1971 Titans

Communication is the Oxygen of Leadership (Part 1 of 3)

Leadership is our ability to positively influence others. As such, it is fundamentally a relational skill. It has been said, “Communication is the oxygen of relationships.” Without good communication, relationships die. Consequently, without good communication, leadership doesn’t stand a chance.

In the early 70s, many communities in the United States were in the process of dismantling segregation. Alexandria, Virginia was one such community. It took tangible steps toward equality when it combined the populations of three area high schools into one. Two had been white and one was black. Herman Boone, a black man, was chosen to be the football coach at the new high school ……. over Bill Yoast, a very popular white coach. This added to the tension, especially since Yoast and another white man became Boone’s assistant coaches. Boone did everything in his power to bring the players and his coaching staff together. And it worked. That season, the team won the state championship and became the second highest ranking high school football team in the country!

When asked what the secret was to this high-performing team’s success, Boone stated, “Communication. Talking to each other. Getting to know and appreciate each other. We forced the kids to spend time with each other to find out things about each other. Every player was required to spend time with teammates who were a different race.” Result: the team went undefeated. And that is why, to this day, the people of Alexandria still remember, and talk about, the 1971 Titans.

You cannot have a high performance team unless you have communicative players on the team. Without communication you don’t have a team, you just have a collection of individuals. You will be a much more effective communicator, and leader of your team, if you follow these 12 principles:…



The Speed Of Change

One of the things that continues to be problematic in the local church is how difficult it is to change some of the ancillary, let alone fundamental, issues that prevent the church from fulfilling its mission.

The church is often structured in such a way that many people share authority, and therefore decisions require a great deal of (sometimes needless) scrutiny by multiple layers of people who might be affected.

It’s not that I believe in authoritarian power in any way. In fact, I’m much more convinced that the Lord leads the church through gifted people who work together in small but effective groups who have responsibility, accountability and authority to make decisions….


Competitive Perseverance

Much is written about the need to “persevere” in just about any kind of pursuit, but I believe this is especially true when it comes to leadership.

When you are in a place of influence of others and obstacles continue to block your path for a long period of time, people begin to wonder if anything is going to happen, if someone’s going to break the stalemate, if the obstacles will ever be overcome. That’s what leaders are known to do. They make things happen when it appears that it’s not going to be so.

Last evening, 3-12-13, the Pittsburgh Penguins played 53 minutes of scoreless hockey and were being written off by the national sports casters as not having their game in gear that night as they were about to be shut-out by the Boston Bruins. With less than seven minutes left, winger Chris Kunitz made a goal which cut the lead to 2-1. Remember, the Penguins had not scored in the first 53 minutes and were still 1 goal behind. All Boston had to do was continue to keep the puck in the Penguins end of the ice for the remaining 6+ minutes and the game would be over….


Vision and Action

Leadership Requires Vision and Action

When you look at the math for calculating a vector, you either understand it or it looks like a secret code that’s impossible to decipher. What you may not recognize is that the vector is a great way to describe what leadership is. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines a vector as this:

Vector: a quantity having direction as well as magnitude.
New Oxford American Dictionary 3rd edition © 2010 by Oxford University Press, Inc.

When I was learning about vectors in middle and high school, it boiled down to direction and velocity. Without direction and velocity, a vector is nothing more than a point. This same idea applies to leaders. Without movement and direction, a leader is nothing more than a person standing still.

Leadership Requires Vision

Every person has their own unique blend of natural talents and learned skills. Some people are very organized people and thrive in structured environments where they can lead within an established structure. This is often referred to as management, but there are some necessary leadership qualities for a person to go beyond accomplishing tasks. Others may be more skilled in coming up with new ideas and methods for improving upon whatever it is that they are involved in. These people are often mislabeled as visionary leaders. Just because someone is great at coming up with new ideas does not mean that they can cast vision and influence people towards that vision….


Leadership Succession

Leadership Lift-Off

Though I don’t travel as frequently these days as I used to, I do find myself on enough flights to recognize that the laws of physics never change. The pilot of the plane knows exactly what speed he must attain before he reaches “rotation” (where he can pull back on the yoke and lift the plane off the ground). That speed is normally about 140 mph.

Now what I’ve learned is, the lighter the airplane—the less packed it is, the fewer number of passengers, etc.—the more quickly the airplane is able to lift-off. (Obviously, that is why commuter planes can take off and land on a much shorter runway.) On the other hand, if it’s a large airplane or if it’s loaded with passengers and luggage, it can take an extra mile of runway space to reach “rotation” speed.

The same is true when it comes to changes in leadership. Smaller changes may take place in a shorter period of time because the communication effort and amount of administrative and/or organizational needs are not too extensive.

In contrast, major changes such as leadership succession take a very long time to execute effectively. The reason is that these decisions affect everyone who is on the “plane” and have a great deal of “weight” attached to them….



Great Leaders Multiply

Leaders Influence People. Great leaders don’t just influence people to follow them; they create more leaders who influence others. When you are leading people, you can affect their ultimate path. They follow your leadership and accomplish goals or reach destinations they wouldn’t have achieved on their own. When those goals or destinations are reached, you can say that you’ve done a good job as a leader. The problem is that everyone has a limit to how many people they can lead effectively. However, when you stop creating followers under your leadership and start creating or developing leaders, the number of people you can influence will grow exponentially.

Every church leader wants to see his or her congregation grow. Spreading the Gospel to all people is what we are called to do. Jesus said to “go and make disciples”. If all a church leader does is make disciples, it won’t be long before he finds the limit of how many disciples he can care for on his own. At that point, there are only a couple of options. A leader can either hire someone to share the load or he can learn to make disciple-makers instead of just making disciples. Churches don’t grow because the Senior Pastor is a great preacher or the worship experience is phenomenal. Churches grow because they are actively making disciple-makers….


Saints Coach

Every Team Needs A Coach

The Super Bowl has been played, a winner decided, and the NFL season has come to an end. When I look back on the season, one story stands out in my mind. Amid the story-lines of concussions, injuries, and rising rookie quarterbacks, this season was unique in that one team was forced to begin and end its season without the influence of its head coach. The Saints struggled all season because of the consequences that were doled out by Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner.

If you have ever wondered about the necessity of a coach, go back and take a good look at this particular story. There were superstar level players on the Saints’ team this year. Most of them were there during the last couple of years when they were the defending Super Bowl champs (2010) and making another playoff run (2011). What changed to make such a good team move from Super Bowl contenders to a season where losses outnumbered wins? The talent level didn’t change much. I would argue the playbook didn’t even change much. Purists will say that more changed than just the head coach, but the reality is that the most influential change was Sean Payton’s vacancy as head coach.

What lessons can we learn from this?…