On Effective Leadership

On Effective Leadership

How to lead in a fast-changing world. 

This is a very simple guide to effective leadership, with effective being defined as “successful in producing beneficial results”. I deliberately switched the word beneficial for the word intended because many times, in this fast-changing world, our original intentions need refining as well. It is possible to go seek something and find out, in the process of seeking it, that it is not the outcome we really want not need. Much has been said about the agility required in today’s environment. I have realized that an agility of objective is just as important as an agility of execution.

A lot has been written and said about leadership, so much in fact that it’s confusing. This guide does not try to better them. This is simply my personal approach to getting things done in a team, and it follows my penchant for simplification, some would say oversimplification, because it is designed to be easy to understand across a team. 

Here is my leadership framework:

IMG_1053.jpeg

The Leader

At the center of the framework is the Leader, the primary agent for progress in a team. A leader takes on the responsibility of causing the team to a better place. I think it is important to be clear that the leader does not solely bring the team to a better place. Getting there, that better place, is a team effort. Saying that a leader causes it means he or she gives rise to the team actions that result in the outcome. 

The Three Core Abilities

To lead effectively, a Leader must have the following abilities:

  1. Clarity: Clarity refers to the ability to define and communicate the shared values and compelling mission that leads to the attainment of a great vision 
  2. Competence: Competence refers to the ability to bring together a team of people who are purpose-driven, principles-led, and performance-oriented, and to harmonize them into living out the values, pursuing the mission, and realizing the mission the team shares. 
  3. Capital: Capital refers to the ability to marshal and manage the resources we deploy to pay for the necessary human, financial, and social costs. Capital will always be finite. The more resources, and even more, the better the stewardship of the resources, the more effective the leader will be. 

When Clarity and Capital combine, we have Focus. Channeling our human, financial, and social resources at a very clearly defined outcome leads to benefits such as alignment, less waste, and a strong brand. 

When Capital and Competence combine, we have Productivity. Our resources and our skills together produce good things. This helps us ship out products and services, helps get things done, and helps us do these things in an efficient manner. 

When Clarity and Competence combine, we end up with Dynamism. Dynamism is defined as:

The quality of being characterized by vigorous activity and progress.

When a leader and his team are very clear about what the want to accomplish and have the skills to make it happen, including the necessary collaboration skills, this leads to highly-energized way of working that is not only exciting but gains momentum as it continues. This momentum triggers a virtuous cycle, as it leads to great progress, making the vision, mission and values more real and more achievable, leading to more capital coming in (in different forms), leading to more excitement for the team that translates to even more energy. 

I want to spend a little more time with this one. 

Dynamism in a team is a highly-prized quality but for some reason leaders continue to ignore the factors that lead to Clarity and Competence. Instead of clarifying further the vision, mission, and values, we tend to bloat them with dogma, tradition, and conflicting interests. Instead of ensuring purposefulness, we are busy propping up the past. Instead of principles, we end up with policies. Instead of performance, we are distracted by politics. 

I will write about the abilities of Clarity, Competence, and Capital in more detail, but for now let me leave you with this: Be a dynamic, productive, focused person; and surround yourself with dynamic, productive, and focused people. I can’t think of a simpler leadership hack than that. I am privileged to be surrounded by such people, and that is an earned privilege for deliberately making sure I am dynamic, productive, and focused. You will attract more of what you are. #DB

What is a Spiritual Man?

What is a Spiritual Man?

This is not a theological article. It is simply my personal thoughts during my devotions.

Yasmin, and I were talking about a simple question on the drive to Clark from Subic. That question was: What does it mean to be a Christian? Thinking back to it, I think “simple” isn’t the best word to describe it, when it’s really more a “central” question, a question so important to know the answer to if one is to follow Christ. 

I thought about that question this morning in my devotions, but given my lack of mental power, I’m treating it the way I treat everything: moving away from never-ending intellectualising of a concept and concentrating my thoughts on how it can be applied and practiced.

What is a Christian Spiritual Man? There are many people who say they’re not religious but spiritual. I would respect this answer more if many of the people I’ve asked, “What do you mean by spiritual?” could answer it more meaningfully. But many times it’s a cop-out given by someone who is actually very minimally spiritual and incredibly materialistic. I wanted to learn for myself, in my simplified way, what is a Christian Spiritual man?

I ended up with these three indicators:

  1. Someone who has received Christ
  2. Someone who is led by the Holy Spirit
  3. Someone who produces the Fruit of the Spirit

Bellow are my thoughts on the three points.

Has received Christ

What does it mean to receive Christ?

  • Receive Him as savior (I am damned without you)
  • Receive Him as lover (I am alone without you)
  • Receive Him as provider (I have nothing without you)

I thought about how I can go through the day, in fact, most days, and not acknowledge my reliance on God for salvation, love, and provision. This shows clearly how un-spiritual a person I am. In fact, I would be lying if I ever said, “I am not religious. I am spiritual.” when the fact is I am neither. The more honest assessment is “I am very temporal.” as seen by what I m preoccupied with most. But a Christian recognizes this, and sees it as further proof of my need for a savior, that even in my best efforts, I am nowhere near as spiritual as I want to be nor need to be. When I realize this, and I am reminded of this almost daily, I do what Christians do: I repent and turn back to Christ, putting my trust in his salvation, love, and provision once more.

Is led by the Holy Spirit

  • The phrase “led by the Spirit” occurs only twice in the New Testament (in the context of battling with sin)
  • Walking in the Spirit means NOT walking in legalism nor licentiousness, which are both self-centred, but following the teachings of Christ, which does not merely ask the question, “Is this good for me?”, but goes beyond the satisfaction of the self, asking, “Does this please God?” and “Does this love others?”

I’ve always wondered about teachings connected to the Holy Spirit, particularly those about the Power of the Holy Spirit, the Speaking of Tongues, and what it exactly means to be “led by the Spirit”. I think most of my questions are the result of not knowing enough, from lack of knowledge, which is why I’m taking the time to study for myself what the Bible has to say on the topic. I do have to admit that I don’t understand many of what preachers say about the Holy Spirit, and worse, I don’t know how to apply it to my daily living. As I learn more, I am sure I’ll be able to improve my understanding in this area. To simplify it for myself, for now, instead of focusing on the more magical teachings on this subject, expecting some zap of power, some electric buzz, to help me do the right thing, I’m focusing on two questions:

  1. What is the leading of the Spirit, as seen in the instructions of the Jesus? I think I’ve many times been distracted by the question, “What does God want me to do?” when his instructions are very clear in areas like the 10 Commandments, love your neighbour as yourself, and pray unceasingly. I’m spending more time thinking about how to obey the instructions I have already been given more than asking for new instructions. It does make sense after all to do better at obeying what I’ve already been asked to do before asking for more.
  2. How do I design my life, how do I improve my decision-making process, and how do I strengthen my ability to act rightly? Given that the Bible already has a lot of instructions, how do I organize my existence to obey them? A quick review of myself does not reveal a life optimized for the self-less, God-centered, righteous life the Bible commands us to live. So I need to alter many things about how I think, decide, and act.

Produces the Fruit of the Spirit

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. – Galatians 5:22

There is a lot that has been said about this verse, but another verse keeps haunting me every time I read Galatians 5:22, and it’s this:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. – Matthew 7:15-20

This is probably one of the simplest and soundest pieces of advice I have ever read on determining whether a person is credible and worth listening to: You will know them by their fruits. 

It’s very clear that it’s not about titles, not about reviews, not about who they’re connected to, and not about popularity. It’s possible to have all of those yet not bear the kind of fruit that comes from a good Christ-centred seed. 

This is also a good way to honestly determine my own spirituality. Is my life bearing the right fruit? Is my life even bearing fruit? What fruit am I bearing?

As usual, that one question I take to God in prayer leads to more questions than answers, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is a journey after all, one that’s full of romance, mystery, and depth. Of course it leads to more wonder. Wonderful things lead to more and more wonder. #DB

You Lost Me at “Thus Sayeth the Lord”

Before I continue, I would like to make a few things clear:

  1. I value very much the advice of wise people. (With an emphasis on “wise”.)
  2. I value very much the encouragement and guidance of a prophetic word.

 

I say these because I want to remove any potential accusation that I don’t like listening to wisdom nor respect supernatural insight. I do like listening to wisdom, so much so that I like to make sure, as much as I can, that whatever it is I am listening to is actually wisdom. And I do get amazed by supernatural insight, or what seems like supernatural insight. It amazes me so much that I don’t take the words for granted and take the time to see how they sync up with the Bible.

This helps me from falling for the lazy response of just accepting what someone else says. It doesn’t matter who said what, it is beneficial to validate before accepting.

When it comes to Christian beliefs, the validation comes from one primary source: the Bible. No word of knowledge, no prophetic insight, no pastoral advice, nor papal edict can counter (or should counter) Biblical teaching. Given that Christians believe in the Bible being God’s Word, we should be very careful with statements that claim to be from God, but cannot be validated using the Bible. This is why I personally have never felt comfortable using the phrase, “Thus sayeth the Lord…” to start out what really is a personal opinion on scriptural matters. “This sayeth the Lord” claims divine authority. A simple, “Here’s how I see this” claims personal perspective. If I claim divine authority, I better make sure that my claim is backed-up by the Bible. I would never use, for example, the president’s authority for something I am not sure is really authorized by him, even more, I will be very careful to say, “These are God’s words” since God is way beyond a president and His words are to be treated with more reverence.

This is true for theological interpretations and ideas as well. Sometimes, I’ll give my opinion on something and find that I’ve offended some very religious people, who come back at me with concepts like Calvinism, Cessationism, Continuism, Dispensationalism, Arminianism,God’s Perfect Choice-ism, and Spiritual Authority-ism. Frankly, I’m not an expert on these “Christian-isms”, even though I’ve probably read on them more than most, an exercise I find to be more confusing than clarifying. Here’s what I found while studying church history: a bunch of highly fallible men and women (not too different from you and I) making their best interpretations of the Bible and the world using the available data of the time, with views being refined as data improves, and a common ironic result: a church split.

Here’s what you’ll find over and over:
A small group of people passionately cling to a message and a mission, that group grows into a formidable group, that group tries to institutionalize themselves, with their growth comes a slowing down and weakening (though the leaders won’t notice this because of the sheer size), they find their institutions under attack by new ideas, new methods, new interpretations, and new people, they try to defend themselves by entrenching themselves in their beliefs (particularly by putting up dogmatic institutions), these lead to hard stances on issues instead of consideration, which leads to division, and which in turn leads to splits, and, despite their efforts, they cease to become the force they once were, surrendering this to another group, which was once a small bunch of people as well.

If you want to know how Jesus and 12 disciples have become a confusing range of Christian denominations, study church history. You’ll probably find what I found.

This is why I like to cut through the confusion of interpretations and “isms” to a very simple concept: Love God with your body, soul, and spirit, and Love others as yourself. I don’t need to get distracted with the discussions about the “elect” and the “saved”. It is hard enough to be self-less, to be humble, and to be truly prayerful, why complicate it with debates on things that have never been nor will be settled by men?

Ultimately, God is looking at the fruit of my life not whether I took the right position on these religious debates.

And what is my life’s fruit made of? Is there love? Is there goodness? Is there faith? Is there kindness? Is there self control? Do the spiritual virtues exist in my life? Am I loving towards my neighbor? Do I actually help the poor or do I just pity them? Do I actually improve the lives of others or do I simply complain about how hard life is? Do the results of my life show Godliness?

With these in mind, and with a clear goal to show God our love with the fruit of our lives,  I would like to share some simple points on receiving and giving  insight and advice:

  1. Loving God with your mind is beyond knowing dogma and theological interpretations. Loving God with your mind is about pointing our thoughts towards what is noble, lovely, kind, praise worthy, and Godly.
  2. Be very careful with claiming “Thus sayeth the Lord”. That’s serious business. And be very careful with receiving a “Thus sayeth the Lord” without validating with scripture. It will guard you from spiritual fatalism and spiritual weirdness.
  3. Get advise from WISE people. Wise isn’t necessary nice. Wise isn’t necessarily conventional. A teacher isn’t necessarily wise despite the title. A pastor isn’t necessarily wise despite the tile. A prophet isn’t necessarily wise either, not is a small group leader. Look for people who will help you bear good fruit.

Who is wise then? Who should we listen to? Let us end this post with some practical tips on who to listen to:

  1. Listen to people who have achieved results in the area you would like to improve on. This is super simple. If you want to be a better basketball player would you go to a chess player? Of course not. This is why I’m surprised when married men go to their single guy friends for advice. Or when married women do the same thing. Or when students would rather listen to their peers than experienced people. What do they know? Instead, look for people whose lives reflect the results you admire.
  2. Listen to people who have skin in the game, and even better, who have skin in your game. For example, I pay close attention to what my board tells me in business way more than to the praises or criticisms of random people. My board tends to be more scrutinizing. Why? They’ll lose money if I botch things. So they take me seriously. While it’s much more comfortable for me to bask in the compliments of others, their comments are worth much less than the words of my board. In the same way, the words of your spouse should be worth more than those of others. They have so much skin in the game. This isn’t to say everything they say is right. It is to say you pay close attention to them more than random insights or random news. This is why I like to surround myself with people who are invested in me, and I like to listen to them. This is also why I hardly ever go to these special talks or special dinners for traveling evangelists or wise men. In my observation these tend to lead to pop-wisdom. Nice sounding, but ultimately impractical in our specific contexts. I find that pop-wisdom gets in the way of real wisdom. Why would you listen to the “wisdom” of someone who gains nor losses nothing from his words over those of someone who is consistently with you, knows you better, and makes your life possible?
  3. Listen to people who know you. Sometimes, when I write, I’ll get a message from someone saying he or she wishes his or her parents had my perspective, or that their spouse were more open, or their boss. Frankly, while I am glad my ideas are causing people to think, I don’t think my perspective should quickly trump the perspective of someone who knows you better. Why? Because they know your context. For example, what if I see a person who wants to lose weight and I say, “Run sprints!” then their doctor says, “Don’t! It’s dangerous!” If that person listens to me, discounting the doctor’s advice, that person takes a risk. Maybe he has an enlarged heart. Maybe his foot is injured. Maybe there are conditions specific to his context that make my advice not just useless to him but actually detrimental for him. But you see this kind of behavior over and over, youth who will listen to their leaders more than their folks, spouses who will listen to their leaders more than their spouses, and employees who will listen to life hacks more than their managers. The context you’re in matters greatly. Listen to people who know your context.

Conclusion:
Sometimes, when reading through old posts, I see things I said that make me cringe. Ideas I was so convinced were right then, but were actually either very specific for that context or not right at all. When I see these, I am at least comforted by the fact that my blog is littered with disclaimers, me blatantly saying these are own opinions. I’m not so worried about being wrong. I am wrong a lot. I am worried about a verse that has never stopped haunting me since I first read it:

“Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”
– Proverbs 30:6

In many ways we are seeing this around us. Many popular Christiani-sms falling away. Even in my own journey I’ve moved away from many of the interpretations taught to me, allowing my perspective to be refined, and becoming more in awe of God in the process. At the same time, I am more afraid of making flippant claims.

God’s Word is serious, and we need to be careful with how we treat it.

Here’s the good news, and it comes just one verse before the one I just shared:

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
– Proverbs 30:6

I love that verse. If you have pop-wisdom you will have easily-popped security. If you have the word of God, not needing to embellish it with popular perspectives, you will have a shield. I don’t know about you, with everything I face on a daily basis, I want a shield. #DB

Page 1 of 276