Archive for the ‘Leadership Development’ Category

Kenyan Leadership Contest: How to WIN or LOSE graciously

Kenya is headed to it’s most important election ever in her short 50 yr history of nationhood. Electioneering is in high gear and every politicians is doing all they know to position themselves for an opportunity to be in the new season of leadership. However, some will make and some of them will not make it.

With that in mind, it was very helpful when one of my mentors, Tim Mwangi, Co-ordinator of the Executive Leadership Network (ELNET) www.elnetkenya.org,  sent me an email to forward to family and  friends who are vying for various elective positions across the nation. I would like to share the same with you. It details two ways that we can share with our candidates to prepare for life after the elections – whether they win or lose. Do feel free to share it with them.

But as for us, the article will hopefully help us clarify our thinking and expectations –whatever the outcome. Please take time to reflect on it – even in the busyness of this campaigning  time. And before I forget, the article was written by Dr. Katherine Wanjiru Getao (https://twitter.com/KatherineGetao) Enjoy the read and hopeful you will have a take out or two.

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HOW TO WIN GRACIOUSLY 

Today’s philosophy exhorts us to focus on winning and not even dare to contemplate the possibility of failure. Winning is the world’s greatest achievement and most of us want it because it attracts the type of applause and adulation that many of us secretly crave.

Winning is a great test of character. We talk about people being “drunk with power” because the feeling of euphoria that comes from realizing that you are popular, accepted, chosen and awarded the highest honours and position will easily rush to your head and destabilize you. Vanity and other sins such as lust and greed stalk the winner. Winners will attract false friends – people who wish to exploit your success for their own selfish, and maybe even corrupt, ends.

It is right to always strive to win, but it is wise to make a small plan for yourself describing how you will react should the desired happen – a sort of “winning in winning” map. Here is a suggested map to help you retain your dignity, reputation and character during a win.

Resolve in advance to be a wise winner.

Flags and banners are flying. Cheers and shouts of triumph fill the air. It is easy to forget that alongside the celebrants, there are many who are defeated and disappointed and who feel they have little hope for the future. It is your responsibility to reach out to the ‘losers’ and convince them that, with a person of your character, they too have achieved a win. The greatest leaders are the ones who are able to communicate a collective win that not only encompasses their supporters but also those who have previously opposed them.

Prepare a gracious statement in advance

All eyes are upon you and all ears are sensitive to your tiniest message. Try to remember that microphones will leap towards the winner in the hope of capturing an off the cuff statement for publication. In the heat of the excitement, it is easy to say something unwise – and remember you  will not enjoy listening to a repetitive news broadcast of a comment that you subsequently regret; To counter this keep your beige (win) and pink (lose) statements close to you. Read from these scripts when appropriate. Your priority must be to maintain your reputation by appearing to be a statesman/woman of mature, upbeat, of exemplary character and patriotic beliefs.  A brief statement with four elements will fit the bill for this purpose: acknowledge the contribution of your team towards the successful result, thank all the people who have been involved in the process whether administrators, supporters or rivals and pledge to work with everyone, briefly state the key things you plan to achieve in the near future, reassure your opponents that you intend to serve everyone with fairness. There are many apt quotations which you can find on the Internet that will fit this kind of statement.

Manage your team

A candidate is usually supported by a team which will be excited by the win. Your efforts to start on a positive note will be complicated if the team reacts inappropriately towards your win. It is important that you take charge of your team and convince them to adopt a wise strategy.  You keep your team members focused on delivery of your key policies and to adopt a communication strategy that will avoid gaffes.

Plan the first hundred days.

The most challenging part of your win will be managing the expectations. There will be many things to learn and many issues to deal with. At the same time supporters may be in a frame of mind to make unreasonable demands and there will be many people who feel that you ‘owe’ them and that it is time to collect. The broad blueprint of how you will go about achieving your aims should have been drawn up long in advance as well as the structure of your team. However, more information will flow to you once you win and so it is important to listen and to allow some flexibility in the detailed plan. You must exercise leadership to ensure that you are not derailed from the higher purpose by the demands of expediency.

Maintain a trustworthy accountability group.

Everyone is a friend to a winner or a leader. It is difficult to separate the sycophants and manipulators from people who can genuinely be of value in your work. Maintain a trustworthy group of individuals who you can trust to listen to you and to keep your secrets as an important part of your life, and you should make time for them long before your hour of need! Identify who these people are: a spouse, parent or child, a close friend, respected peers, your spiritual advisor or a trained counselor can all be appropriate outlets and good sounding boards during this challenging season. You can also make pacts in advance with these people that they will be honest with you and discourage you from vanity, megalomania and other negative attitudes and behaviours and constantly re-direct you to an attitude of humility and a determination to achieve the higher purpose.

Make time for activities that will help you manage your emotions.

Make a list of the things that you really enjoy doing and budget time and resources to do them. It is especially helpful to look for activities that help you put things in perspective, adopt a grateful attitude and make use of your considerable talents. This is the right time to offer more to your favourite charity than you ever have in the past! Keep busy doing the right thing and you will reap the rewards.

Trust in your greatest supporter: God

I have saved the best for last. For those of you who read the Bible, Psalm 20 is an example of the prayer for a person who has experienced a victory.  While expressing joy and good wishes, writer of the Psalm directs the victorious towards God who is the source of all success. He cautions the winner not to rely on the external trappings of his success but instead to give the credit to God. Turning to God, reading scripture and praying to Him are sources of great wisdom and sound guidance. It is wise to remember that a specific win is a stopover rather than a destination. Assure yourself of God’s love for you through the journey by reading scriptures such as Psalm 139; Psalm 44:3-8; 1 John 5: 1- 5; 1 Kings 3: 5-15; Proverbs 2; Proverbs 4; Ecclesiastes 9: 13-18; Luke 2:52; James 1: 2- 8.

HOW TO LOSE GRACIOUSLY

Today’s philosophy exhorts us to focus on winning and not even dare to contemplate the possibility of failure. The wisdom is that we program ourselves to win or lose by our thoughts and words. Indeed an Internet search around the phrase “how to lose” gives the impression that the only thing that humans should consider losing is weight! However, when it comes to events such as elections and appointments, we know that for every winner there will be several losers in the wings. It therefore seems reasonable to prepare for loss as carefully as we strive to win.

 There is no doubt that loss is one of the hardest circumstances for a human being to overcome. When one strives to achieve a goal she invests her desires, hopes and plans while exposing her reputation and character to public scrutiny. She also puts in a lot of time, money, energy and opportunity cost (the things laid aside in order to invest in the desired goal.) Loss, therefore, is exactly what it is called.

To the loser it may appear that the resources put into achieving the goal have been wasted forever. With the loss come feelings of disappointment, rejection, anger and even despair. All the Kübler-Ross stages of grieving including denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are likely to be experienced by the loser. By preparing for loss, a person can first of all understand the emotional upheaval that they will experience, behave appropriately during each stage of recovery, and shorten the time it takes to reach acceptance.

 It is right to always strive to win, but it is wise to make a small plan for yourself describing how you will react should the unthinkable happen – a sort of “winning in loss” map. Here is a suggested map to help you retain your dignity, reputation and character during a loss.

Resolve in advance to accept the results.

For the ambitious characters who strive to win against the odds, losing will always be a tremendous shock and disappointment. There is a strong temptation to challenge the results and violently oppose the decision. There are very few cases where such a reaction is justified. Remember that while the press and other controversy-seekers will encourage and enjoy such a reaction, many of the people whom you really respect will be inwardly disgusted by your behavior and will think less of you for it. It is therefore wise to train your character in advance and make a wise decision to accept the result, so that even if you are tempted you will not react in such a way as to lose not only the competition, but also the respect of your friends.

Prepare a gracious statement in advance

Try to remember that microphones will leap towards the loser in the hope of capturing an off the cuff statement for publication. In the heat of negative emotions, it is easy to say something unwise – and remember you  will not enjoy listening to a repetitive news broadcast of a comment that you subsequently regret; To counter this keep your beige (win) and pink (lose) statements close to you. Read from these scripts when appropriate. Your priority must be to maintain your reputation by appearing to be mature, upbeat, of exemplary character and patriotic beliefs. If you are not the winner at this time at least you can deliver the wisdom of a statesman/woman.  A brief statement with two elements will fit the bill for this purpose: congratulate the winner and offer your support to him or her, thank your supporters and encourage them about the future. There are many apt quotations which you can find on the Internet that will fit this kind of statement.

Manage your team

A candidate is usually supported by a team which is equally determined to succeed. Your efforts to manage the loss will be complicated if the team reacts inappropriately to what has happened. It is important that you take charge of your team and convince them to adopt a wise strategy.  You need to understand your team members and plan how to lead them successfully through your loss. Include messages for loss in your team communication strategy and ensure that your team adheres to them strictly.

Plan to re-direct your energy.

Loss has side-effects. There will be a lot of energy and enthusiasm that has now lost its immediate channel. There may also be other impacts of the loss, such as debt, problems with family, friends and supporters and so on. The impacts of the loss may seem overwhelming. By deciding to make a coherent plan to deal with each of the impacts of the loss, while also choosing alternative worthwhile activities, it will be possible to use the energy released by the loss in a positive way to solve problems and move towards a better future.

Maintain a trustworthy support group.

It is inevitable that you will experience negative feelings and thoughts in the wake of your loss. You may feel that many people are laughing at you, and you may feel tempted to withdraw from contact with others. Maintain a trustworthy group of individuals who you can trust to listen to you and to keep your secrets as an important part of your life, and you should make time for them long before your hour of need! Identify who these people are: a spouse, parent or child, a close friend, respected peers, your spiritual advisor or a trained counselor can all be appropriate outlets and good sounding boards during this challenging season. You can also make pacts in advance with these people that they will discourage you from negative outlets such as alcohol and drug abuse, anger and complaining etc. and re-direct you to positive activities including hobbies and charitable events.

Make time for activities that will help you manage your emotions.

Make a list of the things that you really enjoy doing and budget time and resources to do them. It is especially helpful to look for activities that help you put things in perspective, adopt a grateful attitude and make use of your considerable talents. This is the right time to offer more to your favourite charity than you ever have in the past! Keep busy doing the right thing and you will reap the rewards.

Trust in your greatest supporter: God

I have saved the best for last. For those of you who read the Bible, Psalm 31 is an example of the cry of someone who is experiencing a loss. The writer of the Psalm is not afraid to express the strong and negative emotions that he is experiencing. However, he continually turns his thoughts towards God who he calls his fortress and refuge. He turns his pain into a prayer for a better future. Turning to God, reading scripture and praying to Him are sources of great comfort in times of loss. It helps to remember that loss is a stopover rather than a destination. Assure yourself of God’s love for you through the journey by reading scriptures such as Psalm 139; Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7; Jeremiah 30:17-20; Matthew 6:25-34; Lamentation 3:31-33.

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Leadership has made me better

‘Leading is about becoming a better person. Everyday. Applying yourself regardless of where you came from. It’s about the relationship between those who lead and those who choose to follow.‘ I really liked this quote that I saw recently in an article done by http://johnbossong.com/author/john-bossong/. It reminds me to constantly check if as I lead others I am improving in the areas where some of my weaknesses are, where my blinds pots reside. And this is primarily because as I have led, I am exposed to not only those I lead but to other leaders.

Both these categories of people have the ‘right’ to speak into my life and say when things are going well and when they are not. When I have not kept time for meetings, I have been called out on that. When I have not delivered my reports on time,I have been called out on that too. When my team is not functioning optimally I have had to answer some hard questions. And in every of these areas, I have had to grow n my character. It is not always easy to take in criticism or not justify myself when others give a critique, yet looking back, I cans see areas where I have grow.

Humility has continued to be an area for me to grow as a leader just as much as keeping to my word. Even when it hurts. Every day, I get the opportunity to sit and reflect on my day or the episodes of my life that have gone through and see clear patterns of attitude adjustments here and there. I am liking the person I am becoming in the process, and that has been made possible because of the leadership opportunities that have come my way.

It is now very clear to me that leadership, with all its challenges has been an avenue that has allowed me to grow in many ways and to become a better individual. By divine grace, I will continue on this path and celebrate in days to come, the better person I shall become.

Why Can’t I follow you Now?

 A very happy and prosperous 2013 to you all who follow my thoughts on leadership on this blog. I hope the year brings with it, divine opportunities so that your own leadership can grow and go to the next level. So much promise and so many exciting things to do.

And yet doors may seem open and you naturally want to go through them. Let me sound a warning here. Be careful not to rush as there may be lessons God wants to teach you and I on the virtue of patience. Let’s see this at play in one of God’s leaders in scripture.

In John 13:37 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” In the verses before this, Jesus and his disciples had been having a conversation and Peter’s take was that probably Jesus intended to go some long journey, which would have  subjected him to many inconveniences and unnecessary fatigue. Probably he (Peter) also felt the need to follow Jesus in this supposed journey, at every cost! However, because he did not see our Lord’s meaning, he saw no reason why he could not go with Jesus.

“I will lay down my life for your sake.” Really Peter? It’s clear that he was sincere, but he did not know the limit of his own strength.  He was willing to die, but when the time came he was not able.  Out of this comes a lesson that I hope we can all see and learn from. Never run before God’s guidance to do things (good or otherwise) for Him on the impulse of feelings.

Christ must first die for Peter, before Peter can die for him. Let us never think we can do anything, without the immediate assistance of God.
Peter’s subsequent denial should be an eternal warning to all self-confident leaders, that even though there be sincerity and good will in our intentions in 2013, yet when the trials come, these may not be enough to perform that which belongs to the power of God. We should will, and then look to God for power to execute. Without him we can do nothing.
In 2013, let us be leaders who are not led by our natural impulses or feelings but rather those who know how to wait upon the Lord.
Again, a happy and prosperous 2013 to each and every one of you.

Leadership of the Holy Spirit

We read in Zechariah 1:18-19 how the prophet Zechariah raised his eyes and looked, and he saw four horns. And he said to the angel who talked with him, “What are these?” The angel replied and said, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.”

Here in these scriptures, horns, denote the enemies’ dignity and dominion.The reason for their pride. Horns exalted, also denote their strength, power, and violence. Just like the Jews who were facing these four horns, we too may be surrounded from every side; when we avoid one horn that pushes at us from one side, we run against another.

The church (you and I) has enemies that have horns they use to hinder us from the good work that the Lord has called us to. We may look up, and certainly see the enemy, forceful and furious, and also see his boastings and his violence that is arrayed against us. And that may give rise to fear in our hearts.

But in His mercy,  the Lord will show us ‘carpenters or craftsmen’ or His great and mighty power that He has employed to the crushing of these evil powers that array against us (Zechariah 1:20). For every one of the four horns of evil that comes against you and I, God has provided a counteracting power adequate to destroying it.

My one point is this; Our fear of danger can so engage or consume us that we often overlook the divine help provided for us. Through the leadership of the Holy and Eternal Spirit of God, whatever the enemies against us, we have greater friends for us. Let us always remember that, when God has work to be done, He will raise up some to do it and others to defend it and protect those that are employed in the doing of it. And since the Lord God almighty is our help, He will break all the horns of the ungodly that come against us.

A Leader’s Responses

If you want a study in the fundamentals of leadership, Nehemiah is a good place to start. Nehemiah was of Jewish descent but was serving in the palace of their captors. One day as he was going around his day to day chores, he heard a report from his motherland that things were not good. In fact things were really bad; the high walls that surrounded Jerusalem were still in ruins (and that for more that 70 years), neighbouring nations made a mockery of those who called themselves Israelites, and those from nearby cities and towns made life difficult for the Jews in that city.

With this picture etched in his mind, he went to God, weeping and praying that God would in one way or another turn around the situation. God furnished Nehemiah with a God-sized vision. And that was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem!  God did several other things in answer to Nehemiah’s requests in prayer. However I would like us to look at how Nehemiah responded and see if we as leaders, called by God, can learn some principles for our own leadership.

1. Inward Response. (Nehemiah 1:4) This refers to what motivates a person to action or inaction in a given circumstance. It speaks to the motives of our hearts. Without the proper motives, it is easy for the ministry or service that we are engaged in to turn and be selfish. When faced with a need, we should always evaluate our motives for our response and seek to bring our motives in-line with God’s motives.

2. Upward Response. (Nehemiah 2:4b) This should speak to where we get our instructions from. Without God, our ministry or service can be geared towards the wrongs tasks being accomplished. When we see a need around us, we should evaluate our position to see what type of influence and opportunity God has put before us. It is as we interact with God and have an encounter with Him, that we can truly start serving others.

3. Forward Response. (Nehemiah 2:7-9) Although Nehemiah felt the weight and importance of what was facing the people of Jerusalem, he did not make a rash decision. This should speak to our effectiveness. Without planning, our ministry or service can lead to chaos and lack of accomplishment. We need to assess our current realities and be clear on what resources we need to accomplish the task at hand.

4. Outward Response. (Nehemiah 2:11-12) Once Nehemiah received permission from the King , he sets out to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Just like in the three previous types of responses seen above, he does not act rashly. Instead, Nehemiah is thoughtful and measured in how he starts to implement his plans. This should speak to our mobilization of team members. We must recruit others to join us in meeting needs having cast a vision of where we all need to go. Without others, our ministry and service can be prevented from meeting God-sized needs. Eventually we wont have the next crop of leaders to carry on the work to bring in the desired reality.

As I looked at these responses, I realized that their order is important. As for Nehemiah, he put in a lot of hard work into realizing the God-sized vision  that was laid in his heart. Without great leadership and careful planning, I don’t think that the walls of Jerusalem would have been rebuilt. But even with that said, I believe the responses of his heart had everything to do with his success.

Stay blessed.

The Penalty of a King’s Pride

Every one of us who has been on the journey of leadership desires to be successful and have growing influence. None of us ever wants to be known or remembered for being mundane or useless and as such, our natural tendency is to embrace the vision of our hearts and run with it with all that we have.

However, while on the pursuit of God and we prosper, we must then be very careful. Why? Because success can often times open the door to  pride which in turn can cause us to fix our eyes on our accomplishments, and not on the God who allowed us to carry out anything to begin with. This in turn will compromise the greatness that God has called us to.

In 2 Chronicles 26, we read about King Uzziah’s successes but sadly his tragic fall.  The root of his transgression (2 Chronicles 26:16) was a heart of pride, and we are warned that pride is a lust that ruins more that any other. And surely pride comes before a fall.

With the help of God, this leader of God’s people grew  strong, grew in wealth, in interest, and in power. But just like the prosperity of fools, that puffs them up with pride and destroys them, so was it with this king. Instead of lifting up the name of God in gratitude to Him who had done so much for him, his heart became lifted up to his own doom and destruction.

Out the many lessons that we can learn from this story,  I want to share one with all you leaders.  And it is this; Power can ignite pride, which eventually does lead to problems. When we boast in our achievements, pride checks in. And God resists the proud. With King Uzziah God gave a classic instance of His resisting the proud. If we become proud and presumptuous and cannot be made to see our error by the judgments of God’s mouth (through the warnings of those He has appointed to that duty in our lives) or God’s word (as we read in the scriptures), we shall be made to see it by the judgments of His hand. We must guard our hearts and lives from this crippling disease.

Remember, when pride builds up in our hearts, everything we are will eventually be torn down. King Uzziah strove with the priests, but he could not strive with God his Maker. Neither can we.

Finishing well as a Leader

King Solomon began his leadership over Israel well but somewhere down the road deviated from the ways of God and eventually he failed and was not able to finish well. At the beginning of his leadership, he enjoyed great success and fame but the good times got into his head and his heart. Some of the things I see in his leadership :

  • His perspective got fuzzy
  • He began to overestimate his own importance
  • He grew blind to his weaknesses and refused to be held accountable
  • He started to trust in human ingenuity rather than in God

As Solomon drifted away from His calling, his worship of God grew cold and sterile and in the course of time, it became a ritual rather than a relationship with Him who had given him the responsibility of leading Israel. Solomon grew emotionally detached from God and eventually God’s presence and blessings began to reduce over his public leadership and private life.

May this be a sobering example to warn us who are tasked as leaders from drifting from our passion. When we start to engage with our leadership activities as mere routine, letting them become nothing more than items we check off our to-do-lists then we may be wondering from our original call to lead as God’s leaders.

When we become distracted by side shows and petty issues that are peripheral  to what our mandate is, and deviate from the purpose or call that first led us to serve, we  may be wondering from our original call to lead as God’s leaders. If we start to overestimate our self importance  and excuse our  failings and even become exceptions to the rules, we may be wondering from our original call to lead as God would have us lead.

Let us understand that as leaders, we cannot separate our spiritual condition from our successes or failures for that matter. Our leadership must begin at the place of relationship with our heavenly Father. Let us remain connected to him in intimacy and we shall avoid pride, blindness, presumption, hardness of heart, and many of the sins we see in the life of Solomon.