Tag Archives: Leadership

Around the web this week

A few things that have got me thinking and musing this week.

Justice and phones
What’s your phone got to do with a war?

Via Robin Peake

One of a few helpful pieces from Tearfund Rhythms on phones and conflict minerals. One of the reasons why I bought a Fairphone – topic of a future blog!


Breaking news: Fifa say Hell will host 2026 World Cup

Via Gary Lineker

Great piece from the Telegraph on the farce that is FIFA.


Experiments show this is the best way to win campaigns. But is anyone actually doing it?

Via Tom Baker

From the US – What is the most effective form of political campaigning and why is it not used as it should be? I resonated with this in terms of my likelihood to vote for candidates I have the opportunity to engage with on the doorstep.

Thank heavens for Justin Welby

Via Pete Greig

How Lambeth Palace is worth listening to again and Justin Welby’s taking on of Wonga and payday loan companies by providing an alternative.

Sweden’s Prostitution Solution: Why Hasn’t Anyone Tried This Before?

How the Swedes have tackled traficking with incredible results.


Young people, riots and character
The New Politics of Character

Via Robin Peake

The results of a study into young people participating in riots in London revealed that the key factor was not lack of money or lack of morality but lack of character. What follows is an interesting discussion on defining and developing character in young people.

For the sake of our cities, it’s time to make town planning cool again

On the need for visionary planner more passionate about flourishing than bowing to the whims of developers.

Leadership, change and church
“The Top Ten Reasons This will Never Work”: On Leading Change in the Church

Via David Fitch

Despite my not being a fan of numbered lists there is some helpful stuff in here on  leading change in churches and some of the many objections…

A quote

And finally a couple of tunes for the weekend…

Leonard Cohen – Did I Ever Love You?

And Springsteen from Dublin back in 2006 – When the Saints Go Marching In




The Books I’m Planning to Read in 2014

Gemma inspired me to be a little more intentional with my reading so I’ve put together a list of the books I’d like to read in 2014. I’m sure it will have a degree of flexibility.

Have you read any of them? What did you think? Any you think I should add or not bother with?

Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Canada – Richard Ford
May We Be Forgiven – AM Homes
Best Of Our Spies – Alex Gerlis
The Governor – John Lonergan
Conversations With Myself – Nelson Mandela
Once Upon A Country: A Palestinian Life – Sari Nusseibeh & Anthony David
Boundaries for Leaders – Henry Cloud
Authentic Happiness – Martin Seligman (Psychology as related to coaching)
Leaders Eat Last – Simon Sinek
Thanks For The Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well – Sheila Stone &Douglas Heen
The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatious
A Theology of Work -Darrell  Cosden
Introducing Liberation Theology – Boff & Boff
Why Cities Matter – Stephen Um & Justin Buzzard
Doing Local Theology – Clemens Sedmak
And looking for some good stuff on Isaiah
Have you read any of them? What did you think? Any you think I should add or not bother with?

2013 in Books: Leadership (Non-fiction part 2)

leadershipbooks2013Given what my day job is I tend to read a lot of books around the broad themes of leadership. These are the ones I found most helpful  – which of course was related to where I was at when I read them.. Or maybe I just got sucked in to buying books with red, white and black covers…

Heroic Leadership

Despite the title, this was a fascinating look at the Jesuits through the lens of leadership, distilling out many of the leadership traits valued and practiced by the order. The author left the Jesuits to pursue a career as a management consultant so writes with deep experience of both.

Manage Your Day to Day (99u)

The 99u site is full of helpful articles and tips. This book (which also has one of those covers that feels really nice!) pulls together a selection of articles. Obviously some resonate more than others and there are some gems that not only inspired me but helped me to be more focused and work more effectively. Things like challenging the ‘conventional wisdom’ of starting the days with some small easy tasks, and obvious yet wonderful advice such as not opening your email for the first few hours to allow you to get the important work done.

The Icarus Deception

Seth Godin at his best. We’re all familiar with the story of Icarus and the warning not to fly too close to the sun. the bit always left out was that he wasn’t to fly too low- too close to the sea either. Godin is the master at motivation and this book really inspired me. One of the things that really stood out was about not wasting time and energy trying to create ‘art’ for the masses who aren’t interested but instead concentrating on those who really want/need what you are doing. I found this really helpful in work as we are building and growing Innovista.

The Advantage

I think Patrick Lencioni is one of the best writers on business/leadership around. His books aren’t manuals or textbooks but parables with the theory in a small section at the end. Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a must read for everyone. The Advantage distills material from all of his books to date so isn’t written in the fable style yet is peppered with real-life examples. The focus of the Advantage is that organisations need to be healthy, not just smart (clear vision, strategy etc.).  Some of his material on the importance of recruiting for values led to us overhauling our recruitment policies and processes. This is one of those books that I should read every year.

Leadership and Self-Deception

Big shout out to Andy Masters for recommending this to me. My first read of 2013. Brilliant short book that uses story to unpack the ways in which we deceive ourselves and the consequences for our relationships. One of those books that could be Christian if you change the language…

What were your best leadership reads in 2013?

Learning from Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho about leadership development and succession

How do you replace the most successful football manager in your history if you are Manchester United?

If it was me my initial reaction would be to look at the successful coaches around who have a track record at winning trophies.

alex and joseInstead of talking trophies, the language coming about the appointment of David Moyes (who has won no trophies as Everton manager) as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor were phrases like:

“long term commitment”
“ability to develop young players”
“tactical acumen”
“delivering champions league football on a minimal budget”

Instead of looking for a star like Jose Mourinho, Man Utd have decided to recruit on values. They have chosen a manager whose values fit with the club and who can bring a high level of performance from a club with a miniscule transfer budget.

Recently in work we have been doing a lot of work on values, behaviour and culture. Inspired and reminded by Patrick Lencioni in The Advantage that in recruiting we should recruit for values as cultural fit is vital.  At this week’s Leadership Conference I was intrigued to notice how Bill Hybels has added ‘culture’ to his c list (of character, calling, competency and chemistry).

Jose Mourinho seemed an obvious choice for Man Utd in terms of his success and ability to deliver, however it was obvious that he wasn’t seen as a cultural fit, especially by Sir Bobby Charlton.

Which leads me on to something I’ve noticed while looking at both Sir Alex and Jose, also highlighted by a friend on twitter last week.

There is no doubting the track records of both managers in terms of trophies.

It is interesting however to look at their ability to develop others – and by this I mean other coaches. I acknowledge plenty of Ferguson’s former players have become coaches/managers.

How many of Sir Alex’s assistants or coaches have gone on to become successful coaches in their own right?

To my knowledge, none. Sir Alex is an old style manager/leader who appears to have a fairly autocratic style. He seems to choose people who will work under him but is not a developer.

Jose Mourinho is a different story. Three of his backroom staff during his first spell at Chelsea are now Premier League managers in their own right. And very competent top eight ones at that. Brendan Rogers at Liverpool, Steve Clarke at West Brom and of course Andre Villas Boas at Tottenham.

For me Mourinho models a different style of leadership that develops others. I have no doubt this is rooted in his experience of working under Bobby Robson at Sporting Lisbon and following him to Barcelona. Jose started at Sporting as an interpreter. Robson saw his obvious potential and invested in him, becoming a mentor. The culture of developing others that Jose experienced has also become something he now appears to espouse and model.

Two examples of leaders who get results. One who appears to develop and release those under him into their own leadership, one who very much keeps his position as the kingpin.

Most importantly a visible reminder in both cases of how values create culture and how those values are learned and then shared and multiplied.

What do you think? (Has my Chelsea supporting skewed my perspective?)

Leading by the book?

Over at the Innovista Ireland page I’m asking what leadership shaped by the ‘good book’ should/could look like.

Is the model of leadership practised in most of our churches really a biblical one?

How can we move towards an understanding and practice of leadership that is less ‘one-man-band’ or about maintaining the status quo but instead more closely reflects the New Testament?

Those are the questions I have been asked to tackle in a seminar at New Horizon on Wednesday 20th July. At 10pm (As if the questions weren’t daunting enough!)

What do you think?

Head on over to weigh in…

Women, Leadership and the Church

It’s one of those issues that keeps cropping up again and again. From a conversation started by meinmysmallcorner a few years ago to our small group in church over the last few weeks.

We’ve been working our way through Acts, and it’s been really noticeable how much reference Luke makes to women. In the Jewish (the court for women in Herod’s Temple was part of the court for Gentiles which says a lot) and Roman cultures of the day (correct me if I’m wrong) women had little in the way of rights or social standing, and lived very much in submission to their husbands. But Luke keeps mentioning various significant women and uses phrases such as  ‘quite a few prominent women’ (Acts 17.4 and 17.12). Last night when looking at Acts 21 he throws in this seemingly random comment about 4 unmarried daughters who prophesied, which again stirred up a conversation about how we have to read the whole of scripture together and hold these references in tension with passages such as 1 Timothy 2.12. Scot McKnight does a great job of pointing out all the women God uses in leadership throughout the Bible in the Blue Parakeet which Patrick Mitchel works through on his blog. Another recent book called How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership brings together lots of interesting ‘conversion narratives’ including John Stackhouse – who makes his chapter available on his blog.  Our discussion last night and a conversation with a businessperson yesterday reminded me of the need for role-models and exposure. If we are to develop the gifted female leaders and teachers that God has placed among us, they need opportunities to use those gifts and to be seen ‘up front’. It is only when gifted women are made visible and given the opportunities they ‘deserve’ that the next generation of women can have role models. Which means in many cases it is up to the men in positions of responsibility to champion this cause and make a reality Paul’s words in Galatians 3:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

NT Wright elaborates on the Galatians passage here.  I recognise I’m only putting forward one perspective here- because it’s what I’ve come to be convinced of, but also because I feel there is a need to really wrestle with this issue and provide a healthy alternative perspective to a lot of what is around in the evangelical sphere currently. I’m all about the liberation…

Politics in Ireland – morally bankrupt?

I’ve been horrified to learn the depths of corruption in Ireland over the last few decades. How politicians, bankers and the business elite have colluded in ripping off the country to grease their own pockets. This blog has been brewing as I’ve been reading Fintan O’Toole’s Ship of Fools. It is staggering how Fianna Fail politicians in particular as exemplified by ‘teflon’ Bertie Ahern steered the country towards financial disaster by refusing to regulate spending or the banks in order to ensure they and their cronies in business and banking laughed all the way to the proverbial bank. Even more shocking is the avoidance of tax by the ultra rich – many of whom appear to have paid around 15% tax through cosy avoidance arrangements and politicians and banks turning a blind eye. The lowest tax band is 20%. Ireland is one of the worst countries in Europe for broadband access – something Bertie promised to sort out (but didn’t) and something that could easily be very different had his cronies paid their taxes and that money been used for IT infastructure, let alone health or education. My hatred of Ryanair was tempered slightly by the discovery that Michael O’Leary is one of the few rich in Ireland who actually does pay his taxes and doesn’t pretend to live elsewhere. The complicity of the banks and frightening regularity that those seemingly invovled in ‘Financial Regulation’ ended up on the boards of banks is criminal. But the worst thing is that they got away with it, and continue to.

A recent poll suggested 22% of people interviewed don’t have confidence in any of the party leaders to lead the country, but yet no-one seems prepared to take up the mantle and fight a long hard fight for integrity and ethics in the political sphere. It seems to be accepted. Charlie Haughey, one of the most corrupt premiers Ireland has seen was spared the results of an inquiry until after his death, and his protege Bertie (who successfully portrays a likeable ordinary chap image – while lining his mattress with wads of cash) elevated him to the status of patriot at his funeral. Leaving the country in a mess while you get rich is a strange sort of patriotism to me…

The wanton extravagance and largesse of the Celtic Tiger era was amply demonstrated today by revelations that Transport Minister Noel Dempsey (pictured) used a government jet to fly him from Dublin to Derry, and then from Derry the next morning to London – for a breakfast meeting. The Department of Transport claims the estimated cost of the trip as €100,ooo by the media (and Ryaniar) is grossly exaggerated. The farce of it is that his driver drove his ministerial Mercedes from Dublin to Derry to meet him at the airport – why of why could he at least not have driven to Derry? The irony continues given the topic of the MacGill summer school – ‘Reforming the republic—issues of politics, economics and accountability.’ Maybe he should have stayed on for the next round of talks that evening on the subject of ‘We Need Higher Standards of Leadership, and of Governance.’

More than ever before Ireland needs leaders of integrity who will serve the electorate, not their own agendas.

The soapbox – considering pulling a Wyclif Jean…

Reforming the republic—issues of politics, economics and accountability

John Terry – time to show some real leadership

Being a Chelsea fan makes all the lurid headlines about John Terry’s misdemeanours even more difficult to take. He has been a fantastic ‘leader’ on the pitch, but the quality of that leadership is now in question. Serious questions have been asked of his conduct in recent weeks, mostly money related. From the dodgy £10,000 a pop secret tours to the super-injunction he tried in the media (guardian site) it appears to be all centred on the money. What disturbed me most about his attempted super-injunction was not that it was designed to protect his wife and two children but his reputation with his sponsors. He has already made a lot of cash from selling wedding rights and from his ‘dad of the year award’ (which definitely needs returned). I’ve heard nothing in the media about him being sorry, no apologies to his family or to Wayne Bridge. Some of the more lurid speculation about him paying for an abortion for Bridge’s then girlfriend seems to confirm a pattern that he thinks money can fix everything. Terry has a lot to learn about leadership. He maybe needs to start with one of the basics – at the core of leadership is character and trust that demonstrates itself in compassion and respect for other people. Although Ancelotti is standing by Terry as Chelsea captain it seems only a matter of time before he has to resign the England captaincy or be stripped of it. The longer he holds on the more respect he loses. The captaincy issue for me is partly about Terry’s moral leadership and also about trust and respect in the dressing room. If I was one of Terry’s team-mates I wouldn’t want him anywhere near my wife or partner, I would find it very difficult to trust him. Can such a litany of major flaws in judgement in such crucial issues really be divorced from your ability to lead a team? I think not. The England captaincy isn’t even the real issue. The real issue is does Terry have the balls to stand up and not only admit his wrongdoing, but apologise and demonstrate remorse? Does he have the ‘character’ to begin to demonstrate some elements of good leadership – a willingness to take responsibility? That will be more effective in restoring his reputation that simply hiring a PR company.  I’m willing to give him a chance, as we are all flawed, but I’m not sure if Terry even thinks he has done anything wrong, so come on John – show us what you are made of!

Do we really believe in servant leadership?

Servant leadership is a concept familiar to Jesus followers and also one that is increasingly familiar in the business world.  Robert Greenleaf introduced his take on it in the late seventies, and the concept has undergone something of  a renaissance in the literature in recent years. Obviously there are differences, but sometimes I wonder if some of the ‘business’ understanding of servant leadership in ways is closer to what Jesus was modelling and trying to get us to understand.

Is it possible that the church has got its understanding and practice of servant leadership badly wrong?

It seems to me that many people have an incorrect view of what it means to be a servant leader. Many interpret servant leadership as running themselves into the ground or pandering to the ‘needs’ (or perhaps more accurately ‘wants’) of those they lead.

The primary focus of service for the servant leader is the mission of which s/he is leading (and the God whose mission it is). This changes the dynamic slightly than if the primary focus is serving those who are being led. When serving God and the missio dei is the primary focus there can be no such thing as consumer church where the congregation are provided with what they want to hear and do in the ways in which they want to hear and do it. A servant leader who primarily serves the mission of God will ultimately serve those they lead, but it may not be an easy or comfortable journey for those being led. It will however be an ultimately fulfilling one. In this sense true servant leadership should always be missional, it cannot be focused on maintaining a nice Christian social club.

Secondly a proper understanding of servant leadership should result in a radical shift in how ministers, pastors and all church leaders operate. If the minister or pastor(s) are the ones doing everything then servant leadership is not being practised. If leaders truly are servants, then serving the mission of God and the people in the light of that means helping empower the people, building them up for acts of service, and releasing them into their gifts. In the words of Chua Wee Hian:

the primary task of leaders is to identify and facilitate the deployment of gifts

Therefore if the church leader is the one who is doing everything, leading every group or committee, teaching at every church gathering I would argue they are not exercising servant (or indeed biblical) leadership. Further in doing everything they are actually denying people the opportunity to identify and develop gifts, and are not building the church up, but rather their reputation, control and empire. Perhaps we need to get back to training when it comes to church leaders – in seminaries the leadership aspect needs overhauled (if it exists at all), and what of elders? What training is there for them?  How does this understanding of servant leadership affect not only their role but also how they interact with full-time staff? Another example might be a church which struggles to find people to teach in worship services when the minister leaves. If God gives all the gifts a community needs then is the lack of people available to teach not a failure of the leadership to have developed teaching gifts in members of the congregation? Or indeed a failure of the practise of servant leadership?

If we really believe in the biblical concept of servant leadership, which yes is sacrificial (not in the ways used as an excuse for control freaks however) does it mean we need to radically change how leadership is exercised  and modelled and not just taught?

To finish, it seems that identity is crucial for servant leaders. A leader who is not secure in who s/he is cannot and will not delegate responsibility and trust others with leadership and teaching within the church, and therefore cannot truly serve…