A young leader asked me the other day why people move so quickly to a “defending their turf” posture when their choices or behaviors are challenged. He had just leaned into a friend—in what he thought was a helpful and loving way—and was met with a, “How dare you … You’ve wronged me … I’m the victim here,” response. He was hurt, frustrated, and confused, and he wanted to know why people—including himself when he’s the one being leaned on—often respond that way.
Well, there’s probably about as many answers to that question as there are people. And lets be honest, none of us really likes to have the way we do stuff challenged. But if we sense love is compelling us to lean in, the first question we should ask ourselves is, “Why is this so important to me?” We need to first understand what’s happening in our own hearts and head before we try to get into anybody else’s heart or head. Only after we examine our own motivations should we ask, and with a humble, learner’s posture, “Why is this so important to you?” There’s usually a pretty good reason why the behavior/value/conviction is being so strongly defended, and the closer that lies to one’s core identity the uglier the fight will be for that to change. We are on a fool’s errand if we don’t understand that connection.
I encouraged my friend to lean in—if he feels he must—by asking those questions first.
And then seek to understand why the behavior/value/conviction is held so dearly.
Only then can we truly discern if we need to keep leaning in as a loving friend or if the wiser move is to step back. Only then will we have a clearer sense of what really needs to be let go of and what—or who—really needs to be fought for.
Let it ride
Trivia question: Who was the pitcher who gave up George Brett’s 3000th hit on September 30, 1992? Can’t recall his name? Yeah, I couldn’t either, but I do remember watching the game and watching George Brett’s exuberance as he celebrated his remarkable accomplishment. But I had forgotten what happened next.
Just moments after Brett’s hit, while he was still celebrating and chatting with first baseman Gary Gaetti, the pitcher, Tim Fortugno—who is the answer to the trivia question—threw the ball to first, picked off Brett, and put a sudden end to the party.
Some reporters said Fortugno picked off Brett because he was mad that he gave up the hit or that he would simply be remembered as the answer to a trivia question.
But last night I sat next to Tim at a spring league ball game in Phoenix and I heard a bit more of the back story from my friend Kenny. It turns out that it was actually Tim’s manager who called the pick-off play and Tim was super hesitant to make the throw to first. He reluctantly took the signal and made the play. Tim—who was and is a really great guy—later apologized to Brett for stealing his thunder and for abruptly ending the celebration.
As I was listening to that story last night I started thinking about all the times I have cut celebrations short. I’m way too prone to give people a pat on the back or a quick “atta boy” and then move on, get back to work, or to start working on getting another win.
But those moments in life when we defy the odds, when a goal is reached, a hope realized, a dream fulfilled, or when we simply experience a win of any kind—big or small—are times worth celebrating and worth letting the celebration ride.
The next time I think about “throwing to first” and suddenly ending the celebration, I will remember this story, keep the ball in my glove, and join the party.
where influence comes from
Lots of people aspire to leadership. Some just want to be in charge. Others just want to get something done.
I want to get something done too. I dream of a better world, more loving neighborhoods, more ethical businesses, more just political systems. But in the spirit of true confessions, I’ve really never aspired to a formal leadership role. I’ve never felt compelled to be in charge. And yet most people will tell you I’ve been leading since I was in High School.
How does that happen? How do you lead when you’re not even trying to be in charge? How do you make this world a better place when you’re just an average man or woman who wants to make difference?
Author John Maxwell has said that in today’s world leadership is all about influence. He who has the influence, has the leadership. I think he’s right, and it’s especial true among millennials who care very little about titles, reputations, or diplomas. They want to know who you are and what you have to offer, not what your title is or what you’ve done.
So if leadership is about influence, where does influence come from? How do you become more influential? Leadership guru Bobby Clinton points to 4 sources, or bases of authority that give people influence.
The first basis of influence is Positional Authority. Positional authority is the authority conferred on you through the position you fill. For many of us, positional authority is the first thing we think of when we hear the word leadership, and unfortunately it’s often not a positive association.
Is positional authority legitimate leadership? Absolutely. Every society confers authority on people through roles and those roles can help bring focus, organizational clarity, and productivity.
But here’s what I’ve observed over the past 40 years: The more you rely on positional authority as a legitimate means of authority, the more illegitimate your influence will become in the eyes of those you serve. If you depend on your position to get things done, you will eventually lose the hearts of those you lead.
The 2nd basis of influence comes through Relational Authority. Relational authority is the influence we have in people’s lives through the relationships we have with them. People respond to us because they know we care about them and because they trust us.
It’s been said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. But when people know that you genuinely care, that you have their best interest at heart and that you are a person of character, they will follow your lead.
When I think of the people who have had relational authority in my life, they have been people who listen deeply, who are honest, trustworthy, and who have had my back even when it may have cost them. If you want to grow in influence, be that kind of person, and you will rarely need to exercise positional authority even if you have it.
The 3rd basis of influence is Technical Authority. Technical authority is the authority you have because of the knowledge and/or skills you’ve developed. You have the ability to influence others because you have something they want. This form of influence has little to do with your position or with your relationships; it has everything to do with your competence.
But operating solely out of technical authority will typically limit your influence to a very narrow band of a person’s life. That is especially true in a wired world where so much information is so readily available. In this Google age, you will almost always need to add value to your compentency through relationship or through …
Spiritual Authority. Spiritual authority is the influence we have in people’s lives through the intimacy of our relationship with God. It flows out of our deep communion with the Divine and it’s infectous. The prophets spoke of “deep calling out to deep.” Spiritual authority comes when something deep within us connects to the deep longing in others.
Perhaps no other person in human history has had more influence than a position-less carpenter from Galilee. Jesus lingered long with God. He went for walks with God. He sat on top of mountains and beside lakes to pray. And because he lived in the presence of God he was able to say, “I only do what I see the father doing, and I only say what I hear him saying.”
People listen to people who listen to God. People follow those who are in-tune with the Divine and who are sensitive to God’s purposes and ways.
My wife is one of my heroes. She is sweet and gentle, but she has authority in my life because I know how deep her relationship with God runs and how sensitive she is to the movements of God. I also know how much she cares about me, and the combination of spiritual authority and relational authority is perhaps the most moving of all.
As just implied, these 4 sources of influence usually work in harmony with one another. The more integrated they are, the more holistically we lead. And the more holistically we lead, the greater influence we will have.
What type of influence do you tend to lead with? Are you relying on it to the exclusion of other means of influence?
If you are in positional authority, may you lead with grace and humility. And with or without a formal role, may your influence grow in goodness and may this world be a better place because of your presence in it.
Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness
of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.
A fair and insightful response by Gary Manning to the latest best seller on the “real” Jesus.
The “Me” GenerationS
I was born in 1958 which puts me at the tail end of the boomer generation, a generation often criticized for our unbounded ambition and insatiable appetites. And while Generation X largely pushed back against our consumeristic values in both word and practice, it appears many millennials are actually bumping up against their own internal aspirations as they push back against the self-centeredness and greed that characterized my generation.
In fact, the average American college student scored 30% higher on the Narcissistic Personality Index in 2006 than the average college student in scored in 1979, my senior year in college. Self-absorbtion, far from fading, has apparently bounced back big time.
And in a 2012 study by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, 81% of college freshman said that becoming wealthy was very important to them. Surprisingly, that is twice the number of boomers who said becoming wealthy was important to them in 1966. So while millennials have been the poster children for the Occupy Wall Street movement, it would appear that many of them actually aspire to become the “1%”.
Perhaps each and every generation is in some ways a “me” generation. We all long for better lives, and on our best days our best self—our deepest, most true self—longs for a better world for all and not just for ourselves. Maybe what determines the greatness of our lives is not the generation we fall into but what we do with the life we’ve been given.
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.