The Leader's Notebook will be on hiatus until the second week of January.
I sincerely hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

The teenager who wants to borrow her mother's car needs to learn not to ask in the moments just following her mom's long and harrowing commute home from work. The employee who wants a raise should never ask right after the boss has announced that the company is in a cash flow crunch and everyone needs to tighten their belts. Timing may not be everything but it ranks right up there.

The Leader's Notebook wants to give you some questions to ask yourself on timing that may help your appeal, request or proposal enjoy a greater likelihood of success. None of these are fool proof and even if your answers are right on all of them, you may still hit a wall, but at least you will know it probably wasn't because your timing was bad.

If I come to believe that I deserve something, if I "had it coming," how can I be grateful for it? Why should I be? Perhaps it is the prosperity in which they grew up, but whatever its cause, America is faced with a generation that feels entitled. No matter what good thing comes to them they get cannot quite make themselves be truly grateful. It is, after all, they reckon, no more than they deserve.

This attitude is also fueled by a spirit of envy. Envy not only wants more than it has. It wants whatever anyone else has. Even worse than that, envy says if for some reason it cannot be mine, second best is if no one has it. In other words, just as good as keeping up with the Joneses is seeing the Joneses drop down to my level.

Excerpt from
CHARACTER MATTERS
by Dr. Mark Rutland

Its young men gone to death or in prisoner of war camps far in the North, its heartland in ashes and its agriculture and industry destroyed, the South, in 1865, was shattered. Postwar poverty and a deep sense of shame and defeat gripped the states of the former confederacy with economic and psycho-social depression.

Criminal behavior is nothing new. Since Cain used a rock to bash in his brother's skull, the criminal element has been a constant. Until Jesus comes it will not go away. Certainly America has had more than its fair share of vicious hard cases. From the outlaws of the old west, such as John Wesley Hardin to the likes of Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, the cold-blooded mass murderer is hardly a new monstrosity.

There is however a chilling new development in America that may reveal something just as concerning, in its own way, as the cannibalism of a necrophiliac like Jeffrey Dahmer.

I cannot fully express how engaging I find the intersection where life learners meet; the sense of focused intensity, the commitment to "get all they can" from the teaching, and the shared moment of being stretched and challenged. I enjoy teaching anywhere, I suppose, but I especially love the give-and-take with experienced veterans who want to take their leadership up to a new level. They know why they are there, why they made the sacrifice to be there and they know exactly what they want: more. They want more information, ideas and insight. They want more teaching, more brain stretching, more skill, more arresting ideas and more insight into how to fulfill the calling on their lives as effectively as possible.

The National Institute of Christian Leadership is exactly the kind of atmosphere that really gets my juices flowing. I am in Orlando, Florida (Lake Mary to be more precise) with a room full of some of the most delightful and thoughtful Christian leaders I've ever had the joy of teaching. They are at the conclusion of a year-long process that began in February and will end tomorrow when they receive their certificates.

The Leader's Notebook on September 25, 2013 was, in part, a piece on the Vasa Ship in Stockholm, Sweden. I am repeating one portion of that edition as the first part of this entry, then following it with a commentary on the ongoing debacle of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is more widely known.

September 25, 2013

The Vasa Ship
In 1628, the king of Sweden was Gustovus Adolphus. Intimidated by the great naval powers of Europe he decided Sweden should burst onto the stage with a resounding statement. King Adolphus commissioned the Vasa ship and ordered that it be one of the greatest seagoing vessels of the day. Furthermore, he wanted it to be a veritable work of art, a ship so beautiful that his neighboring monarchs would see what a sophisticated and creative nation Sweden was. Of course, he also wanted the ship's ordinance to be so impressive that his contemporary monarchs would get the message that Sweden's king was a power to be reckoned with.

The arrogance of making experience into a theology that trumps Scripture is exceeded only by the arrogance of making lack of experience into a theology that trumps Scripture.

In Irvine Welsh's dark Scottish novel Trainspotting, a bum living in an abandoned train station tells others he is watching for trains. Of course it is useless. It is useless there, at least, in that abandoned station. Trains still run elsewhere in Scotland. Just not there.

Here is a simple truth: Just because trains don't run past your house doesn't mean there's no such thing as trains. Furthermore, if there are no trains where you are, why not check out other, more active train stations? Trainspotting for cave dwellers is dismally disappointing business, and train denial is absurdly arrogant.

Excerpt from
RELAUNCH: HOW TO STAGE AN ORGANIZATIONAL COMEBACK
by Dr. Mark Rutland

The late quality expert Philip Crosby offered a definition that changed everything for me. “Quality,” he said, “is meeting expectations.”

That hit me like a hydrogen bomb. If quality is simply a matter of meeting expectations, then there is no objective standard of quality for anything. That is not to say that there is no such thing as quality. It simply means that most of us think about quality in the wrong way.

Knowing that quality is a matter of meeting expectations is freeing in many ways. In another way, it binds us more closely than ever to the responsibility to communicate with others in our organizations—and with our customers and clients.

What makes a quality shoe store? Well-made shoes? Good customer service? Low prices? It all depends on the customer’s expectations—expectations that are set in large part by the owner of the store.

How an organization thinks about itself is largely a function of senior leadership. Self-concept is critical to success at varying periods of the organization's history. This truth is easily observable in sports. Furthermore, it is commonly observable. One team, the unanimous underdog comes onto the field with a wild passion, an almost crazed determination. Their opponents, the prohibitive favorites, seem stuck in low gear. They just cannot seem to find the inner fire for which they have in the past been famous. What happens? Why does a team that is so much "better" suddenly lose to a team they ought to have beaten easily, and which if they played a series might predictably defeat nine out of ten times?

There are all kinds of factors, of course, and no one explanation is sufficient, but I believe the number one answer lies in an organizational communication failure between the coach and the team. Somehow the coaching staff failed to impart the correct self-concept. Many coaches and leaders think this is done by convincing the team they are winners.

The world is shocked and the USA is embarrassed by the horrible snarl in Washington over, well, basically everything. The main problem right now is over the budget and the looming debt ceiling issue. What is the real problem? Why can't they move this thing forward?

Of course, there is never one single answer to such logjams. Not in politics, nor in marriage, nor in business nor in any area of social interaction. Here are some thoughts on what lies near and at the heart of all this.

I. Ideology

This cannot be discounted. Many believe or choose to believe that all of this is nothing more than political gamesmanship. There is plenty of that to go around but the clash of visions in Washington is profound. Though there are certainly a vast multiplicity of variations, the two camps in Washington have clearly staked out their territory and for the most part I believe both sides are sincere. That does not mean both sides are right. It just means both are acting on their core values and beliefs.

For the life of me I cannot understand the apparent refusal of many in the press and in the government to use the word "Islamic" or one of its synonyms when describing terrorists, whenever it is apparent that that is exactly what they are. They seem utterly predisposed not to mention the religion of the terrorists. This would not be important to the story unless it is important to the terrorists. I do not think a Baptist bank robber or a Buddhist pickpocket should be described as such unless they did what they did precisely BECAUSE of their religion. Then it is important. The motive of terrorists is crucial to understanding what is happening and what their actions mean. It is indispensable to formulating a successful response.

Is their steadfast refusal to face reality and use the word "Islamic" a fear of being attacked themselves? Perhaps it's some kind of inexplicable sense of simpatico. Or could it be that there is some perverse reluctance to give any satisfaction to political opponents who want the names named?

I will not pretend to know the inner motives of the press or the pols, nor is that really the purpose of this article. That being said, whatever the cause, it is dangerous when leadership refuses to face up to it, whatever "it" is. Whether a snarl in the mail room or a failure of communication between executives or a vision gap between the administration and the board, any issue causing problems must be faced. Furthermore a name must be put on that face. This may not, in fact probably will not be so often a person's name as it is the "cause." This is the problem with the terrorism issue. If all the realities concerning the perpetrators, including their religion and motive, are not considered honestly, response may be hampered. In fact, the wrong thing might easily be done. Limited or unrealistic comprehension of the issue may dictate a response that might be counterproductive or even put people in harm's way.

Last week in The Leader's Notebook, I wrote about three ships and how their leaders, read captains, performed or failed to perform in the line of duty. If you missed that edition I hope you will go back and check it out here. This week I want to consider two more "leader-ships." These two were failures; one of which was an absolute catastrophe, and one that was used for political purposes. Both are highly educational for those in leadership.

I. The Vasa Ship
In 1628, the king of Sweden was Gustovus Adolphus. Intimidated by the great naval powers of Europe he decided Sweden should burst onto the stage with a resounding statement. King Adolphus commissioned the Vasa ship and ordered that it be one of the greatest seagoing vessels of the day. Furthermore, he wanted it to be a veritable work of art, a ship so beautiful that his neighboring monarchs would see what a sophisticated and creative nation Sweden was. Of course, he also wanted the ship's ordinance to be so impressive that his contemporary monarchs would get the message that Sweden's king was a power to be reckoned with.

Of all the Christmas carols beloved of millions, one makes absolutely no sense to me at all. It is a folk song, so there is no one to blame, and its staunchest defenders appeal only to its traditional place in the catalogue of Christmas culture. It apparently was created in Derbyshire, England sometime in the 17th century and the melody is an off-spring of “Greensleeves.” It is beautiful to hear especially in a choral arrangement. The problem is the lyrics.

In most forms the words make reference to ships sailing in to Bethlehem. That is a bit problematic since that Holy City is land-locked. I suppose that some village minstrel in the 17th century jolly old is to be forgiven for envisioning Bethlehem as a far away and exotic version of Portsmouth. Then there is the issue of the ships. We're they carrying the wise men? Perhaps they were actually camels, the ships of the desert. Really? That's a stretch. Someone suggested they represent the Trinity. On ships? The Trinity? Oh, come on!

No, the bottom line is, “Three Ships” is a sweet old tune we will continue to sing at Christmas and simply ignore the fact that we have no idea what it means. I'm okay with that and I will bask in its beauty at Christmas and simply not think about it too much. In fact I am actually pretty adept at not thinking overmuch about anything, especially obscure things.

However, I bet I know what YOU are thinking right at this moment. Why is he writing this now when Christmas is hardly on anyone's mind? I am choosing the metaphor of three ships for a lesson on leadership and the meaningless old carol came to my mind. That's it. So, forgetting Christmas until it’s colder, consider with me three ships and leadership lessons they offer.

I. The Costa Concordia
On January 13, 2012, Captain Francesco Schettino drove his ship up on the rocks just off the shore of Isola del Giglio, an island northwest of Rome. I referenced this wreck in the introductory pages of ReLaunch.

Excerpt from
RELAUNCH: HOW TO STAGE AN ORGANIZATIONAL COMEBACK
by Dr. Mark Rutland


Before Interstate 75 was built, drivers traveling to Florida went right through the middle of Corbin, Kentucky, on Highway 25. Every day hundreds of them stopped at Harland Sanders Café for a bite of Colonel Harland Sanders' fried chicken. But when the interstate was complete, Highway 25 went quiet, and Sanders' Café was left high and dry. Colonel Sanders was at a crossroads. He could hope for the best and ride his near-empty restaurant all the way down, or he could pursue another vision for his restaurant.

Colonel Sanders’ fortune grew out of the disaster that ensued when I-75 bypassed his hometown. He hit the road and started recruiting Kentucky Fried Chicken franchisees across the United States. It all began with a clear-eyed look at a situation that had changed completely. That willingness to face reality is not as common as it should be among leaders.

I spoke last night in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to an eager group of business people. They defied easy definition. Women and men. All ages. Different levels of experience and success above the high threshold required for membership. There were Christians, Muslims and the totally non-religious. Some were single, some married, and some in second or third marriages. The one unifying reality was that they had to do at least one million dollars a year in business in order to join. It was the Kuala Lumpur chapter of an international association called The Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. They invited me to lecture on turnaround leadership, and of course, I was pleased to do so. I hope I said some things that were useful. They were certainly positive and asked questions for half an hour after I spoke for an hour. In fact, the moderator had to call a halt or who knows how long they might have continued. It was as intense an audience as I have ever enjoyed. But the insight I gained was greater than anything I might have imparted.

Near the end of the movie Tombstone, Wyatt Earp tells his friend Doc Holiday that he just wants a "normal life." Holiday's response is classic.

"There's no such thing as normal life. There's just life."

I have come to believe, that as unlikely as it seems for wisdom to come from such a source, Doc Holiday may have been right. What I think people mostly mean by "normal life" is actually calm, even, unchallenged life with neither great victories nor disappointing defeats. The seductive charm of such normality, so called, is evenness. Such dreamt-of unthreatening continuity, despite its plasticity, has few hurts or frights or failures. It also wants challenge, opportunity and the delight of victory.

When I designed the Mission-Function Vertical Axis, I was seeking for a way to demonstrate visually the connection between the "lowest" function in an organization and the mission that presides at the top. I have been delighted through the last few years to see how many leaders in both the church world and in business have expressed how it helped them. It is now a regular and indispensable part of the teaching at the National Institute of Christian Leadership. Last week and this week in The Leader's Notebook, I am considering some points on the continuum where confusion causes arrested development of the organization and can lead to serious problems. For Part I of this brief two-part series please read last week's edition of The Leader’s Notebook (August 14, 2013).

I will not treat the Axis itself in any detail. For that you have to attend the NICL, where I go through it step-by-step and deal all the points where confusion can most easily set in and hinder the organization. (For information on the NICL please go to drmarkrutland.com).

As she sobbed pathetically on one end of the couch her husband scowled on the other, only the length of the sofa between them, and yet light years apart.

"I hate it when she cries like that." His face was a mask of anger, perhaps even rage. "I can't stand her emotionalism."

Apart from the fact that he himself was at least as emotional as his wife, he was guilty of a common and unfortunate misnomer. He had confused at least two and perhaps three words which are frequently confused and misused in a way that actually causes problems in leadership as well as relationships.

For use in teaching at the National Institute of Christian Leadership, I designed a model called the Mission-Function Vertical Axis. Many NICL attendees have expressed how important that teaching became to them. Here in The Leader's Notebook, I will not give an exhaustive explanation of the axis itself, but this week and next I will discuss two points of confused organizational thinking which can occur along that axis and which will cause stagnation and other problems. Many organizations live at a tragic level of confusion over two elements of the axis: strategy and tactics.

Tactics are the use of available resources for the accomplishment of a task. In other words, how do I use what I have to accomplish what needs to be done in this circumstance? Tactical thinking is not about keeping the circumstance from happening again or even understanding what caused it this time. Tactics answer a basic question. What is the best way to resolve this now given the resources at hand?

Strategy, on the other hand is the comprehensive set of plans and goals designed to further the long range vision. Strategy asks a totally different question from tactics. Tactics asks, “How do we fix this?” Strategy asks, “How do we get where we want to go? How do we best move this organization toward the fulfillment of the vision?”

Global Servants

Global Servants was founded by Dr. Mark Rutland in 1977 as a worldwide, nonprofit missions and ministry organization. He started this ministry with the desire to see lives changed by the power and truth of God’s Word. For more than a quarter of a century, the men and women of Global Servants have risen to the call and gone into the world to preach the good news and spread the love of God. READ MORE.

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