Archives For Leadership

For a number of years I was part of an excellent conference – the re:Create Conference in Nashville. You can read all about what re:create is about HERE (and if you’ve never been, I would recommend it to you if you are involved in the arts or are a church leader). It is an outstanding, paradigm-shifting experience.

In 2010, author Stephen Mansfield was one of our keynote speakers and he gave the following insights for worship leaders/worship pastors/arts pastors/artists in the church, especially as it pertains to working with your senior leader. They were great words then, when I was still an arts pastor. And they resonate even more, now that I am a senior pastor:

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I was recently given a copy of a book by author, artist, musician, and fellow rebel John Voelz. The book was Quirky Leadership from Abingdon Press. I was intrigued by the title and, knowing JVo, I was looking forward to his particular slant on the broad subject of leadership.

The first thing you’ll notice is the chapter titles.

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My Last Worship Set

December 8, 2012 — 1 Comment

This was my last worship set at NewCov on Sunday, November 25, 2012. Thanks, NewCov, for the honor of being your Worship Pastor for the last 13 years.

What a ride it has been!

Pink bloom

Photo courtesy of Richard X. Thripp under a Creative Commons 3.0 License

At one point or another, all of us have dreamed of a different future for ourselves. Sometimes those dreams include different job or living locations. Sometimes those dreams involve a completely different way of life. Sometimes those dreams are just wishful thinking, while other times we are absolutely convinced they are from God.

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I believe that any young worship leader should be required to be the frontman for a bar band for a year before they are ever allowed to lead on stage.

I don’t really believe that.

Ok… I do. A little. What I mean is this…

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Al Davis

Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders

When Al Davis fired Tom Cable as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders at the end of the last season, I thought, “This guy has finally lost it.”

The Raiders had looked incredible during the second half of the season. They were playing like a team again. Things were looking great for this upcoming season.

Then Davis fired Cable.

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When you are a leader and you make a bad decision… own it. Don’t try to spin it. Don’t try to sweep it under the carpet. Don’t try to gloss it over with the good decisions you made.

Just say “I blew it.”

I applaud Starbucks Chairman, Howard Shultz, for doing just that. In this e-mail to CEO Jim Donald earlier this month, Shultz demonstrates the great leadership of owning his mistakes.

This memo has been confirmed as authentic by Starbucks.

From: Howard Schultz
Sent: Wednesday, February 14, 2007 10:39 AM Pacific Standard Time
To: Jim Donald
Cc: Anne Saunders; Dave Pace; Dorothy Kim; Gerry Lopez; Jim Alling; Ken Lombard; Martin Coles; Michael Casey; Michelle Gass; Paula Boggs; Sandra Taylor

Subject: The Commoditization of the Starbucks Experience

As you prepare for the FY 08 strategic planning process, I want to share some of my thoughts with you.

Over the past ten years, in order to achieve the growth, development, and scale necessary to go from less than 1,000 stores to 13,000 stores and beyond, we have had to make a series of decisions that, in retrospect, have lead to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, what some might call the commoditization of our brand.

Many of these decisions were probably right at the time, and on their own merit would not have created the dilution of the experience; but in this case, the sum is much greater and, unfortunately, much more damaging than the individual pieces. For example, when we went to automatic espresso machines, we solved a major problem in terms of speed of service and efficiency. At the same time, we overlooked the fact that we would remove much of the romance and theatre that was in play with the use of the La Marzocca machines. This specific decision became even more damaging when the height of the machines, which are now in thousands of stores, blocked the visual sight line the customer previously had to watch the drink being made, and for the intimate experience with the barista. This, coupled with the need for fresh roasted coffee in every North America city and every international market, moved us toward the decision and the need for flavor locked packaging. Again, the right decision at the right time, and once again I believe we overlooked the cause and the affect of flavor lock in our stores. We achieved fresh roasted bagged coffee, but at what cost? The loss of aroma — perhaps the most powerful non-verbal signal we had in our stores; the loss of our people scooping fresh coffee from the bins and grinding it fresh in front of the customer, and once again stripping the store of tradition and our heritage? Then we moved to store design. Clearly we have had to streamline store design to gain efficiencies of scale and to make sure we had the ROI on sales to investment ratios that would satisfy the financial side of our business. However, one of the results has been stores that no longer have the soul of the past and reflect a chain of stores vs. the warm feeling of a neighborhood store. Some people even call our stores sterile, cookie cutter, no longer reflecting the passion our partners feel about our coffee. In fact, I am not sure people today even know we are roasting coffee. You certainly can’t get the message from being in our stores. The merchandise, more art than science, is far removed from being the merchant that I believe we can be and certainly at a minimum should support the foundation of our coffee heritage. Some stores don’t have coffee grinders, French presses from Bodum, or even coffee filters.

Now that I have provided you with a list of some of the underlying issues that I believe we need to solve, let me say at the outset that we have all been part of these decisions. I take full responsibility myself, but we desperately need to look into the mirror and realize it’s time to get back to the core and make the changes necessary to evoke the heritage, the tradition, and the passion that we all have for the true Starbucks experience. While the current state of affairs for the most part is self induced, that has lead to competitors of all kinds, small and large coffee companies, fast food operators, and mom and pops, to position themselves in a way that creates awareness, trial and loyalty of people who previously have been Starbucks customers. This must be eradicated.

I have said for 20 years that our success is not an entitlement and now it’s proving to be a reality. Let’s be smarter about how we are spending our time, money and resources. Let’s get back to the core. Push for innovation and do the things necessary to once again differentiate Starbucks from all others. We source and buy the highest quality coffee. We have built the most trusted brand in coffee in the world, and we have an enormous responsibility to both the people who have come before us and the 150,000 partners and their families who are relying on our stewardship.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge all that you do for Starbucks. Without your passion and commitment, we would not be where we are today.


That’s leadership.

In a follow-up to Shultz’s memo, as reported by The Arizona Republic:

Jim Alling, president of Starbucks Coffee U.S., embraced that message on Tuesday, saying there’s no better time for the Seattle-based behemoth to return to its roots. “It’s a good time to be introspective. It’s a good time to attack ourselves. It’s a good time to get back to your core when you’re successful,” Alling told 280 students, faculty and staff members during a visit to Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale. “We recognize our success is not an entitlement; it’s something you earn every single day.”

HT: Starbucks Gossip

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I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said:—Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

“But if I don’t blow my own horn, how will anyone know what I’ve done? I’ll never get ahead.”

It’s become somewhat of a truism that if you don’t call attention somehow to your own achievements, no one else will. But the rules of logic would say that’s simply an assertion. Let’s look at the facts.

To Be Level 5 or Not to Be
Probably the most compelling work I have seen on the subject of self-promotion vs. humility is the discussion of Level 5 leadership in Jim Collins’ book Good to Great. Collins’ goal was to identify why some companies can make the transition from being just pretty good to being truly great performers…. They found that one of the essential factors in the leap from “good to great” was a form of leadership based on humility and a focus on the organization which Collins and his team dubbed “Level 5 leadership.” Look at a brief synopsis of the findings in a comparison between the two “successful” types, with Level 5 being clearly superior to Level 4 in overall results:

Level 5

  • Builds enduring greatness
  • Personal humility—does not seek the light
  • Ambition for the purpose of the institution
  • Sets the successors up for success
  • Looks out the window—credits others for success
  • Looks in the mirror—assigns responsibility for failure

Level 4

  • Builds commitment to a vision
  • Stimulates high performance standards
  • Large ego – high level of personal charisma
  • Does not provide for the successors
  • Looks out the window to place blame
  • Looks in the mirror to claim success

What they found rather amazed them. Many of the companies that actually had the best sustained results over time and that at some point had begun that trend upward were actually somewhat obscure. One reason they were obscure was that their CEOs were people who shunned the limelight and tended to talk in terms of “we” not “me.” It was not that Level 4 leaders were poor. They did succeed, but they did not succeed as fully as the Level 5 leaders. And more importantly, their organizations did not sustain the success after they left….

The Derailment Conspiracy
Yet our eyes do not deceive us; self promoters can and do get ahead. Although Level 4 leaders are more about personal charisma, blaming others and taking personal credit, they do get results—mostly short term. But, they also derail at a relatively high rate…

The Lesson
It turns out that the lessons of leadership are as old as Ozymandius or Achilles: pride generally goes before a fall. You do not have to toot your own horn, but you should persist in acting with both humility and a resolute focus on the mission. Don’t get discouraged by lack of recognition or early success. Build up the people around you and give them credit—and do the same for your boss. In the long run, at the end of the marathon, you will be working in a better organization with better results and people will love coming to work with and for you. That’s a legacy well earned.

Excerpted from “Getting Ahead Without Tooting Your Own Horn” by Ray Blunt. Read the entire article HERE.

You can also read another take on the subject by John Maxwell’s Leadership Wired team regarding “Humility or Self-Promotion,” HERE.

Ozymandias was published by Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1818.

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January 31, 2007 — 1 Comment

I subscribe to John Maxwell’s Leadership Wired, a monthly newsletter with great leadership articles (if you are interested, you can sign up HERE).

This month’s lead article is about pride – a dangerous and deadly problem for every leader or person in the spotlight.

Pull a 10-dollar bill from your pocket, and you will see the face of Alexander Hamilton on the front. By merit of his accomplishments, Hamilton should be one of our greatest national heroes. Consider his contributions to America:

  • Revolutionary War hero
  • George Washington’s chief of staff by age 22
  • America’s first Secretary of the Treasury
  • Co-author of The Federalist Papers
  • Creator of the Coast Guard
  • Designer of the nation’s banking and finance system
  • Architect of a system of tax collection to bring revenue to the U.S. Government
  • Builder of the infrastructure for an industrial economy

Yet, despite displaying the greatest blend of legal, political, and financial knowledge of the founding fathers, Hamilton does not rank among the foremost heroes of our country’s history. Why? Pride. Hamilton’s self-importance and inability to take an insult alienated those around him and sabotaged his career. His ego literally killed him. Far too vain to patch up differences with fellow politician, Aaron Burr, Hamilton was shot and killed by Burr in a duel at the age of 49…

There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. “Good pride” represents our dignity and self-respect. “Bad pride” is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance. When you look at the word pride, notice the middle letter is “I”. When you are full of pride on the inside, it makes you stiff, stubborn, and creates strife with others.

The Problems of Pride

  1. Pride Stops Us from Building a Team.
  2. Pride Renders Us Unteachable.
  3. Pride Closes Our Mind to Feedback.
  4. Pride Prevents Us from Admitting Mistakes.
  5. Pride Keeps Us from Making Changes.
  6. Pride Encourages Poor Character Choices
  7. Pride Hinders Us from Reaching Our Potential.
  8. Pride Destroys Relationships.
  9. Pride Distorts Your Perspective on Reality

How to Correct the Pride Problem

  1. Recognize Your Pride
  2. Admit Your Pride
  3. Express Your Gratitude
  4. Say Your Prayers
  5. Practice Serving Others
  6. Learn to Laugh at Yourself

Read the entire article HERE.