At a diverse variety of organizations, across a span of about forty-five years, I experienced leadership at many levels. Nearly twenty years of that time was spent as a CEO, leading organizations with a combined total of about a thousand employees and combined annual budgets of nearly $200M. Throughout that time I was constantly trying to understand better what my real job was. I know that sounds awful. Am I saying that I never knew what I was doing in those positions? Absolutely not.
I am saying I have dedicated myself to trying to understand and teach the various roles of the senior leader. Not the formal duties written out and filed somewhere and pretty much taken for granted. I don't mean specified duties such as
An interest in physics, of all things, is one of the lesser eccentricities of my life. Let me be clear. I am not saying I understand physics. I am simply interested in some aspects of it in the same way I am drawn to opera, which I am, and which is yet another somewhat embarrassing admission. I am certainly no opera aficionado. It's just something that appeals for reasons I cannot fully explain. Often in a language I cannot understand with absolutely unsingable music, opera is a fascinating display of complex staging, antique-sounding music and bizarre costumes all passionately over-done, way over the top, in a way that somehow intrigues me. You just haven't lived until you seen “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” Valkyries? Oh, yeah!
Physics has become something like that to me. It is in a language I do not speak. I grant you that. But when I hear it spoken, I am drawn to it. Go figure. This is a late in life aberration. I certainly do not cherish happy memories of the
Ever heard the proverbial statement that there are two sides to everything? I'm sure you have. The only problem is that is not always true. In fact, it is frequently not true. Instead the old saying is often used as camouflage by the person or persons in the wrong.
The wife beater tells the arresting officer, “There's two sides to everything.”
No there is not. Not in that case anyway.
When a mutinous associate pastor walks off with half the church and plants a new church down the block, there are not two sides to that. An inescapable ethical reality presides over that story. Any claim of "justification" is silenced.
The old saw about two sides is just plain not always right. In my childhood in Texas I grew up hearing another proverb, a better one. It goes like this: “Right is right and wrong ain't nothing.”
I invite you to go back and read my column, A Parable of Presbyterians and Palestinians dated June 25, 2014 here. It was written before Hamas started its most recent rocket bombardment of the civilian population of Israel. Since 2001,
Last night the Major League Baseball All-Stars played. Everybody imagines that at some moment of great struggle they will heroically rise to the occasion and be that shining champion so adored by the masses, tipping their hat to the cheering throng. Every one of us has fantasized of stepping to the plate and "jacking one out of the park" in an All-Star game. Perhaps not in baseball, but in ballet or business or some endeavor or another. No one daydreams of striking out. The Leaders' Notebook today is not for the untarnished winners. Today's blog is dedicated to all those who have ever
by Dr. Mark Rutland
The word dream is used variously to mean both that product of the subconscious mind while we sleep and the conscious fruit of the mind that dares actively to envision that which is not. Both are valid uses of the word, and the two are not as disparate as many think.
Joseph dreamed a dream in his sleep, Martin Luther King Jr. in his soul. “I have a dream” is perhaps the most exhilarating, attractive, dangerous, wondrous announcement we can make about ourselves. Intimidated or inspired, repulsed or magnetized, the world responds to a dream received. The power of a dream received can polarize a society, transform a culture, start a work or end an evil.
A dream transmitted, even transmitted by heaven, is useless without a willing receptor. Even so, there are unanswerables. For example, is God constantly granting dreams to the many, and only a few receive? What makes God
The recent decision of the United States Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius case is incredibly important and wonderful news for all who love religious liberty. However, some have misunderstood its significance. I am indescribably opposed to the entirety of The Affordable Care Act (read Obamacare). It is arguably the single worst piece of legislation in the USA since Reconstruction. I hope the entire law will be repealed. I am saying all that so that no reader will misunderstand what I say next.
The Hobby Lobby win is important not because the Obamacare law itself is wrong-headed, which it certainly is, but because the section on contraception and, most importantly, abortive prescriptions, is unconscionable and utterly unconstitutional. No matter what anyone thinks of Obamacare as a whole, liberals, democrats, republicans and conservatives should be horrified that that portion of the law was ever passed. Likewise, all who love liberty should rejoice that it was struck down.
This decision upholds again that the government cannot force private parties to buy products which violate their consciences. If this case had failed in the Supreme Court it could have paved the way for the government to force us to pay for anything it deemed worthy irrespective of our conscience. In my opinion the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional but this section was absolutely terrifying in its implications. What if the
Imagine that your next door neighbor, without asking your permission, cut down all the trees in your back yard. In response, you built a privacy fence between your house and his and replanted the trees. Now imagine that he organized others in your subdivision to protest against your fence. The HOA charged you with being "un-neighborly" and demanded that you take down the fence. When you mention the trees, you are told, "Well, that was unfortunate but you provoked it. In theory we are opposed to that regrettable tree-cutting episode but that was then. This is now, and now we demand the fence be taken down."
"What if he does it again?" you demand. "He is still throwing beer cans and garbage over the fence into my yard. Nearly every day. My children are afraid to play in the back yard. If I remove the fence he will just come back in and do worse. What do you say about that?"
"What do we say to that? We say you should move. We cannot condone what he does to damage your yard or endanger your children, but on the other hand, you have a better car than he does, your yard is landscaped much more
The Leader's Notebook today is different from anything I have ever posted before. It is, on the one hand, quite clearly an advertisement. I hope it will entice you to attend the National Institute of Christian Leadership. On the other hand, I also want you to know about this Institute even if you never attend. In the first place, it may be that someone you care about would benefit greatly from this program.
I also just want you to know about one of Global Servants' most successful and productive programs. Many of my readers' only connection is through this blog. While I am delighted for such folks, I also want every reader to understand
Every employer has made or eventually will make a bad hire. If you already have this unhappy box checked, welcome to the club. If you have not yet made an unfortunate choice, your seat at the table awaits you. It's probably just a matter of time. If you have made a bad hire and you are merely living in denial, its time to face the truth and "man up."
Having said all that, I want to offer a few insights on the interview process, which thoughts, I believe, can he helpful in making good hiring decisions. No system is infallible. I know that. However, when I have carefully followed a few simple
This week's Leaders' Notebook is something of a departure. It is actually more of a historical/cultural commentary than a leadership piece. I wrote this article for publication elsewhere but it will be a while before it comes out, so I thought I would let you get a chance to read it first.
It is difficult to separate tradition from history with regard to the various waves of persecution endured by Christians under the Roman Empire. The numbers of Christians crucified and thrown to wild beasts may be exaggerated, as some maintain. Perhaps. That this happened in some numbers is undeniable. The first emperor to launch an official state-
An administrative snarl can tangle the line in any large organization, and the larger it is, the more likely the mess. No matter how carefully plans are made, regardless of the policies and procedures in place, and despite all management practices, someone somewhere down in the belly of the beast can drop a monkey wrench in the works and do serious damage.
The full-time federal work force has now surpassed 2.5 million employees. In other words there is a full-time federal employee for every 121 Americans. That is a massive work force managed by a vast and complicated bureaucracy. One can only imagine how easy it might be for a non-productive worker to hide bad practices or even criminal activity in the entrails of such a monster. Given such a mass of humanity and the very human tendency to sin, it is inevitable that some
RELAUNCH: HOW TO STAGE AN ORGANIZATIONAL COMEBACK
by Dr. Mark Rutland
The demise of Oldsmobile is a textbook example of a company getting ahead of itself and changing its message before it had a new market to align with the new message. Management at Oldsmobile realized that it had a specific market that wanted a specific kind of car. For decades they had been convinced that there would always be people who wanted Oldsmobiles, and that those people would always want Oldsmobiles to look like Oldsmobiles. They did quite well with that market. The problem was that they were securing a growing share of a shrinking market. The people who wanted Oldsmobiles were elderly, and they were dying. Young people didn't want Oldsmobiles.
Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Oldsmobile hired an advertising agency to create a last-gasp, hail-Mary campaign to
RELAUNCH: HOW TO STAGE AN ORGANIZATIONAL COMEBACK
by Dr. Mark Rutland
In fascinating slow-motion photography, Dr. Mike Wheatland, a professor at the University of Syndney specializing in solar astrophysics demonstrated the quite surprising movement of a suspended Slinky. Holding the Slinky at the top, he let it hang straight down, unfurled as it were. He then let go. The slow- motion photography proved that for a time (brief though it was) the bottom end did not fall. The Slinky collapsed from the top down. The sections at the top began to contract while the bottom stayed where it was.
This was caused, he explained, because the information that the slinky was no longer held in place at the top took some period of time to reach the bottom. In fact, by the time that information did reach the bottom it was distorted. The very top
How would you like a sneak peek at my next book? The manuscript is basically finished. My agent has it and she is starting to shop it to publishers. I am very excited about this book. I waited nearly ten years to write it and I am trusting it will be a great blessing to many. I am not trying to sell you a book. There are none yet to sell. The book will probably be out in the fall of 2015.
I just thought my faithful blog readers might enjoy seeing a brief snippet of the book, before anyone else gets a chance. The working title is "21 Seconds To Change Earth." Here is a little taste. I hope it piques your interest.
A TV sportscaster was interviewing a retired Olympic runner just before one race at a big track and field event. One runner they were discussing was the favorite but evidently a strong competitor was in the lane beside him.
“What do you think he needs to do to win today?” the interviewer asked.
I do not play fantasy baseball, nor do I play fantasy football, nor any other fantasy sports that may be lurking out there. When I say what I am about to say, those who do participate in these "sports," and there are plenty in my own family and office, will quickly respond that I simply do not understand the thrill. Frankly, I do not understand the thrill. I just do not get it.
Perhaps it's the word FANTASY that throws me off. Perhaps it's the techno-non-participatory-“geek-ness” factor that does it. The even more likely culprit is my inner resistance to fads. There is something in me that clings to the beach when all the other surfers are paddling madly out for the Big Wave. What this last causes, of course, is that I often miss really fun, exciting waves. I admit it. I may very well be missing the thrill of a lifetime just because everyone else is doing it, while I, the Perennial Fad Curmudgeon, hunker down in my office waiting for Hula Hoops to make their big comeback. In my own defense, however, I also wish to point out that I just cannot get excited about picking, cheering for and subsequently claiming some level of personal victory in a universe of total fantasy. I doubt my ability to take much pride in
by Dr. Mark Rutland
An unconscious child was rescued from the bottom of a swimming pool. Her terrified parents and concerned onlookers watched in agony as a lifeguard expertly gave her mouth-to-mouth. When water gurgled up and, coughing and sucking in breath, the girl sat up and opened her eyes, the crowd cheered and her parents wept with joy.
She was resuscitated. Where there was no breath, breath came again. One might say she was more dead than alive. Unable to breathe, her little lungs flooding with water, she would have been dead soon enough. But she was not dead.
A friend of mine bought a dilapidated house that I thought beyond hope. Unwilling to discourage him, I said nothing, but I
by Dr. Mark Rutland
When the German battleship Ostfriesland was sunk by bombs dropped from an American airplane, the career of General Billy Mitchell sank with it. The top brass in the post-World War I American army saw airplanes as high-tech gadgets whose expense was prohibitive and whose only purpose was battlefield reconnaissance. Mitchell, the commandant of the Army Air Corps in WWI, saw the future and dared to tell the truth. The next war, he said, would depend on air power. His counsel rejected, Mitchell arranged for a public exhibition of that power. General Pershing and other WWI generals said it was impossible to sink a battleship from the air. It took Mitchell twenty minutes.
Mitchell's loyalty, prophetic foresight, genuine patriotism and zeal for the truth earned him a court martial. Convicted of insubordination, branded a crackpot and drummed out of the army he loved, Mitchell never backed down. He simply told the army and the country the truth.
Much of the nation and some in Congress listened, but the generals hated him and commanded him to be silent. He
Just look at that title, will you? Talk about a title that covers the waterfront. That's a shot pattern worthy of a blunderbuss. Having admitted that, I believe all the words in my title connect.
When a society allows its ability to reason to erode, its determination to resolve issues based on fact and law inevitably yields to the grip of emotionalism. For example, America's founding documents have devolved into antique suggestions easily ignored or "reinterpreted" beyond recognition. The rule of law is collapsing and whoever is in charge
I am fascinated by the story of Moses. His is a story of rags to riches and back to rags and then on to an unimaginable leadership opportunity which was actually an unimaginable leadership burden. This in turn led to a national opportunity, which was tragically missed, followed four decades later by another chance which was seized by a second generation but in which Moses was not allowed to participate. He was born in a slave hovel, raised in a palace, lived in a desert, died in the mountains and is buried in an unmarked grave which is not even in the country with which his name is