Friday, September 19, 2003

leadership formation

yesterday i had a great lunch with one of my teammates on our church's adult ministry leadership team. we were discussing our leadership development plan for the rest of 2003 and 2004 which we are soon presenting to our entire team. during the meeting, i was reminded of lyndon johnson.

this past summer during the 2-3 hours a day i spend commuting between just south of baltimore and northern virginia, i've been listening to robert a caro's wonderfully exhaustive biographies of lyndon johnson - The Path to Power, the Means of Ascent and Master of the Senate. Caro began studying and writing ab lyndon in 1975. and if he takes as long to finish volume 4 of his johnson library as he has spent with the first 3 volumes leading up to johnson's presidency, he will have spent 4 decades studying and writing about his subject.

i think i will remember this past summer as "the summer of lyndon johnson."

lyndon johnson, apparently, was a man who - as caro puts it - was not limited in his ascent to power by ideology or ethics! but he was a genius at politics and truly "a master of the Senate." he was a far stronger senator than president. at the core of his formidable skillset was his ability to read men. he was a consummate strategist and an master salesman. he did not make a lot of speeches. most of his movements were not public ones. he hated reading books. he accomplished much of all that he achieved in the senate - and he achieved quite a bit, especially as a champion of civil rights - in one on one conversations. in the senate cloak room, on the telephone, in his senate office #231, etc.

caro's interest in lyndon was motivated by his desire to see how government and politics really worked. caro is fascinated by power and wished to study it. in the process, i think he's illustrated a principle not only for how government change occurs, but since government is nothing more than an aggregate of powerful people (plus rules, laws and tradition), caro has shown us how people-change occurs.

as i've listened to now tens of hours of these biographies over the last many weeks, as i've listened to how lyndon worked personally with folks to get done what he needed to get done, it's made me even more convinced that when we think of leadership development we need to think small. ministry programs, leadership structures, development paths - I am convinced - are nothing more than contexts within which the more foundational one-on-one development occurs. and i'm certainly not against these contexts. we need a means of transferring critical information about leadership without - however - relying on the information transfer alone as the primary means of leadership development. we've often, i fear, gotten it backwards in leadership development programs (and there are analogies here with spiritual development programs - actually that's primarily what i'm talking about). mentors and proteges don't serve the programs, structures, and classes, etc. rather all of these formal structures exist to serve the mentors and proteges. every such formalized entity we develop (leadership hierarchies, leadership workshops, seminars, conferences, reporting structures, reportage modalities, effectiveness criteria tracking etc) only exists as tools for the mentors and proteges to use.

some months ago my lunch mate and i had the chance to meet with our church's elders to talk about adult education. at that time i suggested to the team that when they thought of what had actually been spiritually transformative in their lives, what they principally thought about was not lectures or books or sermons, but faces and names. what has changed our lives has been people. books and articles and sermons and talks - and the contexts in which they occur - all have a place and are not to be depreciated. but they are not to be regarded, as we've said before, as the omnicompetent modality of spiritual transformation. we have to keep the main thing the main thing and those of us with leadership responsibilities in the church have to manage to relationships and not view relationships as being merely serendipitous to spiritual change. relationships are the very engine of spiritual change and we musn't lose sight of that.

in the short term it will feel slower. it won't be as dramatic as one person lecturing to 10,000. but in the long term, as we create a culture of leadership that includes as a primary value the critical necessity of constantly pouring our lives into future leaders, growth will become both exponential and holistic.

this is the best chance we have to recapture the past dynamism that Christ's church has intermittently displayed.

leaders must make leaders and not rely on their institutions to make leaders. the institutions can and should provide contexts and tools. but the work itself is personal and intimate.

Friday, September 05, 2003

star struck

Yes, it happened to me.

This past Monday, 15 September I walked into one of USA TODAY's conference rooms for our standard 8:30 AM Circulation Marketing meeting where the Director, our VP and other managers meet to discuss ways to convince folks to subscribe to our paper. I was the first one in the room, one of our many conference rooms in our beautiful new corporate headquarters where I have had the privilege of working since January of 2002. My office is about 50 feet behind this conference room. But there was a man there setting up bright lights, a camera and a microphone. Turns out that in 90 minutes bono of u2 was going to come to this very room to be interviewed by USA TODAY editors. I even got to do a sound check on the mike for the guy!

bono was in town to "appeal to america's greatness" and to meet with President Bush about treating AIDS in Africa.

i will confess that I was a bit star-struck. I wasn't the only one. folks were standing around the glass-enclosed conference room watching the back of bono's head. a co-worker of mine just walked right up to him and shook his hand. it occurred to me how unusual it must be to be surrounded by such throughts and stratagems every day of your life.

but bono's message was an important one and he's been delivering it for a while now.

you can see clips from the interview by clicking "see it for yourself" in Whitney Matheson's column on the event.