The Tyranny of the Offended

Live Oak High School in Northern California celebrates Cinco de Mayo every year. Cinco de Mayo is an annual celebration of Latino culture and it is always a great time. I love it. The food, the music, the dancing and the art make for a fun fiesta. The celebration is not, as many think, the Mexican Independence Day. That is actually September 16. Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) commemorates the battle of Puebla in 1862, where Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza defeated a much larger and better equipped French army. The strange thing is that Cinco de Mayo is not widely celebrated in Mexico except, of

Discernment in Leadership

The problem with talking about gifts and giftedness is that the entire conversation is different depending on with whom you speak. Some consider only natural gifts, as in Kevin Durant is a gifted basketball player. He certainly is. Just as certainly, he has also worked hard to hone his skills. I am absolutely certain there was a raw gift there way before his first practice, before his first step or even his first breath. Beyond that, 6’ 9” and 215 pounds has a certain enviable gift quality about it as well. There are gifted performers, speakers, athletes and artists whose best efforts to perfect their skills would have been futile without their natural gifts. I sense intuitively that had I worked even harder than Durant I just might not,

Death and the Modern Technocracy

The bodies lie like cord wood by the sides of the roads. Hacked to ribbons by machetes or bludgeoned to a pulp, they are the evidence, we think, of the murderous genocidal savagery of the Central African Republic, or whatever the massacre of the day happens to be. Our eyes grow so weary of televised horror that we seize the remote and click to the mindlessness of comfort TV. We simply cannot understand how a country can get itself in that kind of monstrous tribal bloodbath. What kind of people must they be?

Rwanda, Croatia, The CAR, Syria or any one of a number of other killing fields seem to be the ubiquitous fodder of the nightly news. We cannot get away from them and there appear to be no end of them. Now even much of Mexico has

Dream: An Introduction

Excerpt from
by Dr. Mark Rutland

Next week Alison and I will be attending the International Ministerial Fellowship Winter Gathering in Melbourne, Florida. In light of the theme for this year's conference, "It's time - Dream Again," I wanted to share a short excerpt from my book, simply titled, Dream:

During a Larry King Live interview, Paul McCartney said that he dreamed the entire melody to “Yesterday.” When he awakened he simply wrote it down, only taking a few minutes to compose the music, which was destined to be recorded by many of the world’s greatest artists, become one of the most enduringly popular songs of recent history and make Paul McCartney a boatload of money. All because of a dream.

McCartney added that he did not dream any words to go with it. The first he came up with were: “Scrambled eggs; O my darling, how I love your legs.” (Sing them. They actually fit.) Evidently the creative process that eventually produced McCartney’s memorable and singable lyrics was not as instantly ingenious as his melodic dream.

Yesterday, still on the runway but strapped into my seat on a flight to Dallas, happy to actually be leaving on time for once, now a novelty in modern air travel, I heard words that sent a chill down my spine. "Hello folks, this is your captain speaking. I'm afraid I have some bad news."

Those words invariably introduce other words bound to disrupt the travel plans of everyone involved. That certainly proved to be true yesterday. We had to taxi back to the gate, deplane, troop to another gate, await another plane, then reload and try again.

Let me list them. You know them already but let me call their terrible names. Here are my choices for the top ten causes of depression in the ministry.

1) Failure

2) The fear of failure

3) Rebellious opposition

4) Disappointment

5) Mental and physical fatigue

6) Loneliness

7) Stress: usually financial

8) Frustration

9) Accumulated hurt

10) Anger and unresolved inner issues

Great leadership is multidimensional. The facets of the jewel of leadership are wonderfully on display in the Hebrew Bible. Nuanced words used at different places in the Old Testament reveal different aspects of leadership, or perhaps different types of leadership needed in different seasons. Some may say leadership is leadership but that is certainly not the case. Speed, pace, tone, volume; all these and other variables determine what leadership means in various contexts. I have identified multiple Hebrew words used in different places to speak of different aspects of leadership. I believe there are six such words.

One way of stating the leader/manager's job description is actually "senior decision maker." I think that among the biggest and most disconcerting of all the surprises that I had in moving, lo these many years ago, into the senior executive role was the constant barrage of decisions that demanded an answer:

What do you want to do about…?
When should we…?
How do you want…?

Volley after volley of questions, small and consequential, lobbed into my lap like mortars, became at times excruciatingly oppressive. This was not entirely new to me. I had first experienced some of the challenges of decision making as a leader in sports, first as a player, then as a coach and finally, and most illuminating of all, as a referee.

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
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
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.

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.