How “Group Friendly” is Your Church?

Is your church ” Group Friendly ?”

Group Friendly Small Groups

I work with dozens of churches each year as I work with their leadership teams about small groups, spiritual growth and transformational leadership. Often I am contacted and asked some variation of this question: “Bill, can you help us build/grow our small group ministry?”

Before I answer yes, no or maybe, I engage in a conversation, asking lots of questions and getting to know the current state of the church. As it relates to group life, I discover that churches fall into four categories:

  • Group-focused
  • Group-proficient
  • Group-wary
  • Group-hostile

You might be wondering why a “group-hostile” church would even ask me to help them build groups. Reality is, they do not see themselves as group hostile, but I do. So allow me to unpack each of these and see where your church is these days.

Never Alone, Never Again – You Decide

You do not have to do life alone. But some of you choose to. I cannot imagine why. Oh, I know…you have many relationships; you know lots of people. You have Facebook friends and Twitter peeps. You know some guys at the softball league or some gals at the monthly business leaders luncheon. You trade contacts and share ideas. You talk about the weather, the kids, the job and the economy.

But are you known? To be known is to place the heart-level truth about yourself into the hands of another person. And to trust they will receive it and guard it. And then to do the same for them. Can you really say that you are known deeply and have others whom you know at the heart level?

It starts small. It means doing some life together – a meal, a coffee, a play time with other moms and kids, reading a book, going to a museum, volunteering together to serve the poor. It is not hard, but it takes some effort.

And it means a conversation – about life and love and hope and fear and truth and the world. Pick a topic and tell a story – your story. How did you get here from there? What makes you smile? What stirs your passions? What gets you really mad? What kind of injustice is so intolerable that you cannot stand it anymore? What about your work gives you a rush; what part of it gives you a headache?

Just talk and listen – really well and real carefully.

But whatever you do make a commitment to never stand alone. Never.

I met a good friend today, someone who has championed the cause of community with me for years, and has helped build it with others around the world. We have been partners, co-workers, and fellow employees. I love him. I think the world of him.

But more important than that, we are good friends. We know the pain and the darkness of one another’s lives; the scary parts and beautiful parts; we laugh until we cry; we spur one another on; we provide counsel and feedback for decisions; we solve problems; and much of the time we simply share a slice or two of life – the good, bad and ugly. We know the gore and the glory. And we still do life together.

We made a commitment a long time ago to never do life alone – never again.

How about you? When will you move beyond the glossy surface of superficial relationships and break through into the depth of relational integrity.

Life matters. And it is VERY short.  What are you waiting for?



Leadership Convictions – Vision & Values

The Starting Point Visions ValuesThe Starting Point for Discovering Vision & Values



Personal convictions are the seedbed for forging a compelling vision and shaping core values. These convictions must never be generated out of thin air or influenced simply by the latest leadership fad or trend. Somewhere deep down in the gut you will discover some things you believe in – some things that are non-negotiable about life, work, love, faith, relationships, leadership and the world. That is where you will find your Vision & Values.


So here are a series of questions first for Vision discovery and clarification.


1)     What does the future look like when things are working extremely well? Not perfectly…that’s idealism. You need a vision that can be rooted in reality. So describe the future when the vision is now a fact. What has changed? What problem have you solved?


2)     What does it feel like to be there? You probably have some sense of what it feels like as you imagine your dream coming true. Yes, what are your emotions? What wells up inside you as you see the vision becoming reality – joy, satisfaction, relief, hope, exhilaration, power, or freedom?


3)     Who benefits most from the vision becoming reality? Imagine the people your team is serving or helping or providing a quality service to. Will it be children in poverty, adults without meaningful work, people with disabilities, a company without quality management, a non-profit that lacks solid leadership? What is happening in these people and among them? What new world opens up for them because of the vision becoming reality?


4)     What change is taking place inside you? How are YOU different because the vision is a reality? What character changes are happening? How are you approaching your work? Have your priorities changed?


KEY VISION RESOURCE: Chapters 5 & 6 of The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posner are worth the price of the book – and more – on the process of creating a shared vision.




Now for questions to help shape your core Values


1)     What is true for you? This means, deep down inside you, there are things that do not waver – core beliefs that define how you see the world. These may be the result of experiences, values handed down by parents or mentors, religious convictions, or simply things you just know to be true (treating others with respect is the right thing to do.)


2)     What makes you sad? This is a way of discovering values by looking through a different lens. When you view the world or work or you organization, what makes you sad? What do you wish would change? This is probably related to a value or belief you hold dear. For example, in a team meeting you see a weaker person get belittled by another member of the team. The strong personality of the culprit crushes the weak spirit of the team member, who does not respond in the moment but feels shame or intimidation. The anger you feel is tied to something you believe about justice, fairness, or perhaps kindness.


3)    What brings you joy? Now we flip the coin and look at those events or activities that make you smile. You see a need met, a new product developed, a person helped, an obstacle overcome, a friendship grow or a goal achieved. You smile because something feels good at your core.


4)    What gives you energy? Though similar to “what brings you joy?” above, this is a bit different. Yes, energy can be derived from people or events that bring me joy. But energy comes from other sources – adverse circumstances, a challenge, a loss, a unique opportunity, a new friendship, a family event, a kind of work, a new mission. What gives you a “rush” and makes you productive, excited about your work in the world, and givers purpose to your life?


KEY VALUES RESOURCE: Here is a short Forbes article on values-focused leadership by Jansen Kraemer that highlights four core principles leaders can use to lead from a values standpoint.



Answer these questions and record them in your journal. It will help you identify what’s in your gut, what makes you tick. Your personal Vision & Values will get clearer which will also allow you to sharpen the focus of your work and leadership.


So tell me – what are some of the answers to these questions for you? I’d love to hear what makes you tick and what you are giving yourself to!

Are You Ready for Shared Leadership?

Shared Leadership Dr Bill I am a proponent of a flatter leadership culture. I believe in teamwork, shared responsibility, very little hierarchy and a more collaborative approach. Not only does it work – it works better. While a number of leadership “gurus” continue to act and teach like the Big Dog Leader model is a given (most then are well over age 50), a rising groundswell of leaders are opting out of the model. They are dropping like flies from organizations that thrive on hierarchy and the Command and Control model espoused at most Leadership Conferences.

So I am thrilled to see the changes that are coming. But here’s the question…


Are we – are YOU — ready for shared leadership?


Here are a few things that shared leadership implies. And you might have a few more so join the conversation.

1)    Shared leadership means shared blame. Ok, I know that you intellectually agree, but are you willing to take your share of the heat when things get hot? Or even more than your share?  When I coach organizations building a flatter leadership structure, the “underlings” are thrilled to be handed an oar or two, to row with the crew.  But I wonder if they are just as willing to grab a bucket when the boat takes on water in the storm? Are you willing to take the criticism, the blame for the loss or the downturn, or be confronted about the misfire?

2)    Shared leadership means deeper communication more often.  The more people involved in a process the more talking you need to do. That might mean more emails, more updates, more quick “check-in” meetings like Lencioni advocates in Death by Meeting. You ready for that?

3)    Shared Leadership means longer decision-making. I think this is generally good, but it takes some getting used to. I would advocate that, in the long run, you get better decisions and have less “clean up” to do when the solo leader goes rogue and makes a lousy hire or a bad decision “from the gut” (which is often code for “Let’s do it my way because I’m always right and I am in control). But decisions by a team take longer than solo leadership decisions.

4)    Shared Leadership means giving in and sometimes giving up. Of course, “real leaders” NEVER give up. Mandela is a great one to speak to this. In his book “Mandela’s Way” he has a chapter entitled, “Leading from the Back.” You need to read it. It comes after “Leading from the Front” so he is not opposed to being our front at times. But a willingness to step back and let other leaders have their way is an art that requires patience, trust and humility – a quality lacking in many “Big Dog” leaders. Are you ready to play second fiddle…or no fiddle at all?

5)    Share Leadership means shared success. Are you ready to share the glory, the rewards, the perks, the status symbols, and the “corner” office(s)? Many are not. If you have worked in a place where many people work longer and harder than the “point leader” but they get the special trips, income, organizational resources, power, freedom, vacation time, public recognition, and “benefit of the doubt” when stuff goes wrong, you know how that feels. It is a real demoralizing situation, especially when they pretend to be “a leader among equals” which again is code for “let’s share the problems but I get the goodies.” So are you willing to share the goodies equally among the leadership team? Even bonuses, and other rewards? We’ll see.


Shared leadership is more than an ideal. It is a commitment to becoming a real community of leaders with mutual accountability, vision, goals, trust, responsibility, blame and rewards.


It takes work, but it is really worth it. The team is stronger, the cause is more compelling, the results last longer and the process of “leadership succession” is virtually seamless, because there is no “mega-leader” to replace with another one. Instead, the team grows, changes, and new leaders are added as others move on. It is driven by much more than a person.


Are you ready for that?


Life-Shaping Values

Values that shape you

What are the values that guide your decisions or influence how you spend your time? A few years ago I set out to define a few. I wanted them to be broad enough to address most aspects of life but have enough clarity to use as a “grid” or a “filter” for actions I might take, relationships I would be seeking, and how I might approach my work.

Values answer “WHY” the questions of your life, mission or a direction you are considering. They provide a guiding framework for reflection, decision making and time allocation.

Here are my four driving values. Confession: I do waste time and I do make bad decisions. But I know I would make more and squander more without a growing, guiding sense of why I do what I am doing.


Compelling Truth

I have to ask myself sometimes, “Is there are good reason I am doing this? What do I really believe? Are there certain “life truths” that guide me. Because I am a person of faith in the Christian tradition, I hold to some truths I believe have been revealed by God to guide our lives. These are captured in well-know scriptures and creeds. I think of the Ten Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 23, The Apostle’s Creed, The Book of Common Prayer, and some confessions and statements of faith created throughout the ages by various groups. (For an artistic and beautiful video rendition of Psalm 23, you might look at this video .)

There are other important truths as well. Some of mine include “don’t sacrifice family to get ahead at work; honor your life rhythms; listen to your story and the stories of others; make the hard choice, most of the time it is the right one; your word is your bond; the news is not always true; everything works great until people show up; and, like they say, never take a sleeping pill and a laxative before bed. (Some awkward truths you just have to share!).


Does my life reflect truths I believe and do my actions contribute to their expression?


Inspiring Beauty

I love art, music, poetry, good food, great books and inspiring experiences. I use the term “beauty” to capture all of these because engagement with beauty moves me emotionally. Some beauty is superficial to be sure, and it can be used to manipulate and tempt and deceive. But at the core beauty lifts the soul, refreshes the heart and puts a smile on your face.

There is a deeper, truer beauty we need to pursue and embrace in the world and with one another. Model Cameron Russell shook the modeling world with her “tell all” talk at TED in January of this year. If you have not seen it, you must – especially you women.



Does my activity add beauty to what we are doing; am I taking time to soak in the beauty of the moment?


Bold Love

Love is a most misunderstood virtue, often containing a mix of wondrous truth and awful lies. I wonder if many people truly understand love anymore, especially in light of how we demean and trivialize it.

Bold love implies adventure—the risk we take to offer loving acts of kindness, loving words of hope and affirmation, or simple loving expressions of touch or our presence to those whose lives ache with pain, heartache and rejection. “Bold” love challenges me to love others when at first they appear unlovable; it causes me to share love when it requires work to express that love (to the poor, the sick and the lonely); and bold love means receiving expressions of love from others even when I feel unworthy of love. It is the kind of love Dan Allender describes in his book Bold Love.


Does bold love define the way you view others, yourself, God and the world today?


Authentic Community

We are experiencing a return to communal life. The “rugged individualism” that Robert Bellah and others referred to in Habits of the Heart is finally giving way – in some places – to a more communal and “others-focused” mindset.

We all long for true community we are love, know, celebrate and serve one another, working together toward mutual goals and becoming a group of people that enjoy life together. I am privileged to share this kind of community with my family, a small group that meets regularly, some neighborhood friends, and some colleagues globally. For me, the “shared life” is the only life worth living.


Does a commitment to community guide the way you live, serve, and manage your life?


What are the values that shape you? Send them along so we can all learn from your thoughts – thanks.

Leadership Lessons from the Iron Lady

I was saddened to hear of the passing of former Prime Minister of England, Margaret Thatcher. We need more leaders like Margaret – both men and women. Listen to her speeches and look at what she accomplished and there is much there to inspire any leader.

Margaret Thatcher

The following is a list of 5 leadership lessons from the Iron Lady.


1)     Be willing to do what others say cannot be done. She turned an economy around by throwing out the heavily socialist policies and practices in a system controlled by oppressive unions and special interest money-grubbers. Garbage piled high in the streets and Britain limped along. And then came Margaret: bold and willing to tackle the impossible. She removed business subsidies from the government in favor of more free markets, causing high unemployment at first. And she took a lot of heat.


2)     Never let your current status define your future progress. Or as some say, never let your label determine your level. Many looked down on her because she was a woman, and others because she was outspoken (not highbrow enough for some of the Downtown Abbey types of her day.) Politics was really not a woman’s place. Until Margaret showed up.


3)     Speak the truth – especially the harsh realities. When I hear the spin that comes through so many media outlets today it is a wonder we can find the truth after all the massaging done to the message. Margaret was savvy, to be sure. But when it was time to speak and let the chips fall, she did. And many did not like it. But it changed the world, especially when confronting communism and facing the financial depression of her day.


4)     Do what’s right – there will be a cost. When she led the British to invade the Falklands, it was highly criticized. But it was a gutsy move and her popularity (low at the time) got a huge boost after she defended her countrymen and she won a landslide re-election.  Later however, when she tried to impose a poll tax, it hurt her and she was drummed out of office by her own party. Some things never change. But she never let political opinions define her. She was her own woman.


5)     Be graceful in defeat, charitable in victory, but always grounded in principle. You win some and lose some. But stick to your principles: integrity, courage, serving the people, finding your own voice, and facing criticism with tact.


Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady – a nickname the communists respectfully gave her after her 1976 speech – helped bring down the Iron Curtain. Her determination and resolve were a reflection of her greatness, and her grace and wit were expressions of her poise and humility. Yes, she had her moments – some found her a bit arrogant later, allowing her smashing success go to her head. Perhaps so. Few leaders seem to avoid that hubris.


But despite her flaws – the kind we see in ourselves and in all leaders – we can celebrate her character, leadership and courageous will to do the right thing. Even in the midst of great opposition, including a terrorist attack on her life.


Margaret – may your tribe increase. We can learn much from your leadership today, especially in politics, church and business. We need more leaders like you. I want to be more like you.

So while some of us fantasize about having The Iron Man on our team, I’ll take The Iron Lady any day of the week.



Image Sources: via

By Oli Scarff (GETTY Images)

Four Marks of Authentic Community

While I’m in the process of teaching a class on what is authentic Christian community and we focus on four marks of authentic community, of that the first is to know and be known. I call this storytelling, some people would call it self- disclosure but the idea is to open up my life to you as you open up your life to me. You know we have a deep desire to be known and to know others but things stand in the way, there are barriers.

Four Marks of Authentic Community















Four Marks of Authentic Community – Transcribed

While I’m in the process of teaching a class on what is authentic Christian community and we focus on four marks of authentic community, of that the first is to know and be known. I call this storytelling, some people would call it self- disclosure but the idea is to open up my life to you as you open up your life to me. You know we have a deep desire to be known and to know others but things stand in the way, there are barriers.

It’s usually fear, fear being misunderstood, fear of being shamed that my story isn’t valuable to you or maybe I’d bring some hurts and wounds from the past and you can’t accept them or when you hear about those you say, “Whoa, what is that about you?” so I’m worried that you’ll judge me, maybe I’ve had bad experiences in relationships in the past. So lots of fears or barriers might stand in the way but our deep desire is to be known and to tell a story to others and to hear their stories so that we can know them better. So carve out a place and some time to know and be known whether it’s on your team or in your small group or whatever. That idea that we need to carve out a place and whether it’s in a group setting or at a meal or an extended time together at a retreat but we need a place and then we need some time together. Community doesn’t happen quickly and so if we can devote some extended time to telling our stories and getting to know each other it’s a big step to building community.

A second of one is to love and be loved, to express love and receive love. Gary Chapman in The Five Love Languages book, years ago picked five areas we can do that in. With words, because some people are words people they need to hear or see in writing that you care about them, that you appreciate them. Some people are touched people, they need a hug or handshake or you know, that punch in the arm or something but that the touch is important that says I connect with you, I care about you and I know you care about me. For some it’s gifts, actual tangible things, “Hey, here’s a book I want to lend to you” or “I heard this great music on this CD I want to give you” or maybe you were traveling and you said “Hey I thought you while I was traveling and I picked up this little object here this token of my appreciation for who you are” that little iconic sort of thing represents your affection for them and that gift is something they can look at it see if they feel cared for. Service is another one, just doing acts of service, serving others, doing the little things to encourage them and lift them up, do chores for them do the hard things in their life for them, help them with their taxes or whatever. And then finally time, just spending time together is another way to say “Hey, I care about you I love you, I’m glad you’re in my life.

A third one is to serve in the served. To use our gifts, abilities and talents for the sake of others in our group and outside of our group in the world around us and to be served by people to let them serve us appropriately. That exchange builds a sense of bonding and encouragement and oneness. And then finally to celebrate and be celebrated, everybody loves to be affirmed and encouraged.

I have to think today, how can I affirm and celebrate and encourage others in my group, on my team, in my world? So, take some time to know and be known. Think of some ways to express love and receive it. Find some aspects of your talents, gifts and abilities that you can share with others and serve them and be served by them. And then be thinking… “How can I encourage someone today, how can I build them up by celebrating who they are and allowing myself to be celebrated by them as they do the same for me?”

We’re All in Rehab

We’re All in Rehab (So a little grace goes a long way)


We're all in Rehab














Like many of you we’ve had our share of challenges the last few months. To give you perspective, we are sending our Christmas letter just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. The week before Christmas my wife had a serious fall, broke her leg and damaged some ligaments. This was followed by 2 injuries to my basketball-playing daughter, a junior in high school. Not to be outdone, I followed with a back injury, and my 83-year old mother who lives up the road rose to the occasion by having some health challenges.


In January our living room was filled with walkers, icepacks, ace-bandages, crutches, and a motorized scooter. It looked like a rehab center on steroids. But it gets better – this past week my wife and daughter were in a car wreck on an icy hill. Thankfully they’re fine, but it was a traumatic event fraught with great potential for disastrous results.


Initially, I did not see the rapid-fire stream of text messages popping on my phone – I was teaching a class.  But soon I saw the screen flashing, and what I read was terrifying. Dad!!! Accident!!! Please call!! DAD!!!!! Help! !!!! Call us now!!! Immediately I got hold of my wife and discovered all were Ok.


I left my university office after dealing with the aftermath of the accident, and stopped at our little coffee shop before leaving campus. “Hi, Dr. Donahue, how may I help you?” the student-attendant asked warmly. “Just a cup of coffee. What do I owe you?”


“Nothing,” she replied with a wry smile. “It’s your luck day.” Really? You’re kidding me. Please…my family doesn’t need any more ‘luck.’


I smiled gently back as if to say, “Dear child, you have no idea how wrong you are.”


“No…really. It’s perfect timing. The graduate student who was just here said, ‘I’m buying coffee for the next person who walks up here. Just tell them to have a great day and enjoy the coffee.’”


I had come to the shop looking for a little caffeine; instead I got a double-shot Venti cup of grace. More than what I needed. Much more than I deserved.


Now I really smiled, and she was beaming with joy. She was getting such a kick out of my response, just standing there, a sense of wonder and irony filling my soul…ambushed by grace. She had no idea what was happening but she was pleased with the joy that filled the room along with the aroma of a free coffee.


And, as though that wasn’t enough, I was graced once more as I left the building. The university is not very far from Lake Michigan, and a light, gentle snow was falling. Lake effect snow that can come briefly when the cool winter air meets the moisture off the water.


It was a slow, quiet snowfall. Large, floating flakes that calmly drifted toward the earth. Not a sound was heard as I walked to my car through the forested area that surrounds the parking lot. Quiet, still, peaceful, restful, beautiful.


And there, in the quiet, I heard the Voice…the still, small Voice. No one heard it but me. Because it was just for me.  The Voice compelled me to see a reality that was greater than my circumstances. The grace of God was coming resting upon me like the steady, beautiful snow, blanketing my sorrow, worry and fear with joy, peace and hope.


It was as though God said,


Bill…learn from this snow and experience my goodness and favor. Feel it as it rests on your head and lands refreshingly on your tongue. This is my grace on you.


To be sure, at times I pour it out in one thunderous heap that buries you in love and healing in times of extreme trial and suffering; but this time, there is no grace blizzard in the forecast. This time it comes as a gentle but relentless shroud of comfort, wrapping around your frustrated self and weary heart.


Your steady flow of life’s challenges is now met by My steady flow of grace. Like a small cup of free coffee, or a gentle, quiet snowfall, enjoy the little gifts of grace I am providing for the journey.


And remember…My grace is always sufficient for you.


I needed that. I really needed that.


You see we are all in Rehab. We are all hobbling around on the crutches of uncertainty, anger, fear, loneliness and grief. And we all need grace. Lot’s of it, we assume.


That’s ok. There’s plenty to go around…there’s no shortage of supply…no lack of spiritual resources.


But the good news is we only need a little.


Because a little grace can go a long way.


We would like to encourage your feedback as it helps us to identify the issues that are important to you. It also helps others who are searching to develop new creative ways of leading. Thank you in advance for your comments.


Ten Things We’ve Learned About Teams – From the Harris Twins

When Alex and Brett Harris’ book “Do Hard Things” hit the shelves, it was widely received for its practical wisdom and insights, especially addressing the youth culture. But I think adults can learn much from the observations of these young 20-somethings who started “” organization as 19-year-olds. “A little child shall lead them” applies here. You can read their material but I have adapted it to express ten things we’ve learned about teams for this post.

Ten Things We’ve Learned About Teams











1)     Start with Questions – Am I the one to lead this? What should it look like? What are the pressing needs? What does the team need from me? What kind of leader must I be? What kind of person? Asking yourself some hard questions is a great place to start.

2)     Walk with the Wise – Mentors and experienced others will save you time and much misery. Do not let you passion for innovation overwhelm your willingness to learn from what has already been created!

3)     Don’t Overlook Home Field Advantage – The Harris’ are talking about the literal home because their family serve together to lead in their organization and speak at conferences. But the principle is true – some of your best resources are right under your nose with the people and skills you already have.

4)     Use Technology to Grow Your Team – Stay connected, build platforms for conversations and ideas, use blogs, create team pages and so on. Sometimes ideas come at odd hours or places – you can easily go online and record your thoughts for the whole team.

5)     Treasure Constructive Criticism – this is so true. I have been asking for feedback recently about my teaching, consulting and writing. Despite the fact there are a few “ouches” (hard truths I needed to hear) I know I will be better for it.

6)     Credit is Free if You Give it Away – Pride will sabotage your team. As a leader, if you reward the team for being a team, you can break down the inherent “competition for promotion” that exists among team members. Share the problem; share the responsibility.  Share the credit; share the rewards.

7)     Other People Are Sinners Too – Everyone has faults, not just you. Because of that we recognize that stuff will happen, relationships will get tense, problems may go unsolved for too long and our work will have a level of frustration to it – most of the time! Get a reality check about one another.

8)     Expect a Nightmare or Two – I love this one. Communication challenges, ethical breakdown, surprise failures, loss of key people at the worst time, a new hire is a total washout, the money does not come in, too much money goes out – nightmares abound. I am an optimist, expecting the best from people and the best from a potential new initiative. But I am also a realist and without getting too skeptic (or worse, getting cynical) I am learning to build a “nightmare factor” into my vision for my work and the anticipated progress or impact I can make.

9)     Don’t Give Up – This exhortation is an overused cliché but an underutilized practice; so we need to practice it more than we preach it. The prize goes to those who persevere. If it is good, strategic, novel, difficult and potentially life-changing, you will have your share of enemies and detractors (people and just plain problems). IF there is no resistance, there is no need for leadership!

10) Success Happens (in More Ways than One) – Achieving a desire outcome or goal is one measure of success. In addition to that (or even when you fail at that) there are other measures…parallel successes…that run alongside of the thing you were focused on. Your team grows, people develop, convictions deepen, hard truths are learned, you discover what does NOT work sooner than later, relationships are forged and everyone does better.


I work much of the week with young, emerging leaders. It is fun to teach and train them. It is even more fun to learn from them. The Harris’ are wise beyond their years. We must sit up and take note.


What are you learning from young people? How are you making time and space for listening to them?


We would like to encourage your feedback as it helps us to identify the issues that are important to you. It also helps others who are searching to develop new creative ways of leading. Thank you in advance for your comments.

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Warning: This is Hazardous to Your Leadership!

Warning: This is Hazardous to Your Leadership!

This is something every leader must avoid because it will destroy everything you are working for.



Warning: This is Hazardous to Your Leadership!




Warning: This is Hazardous to Your Leadership!

Hi. Today I want to talk to you about something I think is quite destructive to relationships, robs people and organizations of innovation, foster cynicism, can crush morale, and can create a culture of fear and anxiety.

That problem, that issue, is legalism. It rears itself in business and education and religious institutions, sports, arts it doesn’t really matter wherever you have organizations and people working together you have the potential for legalism.

Let me give you three signs that deal legalism‘s rearing its ugly head.

1. When people begin to value rules over relationships that would be the first one. Just recently financed, I should say refinanced my home in the current climate of the mortgage challenge in our country. I have solid credit, solid financial standing the numbers were right but there are so many rules, so many hoops to jump through that it became difficult to go through the process. It took months, it was very frustrating to me and it was frustrating for some of the people trying to work with me the bankers and others involved in this. It’s just there were so many rules that it seemed that my relationship to the institutions I’d had for so many years in the trust that had been built didn’t matter … rules mattered more. That’s where things get a little too legalistic.

2. A second sign is when we value being right over being righteous. When someone says no, my opinion, my point of view matters more than our integrity as an organization or my integrity as a person. That’s what I mean by righteous it’s not just the religious terms think of it in terms of integrity. A group once wrote an article against an organization I was a part of misrepresented facts, distorted data, were trying to find things to manipulate and use for their own purposes and their own agenda. I confronted them on this particular article and pointed out the discrepancies in it, in light of reality and gave them the real facts. They eventually acknowledged that yes they were wrong and I said, “Great would you print a retraction in your next issue?” They said, “No.” Because it was more important for them to be right, to appear that they were right. It’s frustrating; their integrity to me was compromised in that situation.

3. A third sign would be protecting our own reputation instead of being able to name a reality, whatever the cost for that might be. Looking at myself instead of looking at the problem or the issue and letting that kind of rule the day. So a drug company makes a mistake and what do they do? They manipulate the government or other legislation or the political arena or the legal arena. They do something to try to cover up or act like it wasn’t there a problem because they care more about protecting their brand. In reality they destroy their brand because they destroy the reputation.

So legalism is everywhere and you’ll find it as I said in business, in arts, in education any institution you’re a part of. The place you need to watch out for the most is in the mirror.

Do you care more about your rules instead of the relationships you’re forming?

Do you care more about being right than having integrity and being in right standing with others?

Do you care more about protecting your own reputation or your organizations then you care about reality?

If that’s happening you’re becoming a legalistic  Don’t let that happen, lead well today and watch out for legalism.