overkill, but he is on to something.
  6. Look for the proverbial ‘grain of truth’ in the criticism and act upon it accordingly.
  7. If you see more than a grain of truth and you can’t process it alone, seek feedback from the safe person in your life. (see my post on What to Look for in a Safe Person).
  8. Ask God to keep you approachable to your critics (within reason). However, you probably wouldn’t want to vacation with them. 🙂
  9. Learn from your critics on how best to deliver criticism to others. When someone delivers criticism that you received well, ask yourself what about how they criticized you made it easier to receive. For those who don’t criticize well, avoid their tactics.

What has helped you deal with the church critic?

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5 Proven Ways to a Better Brain in 2016

God created a magnificent part of our body, the brain, as our command and control center. With 100 billion brain cells, it weighs a mere two to three pounds, yet it require 20% of our body’s energy. Since God expects us to take care of bodies (1 Corinthians 6.19-20) it naturally follows that we should take care of our brain, since it’s part of our body. How do we do that? As you think about how to make 2016 a great year, consider these 5 proven ways to a better brain in 2016.

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5 Proven Ways to a Better Brain in 2016

  1. Fertilize it with the brain’s Miracle-Grow.
    • For years research has shown that exercise benefits our body. But recent research has discovered that it benefits our brains as well. When we exercise it causes our brains to release a protein called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which has been called the Miracle-Gro for the brain. It encourages new neuronal growth and protects brain cells from stress. To maximize BDNF, the experts recommend that you exercise at 60-75% of your maximum heart rate for 30 minutes 3-5 times each week.
  2. Strengthen your brain’s muscles with mental stimulation.
    • The brain is like a muscle. The old adage, ‘use or lose it’ applies to our brains as well as to our physical muscles. And the best way to strengthen it is to challenge yourself mentally, outside your normal mental challenges. As a pastor, I read a lot of biblically based books. Although that challenges my mind, I also read in other fields, specifically neuroscience, which challenges my thinking. So to maximally exercise your brain, chose mental tasks that are novel or outside your normal mental routines.
  3. Sleep your way to a better brain.
    • Often we try to get more out of our day by skimping on sleep. But sleep is a powerful brian booster. It benefits us by improving mood, enhancing creativity, increasing our ability to pay attention, and by clearing out our brain’s toxins while we sleep. Read more about the benefits of sleep here.
  4. Stomp out excessive amounts of the brain shrinker, cortisol.
    • Cortisol is called the stress hormone and is secreted by our adrenal glands that lie atop our kidneys. We need cortisol to help us deal with challenges and crises and to help us pay attention. But when we live under constant stress, cortisol actually causes part of our brains to shrink, especially the memory center called the hippocampus. So, managing stress if vital to a healthy brain. Learn here 10 ways to manage stress.
  5. Feed it with a brain healthy diet.
    • Too much sugar and fat can actually inhibit production of BDNF (see number 1 above). However, a healthy diet that limits refined sugar and saturated can benefit your brain. While a brain healthy diet limits those two, it should also include elements of what is now called the MIND diet proven to help keep your brain healthy: lean proteins, healthy fats, beans, whole grains, and fruits and nuts. Taking a fish oil supplement can also help.

So, as you look to make 2016 a great year, why not resolve to keep a healthy brain.

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Leading in Turbulent Times: 4 Essentials

If you are a leader, you will face turbulence in your ministry or organization. Sometimes the turbulence feels so intense that leading seems impossible. If you’re currently facing turbulent times in your role, consider what one of the most revered men in history did when he faced such times.

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King David constantly faced turbulence as he led. When King Saul died, Israel faced a leadership future fraught with obstacles. I Chronicles 12 describes how many groups stepped up to help David make this transition. The Scriptures describe one particular group, called the men of Issachar, in this way.

  • (they) understood the times and knew what Israel should do — 200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command…. (v. 32)
  • All these were fighting men who volunteered to serve in the ranks. They came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over all Israel. (v. 38)

This group modeled what every leader must embody during turbulent times.

  • they understood the times: they accurately perceived reality.
  • they knew what to do: they knew the steps they must take.
  • they were fully determined to make David king: their passion compelled them forward.

From the men of Issachar’s example, we can learn four essentials necessary for good leadership in turbulent times.

  1. Clearly define reality.
  2. Shape a vision in response to the difficulty.
  3. Develop a coherent, practical strategy.
  4. Implement your strategy with passion and courage.

What has helped you lead better during turbulent times?

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Shadow Beliefs in a Leader: Clues to Yours

Kevin Cashman wrote an outstanding book on leadership called Leadership from the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life. In his book he writes about conscious beliefs and shadow beliefs. He defines a shadow belief as a belief we hold deep inside, outside of our conscious awareness. He provides insight about how to discover those beliefs.

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He contends that these beliefs often hinder leaders from being their best. For example, one shadow belief might be that subtle voice inside that constantly says, “You must perform better than everybody else for people to like you.” For me, one shadow belief I discovered was this: “Everybody around me needs to be happy for me to be happy. Therefore, I must try to make everybody happy.” Years ago that belief stifled my joy and peace as I tried to lead our church.

Cashman says, however, that we must bring those shadow beliefs into the light so that we can become our best as leaders. He gives seven clues that can bring these shadow beliefs to light.

  1. If other people often give us feedback inconsistent with how we see ourselves, a shadow is present.
  2. When we feel stuck or blocked with a real loss as to what to do next, a shadow is holding us back.
  3. As strengths become counterproductive, some hidden dynamics need to surface.
  4. When are are not open to new information, new learning, or other people’s views, a shadow is limiting us.
  5. If we react to circumstances with emotional responses disproportionate to the situation, we are right over the target of a shadow belief.
  6. When we find ourselves forcefully reacting to the limitations of others in a critical, judgmental way, we are often projecting our shadow onto others.
  7. If we often experience pain, trauma, or discomfort in our body, a shadow belief may be attempting to rise to the surface to seek reconciliation.

As I’ve faced my shadow beliefs, I’ve experienced greater peace in my life and become a more productive leader.

How about you? Are any shadow beliefs dogging your leadership?

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