They say the Lord works in mysterious ways, and they're right.
Last week, I had the privilege of attending the 2-day Global Leadership Summit.
It was at the invitation of my old high school basketball teammate, Paul Atwater, who is senior pastor at the satellite venue where the event was simulcast.
I have been out of my job since May. Prior to that, I had been in leadership roles for most of the past 35 years.
(Note: The picture is just to show leadership. I don't climb mountains. ;)
It's the Lord's mysterious way that, after all those years in formal leadership roles, I run into this conference, which had more insight into how to lead than I had seen in at least the past 20 years, 2 months out of a job. Oh well!
It is built on the foundation of acknowledging that good leadership practices do not differ from one environment to another.
Whether running a call center or a clothing store or a manufacturing plant or a website or a church or or a lemonade stand or a government department or even a family, all have the same fundamental leadership principles.
And all people, regardless of what their formalized 'role' is, have influence.
The speakers - there were 15 over the 2 days - were exceptional. Each had a unique qualification and focus, including:
a generational behavior researcher;
a former director of hostage negotiation for the FBI;
a Salvation Army officer focused on ending human trafficking;
a Hollywood movie producer;
the mayor of Compton, California;
wilderness survival TV star Bear Grylls;
and many others.
They all had different stories, but more important, they all had clear, actionable next steps, so that you can implement change, starting now, if you so choose.
Although the venues were in churches, the presentations were secular. There was conscious effort not to make this an overtly evangelistic program. They didn't hide Christianity, but it was not front and center either.
The focus was on making better leaders in all environments, with the understanding that better leadership will unleash the power of the people's pent-up talents to make the world a better, happier, more successful place for everyone.
As with any self-help book or article, my criteria for an event like this is if I take away just one useful idea that will help me going forward, it's been a worthwhile investment of time.
This two-day conference featured bunches of such ideas, including:
Common Thread through all presentations - Leaders must strive to connect at a deep, human level with those they seek to lead. (This sounds elementary, but as an extreme introvert, it's not something I do naturally, or well).
Think INSIDE the Box - Constraints drive creativity and motivate teams to innovate. (Thinking outside the box has its place, but it can bog down in time wasted chasing ideas that are ultimately ridiculous.)
"Commit to 'what,' consumed by 'why,' and you will be more than motivated to figure out 'how.'
Be a Crazy Farmer with a Pitchfork - Fear the 'crazy farmer with a pitchfork' because he doesn't care about the rules, has nothing to lose, and will approach the fight in an unpredictable way. (I just like the visual. I could be a farmer with a pitchfork...)
Research says that, contrary to popular opinion, the Millenial generation are not 'tech savvy' but 'tech dependent.' (Attached to phones to an extreme degree, but not necessarily 'savvy' or able to 'do' a lot of things with technology.)
Commit to your calling and embrace your difference. Don't exchange what makes you unique for what makes you common, just to fit in. (Spoken by an African-American, openly Christian, Hollywood movie producer, who has consistently refused to give in to comformist pressure, yet still thrives).
"If you could see the size of your life and God's plan for it, you would never accept the narrow, limited definitions that other people try to apply to you." (What would I do if I knew how much impact God has planned for me?)
So what? Why does any of this matter?
Why should you care if you are not in a role that considers you a 'Leader' (Capital 'L.' Not to mention if you're not employed at all, as I am currently not)?
Or am I just a leadership nerd (This is entirely possible)?
Because each of us has influence.
Each of us has been led, and some of us have experience with both effective and ineffective leaders. (It's easy to tell which is which, by the way.)
Some of us who have been formal Leaders have been effective or ineffective. (I have been both).
Each of us can be a leader (Small 'l') even if we're not a 'formal' Leader (Capital L).
Each of us has a voice.
Each of us has an audience. Whether it's our family, friends, coworkers, social media contacts, church members, customers, vendors, or a fandom numbering in the millions, we have someone to whom we communicate.
And since you have an audience, regardless of size, you have influence.
You may not have a loud voice or a huge audience. But you have a what you need to wield your influence.
There is no guarantee that if you use your voice to speak about the right things, that your voice will grow louder, or that your audience influence grows bigger.
It may not.
But, then again, it may...
Even if you're speaking to the same small audience with the same tiny voice...,
...shouldn't you be using whatever influence you have to spread love, grace, respect, gratitude, acceptance, joy and peace?
Shouldn't you be meeting anger and hate with empathy and love?
Shouldn't you be asking yourself, before lashing out or losing control when you are unfairly attacked or offended, what would Jesus do?
Assume that your audience, whomever they are, is going to listen to and act on your message to them today. Assume complete obedience and acceptance of your message.
What do you want to tell them?
What do you want them to do?
What do you want them to say to their audience?
Your message may lead some, or all of your audience to share this message with their audience.
It's like the old shampoo commercial where Heather Locklear 'told two friends, and they told 2 friends, and so on and so on and so on...'
The definition of a virtuous circle, in part, says, ' Self-propagating advantageous situation in which a successful solution leads to more of a desired result, leading to other desirable results...in an escalating chain....'
A vicious cycle is essentially the opposite, '... a solution ... which leads to another problem whose solution, in turn, leads to another problem, and so on, back to the first problem in a more severe form.'
You can start a virtuous circle.
You can reverse or stem a vicious cycle.
You do this with your influence.
When you spread gossip, bitterness, prejudice, bullying, hatred or violence to your audience, you exercise your influence in a vicious cycle. People will share this message with their audiences.
When you send encouragement, praise, support, acceptance, joy, grace, empathy, mercy and/or forgiveness to your audience, you exercise your influence in a virtuous circle. People will pass that along too.
So start a virtuous circle today. Or counter a vicious cycle. The world has more than its share of vicious cyclers. Apparently some think it's easier to do than to be positive.
It's not. It's just as easy to be positive. You just have to choose to do it.
Try one of these today:
Send a note to a friend, colleague, family member with some sort of sincere praise.
Say something to stop a gossip conversation
Resist complaining about an 'annoying' co-worker when others are doing so
Encourage your 'annoying' co-worker
If you can tell a colleague is hurting, offer to help them
Offer to help your boss
Hold the door for someone
Hold the elevator
Organize an after-work happy hour
Find something good to say to someone you disagree with
Don't overthink it! Don't worry about what happens after.
As long as you are sincere and doing things for the right reasons, you'll be doing your job as a leader (small 'l') and doing your part to make everybody's life a little better.
You can do it.
You (yes, you!) can make the world better. You just have to choose to.
God bless you, and thanks for reading!