The Leadership Reality Show

Here is my latest post on Faith & Leadership of Duke Divinity School

Leaders often gravitate to the flashy first impression, low-hanging fruit, or the approval and support garnered from successful fast action. But when a godly longview is our aim, we develop a whole different class of skills, relationships and priorities that can carry us throughout a lifetime of meaningful leadership, rather than allowing our focus to fix solely on the next hurdle ahead.

Which is why I’ve imagined a reality show for leaders ever since they took over the television airwaves.

The show pits three leadership teams in a boat race. Of course it is filmed on a beautiful white sandy beach with crystal clear blue water, located in a tropical string of islands in some remote part of the world that makes television producers happy.

Teams compete for the right to select one of three boats . . . (CONTINUE HERE)

If Brands are Built Over Years, Why are they Managed Over Quarters?

Duke University just posted my latest essay on their Faith and Leadership web site.  I’m one of their regular authors.

The best leaders understand they should be held accountable for long-term outcomes before they are rewarded for immediate results.

The pastor who envisions reaching his whole city will be more effective than the one concerned about making a glowing report at the next conference gathering. A fund-raising professional who desires to build relationships matching donors with their passions will raise more money than one striving to meet an urgent campaign goal. Even an administrator who fixes the nagging plumbing problems will be appreciated more than the one who spends that same money to install new carpeting.

A report from the “Harvard Business Review” (If Brands Are Built over Years, Why Are They Managed over Quarters?) explores why short-term thinking dominates business marketing today, even though branding is an extremely long-term process. The researchers determined that companies have shifted their focus to quarterly outcomes over long-term success because of three factors:

The full essay can be read HERE


My Mom Has Crossed Over Into Heaven

Mom BirthdayIn the early hours of this morning my Mom peacefully moved into heaven. With the long expectation of her passing it is a relief . . . but it isn’t . . . but it is with assurance of heaven. Although it’s been a difficult 3 ½ years for Mom since Dad died, even as she suffered from Parkinson’s, she never lost her fortitude, grace, and dignity.

The theme song of her life was the hymn she played to open the Sunday evening service every week in our church when Dad was a pastor in Portland, Oregon:

Make me a blessing, Make me a blessing

Out of my life May Jesus shine;

Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray,

Make me a blessing to someone today.

I thank the Lord for Mom’s wonderful Godly life, just three weeks short of 88 years – 32,119 days to be exact. I’m thankful that so many of those days were invested in me and my brothers, on top of her being the author or many books, business woman, and a strong and active wife of a pastor and university president.

When she took a turn for the worse two weeks ago, I quickly adjusted my schedule to be with her in Phoenix, and I’m so thankful I made it in time. Last Tuesday night when I arrived, she was alert, and could speak a few words, and for nearly two hours she wouldn’t let go of my hand and I told her happy memories from her life. Although couldn’t speak much, her smile and the twinkle in her eye communicated a lifetime of love.

By Friday she had only brief seconds she was awake, as she had lost her ability to speak with much understanding. We held hands for hours while she drifted in and out of sleep.

It took several attempts to walk out of that room for the last time knowing I’d never see her again this side of heaven. But before I left, she looked with eyes that said come close, and when I bent down for that last time in a struggled whisper she said, “I love you” . . . and give me a kiss. And then, out of the blue in a strong voice she said, “I’m going to get better.”

This morning Mom is all better – standing strong with no walker to assist her and no shaking from Parkinson’s – eyes alert, taking in Heaven and filled with joy as she begins her eternal life with Jesus – and I hope, already playing tennis with Dad again like they loved to do when they were in college together.

When the hurts of life are too deep – when I hardly know how to pray – I pray music. These last few days I’ve been praying this song, as if I wrote every single word of it myself: Gary Chapman’s, “That’s as Good as Goodbye Gets.”

We said our last “I love you” as we held each other tight.

With years of tender feelings overflowing from our eyes.

Now here I am with memories, all alone, with no regrets.

And that’s as good as goodbye gets.

You did a lot of living as you walked these earthly miles.

It’s funny, though I’m crying,
still somehow, I have to smile.

Cause your life, your love, your laughter, touched everyone you met.

And that’s as good as goodbye gets.

There’s a deep, deep sadness that comes with letting go.

But, even though I’m grieving, there is peace; there is hope.

Says everyone who knew you, was a part of your days,

Your eyes were fixed on Jesus, now you’ll find Him face to face.

And I’ll meet you there in heaven, when my life sun sets.

And that’s as good as goodbye gets.

My time to see her off to heaven last week was about as good as goodbye gets.

Thanks for your prayers. Knowing that my friends understand Heaven is for real, encourages me that your prayers will join the great Cloud of Witnesses who are welcoming my Mom into her eternal home.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.

Look full in his wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of his glory and grace.


Lead, Serve, Work – Like You’ll Be There Forever

You might be interested in my monthly article posted on Faith & Leadership sponsored by Duke Divinity.

This article summarizes what I consider to be one of the most important principles for all of us who get up and go to work every day – or have a family, serve our community, or care for our mind, body, and spirit – this foundational idea holds to every aspect of our lives.

Lead Like You’ll Be There Forever

Imagine that the job you are in right now is what God wants you to do for the rest of your professional life. It might be discouraging to feel truly “locked in” to your job. But such a change in perspective may be one of the best things that could ever happen to you and your ministry.

To live without professional advancement opportunities could, of course, be demotivating and create an unhealthy situation for both you and your ministry. But to lead as if you must remain in that same position forever — and live with the long-term consequences of every decision — will shift your perspective, align your priorities, and build lasting strength in your ministry, rather than allowing you to settle for the comfort and accolades of immediate results.

When a leader is thinking, living, and acting in terms of only the short-range, everyone around him or her may be harmed for years to come, because the decisions of today will narrow subsequent options and opportunities. The compounding weight of each shortsighted decision speeds the deterioration of the ministry’s foundation.

To protect against this crippling pattern, a bit of periodic self-evaluation will reveal your current longitudinal view in leadership responsibilities:

  • If you knew you could never have a different job, which decisions over the past year might you have made differently?
  • Do you find yourself putting off a difficult personnel issue or a hard decision in hopes that someone else in the future will have to deal with it instead?
  • Which of your recent decisions made you feel most proud — were they made in light of the long-term implications or the short-term impact?
  • Have you purposefully made decisions recently that were best for the long run, even though another choice would have made you look good in the short term?

When President Jimmy Carter held a thirteen-day summit at Camp David in 1978 with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, a formal state of war still existed between the two countries, with Egypt determined to reclaim the Sinai territory seized by the Israelis twenty-two years previously.

In the woods of Maryland, these long-hoped-for negotiations came to multiple stalemates. But each time Carter found a way to keep the discussion alive, even though deep-seated mistrust between the two Middle Eastern leaders kept them from talking directly to each other, causing the U. S. President to shuttle between their private cabins, triangulating the dialog.

On the morning of the eleventh day, the arduous process appeared to disintegrate when Prime Minister Begin decided to leave the meetings over the wording of a side letter on the status of Jerusalem. He wouldn’t have his mind changed by the immediate needs of securing the peace in the Middle East and freeing his country from the relentless cycle of violence.

But with brilliant insight, President Carter shifted the perspective from the immediate results to the long-term implications: as Prime Minister Begin was packing his bags to leave, President Carter brought to him eight personalized autographed pictures of the three leaders working together, and told the Prime Minister they were for him to take home to his eight grandchildren so they would always remember what the three men had tried to accomplish together. Confronted with this vivid long-term perspective, Begin unpacked and days later signed the Camp David Accords.

In an age of mobility and global connectedness, God is not likely to call you to only one place of service during your career. But no matter where God calls you, you need to think, work, live, and commit as if it is the only future God has entrusted to you.

Greater Jackson Business Journal Interview

I was pleased to tell the story of Belhaven on the television program of the Greater Jackson Business Journal.

The interviewer is Jack Criss, who has been a longtime advocate for high standards of ethics and quality in business, and has done much to build up our city through his publications, television, and radio program.  He’s also a great friend of Belhaven.

Here is the 8 minute video segment

Renewal – The Energy Drink

My week in August on a Montana trout stream, with only my fly rod and my bible – and without television, phone, or internet – was a total emersion in renewal.  But we can’t live from break-to-break and expect to be effective.

Rather, we must create an ongoing culture of renewal that is (1) dramatic, (2) deliberate, and (3) discerning.

1. Learning from the dramatic moments triggers renewal.

New Year’s resolutions don’t cause many people to eat right and exercise long term, but a heart-attack scare will do it almost every time.

Any life-pattern adjustment that moves far beyond teeth-gritting determination is usually born out of a dramatic moment.

Those dramatic moments are more often negative than positive, but we can have assurance in the sovereignty of God that He is using the hard times to teach and prepare us for what is yet to come. When life comes against us, we need to be looking to where God wants to push us rather than only pushing back.

Painful experiences require choosing between rejection or renewal.

Sometimes the trigger comes into our life because the Lord is testing and preparing us for something. Other times the stress comes because we’ve made bad choices and there are consequences to our actions.

Ideally, renewal is ignited because of the opportunities provided by insightful moments of reflection or dialog with other Christians we trust to give Godly advise.

Oftentimes the gigantic shifts in our lives, ministries, and society begin with a small moment of drama. Those who are renewed look for the unsettledness that can be the seedbed of change.

But no matter the source, God will use the dramatic moments to launch us into renewal if we are willing.

2. Deliberate action energizes renewal.

While the dramatic moments of opportunity or disappointment may trigger renewal, the real work is carried out in careful day-to-day follow-through.

Without ongoing implementation, our desire for renewal is fairly empty.

Renewal is not a one-time event. Like the life of holiness, renewal begins with a commitment, but then we must deepen, grow, and recommit ourselves continually to God’s calling. And in that process of sanctification, we can live and work confidently. Living in the center of God’s will is not a destination as much as it is the journey.

If we are going to be people who are renewed, sometimes it is best to “just do something,” even if it is not the ultimate change that needs to be made.

To get renewal moving, you could …

  • Take a day to see your calling in life from a bird’s-eye view rather than focus only on the day-to-day of your responsibilities.
  • Put the same level of energy into loving your kids and your spouse that you put into your job.
  • Get back into a routine of daily devotions.
  • Make a list of ways you can work smarter.
  • Take the time to fix something you’ll never get credit for doing.
  • Read something new in your field (or if you want to really be bold) outside your field of expertise.

Some action, even if it doesn’t focus on the area needing attention, can trigger renewal in other arenas. While a well-developed plan of renewal would seem admirable, I’ve found that just keeping the ball rolling is sometimes the key to grooving a path for change.

3. Discerning relationships accelerates renewal.

To develop a culture of renewal, you must become comfortable living with the ambiguous balance of growth and pruning in your working relationships.

Change in people will come with a grind of starts and stops, ups and downs, surprises and embarrassments.

Renewal is never easy. It is complex and messy, and only in hindsight is it usually attractive and admired. It is not the comfortable route for us or for those we are helping to renew.

But our calling demands a commitment to the disruptive work of renewal if we are to utilize fully the gifts of the people God has brought to us.

It would be orderly for us to shape around us “perfect employees” or the “perfect family” who fit our needs. But we will have missed our calling of loving in with the grace of Jesus, if we run from the disruptions necessary to allow every employee, friend, and family member the opportunity to grow and be pruned to become all God intends.

Renewal will not be an efficient straight line of progress. But renewal is a solid line of God’s strength and God’s outcome.

The Mission Exchange Reviews “The Longview”

The Mission Exchange is the largest evangelical association of missions organizations. And so I was especially pleased they featured my book, The Longview: Lasting Strategies for Rising Leaders

In their monthly “Leaders Edge Book Summary,” they did a nice job pulling out some of the major ideas.  You can read the review HERE

They also did a 35 minute interview about the book, and that can be heard HERE

Or if you’d like to see my 3 minute video summary of the book it is HERE

My 16th Kick-Off Message – One of the Three Most Important

With nearly 400 full time faculty and staff, now spread out over 6 physical campuses, plus our online campus, there is only one time each year when we all get together.

I only have  one time each year to share with all our focus for the year, and emphasize the core of our God-honoring mission that drives us together.

I just posted online my 16th message from these “Kick-Off” events, which we now call our Service of Dedication.  (And during the service received a clock to commemorate completing 15 years as president.)

Each of these messages are based on a verse of the year – a text that is especially applicable as I see where the Lord is leading the school in the year ahead.

From my perspective, during these 16 years, there have been three of these messages that have been most important (although last years would be a close 4th in my ranking):

1996 – My first message to the campus set the tone for our future together.

2003 – I introduced a new planning model to the campus based on the metaphor of becoming sailboats to catch the wind of God, rather than powerboats who go where we assume God wants us to go, but operate ignoring the wind.

2010 – I’ve outlined our mission in a fresh way, as the Lord has developed us as a University of 3,500 students.

If you’d like to listen, read, or download the message, you can find it HERE.

But here is the core ideas in summary:

What distinguishes Belhaven University from all the other 4,168 schools in America is our commitment to: “purposeful stewardship.”

It comes down to this idea – we have a drive and culture ingrained in Belhaven that seeks to get the best out of everything that God has given to us. We are purposefully good stewards of whatever the Lord entrusts to us.

1.  We have a calling to the stewardship of teaching an unchanging biblical worldview.

We are unwavering in the major issues of our Christian faith, and couple that solid biblical commitment with grace to be accepting of a variety of perspectives the minor issues of faith. We together all of God’s people across the evangelical spectrum of the Church.

  • The uniqueness of Christ as the only way to the Father
  • The justification by faith alone
  • The authority and inerrancy of scripture
  • The transforming power of the Holy Spirit
  • The reality of eternal life to come.

Like the pillars that symbolize Belhaven near our fountain, these timeless pillars of what it means to be a follower of Jesus are unmovable at the center of our campus.

2.  We have a calling to the stewardship of valuing every student.

We take every student – just where they are – and we invest in them to help get the most out of them.  We don’t just try to push students through a pre-designed program that makes it easy for us. Instead, we try to work with each one as a unique person whom God designed with special gifts, drive, and purpose.

We are convinced that every student at Belhaven University came here because God hand-picked them to come here.  And because they are a gift to us from God, we must be purposeful stewards of every single one of them.

3.  We have a calling to the stewardship of honoring God-given opportunities.

Our planning is built around waiting for God’s wind to blow, rather than traditional destination planning that attempts to predict where God wants us to go in the future.  Yes, we plan, but we do it locally, as close to every academic department, office, team, and function as possible – in order to be purposeful stewards of what God has already given us.

We do stewardship planning, instead of predicting a future in destination planning that wastefully consumes most schools, attempting to predict future outcomes that are often far beyond their control.

5 Million Listeners

Last week I had the opportunity to talk about my book before an audience of 5 million listeners on the Moody Broadcasting Networks popular evening drive time show, Prime Time America.

If you’d like to hear this 8 minute interview click here:  Roger Parrott Interview- Prime Time America, Moody Radio.

I was thrilled that the gracious host, Greg Wheatley,  invited me to begin by sharing about Belhaven, and I was able to give a brief message about the College to that nationwide audience.

I’m pleased to have had opportunities to talk about Belhaven during every radio interview I’ve done about the book.