Thank You Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

My family stood in his jail cell on Robben Island. We witnessed first-hand the devastation of Apartheid. We saw what racism, oppression, greed, and anger can do to a nation. In post-Apartheid South Africa we saw the church rise up to join and often lead the restoration movement toward reconciliation among black, colored and white.

Thank you Nelson Mandela, for forgiving those who recklessly and intentionally destroyed your country. Thank you for being creative and winsome and shrewd in the face of those who had been abusive, evil and offensive.

I made four trips to South Africa, teaching, serving, learning, listening, praying and crying. It was heartbreaking and hope-building at the same time. In South Africa can sometimes smell the poverty before you ever see it. It is raw and toxic and visceral. Admittedly I had but a brief look through a tiny window into the suffering of a people we have abused, neglected and exploited for centuries.

I felt ashamed. To feel anything less is an injustice. Repentance is the only response.

Sadly, I knew I had played a role in their demise. Every American did – by our ignorance or by our compliance. We stood by and watched corporations get richer as a people got poorer and sicker and lonelier on the world stage. Meanwhile, we took their wealth, their land and their heritage.

But thank God we could not take their faith, their dignity and their hope.

Nelson Mandela was an iconic symbol of these treasures. Of course he was a complex man, sometimes despised…sometimes revered. Yes, his work as a young, angry man was often brutal and dangerous. No one – including Mandela himself –blindly condoned this. He wanted to hurt those who hurt them.

But can we understand why? Are we so self-righteous we cannot imagine ourselves making similar error? Let’s be clear; most of us have never had our homes bulldozed into oblivion, our livelihoods take from us, our land corrupted and our leaders imprisoned. Angry young men do foolish things when they cry for freedom and justice in a world that cannot and will not hear. Like a rebellious teenager his actions cried, “Help! Look! Listen!”

Yes, Nelson Mandela’s early means were wrong. People like King and Ghandi chose different paths. And eventually so did Mandela.

But I must remember how hard it was. I have never begged for my freedom. I have never watched my friends and their sons beaten to death by a racist mob. I do not have to see my daughter raped by the very police who are supposed to protect her innocence. I was not sentenced to work a patch of limestone for decades that would virtually blind my eyes and break my back. But South Africans – like WW2 Jews in Germany and “dissidents” in North Korea today –endured this kind of suffering.

And many of us just watched. I know I did.

In 1976 I was a freshman at Princeton University. There were almost daily protests against Apartheid. I mocked them. These mostly long-haired hippie types were shouting and demanding for corporations to divest from SA to create economic pressure to topple Apartheid. I thought to myself, “Go to class…do something productive…get a job you losers!”

I was an ignorant fool.  I had no idea what Apartheid was, how it crippled a culture and raped a nation.

Thank you Nelson Mandela, for becoming a changed man. Thank you for not letting your anger and suffering become a weapon to inflict injury upon your oppressors.  Thank you for “leading from the back” as described in the book “Mandel’s Way.”

Nelson Mandela



And thank you for forgiving me. It reminds me of another great leader. The greatest leader, who had an even longer walk to freedom.  He came to earth, lived for justice and truth, but was abused, misjudged, beaten, imprisoned and killed by the oppressive elites of His day. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Perhaps Mandela gave us a contemporary example of this kind of forgiveness. I need that forgiveness. Because like I naively mocked those justice-seeking protestors, I took part in the mocking and death of righteous Jesus.

So today I say, “Thank You, Jesus—for forgiving us, saving us, loving us and now walking with us.”

Where are the Mandelas of today? You generally won’t find them ranting on FOX or MSNBC. There are few in congress or business or education. Thankfully, there are more rising up in the church. Men and women – great leaders, many of them quiet yet powerful – who care about the really big questions. But they are still a minority.

We need more people who are not caught up in so many petty debates discussed today by weak people with small minds. I know, because I can easily become one of them. Why? Because sometimes, instead of being a courageous leader I am a contented follower. No, not a follower of the radical, freedom-fighting, passionate Jesus. Rather, a follower of those who believe the fight is about our “brand” or a “model” or a “tribe” or a “theological viewpoint” or a “Bible version” or a “political system” or a hundred other distractions.

How lame and trivial. I hate when I get caught up in all that banter.

Mandela reminds me – reminds us – that there are longer walks and bigger issues and greater causes. I want to be more like him. Of course, ultimately, I want to be more like Jesus of Nazareth. A man of humility, justice, self-sacrifice, truth, beauty, forgive and, of course…LOVE. Mandela, a leader today we admire and celebrate today, was a world changer but only a shadow of what Jesus fully and perfectly embodied. And so are you and I. So we fix our eyes on Jesus as we become more of the leader, and follower, we long to become.

Can you help me be more like Jesus today? We need to remind one another of what is at stake, to call out the best in each other and set our sights on things above not on the things of the earth. In our ignorance or laziness we can never again allow another group of people to imprison and mock and oppress a rising generation of “Mandelas” who will courageously and humbly stand for freedom. For real freedom – Christ-centered freedom. Transforming freedom, inside and out.

It required a long walk for Nelson Mandela to get there, but he eventually got it right. I hope to get it right someday as well – hopefully sooner, but who knows. And I desperately need Jesus of Nazareth to walk the long road with me.

After all, He understands the long walk to freedom…all the way to the cross.

The Two Things Every Quality Organization Needs – and Why

Two areas drive my passion and practice. They “need” one another. And in my work with churches, businesses, educational institutions and start-up operations, these 2 THINGS really matter. At the end of this post you can see how I help leaders of quality organizations in these 2 areas.  See if you can spot them on this list below.


  • Clear Mission                        
  • Competent Leadership        
  • A Great Team
  • Essential Funding                 
  • Creative Workplace
  • A Visionary Person
  • Strong Community
  • Recognition for Work
  • Ownership by All
  • Enjoy My Work 


I chose Competent Leadership and Strong Community – and here is why.

6 Shifts Happening in Your Organization

6 Shifts Happening in Your Organization image of change ahead


Your organizational culture is shifting – are you prepared to lead in these new realities? The following video discusses the 6 shifts happening in your organization and how you can engage these shifts in your leadership role.










I get to speak with and work with organizations and institutions whether they be larger churches, businesses educational institutions; I’ve observed these institutional and organizational movements over the last few years. Many have been written about, some of already taken place, some are emerging. I’d like to talk about a few of them and maybe some implications for your leadership related to those.


The first is from a focus on the organization to focus on the organism. You see that now with less focus around all the little slots and things that relate to the organization as something in and of itself to be maintained and more emphasis on what is happening inside the culture of where we work or where we minister or where we live. What’s happening with the people, what’s happening with emerging ideas and systems and the integration of those things? So it’s more organism oriented the culture itself the vibe that is coming from within that if you will than around maintaining the organization or putting too much emphasis on the structure of the organization.


That leads to a second one which is instead of being institutionally, driven being institutionally supported. The institutions important but what’s the role of the institution? Is it to drive everything and pass everything down or is it to support emerging ideas, new leadership developing, new teams, new formats, and new engagements? I use to have this mantra still do but for many years the structure serves the people, the people don’t serve the structure and so what we’re seeing is more of a shift to moving structures that can accommodate what’s happening within the organization, so to speak, or for the organization’s mission and shaping the institution to support people versus to make them support the institution.


That’s related to another one I’ve observed and that’s obviously the move from out more of a hierarchical to a flatter structure. I don’t think we’ll ever be totally flat in many institutions and organizations. I don’t want to be overly idealistic about that but I think there definitely is a movement away from strict oppressive sometimes hierarchies where power is centered in only a few and the many are just left as implementers. And you’re going to see a flatter leadership as we become organic as we continue to become more are shared in resources and in other strategies that we have. And frankly a younger emerging leadership corps desires that and I think you need to accommodate that. Another one is what I would call a shift from content to value. In other words it’s not just our message and what we think about it and how we deliver it, but what value we bring and what are the underlying values behind that? It’s more important for us to understand as a working culture, what are the core things at the heart of who we are verses simply what’s the message we’ve given, always given, how do we keep giving it, how to get the same message to more people? There’s truth in some of that and a need for some of that but what are the underlying values behind the message? People need to hear that and be motivated by it. It’s also the sense of a movement from an event to a lifestyle. Whether you’re in business or non-profit or whatever, this is particularly true in I think a lot of ministry situations but it’s not limited to that. Where the event for example in a church, the Sunday service or in a business, the sales transaction perhaps it’s not all about just the event it’s about a lifestyle. In other words we don’t just gear up to present something we’re trying to become something and as leaders and as an organization the emphasis is on how are we living out these values and beliefs that we have?


Another thing I see is a shift from creating just distribution channels, again core product or ideas being disseminated, to what I would call missional hubs, where ideas are being generated all around the organization and out in the culture so that we’re not just a centralized group finding more ways to create more distribution channels, that’s valid when we have a quality product or service, but it’s how do we create more hubs that are themselves generating product and ideas so it’s not always all coming from sort of central base.


And finally, from being more silo to being more integrated. I think we’ve seen that across a number of kinds of institutions and organizations instead of it’s just sales and marketing and distribution and R&D and so on in the corporate areas. Or in education where we just have administration and then there’s faculty and then or the disciplines I teach history you teach science or you teach theology, we don’t talk to each other. That’s breaking down to where we see more integrated aspects because educationally, developmentally we need the integration of ideas, we need to expose people to one another so more and more cross-functional teams, more ad hoc teams, more conversations around the lunch table from people from various disciplines helps each of us grow and develop in our leadership. The implications of these shifts are, as I mentioned, I think a flatter leadership, people who are more relational in their leadership, more able to build teams and connect with them. I think in general people who are more interested in modeling the values than simply disseminating again the information. So I think for us as leaders whatever my organization or institution is I need to embody that first and foremost. It’s more important that I live in the world of being what I am advocating not just doing some things around the principles and values.


And finally I think that we’re seeing ideas come at the core of leadership not just mandates and control and management but ideas. That’s the ideas for the future that will drive the future organization, the future institution.


So these are some of the things I think in our leadership which as it becomes more collaborative the more shared, not without authority, now without power, but I think these movements and shifts demand that kind of leadership.


I’m interested in what you think about these 6 shifts happening in your organization. So let me know, as I work with leadership teams and teach and do conferences I understand that these shifts are happening and I’m trying to help leaders and engage those things.


What are you doing to engage these shifts?


I’d be interested in hearing from you. So have a great day!



Competitive VS Cooperative Groups or Teams

Competitive vs Cooperative Leadership in Groups or Teams quote black print on grey paper

What is the environment like in your core groups or teams? You can make it function better if you understand the dynamics involved when members are more competitive than cooperative.




I do a lot of work helping organizations with their groups and teams. How they function together, how they work effectively, how people relate within them and I’ve been looking again at some work by Johnson and Johnson who wrote the book Joining Together, which the book is a lot about group theory, group communication, group skills in the context of groups and teams. They had a great section on whether or not the environment in a given group or teams is competitive or cooperative. Competitive versus cooperative and I think it’s a good distinction. They actually refer to some behavioral studies by Jack Gibb in nineteen sixty one who sort of unpacked this a little more. He said there’s a series of cooperative types of behavior, behavior and a series of competitive behaviors in groups and teams and he outlined six of them and puts them in contrast, I’ll touch them briefly. In the competitive environment people are more evaluative and in the cooperative environment more descriptive, in other words you get defensive in your behavior because you’re constantly evaluating others, evaluating ideas, you have the sense that you are right, and they are wrong, So you’re constantly scrutinizing verses describing what you see, describing an idea and letting others in the engaged in it. Competitive environments are more about control. Because I’m right, I want to control the conversation, I want to control the tactics and strategies versus having a problem orientation. A group that’s more cooperative says there’s a problem or issue let’s unpack it, let’s look at it, let’s look at a variety of opinions ideas, ways to solve it. The competitive group is strategically focused verses being open to any spontaneity at all. A cooperative group would have more of a sense of spontaneity and say okay let’s try that or let’s discuss that or let’s put that on the table and really wrestle with it. Versus saying, “No, I’ve got the strategy, it’s right, I know where I’m going, why do we need to brainstorm right now?” You may not say that publicly but team members who communicate bad are basically saying, “I’m right, you’re wrong, why are we having this discussion?” The competitive versus cooperative tension also comes out when we’re looking at neutrality verses empathy. Gibb says that neutrality is something that communicates indifference and indifference creates defensiveness in people in other words your acting like I don’t care, I don’t care how you feel, I don’t care what you think, I’m neutral, I’m placid, I’m calm, I’m straight faced, I show no empathy about you, your idea, your situation, or problem. Because of that it makes people defensive in groups make some posture that way and hold on to control, that kind of thing. Also says that some people in groups see themselves as superior to others verses as equals. See in the competitive environment we see ourselves as above others, and we’re trying to win, and we’re always right, we don’t see people on an equal plain as in the cooperative type group environment I think most teams should strive for. So the idea that my opinion is right, I’m better, I’m higher up the food chain, whatever it is, the sense of superiority starts to have a great impact on the group or team. And finally, they say there’s a comparison between centrality and uh… or I shouldn’t say centrality, it’s more spread out certainty, there’s a sense of certainty in the competitive environment. Again, I know, I had the answer, let’s move ahead with my idea. Versus the sense of what they call, and it’s kind of a more technical were provincia, provincialism in the sense of I can say, hmm that’s an interesting idea let’s talk about that I’m open, I have a point of view, but I’m open to discussion. So I’d ask you to ask your groups and teams, are they more focused on a competitive environment who wins he’s right, what ideas are supreme, who’s in charge, or is it a more cooperative environment where yes we recognize the differences in roles but we want to create an environment where there’s empathy, interaction, a sense of equality, a sense of engagement. How’s your team doing? How are your teams doing where you work? You might want to reflect on that today.

The Pseudo- Transformational Leader

Great leaders are not always transformational leaders (think of awful dictators and power mongers). And truly great leaders are real leaders. Unfortunately, real leaders are hard to come by. Being a transformational leader means be a real leader – not a pseudo-leader.

According to Peter Northouse, the term “transformational leadership” was coined by J.V. Downton (no he does not live at Downton Abbey!) in about 1973. It was popularized in 1978 by James MacGregor Burns in his book Leadership (revised in 2010)

Burns said there was a difference between “transactional leadership” (the exchanges between leaders and followers) and transformational leadership.

Transformational leadership is …the process whereby a person engages with others and creates a connection that raises the level of motivation and morality in both the leader and the follower.” – Peter Northouse, Leadership, p. 186

Both kinds of leadership are real and necessary. But transformational leadership is always deeper, lasting and creates are greater sense of team, mutual motivation and joy in the arena of work.

But some leaders could never qualify as “transformational” because of major ethical issues, power mongering, and how they treat employees (sadly, Henry Ford became such a leader when wealth and power got the best of him).

Transformational Leadership vs Transactional Leadership

What are the marks of Pseudo-transformational leadership?

Here are signs that you or others are becoming pseudo-transformational in your leadership.

1)     You are in it for self-advancement. This is easy to assess. When a leader always cares more about growing their own platform instead of helping others build theirs, it is a telltale sign.

2)     Decision-making is always pragmatic. What works for the leader transcends what is best for the team or the organization.

3)     Ethical standards are compromised. This may be overt or subtle, or even done out of ignorance or the speed in making a decision. Nonetheless, it is a sign that things are bad. Employees or team members are treated with condescension or ignored, shortcuts are taken and due diligence is ignored, and compliance issues in HR or in legal matters are given lip service.

4)     Strategy takes priority over relationship. In other words, regardless of the damage a decision or path may do to the team, as long as we “win” or “realize the vision” or can say “mission accomplished” the collateral relational damage is chalked up simply as the cost of doing business.

5)     Everything has a price tag. Pseudo-transformational leaders believe they can “buy” everything – trust, votes, loyalty, performance, followers, relationships, customers, members, silence and compliance with their demands. In some cases money, severance packages (hush money, in some cases), promotions, perks and other “incentives” are used to move people and strategy in the direction the leader desires – even out of the organization.

So we must look at our own leadership habits, choices, motives and ethics.


Who are we in this role for?

What are we leaving behind?

What would others say about my leadership?


It’s time to increase the numbers of real leaders, and say no to the emergence of pseudo-transformational leaders.

Our Economy and Morality – Dr. Bill Donahue

Our Economy and Morality will be the topic of our discussion in southern California where I have been invited to participate in an economic forum sponsored by the Kern Family Foundation in the Oikonomia Network along with about nine other schools and leaders from those schools.



Hey, I am headed down from my hotel room in a few minutes to spend some time with Dallas Willard and some others talking about a moral framework for economics and work. I’ve been invited to participate in this along with about nine other schools and leaders from those schools so it’s a small group of us is in kind of an economic  forum sponsored by the Kern Family Foundation in the Oikonomia Network, that’s Greek for economy where we get our word economy from. But it’s interesting to talk about, “What’s it mean to have sort of a biblical, theological view of work that brings a moral framework to what we do.?”

On the one end of the spectrum you have the Tea Party on the other end you have the Occupied Wall Street movement. Both of them really have something in common and that is that they have frustration with the moral nature of the marketplace, of economics, of work, of how the rich and the poor are treated. Who makes money to do the good guys the money or the bad guys make money, and if you follow moral principles are you really a sucker versus if you work hard and honest and you follow a moral framework for your work and in the economy in general will you get ahead, or will only those who sort of scam their way get ahead?

So, I’m looking forward to the discussion, I need to head down now but I will keep you posted on some things I am learning along the way.

Always open to discussion ….

Post your thoughts on Our Economy and Morality in the comments section below!!



Looking in the Leadership Mirror

Looking in the Leadership Mirror ImageGood leadership coaches utilize a 360-degree feedback tool to provide input from peers, subordinates and supervisors. But self-leadership is also necessary and that requires self-evaluation “Looking in the Leadership Mirror.”  If you are coaching or leading other leaders, how do you evaluate your growth and performance?

Leaders of Christian groups and organizations tend to shy away from evaluation and feedback – it is not “spiritual” enough. Or we harbor fears that negative feedback will create mistrust or relational breakdown.

But we must do it and be honest with ourselves especially as we are called to evaluate others. Here is a chart Greg Bowman and I put together in our newest addition of Coaching Life-changing Leaders, page 38. How might you rate yourself as a leadership coach, developing the leaders in your area of responsibility?

This is essential. I met with a leader recently who said he was concerned about a top staff member who excelled in personal performance, but was not developing their team. Leading others – particularly leading other leaders – is serious business. Are we coaching our leaders (staff, volunteers, etc.) well?


Take a moment to Look in the Leadership Mirror.

Rate yourself as you reflect on these questions below.

Up Arrow

If you feel your growth has been positive.


Down ArrowIf you feel your growth has been negative.


Minus signIf you feel you have not changed.


  Live with personal integrityAm I living acting according to the values, beliefs and principles I claim to hold?
  Passionate about developing leaders Am I consistently investing in existing and emerging leaders?
  Spiritually attunedAm I leaning into the wisdom of God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit as I Coach?
  Self-starterAm I coaching with initiative, adaptability, and trustworthiness?
  Intellectually curiousAm I consistently searching for the core idea or issue to achieve the best outcome?
  Others-focusedAm I working to discern what God may be doing in each leader’s life?
  Relationally awareAm I aware of when to challenge and when to encourage my leaders?
  Effective communicatorsAm I listening well and communicating clearly with my leaders?
  Truth-tellerAm I conveying what needs to be said without being hurtful?
  InspiringAm I helping leaders make a direct connection between the leadership tasks and the broader vision for community?


Now, if you really want some engagement, hand this same chart to some people you lead and compare their responses with yours.

I confess self-evaluation is sometimes painful, or even brutal. But we can be shaped by the process of looking in the leadership mirror. As I write this I can tell you I have “down arrows” in the areas of personal integrity, effective communication, and inspiring others. I am not feeling good about it – but that is the truth.

I do a lot of teaching and too often am not practicing what I preach – leading to an integrity crisis. Also I find myself making assumptions and drawing fast conclusions, which is no substitute for clear two-way communication. And keeping leaders motivated and inspired has been too far down my coaching list.

I met with a great senior leader today who has navigated difficult changes in the organization. He said, “Every year I realize I know less than the year before.” We talked about what that meant, the hard realities of leadership, and the loss of idealism from his younger leadership days 30 years ago.

It was a great conversation. We talked about how this reality sets in, what his team is feeling, the strength of his core staff, and so on. But I missed the opportunity to inspire him. I affirmed him – but I did not motivate him.  Big difference.

So I am aware of at least three areas of focus and growth.


This is a powerful evaluation “Looking in the Leadership Mirror” …. how many of you took the time to do it??


Care to share what you learned?




Leadership Lessons From My Daughter

Kinsley is 16…and often has greater insights into life and leadership than many adult leaders – including a certain leader I see in the mirror every morning.

Recently she gave a talk to about 20 high school girls. After she described the session to me, I realized that this was simply sound leadership development stuff for leaders at any age, women and men alike. Which is why I am open to taking leadership lessons from my daughter.

Here are some of MY takeaways from HER insights. Here are her main points, and my application of her thoughts.

Learning from Our Weaknesses – 3 Areas of Struggle

It is not news that we struggle with weakness. We really do not like them, wish we did not have them, and lament the fact that they seem to reign over us, or at best distract us from our mission. They affect our character, distort our thinking and bring tension in our relationships.

Kinsley’s leadership lessons focused on three themes that easily become areas of weakness in character, attitude and actions (or inaction, more often) because of how people process these three themes.

#1 – Guilt

We don’t choose to feelguilt or shame – but we feel it nonetheless, and it can lead to a downward spiral. Healthy guilt is expected when we violate our conscience or our moral guidelines. But Kinsley was talking about the kind of guilt (something happened or did not happen so it is my fault) that leads to shame (I, therefore, must be a bad person).

Guilt is the enemy of every leader. Whether feeling blamed and defensive for the wrongs of others, or using guilt and shame to get our way with others, guilt is destructive.

The cure? Naming reality. Working with real facts and the truth about one another allows us to engage in healthy analysis, critique and evaluation. Self-examination focused on truth leads to transformation. Self-examination focused on guilt leads to depression, anger and blame.

#2 – Drama

Ok, I know you are smiling because some of you think this is just girl-talk. But I have worked in a lot places – corporate, church and university – and drama is everywhere.

Professor X must have his way or he threatens to leave the school. Pastor Y gets angry with the Board and withdraws and pouts, because the church won’t hire his daughter to lead the music ministry (of course she is “supremely” qualified!). Manager Z meets her boss for lunch and hints that Manager A might be having an affair with Employee B (“at least that’s what I heard”) to denigrate a competitor and enhance her chances of a promotion.

Where there are people, there is drama.  And where there is drama, there exists the potential for relational meltdown. Handled with care, truth and skill, drama can be diffused and relationships protected. Left to its own, unmitigated drama will produce gossip, innuendo, cliques, and manipulation at all levels of the organization.

The fix? Be diligent to model wise, drama-free relationships. Meet chaos with clarity, gossip with candor, and relational tension with mediating grace. Talk may be cheap, but a kind and direct conversation is always the first place to start. How you talk, with whom and in what environment can either stimulate or diffuse “drama.” Choice words and cooler minds can prevail.

#3 – Repeated Failure

Nothing hurts like failure, especially recurring character breakdown, errors in judgment, or besetting sins and habits.  I coach leaders at all levels, and this is one area they all (WE all) are haunted by. Some just harden their hearts with a kind of “well, that’s just me “ dismissal, while others grovel in the pit of despair.

It is a question of identity – we choose to believe either “I failed” or “I am a failure.”  Sounds simple. But the dance is a delicate one when the failures are frequent. The idea of never measuring up is almost too awful to bear. Maybe that is why the Bible – leadership expert Jesus speaking – reminds us to forgive others every time they fail us (or sin against us). He knew our failures would be repetitive, and that forgiveness must be our response – first time, every time. That was his pattern.

My daughter would acknowledge that forgiving ourselves is hardest.  It is for me. Of course, this is just pride. I tell myself, “I am better than this, bigger than this, stronger than this!” Lying to myself is the worst form of flattery.

The Cure? Wise people through the ages recommend confession and forgiveness. Until we admit we are not always bigger, better and stronger (and grant others the same grace), we will never be healthier, humbler and freer.

You can do this…

Understanding and naming weaknesses is the heart of real growth and leadership development.  Don’t let guilt get a grip on your soul, rise above the drama, and look failure in the face today. By following these leadership lessons you will thrive, and gain respect. Maybe not from everyone, but as least form the person in the mirror. That is a great place to start!

I know this is true … just ask my daughter.

QUESTION: Which of the 3 areas is most unsettling to you? What strategies or steps have you taken to address it and move forward in your leadership?



7 Myths About Effective Teams

Great leaders build effective teams.

But if you look at the research about team effectiveness you’ll discover that your conventional wisdom and assumptions fall short.  What makes a great team may buck the conventional wisdom and shatter false assumptions.

The following are 7  myths about effective teams.

1) Like-minded people make better team players.

As they say, you don’t get harmony when everyone is singing the same note. So it is with teams. Variety is the spice of teams, and the fuel that makes them run well. Group think and unanimity are the enemies of effective teams.

2) The leader should facilitate process but never take a position.

There is a difference between a leader and a facilitator. A facilitator seeks consensus; a leader expresses conviction. A facilitator guides the process; a leader moves people. Leaders must share their convictions and navigate decisions.

3) The best people produce the best results.

Not always. “Best” is a relative term – and you’d better make sure you know who your relatives are! Best at what? Negotiation, communication and researching the problem? Best at implementing a solution? Best in their field of expertise? Best when working alone, or at their best when working with others?

None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.Mother Teresa

4) Conflicts between members will destroy the team.

This is true only if conflict is not navigated with respect, trust, listening, truth telling and patience. Processing a conflict with integrity will actually bond a team together. Teams that never fight, rarely win. Debate and appropriate confrontation – about relational breakdown and difficult organizational realities – strengthens high performance teams.

5) The most crucial factor in team success is having the right leader.

You have heard it often: “Speed of the leader, speed of the team.” Not always. Look at the Chicago Bears defense. Who is really the leader? If you say Urlacher, you are wrong. While his presence can be powerful, he admits the team often does not “need” him. And sometimes he is out with injuries. But they are the most effective team defense in the league. A great team is not one person or one thing – it is three “things.” Effective teams have a clear mission, focused outcomes, and shared processes that make members effective and interdependent. In such an environment a leader can walk away and the team will keep performing well.

6) When leading teams, remember that volunteers have limited time and should thus be given limited responsibilities.

Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.
- Michael Jordan

Actually, because they have limited time to invest, volunteers want to deliver the most impact from the least input. No time to waste, no bureaucratic committees to deliberate with, no sitting around the water cooler for an extra hour after lunch. Just real, focused, honest engagement.

7) The key to an effective team is frequent interaction.

While frequent interaction can facilitate team progress and a sense of relationship, the quality and content of the interaction have more to do with success rather than having lots of meetings. Meeting with individuals on the team about certain parts of the project often gets more done.  It does not follow that success is a direct by-product of mere interaction.


What other myths about teams do we need to debunk?



Celtic Community

Americans are not very familiar with Scotch and Irish traditions beyond the whimsical humor, lively limericks and raucous bar songs the Celts have provided over the years. Some of my college friends would only be acquainted with corny Irish jokes or a glass of their favorite Scotch whiskey. Along those lines, here’s some humorous wisdom from across the pond.

May those who love us, love us.

And those who don’t love us,

May God turn their hearts;

And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,

May He turn their ankles,

So we will know them by their limping.

Now there’s a practical prayer that may come in handy some day!

Apart from hearing bagpipes at funerals or drinking green beer on Saint Patty’s Day, our culture has little experience with Celtic life, especially the spiritual and communal traditions. Some of our Catholic friends might have greater experience, but we all could benefit from greater exposure to the Celtic legacy.

Celtic traditions have long produced prayers and blessings for the people of God. And many in the tradition understand the communal impact of a heart seized by the captivating love and righteousness of God. Here is a Scottish blessing connecting the individual with the communal.

If there is righteousness in the heart

If there is righteousness in the heart,

there will be beauty in the character.

If there is beauty in the character,

there will be harmony in the home.

If there is harmony in the home,

there will be order in the nation.

If there is order in the nation,

there will be peace in the world.

So let it be

Redemptive community begins in the heart of God and erupts into the hearts of those who follow His way.  Healing, grace, blessing and righteousness flow from the heart. Proverbs 15 says a happy heart makes the face cheerful, a discerning heart seeks knowledge, a cheerful heart has a continual feast, the righteous heart weighs its answers before speaking and a cheerful look brings joy to the heart.

It starts with a heart—and it can change a world. Not with grandiose, unattainable visions, epic fundraising efforts, piles of brick and mortar, threats of impending cataclysmic judgment or political upheaval. It starts very small.

Deep within the human heart lies the potential to change the world.

Dear God, captivate, control and change my heart today.

Beannachd Dia dhuit (blessings of God be with you – ScotsGaelic)