5 leadership truths I’ve learned from my children
1. Don’t root your identity in what people think
2. Have fun
The way you speak about your team publicly will set the stage for how you are able to lead privately. Whether “publicly” for you means from stage, in conversations, in emails, or in feigned heart-wrenching prayer requests, public criticism is more important than you might think. George Washington knew this.
Washington was a man of exceptional, almost excessive self-command, rarely permitting himself any show of discouragement or despair, but in the privacy of his correspondence with Joseph Reed, he began now to reveal how very low and bitter he felt, if the truth were known. Never had he seen “such a dearth of public spirit and want of virtue” as among the Yankee soldiers, he confided in a letter to Reed of November 28. “These people” were still beyond his comprehension. A “dirty, mercenary spirit pervades the whole,” he wrote. (from David McCullough’s 1776)
Washington had a clear, accurate view of the people he was leading. But he chose not to rake them over the coals publicly, and in this showed incredible self-restraint and wisdom. It would’ve been easy for him to slough off the fact that he and the rebels were losing the battle against the British onto the people. To paint the colonists as a bunch of sloppy, ill-fitted, cowardly bunch. But he chose the honorable route of honoring them publicly.
You’re probably not the commanding general of the US Army, but this restraint is wise in relationships like
When someone speaks negatively of your team, it’s often easier to just shake your head in flaccid approval. Or join in, making you look better and them look worse. Whether you’re a leader in your church, in your community, or in your home, public support is vital.
7 reasons your team desperately needs your public support
Very few things will earn someone else’s respect of you more than them knowing you have their back no matter what. Even when you don’t fully agree with the decision they’ve made, and would’ve yourself made a different decision.
With public criticism, you rip others apart and cause them to disrespect you.
When you don’t give critics the satisfaction of dragging your team through the mud, you paint a vivid picture of a united team.
Public criticism breeds public and private criticism.
Instead of spiraling downwards into backbiting and complaining, public praise keeps the focus on what’s good, and where improvement and innovation can happen.
Public criticism squelches creativity because it causes you to lose focus on the problem, and spiral into negativity.
If you publicly criticize others, you have no chance of leading them behind closed doors. They won’t give you a chance, because you’ve ripped their confidence and trust.
Public criticism closes the door for private leadership.
What goes around comes around, both positively and negatively. If someone is criticizing one of your team members now, they’ll criticize you later. Mark my words.
Private criticism permeates a team culture.
Public praise helps show others that you are on a team, and that you are all headed in the same direction. It builds the confidence of those you are leading as they see they are being served by a team, not just one person out to criticize everyone else.
Public criticism deteriorates the health of a team.
Love hopes all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7) Your heart shifts towards love when you act lovingly, even when your feelings aren’t there yet. Try hoping the best for the people you serve with, even when you’re not 100% sure of the motives. Because that’s what love does.
With public criticism, your heart can grow cold to those you are serving with.
There is a time and a place for critically evaluating ideas, decisions, and character issues. But those hard questions are better asked in private than waved publicly for others to join in the gossip and negativity.
Next time someone tries to throw a fellow team member under the bus, yank them out before they get run over. It’ll be better for you, your team, and the hater you’re talking with.
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. – Paul, Ephesians 4:2-3
It was the last inning of the final game of the 14-year-old travel team tournament I was playing in. We were in Murray, KY, squaring off against the home town heroes. The two guys in front of me struck out looking, frozen by the ace that the other team had brought in to close out the tournament.
I remember the look from my coach as I walked up to the plate with two outs. The look that said, “Dang it. Reed is up. I guess this tournament is over for us.” That look just made me mad. So mad that I whiffed on the first two heaters he painted on the outside corner. 0-2 count. Nobody knew it right then, not even the pitcher, but I had this guy’s number. I had him dialed in. He came in on me with a low fastball, and when he did, it was like the whole world slowed down for a moment. I felt like I could see the ball like I’d never seen it before. Instead of throwing me a heater on the inside corner, it was like he was lobbing me a softball. The buzz of the crowd went away, the fielders disappeared, and it was just me and the ball. It was like I was in the matrix for a moment. I turned on it, ripping it to the left field wall, knocking in the tying run.
Boom. Take that, coach. And other team.
Have you ever had those kinds of moments, where everything around you is going crazy, but you are so laser focused that time seems to slow?
The best leaders work like that, navigating stressful and crushing situations with ease. They have a calming sense about them, too, bringing other people into their zone and helping them calm down.
Helping crazy moments seem a little less crazy.
Helping chaos seem like a smooth Sunday afternoon ride.
Helping confusion seem like an evening in the recliner.
Here is the reality: even in these “zone” moments, things aren’t calm. They aren’t clear. But great leaders help others feel that way, as they constantly, through their words and actions in the heat of the moment, cast the vision that says,
“We’re going to be just fine. Hang on. Here’s where we’re going.”
They paint a picture that isn’t satisfied with the reality in front of them, but is looking forward to that day when things will be calm.
Here’s the trick that the best leaders do:
Even if you aren’t. Even if you don’t know which direction you should go next. Even if you are frustrated, up-tight, and confused. Take a deep breath, and help others to do the same. If you lose your cool complaining and crying, you only exacerbate an already stress-inducing environment.
As the old adage goes, fake it until you make it.
But that’s just lying, Ben!
Or maybe your words and actions can be deeply rooted in a faith that trusts that no matter what happens, God’s not shaken. God’s in control. He calls the shots, not us. And even if we fail, God works out all things for our good. Stress tends to bring out the best, and the worst, in people. Let it bring out your deep trust in a good King.
Next time chaos and confusion strikes a meeting, an event, or a relationship, act calm. Remind people who’s really in control. Take a deep breath. And move forward.
I’ve made it no secret that I’m loving me some amateur gardening. My wife and I have tinkered with raised bed gardens now for a few years. We’ve moved the garden, planted different vegetables, started from seeds, started from plants, experimented with fertilizers, sprayed for deer, thrown oranges at deer (and hit them, thank you very much), and had a blast doing it.
But do you know one thing that’s never happened?
We’ve never had a plant that shot its roots towards the sky and its fruit down into the ground.
We’ve never had to say,
Aww shucks (because that’s what gardeners say…), this plant got it wrong…we need to dig it up and turn it over.
Wouldn’t it be weird to see roots growing towards the sky? To have to dig into the ground to get your fresh tomatoes? To wonder, when you planted your squash, whether the plants would guess, correctly or incorrectly, which direction was “up” and which was “down”?
Plants grow the “right” way because God intended them to grow that way. Science may have pinpointed the reason why this happens, but that doesn’t discount the hand of God to sovereignly direct things for His good and our benefit.
I wonder how often a plant questions its Maker, though.
Wow, how great would it be for me to do things my way? I so hate growing towards the sun. If I could only sink my flowers down deep into this dark soil, things would be much better.
Ridiculous, no? We all know that that won’t work. Roots have to go into the soil. Fruit grows in the sun. (well…unless you’re a potato. But that’s another post for another day) It doesn’t work if this process is reversed. It’s not how plants are supposed to function.
We do the same thing, though, in our lives, when we think we know better than God. We ignore the full life that God offers us. We go at life our own way, ignoring the wisdom God offers through others, through Scripture, and through life experiences. We think that we must know better. That our way must be the best. That roots don’t grow deep into the soil. That our roots need a bit of sunshine, and our fruit a bit of darkness.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12)
But life doesn’t always happen as we’d like it to, does it? What we thought would happen by the time we turn 25 hasn’t. We’re not married. Or we don’t have children. Or we’re not in our dream job yet. Or we don’t have a house. Or we don’t have much money. Or we haven’t finished our degree. Or our dad still doesn’t want a relationship with us. By 40, our kids don’t like us. We’re on our 3rd marriage. Still in debt. Still have a dead-end job. Maybe life has left us trashed.
And life itself has stopped making sense.
If God is who He’s claimed He is, our natural inclination would be to accuse, blame, and turn our backs on the One who has created it all.
But let me challenge you with a better way. I think it’s time to trust the Guy who knew us before He crafted us in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16). Who knew what He was doing before we were born.
Even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when things are chaotic. Even when things are falling apart.
The One who created all of this knows what’s best. His perspective is bigger than ours. His ways are higher than ours. (Isaiah 55:8-9) His love is deeper than ours. His joy is more full than ours. And He’s able to bring beauty out of ashes. (Isaiah 61:3)
Choose to scream and rail and throw your hands in the air if you’d like.
Or choose to let your roots sink deeper…and let your fruit grow upwards.
Carrying around a megaphone doesn’t legitimize your message.
It just makes your message louder.
Just like talking about your dreams doesn’t mean you’ve taken any real action to accomplishing them.
It just makes your dreams more widely distributed.
We love to talk about our plans and goals and dreams. Sharing your dreams is a great way to keep a conversation going, and make us seem like we’re the forward-thinking, out-of-the-box type.
But just like the guy who writes a blog about how to write a blog about blogging is great at spinning his wheels but creating no real movement, so too are our wheels spinning.
We go in circles trying to justify our inaction.
9 times out of 10, our inaction is driven by our fear.
Faith takes risks, trusting God to truly be a God who loves to do the impossible. You’ll never fully understand God’s power until you have the faith to believe, pray, and act on the fact that our God is a God who loves to do the impossible. (Re: Ephesians 3:20-21)
You can’t experience God’s power if you trust Him with what you, in your power alone, can do. Faith requires risk. Risk to trust God. Risk to fight your fear. Risk to believe and act in confidence that God is who He says He is and does what He says he’ll do.
Instead of writing about marriage, take your wife on a date.
Instead of taking about reaching out to your neighbor, do it.
Instead of leading others to be generous, do it yourself.
Instead of telling others about your dream, start living it.
It’s not developed overnight. And though working on a path cleared for you by others helps, you’ve still got to do the hard work of building trust.
The same thing is true whether you’re building a relationship with someone you’re trying to help grow in their faith, trying to build a new company, planting a church, launching a blog, starting a movement, or trying to change the culture of an age-old tradition.
Share information that’s valuable and you’ll slowly but surely build a loyal audience. You may not see the results today. And you probably won’t see the ROI tomorrow.
But in the long run, you’ll find that consistently sharing valuable information builds trust, and leaves you with a tribe of followers.
I want to thank you for all of the prayers you prayed for my son, who had surgery a couple of weeks ago. It went very well, and he’s recovering nicely. In fact, he does not even react as if the surgery site is painful now. We’re so thankful for the outpouring of love and support from you all.
Sending my son in for surgery was one of the toughest things I’ve had to do. The worst part was when they wheeled him out to the operating room, and we saw him round the corner away from us. Let me tell you, that was a tough moment. Part of the reason it was so tough was because it’s my son, and I love him, and I hate to see him hurting. But the other, and more significant reason that it was so difficult, I believe, was that it was out of my control. Surgery is beyond my level of expertise, and I had nothing to do with the procedure in the surgery room. It was completely beyond me. When things are beyond us, out of our control, we can move in one of two directions: worry or trust.
Worry says that I don’t really trust that God is in control. Because God is not fully in control, and He’s not going to give this the time, effort, love, and thought that the gravity of this situation deserves, I in my sufficient wisdom will fret, sweat, and unhealthily concern myself with that which I cannot control. God cannot be in control, because if He were, He would have led me to this situation. Worry, at its heart, reflects a lack of trust.
Trust, on the other hand, says that though this is a difficult situation, and I don’t know what the outcome will be, God is in control. As He has been faithful in the past, so will He be faithful now. God is good, and His love endures forever (1 Chronicles 16:34). The one who trusts sleeps peacefully in the knowledge that God is the one who provides true safety (Psalm 4:8). Trust, at its heart, reflects a true belief.
I’d like to say that I never once worried throughout this whole process, but I can’t honestly say that. However, I can say that difficult situations tend to bring heart issues out. When difficult times come, use that as a time to evaluate your heart. Will you worry? Or will you flee to God?