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Leadership Weekly

The Power of Partnership

Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. — Philippians 1:4-5

Partnership is the ability to accomplish more together than apart. It recognizes that a team is stronger than a lone individual. A group committed to each other will help the struggling and the fallen.

Mother Teresa said, "You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together, we can do great things." An anonymous author wrote, "It is better to have one person working with you, than three working for you." Andrew Carnegie confessed, "I owe whatever success I have attained, by and large, to my ability to surround myself with people who are smarter than I am." John Wooden, perhaps the greatest basketball coach of all time, reminded his team, "The man who puts the ball through the hoop has ten hands."

Call it whatever you want--teamwork, association, synergy--partnership is the remarkable ability of two or more people working together to accomplish more than what each could do alone.

This truth is a fit reminder to God's people that when we are working together in harmony, the talents and gifts of the body minimize the weaknesses and shortcomings of the body, thereby making a stronger unit. Just as a baseball team needs nine players on the field or the game is forfeited, the local church needs everyone participating, or the strength of the body is weakened and the advancement of the gospel is threatened. If you took away one musician from an orchestra, the symphony would be incomplete. So, too, if one member of the family of God is missing, the church is incomplete.

We need each other. You need someone, and someone needs you.

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The Force of Faith

It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches. — Matthew 13:32

There is strength in smallness. It only takes a spark to get a fire going. A small rudder steers a large boat. One idea can spur an individual to change the world. And faith, regardless of its size, can change a desperate crisis into a hope-filled event.

Jesus' parable about a mustard seed is a parable about smallness effecting greatness. The mustard seed was known for its smallness. In fact, the term was proverbial for smallness. The mustard plant was an herb. There was a particular variety of mustard plant in Palestine in Jesus' day that grew rapidly from a minute seed into a bush and then into a tree. Mustard seeds were so small, the naked eye could barely see them. Yet the result was a strong-branched growth in which birds could not only perch but also build nests.

How often have you said when you felt like giving up, "I wish I had more faith?" Or, how do you respond when you are going through a difficult situation and someone says, "You need more faith?"

According to this parable, more faith is not needed. The issue is not the size of your faith but the object of your faith. Faith needs to be directed toward God. Even the smallest amount of faith can lead you to a strong finish.

In 1972, NASA launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10. The satellite's primary mission was to reach Jupiter and complete a life span of three years. Remarkably, by 1997, twenty-five years after its launch and more than six billion miles from the sun, Pioneer 10 was still beaming back radio signals to scientists on Earth from an 8-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night light.

The seed of faith planted within us is like that tiny 8-watt transmitter. We can keep going and going and going. God has implanted with us all the faith we need. As long as we keep our heart focused on him, God can work.

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We Are in This Together

But now I said to them, "You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!" — Nehemiah 2:17

Did you notice the words we and us in this verse? In order to motivate the people of Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, Nehemiah had to identify with their problem, their need, and their future. It was no longer their problem. Now Nehemiah saw the broken wall as our problem. Imagine the kind of response Nehemiah would have received if he had said, "You folks have gotten yourselves into a bad mess. You know what you need to do? You need to rebuild that wall. If you need me, I'll be in my office. After all, I wasn't part of the problem. You people will have to get it on and do the work. Let me know how it turns out."

Identifying with the problem encourages motivation.

When Lee Iacocca became chairman and CEO of Chrysler at the height of the auto giant's problems in 1979, he knew he would have to ask employees to take a pay cut to keep the company out of bankruptcy. Although he persuaded Congress to guarantee the company loans, he was still deeply distrusted by Chrysler's union members. He knew that he had to find a way to persuade these workers that he had Chrysler's best interests at heart.

Iacocca called a meeting of key management and union executives. He announced that for the next year his salary would be $1. The gambit worked. By sacrificing his own salary, Iacocca proved that he placed the welfare of the company over personal gain.

He identified with the workers. He was saying, "We are in this together. And, together we can make it through." He knew that people will accept a lot of pain when everybody is going through the trial together. If the followers know that the leader's in with them, together they can move a mountain or, in Nehemiah's case, build a wall.

In what ways can you identify with the people you lead? How can you say to them, "We are in this together?"

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People Do Things for Their Reasons, Not Yours

But now I said to them, "You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!" — Nehemiah 2:17

Gordon Bethune took over Continental Airlines as CEO when it was in a free fall in 1994. The airline had one of the worst on-time records in the business. Customer service almost didn't exist. Planes were dirty. Workers lost luggage.

The first problem Bethune tackled was the on-time record. He pledged non-manager workers $65 bonuses every month the airline's on-time rate put it in the top five nationwide. Baggage handlers, gate and reservation clerks, flight attendants, and secretaries were all part of the pool.

He arrived at the $65 by determining what it cost the company each month to run flights late. At $5 million per month, Bethune was willing to give half of that back to the employees ($65 times 40,000 employees) if they turned their on-time record around. He announced the program in January 1995. In February of 1999, 80% of Continental's flights landed on time.

By providing a financial windfall to the employees, all of a sudden, planes were clean. Motivation was up. So were profits. People were doing things for their reasons.

During Nehemiah's time, the city walls encircling Jerusalem, God's holy city, lay in ruins. It was a disgrace. A city's walls were for protection. Without the stone barricade and nothing to stop their enemies, the inhabitants were defenseless and vulnerable to attack.

People are experts in cost-benefit analysis. Everybody asks, "What's in it for me?" Constructed walls around Jerusalem would benefit the residents of the city. Nehemiah knew this and acted on it. He led the people of Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, not for his sake (he lived a thousand miles away) but for their sake. And, it wasn't an extra $65 a month in their paycheck; it was for the protection of their very lives and their families.

One can poke, prod, and push people, and they don't move. But give them a good reason--one of their reasons--a way in which they will benefit, and they will follow where you lead.

People do things for their reasons, not your reasons. Their reasons.

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Is Your Life Balanced?

Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people. — Luke 2:52

A balanced life is characterized by order, peace, and wholeness. The various parts of life are as they should be and where they should be. Each part of the balanced life gets the right amount of time and effort at the right time. It's not giving each part of life the same amount of time that makes life balanced; it's giving each part the necessary allotment of time.

The life of Jesus is an excellent model concerning balance. Throughout his life, Jesus was under constant pressure. Friend and enemy alike pursued him. Yet, when examining his life as recorded in Scripture, one sees that he never hurried, that he never had to play catch up, and that he was never taken by surprise. He managed time well, bringing it under control, because he knew the importance of balance. Jesus' life was well rounded. He grew intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially.

Does your life reflect a balance? Do you make time for intellectual growth? If you are too busy to read a book or engage in study that stimulates the mind, you are too busy. Do you make time for physical health? Many people burn out because of improper personal maintenance. Don't be another fatality on the emotional highway. Take care of your physical self. Do you make time for your relationship with God? Do you feel too busy for prayer, Bible study, meditation, or devotions? Psalms 46:10 can be translated, "Take time and know that I am God." A popular hymn gives this advice: "Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord . . . Take time to be holy, the world rushes on," but do we do it? Do you make time for primary relationships? Is adequate time provided for your spouse, family, and friends?

Only you can answer those questions honestly. And, only you can take the necessary steps to bring order, harmony, and balance back in your life. Start today.

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How's Your Vision?

When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful. — Proverbs 29:18

Robert Fritz wrote, "It is not what a vision is; it's what a vision does." What does a vision do? Vision is the ability to see. Helen Keller was asked, "Is there anything worse than being blind?" "Yes," she replied, "having eyesight but no vision!"

Leaders imagine a preferred future. Vision is the stuff of the future. Vision is the vivid image of the compelling future God wants to create through you. Leaders can stand up and say this is where we are going.

Mike Vance tells of being at Walt Disney World soon after its completion when someone said, "It's too bad Walt Disney didn't live to see this." Vance replied, "He DID see it--that's why it's here."

What kind of vision do you have?

Myopic vision. Leaders with myopic vision are so terribly nearsighted that they live only for today. Their vision of the future is fuzzy. They can barely see beyond their noses.

Peripheral vision. Leaders with peripheral vision are blindsided by side issues. These visionaries are hampered in moving forward because they catch the threatening images of lurking problems in the corners of their eyes. They are fearful of shadowy difficulties and people lurking on the sidelines who will defeat their efforts. These folks are easily distracted.

Tunnel vision. Leaders with tunnel vision see only what's dead ahead of them and assume that their slender view of reality reflects the whole world. They don't see other persons or other issues.

Panoramic vision. Leaders with panoramic vision see the big picture. They see beyond today. They see what is ahead of them. They see what is to their sides. They have a basic understanding of the key ingredients of a healthy organization and know the steps that it will take to get them there.

Vision is perhaps the greatest need of leadership today. As someone said regarding the church but it pertains to any organization, "Our preachers aren't dreaming. That's why the church is such a nightmare."

How's your vision? Without it your organization will be like an unbridled horse. With it the organization will be focused, moving toward the fulfillment of the dream.

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Intimacy Revealed

Jesus replied, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don't know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?" — John 14:9

Knowing God personally is the greatest satisfaction a human can have while living on earth. What a privilege to be able to talk and spend time with the one who created us! And yet there are times in our lives when we don't strive to be truly satisfied in the Lord. Leaders always have to be on guard against callousness when it comes to their personal faith in Jesus. Head knowledge, education, and work experience do not equal intimacy. Instead, intimacy involves a meaningful friendship with Jesus where deep secrets, struggles, and successes are shared. What results is an extension of his life in their thoughts, attitudes, and actions.

But what if our hearts are calloused and hardened, wrapped in protection much like an artichoke? We first must realize that we cannot, in our own power, fix the problem. Secondly, we have to be willing to discard our pride and re-surrender our lives to the Lord. Only he can peel away our layers of protection so we can be changed for his glory. He knows our hearts even when it's hiding behind the artichoke leaves.

The twelve disciples had life experiences unlike any of us will ever have. They were able to spend time daily with Jesus, walking, talking, and watching him perform countless miracles. Even with their proximity to the Lord, they still didn't understand who he was. Jesus' question to Philip in John 14:9 is one that he asks his followers today. Just replace Philip's name with yours. At the same time, Jesus says to us, "Come and know me. Really know who I am." It's a call of hope, of rest, of excitement that cannot be easily forgotten.

Not now. Not ever. Can you hear that call to intimacy with Jesus today?

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Broken Trust

I gave you your master's house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. Why, then, have you despised the word of the LORD and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife. — 2 Samuel 12:8-9

The life of King David was filled with numerous triumphs, conquests, and successes. He single-handedly took down Goliath with a sling and a stone. He wrote many of the psalms from which we find comfort in our times of difficulty. He presided over the nation of Israel and was considered by many to be its greatest leader.

David also learned a harsh lesson about the importance of trust. While sitting on his rooftop one day (when he should have been at war), he saw Bathsheba bathing and sent for her. This act led to adultery, the murder of Uriah the Hittite, and a cover-up of the whole situation. Only when the prophet Nathan confronted David about his actions did the king ask God for forgiveness. However, the Lord did not let David off easy. The child he fathered with Bathsheba died, there was a constant threat of murder in his family, and his son Absalom caused David problems until he was killed in battle.

When someone is trusted with a leadership role, they are given the opportunity to use their talents, time, and influence for causes bigger than themselves. As they make good decisions while showing integrity and concern for others, they earn trust. John Maxwell likens this to putting change in their pocket. However, when they betray that trust, it becomes difficult to regain. In addition, the leader has to pay some of their change back to the people. When one runs out of change, trust is gone. And when trust is gone, the leader ceases to be a leader.

King David's story should serve as a reminder of the importance of trust and how quickly it can disappear. Allow God to mold and refine your character so that your decisions will inspire others to trust your abilities.

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