27 August, 2006

The Leader That Never Was

We have all met them. People who have climbed up the ladder in corporations and organizations and when we meet them we find they may be quite hollow or shallow, perhaps indecisive, incompetent or worse, tyrannical. It is always such a disappointment. How did they get there?

This is something I have observed, studied and mused on for years. Why? For starters, it used to be my job. I was in the unique position of consulting and delivering training programs in companies and organizations all over the place. So, I have been inside hundreds of companies where I dealt with everyone from the lowly assistants to the CEO’s. You hear and see quite a few things in that capacity. People tell you things and you see things because you are there for weeks at a time. You start to learn what not to believe, what to believe and not to believe everything you see! (Every organization is a cult of some sort. Don't get freaked about me saying that...it is true. I won't go into it now but will write more on that later)

One thing is for sure, I was able to study leadership in action up close in real time. And, I must tell you, it is one of the most overrated, over discussed, over published concepts in the world. It was a rarity to find a leader who actually practiced even one of the leadership strategies…er, I mean, principles they were taught by expensive leadership gurus. This is the excuse I heard most often for the lack of practicing these strategies…uh…I mean principles: “We are unique here”. (No, just typically worldly)

I know that most of what you have read or been taught about leadership is NEVER practiced. DUH, you say? Of course it isn’t because if it were, it would NOT pay off. People in leadership positions did not practice all those strategies...er, I mean principles, to get where they are. To get where they are took lots of compromising and ignoring. Trust me. I saw this all the time in companies and organizations.

People want to believe in leadership principles because it promises a better world for them. But, if they have heard it many times before, they become calloused because nothing changes but the power shifts. They find out it is all a sham. Why? Because the flesh is a nasty thing. No one gets ahead by giving away credit! You give the guy credit for the project; he will have your job! Everyone knows that. And, the prospective leader on the move knows you do not question the powerful. You keep your mouth shut and tell yourself that it will be different when you make it.

Most employees, in time, get to know what their leaders are really like and it isn’t pretty. Once I got promoted (worst thing that ever happened to me) and had to go work at headquarters for the big boss. He was a mover and shaker, a real go get ‘em guy and it was considered a big honor to get to work for him. One of my first assignments was to attend the Board Meetings of a statewide organization as a proxy for him. No problemo. Except, he told me the day before I was to leave, that he considered them a competitor and wanted me to spy for him. As he so ironically put it, “It is legal spying” heh, heh. (Did I mention that his idol was Georg Hegel?)

Now, as a Christian, what am I to do? I consider being a Board Member an advisory position that works for the good of the organization. What a chump! When I returned, he would ask me for any juicy tidbits that may have come up 'off minutes'. I lied. “Oh, nothing interesting…here is a copy of the minutes” which were public information. He knew I was holding out…he just knew it! I hated being in that position. (This same boss once sent a high level person making 85,000/yr. to his home to retrieve socks that he forgot to pack for a trip)

I can remember going to one large corporation, which will remain nameless, where the CEO met with me to discuss training plans. “You gotta get them to see the light” he said. “We have some problem people that are not coming along with our vision; you have to make sure they understand the train is moving on”.

Uh, excuse me, that is YOUR job, Mr. Scaredy Pants. Of course I did not say that because I was Ms. Scaredy Pants with a mortgage. This poor lost man is just one example of many who did the same type of thing.

One thing I have learned about leadership is that the top guy NEVER does the dirty work or delivers the bad news. NEVER. (Unless 60 Minutes is at the door) That is what sycophants are for.

I did, however, meet many competent, truthful, serious and fair middle managers that, quite frankly, I knew would never go anywhere in the organization. Some move on but many stay and have accepted their lot praying for new leadership never realizing that it will be more of the same or worse. You do not get to the top by having unpopular unwavering beliefs.

This brings me to the horrible decision of so many churches to focus on leadership training for their pastors and staff. You cannot make the leap from worldly leadership strategies...er…I mean, principles to a Shepherd tending their flock. It just won’t leap. No matter how hard you try, they are NOT the same thing. What happens is that the church ends up looking more and more like the world. It is not intentional, it just happens. The sin of pride manifests itself into power grabs, compromise and ignoring sin. Sanctification is not high on the list of leadership strategies…er…I mean, principles.

I know, I know what you are thinking…Well, what about John Maxwell or Ken Blanchard? Both are professing Christians and I have used their materials in the past in training.

But, I ask you, when is the last time you have read or heard Maxwell even mention the gospel in one of his books or talks on leadership? Well, you say, he is not there for the Gospel; he is there to teach leadership! Ok, you have just proved my point about becoming more like the world. The man is an ordained pastor for crying out loud.

Ken Blanchard has been around forever and says he became a Christian in the 1980’s. He developed a seminar called, Lead Like Jesus which is being played in churches all over the country. But Ken is a bag of paradoxicalness. (Look it up, it is a real word)

He is a professing Christian who is on the Board of Advisors for the Hoffman Institute. Never heard of it? Well, those of us in the training field have and it is a pretty weird place. Check it out: http://www.hoffmaninstitute.org/ . Ok, see what I mean? The “Quadrinity Process”, which Ken touts as ‘deepening his spiritual walk’ is just down right weird. It is New Age mumbo jumbo. It is NOT from our Holy God.

And, Mr. Blanchard has never met a business growth book he did not endorse no matter what it is promoting. Here are just a few he has endorsed AFTER becoming a Christian:
Endorsed: 1993, Personal Excellence, Tony Robbins
Endorsed: 1995, 7 Spiritual Laws of Success, Deepak Chopra
Contributing Author: 1996, 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul
Endorsed: 1997, Giant Steps, Anthony Robbins
Endorsed: 1997, The Corporate Mystic, Gay Hendricks
Wrote Forward: 1997, Unlimited Power, Anthony Robbins
Wrote Forward: 2001, What Would Buddha Do At Work?, Frank Metcalf
Endorsed: 2004, The Eight Habit, Steven Covey
Endorsed: 2005, Z.B.A: Zen of Business Administration-How Zen Practice Can Transform Your Work and Life, Marc Lessor

Well, that is enough for now. There are many more. But, tell me, what does a Christian who delivers seminars on the topic, ‘Lead like Jesus’, have to do with darkness like practicing Zen and Buddhism at work? I cannot figure it out. And, Deepak Chopra? Can you say, lost in darkness? Why would a Christian promote such people and their beliefs? Covey is bad enough!

My wish is that Ken would develop a seminar called “Live Like Jesus”.

The point is this: Can we trust worldly leadership strategies...er, I mean, prinicples for the church? If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say we are desperate for good leaders I would be rich. But after being in the leadership business for quite a while (and it IS a business with big bucks), I can tell you we do not need more ‘leaders’.

What we need are Shepherds. Shepherds will never be popular. They will be persecuted, hanging out there all alone with nothing but Sola Scriptura.

Why? Because of this:

1 Corinthians 1: 25-31

25For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29so that no human being[c] might boast in the presence of God. 30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."


Jodi said...

I think it is insulting to lump Ken Blanchard and John Maxwell together when talking about so called "Christian" leadership gurus. One man will shill for anyone who asks, and the other has a specific standard that is followed anytime he is asked to endorse something. That standard is based on how much what he would be endorsing would be spreading the gospel. He mentioned that at IWU's graduation ceremonies last year. He said that as leaders and graduates of IWU, the students had a higher responsibility to be careful what they were attached to in the business world. That they needed to be accountable for their actions.

Another example: when John Maxwell had one of his daylong seminar at Highview Baptist East, everyone at work commented on how pleasantly surprised they were that he talked about the gospel, and the importance of modeling your life after Jesus Christ to be an effective leader at all. Afterwards, one of my classmates was inspired to start a Bible study at her work because the Holy Spirit used words that John Maxwell said to convict her to do more at work to spead the good news and be a witness.

Lindon said...

Thanks for posting this. It gives a new perspective on Maxwell.

Hopefully, this is becoming more prevalent in his writing and speaking. I know that IWU is Wesleyan and he is on the board so it would be normal for him to speak of the gospel in that venue.

I have been a big fan of his in the past. His leadership books are excellent from a secular point of view. But we know the 'flesh' never really works that way. (Which is why sin and repentence must be included!!) That is why I used the comparison of Shepherd vs Leader. They are totally different.

My problem comes with him trying to take these leadership strategies into churches or to try and make them into 'Christian' principles. They do not work in that respect because they do not focus on sin, sanctification and repentence.

One can be moral and not be saved. One can be a great leader and not be saved. But one cannot be a Shepherd as outlined in scripture and NOT be saved.

(I Love you!)