Posted in Leadership, Uncategorized

Want to Manage Well? Mind the Small Things

KingDavid

Quiet Commitment

David’s example of leadership is found exemplified in Luke 6:10a, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much….” David’s ascent from shepherd to king of Israel begins with him caring for the least of creatures to caring for God’s chosen people. His rise to leadership was gradual but increased in responsibility after he successfully overcame each challenge he faced. There is no indication in the scriptures that David ever aspired to leadership, but there is a sense that David modeled a “bloom where you are planted” mentality; whatever David was in a position to do, he wanted to do it well. In choosing David, God explained to Samuel the prophet that even though his outward appearance was not that of a great leader—as had been the appearance of King Saul—his heart was pure (I Sam 16:7).

As a shepherd boy, David did most of his work in secret and out of view. God, however, knew the integrity of David and the great dedication he brought to fulfilling uninspiring duties. We are allowed a glimpse of how seriously David took his responsibilities as a shepherd in I Samuel 17:34-37 when he described to Saul how he had saved one sheep by killing both a lion and a bear. This may seem insignificant to some but David could have allowed this sheep to be killed. Who would have noticed, or even cared, for one sheep missing from the flock? Saving it seemed a reckless thing to do at the risk of your own life, certainly no one would have judged David poorly for choosing his safety over this one sheep, but David placed high value on it out of his strong sense of responsibility to protect it. God knew there was no better person to shepherd his chosen people than a man who was willing to risk his life for something seemingly so insignificant. David’s character was not completely unnoticed among his peers, which led to his first opportunity serve (I Sam. 16:18-19).

Successful in Service

The failure of Saul in his duties as king (I Sam.15:23) had brought the judgment of God upon him and his reign. Removing His spirit from Saul, God allowed an evil spirit to torment him. Seeking relief, at the recommendation of his servants, Saul enlists David to comfort him. When David is called before King Saul to play his harp, we are given some understanding of why David is growing in esteem. While David is noted for being a talented harp player, mighty and valiant, a man of war, and prudent in matters, he is more importantly recognized as a man close to the Lord (I Sam. 16:18). King Saul experiences this in a personal way when David is able to ward off the evil spirits that torment the king by playing his harp. David’s presence so soothed King Saul that he co-opts David for service in the palace. The scriptures are quiet concerning this service but it is clear that his spiritual strength was recognized as something that set him apart.

David’s success in this test, and the leadership abilities that he developed through this event, afforded him more opportunities of increasing importance and difficulty. Each future trial met successfully by David strengthened his credibility and reputation among his peers as a strong, dedicated, and committed leader. It is perhaps this reason, coupled with the demonstration of David’s spiritual strength, which compels Saul to take a risk on the young warrior and allow him to confront Goliath. It was indeed a great risk. Having only experience as an armor-bearer (I Sam. 17:21), David was untested in warfare.

In the account of the Israelites confrontation with the Philistines in I Samuel 17, after serving in the palace, David had returned to his father’s home to tend his sheep while King Saul encamped by the battlefield. When he is instructed by his father, Jesse, to take provisions to his brothers serving in the army, after arriving at the sight of the conflict, David hears the bold challenge of the champion of Gath. Seeing the fear in the men of Israel, David is perplexed by their unwillingness to confront the “uncircumcised Philistine,” reminding Israel that they are the army “of the living God.” David’s boldness to publicly express his thoughts may have angered his brothers (I Sam. 17:28) but the report of his courage gained him an audience with the king (I Sam.17:31).

Recognized His Obligation

Before King Saul David expressed his willingness—and his responsibility—to defend his nation and his God, bravely offering his skills in answering the challenge of Goliath. Saul was understandably apprehensive at first, but it is David’s strength of faith in God, illustrated by the killing of the bear and lion, a faith that has also been witnessed by Saul, which prevails upon him to send David forth into battle as the representative of the armies of God. David’s victory over Goliath becomes renowned and serves as the catalyst to greater responsibility in the service of Israel (I Sam. 18:5). Further successes in battle only cemented the following he had already earned with his people (I Sam. 18:6-7). But these successes were realized because of David’s willingness to act responsibly in those opportunities as they were presented to him. His sense of duty was great but, peculiarly, there is no indication in the scriptures that David sought these positions of great responsibility and influence; he simply responded to the need before him. This ongoing cycle in David’s life would prepare him for the trials he would face as Israel’s king, both as a leader in exile of a kingdom in turmoil and as a leader who finally unites the kingdom.

Leadership Under Fire

The notoriety gained from his success, however, alienated him from Saul, who became consumed by his jealousy of David, placing his life in danger. At the hand of Saul, David endured many attempts on his life—driving him into exile. David adapted to these predicaments by organizing and leading a ragged band of malcontents through the wilderness, men of arguably questionable character, because they seemed to be his only supporters (I Sam. 22:2). Though he dealt with many disgruntled personalities, David still was able to unify this group—even increasing their size and loyalty (I Sam 23:13). This served as good experience for a man who would soon have to mend a divided kingdom after the death of Saul. David’s capacity to rally troops to his cause was learned from the experience of his past opportunities and the reliability that brought with it. They were willing to stand with him because he had shown himself a capable and faithful leader.

Eventually, David defeated the forces of Saul, and those loyal to him, and was crowned king in Judah. It would take seven years, however, before David could unite the kingdom of Israel, time David took to increase his position and influence. David’s respectability as a leader positioned him to unite the kingdom of Israel and, with the blessing of God, set it on a course of great prosperity. Because he had been faithful in little, God had entrusted him with much.

It is not always managing well the big things that set great leaders apart. Sometimes it is managing well the least of things that makes a leader truly great.

(C) 2018. All rights reserved

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Posted in Religion & Politics, Uncategorized

Serious Questions About Immigration

statueofliberty

I love the Statue of Liberty and what she represents. I love that she is a beacon of hope. I love that she beckons to all who wish to live in freedom. I understand the motivation of the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” I also love what America stands for and thank God–I am sure not enough– for the blessing of being born in a country that provided me the life I have been blessed to live. I am downright sentimental about it.

The immigration discussion that has been taking place the last 15-20 years is growing ever more contentious.  Though it may be a national discussion, it is also one of those rare instances where citizens get to see first-hand how inept federal policies affect their local communities. After all, immigrants–whether they are legal, illegal, asylum seeker, or refugee–end up in someone’s community.

Who, exactly, is coming to our communities and do we have a need to be concerned? Do we have the right to ask questions? Do we have the right to assurances that immigrants, especially those from countries hostile to American ideals, are not a threat to our communities?

I believe, emphatically, that we do have the right to ask these questions and be given assurances that they are not a threat. This is not about being anti-immigrant. This is about common sense government. It’s about asking if our government is allowing more immigrants than it can safely process and pay for. It’s about asking if our government is ensuring the integrity of our immigration laws.

What has been the impact of an immigration policy that seemingly has no restrictions? Or a secure and reliable vetting process? Or mechanism to hold those breaking our immigration laws accountable? Over-burdening of local resources (schools and social services primarily), increased risk of communicable illnesses, increased criminal activity (drug smuggling and human trafficking) and, yes, entry of persons hostile to the American way of life–whether they be jihadists or violent gang members.  I don’t like having to say these things. Neither do government officials advocating for a much stricter immigration policy. But it’s a reality.

The argument has been made, of course, that these are the rare exceptions, with the likelihood of these particular scenarios impacting you, John Q. Public, being slim. Many of the immigrants here do not fall into those categories. They have come to America through lawful channels, assimilated well into our communities, work, raise families, and are grateful for the hope America has given them. It’s not fair for them to bear the burden of a lengthy vetting process.

Maybe so. Still, when the stakes are so high—and increased risks to your family’s health and security is the result—people want to err on the side of caution. No risk—not 1%, not 20%–is worth it. And they don’t want their government gambling on their behalf, when their health and security is the ante.

What is the common-sense thing for our government to do, given the concerns expressed by citizens? Get a firm control on the pace of the immigrants we are allowing into the country. Vet them properly and extensively, to ensure public health and security. Make sure it is safe and healthy to bring them into our communities. Ensure reliable barriers are in place to remove avenues used by criminal to evade our laws, like the “Border Wall.”

Inaction is not a plan, or a policy. Assuming the best is not the right approach. The public does not want to hear, “Well, the odds are that nothing “fill-in-the-blank” will come of it, so it’s safe. We’ll sort it all out after they get here.” That’s not good enough. The public wants to know BEFORE immigrants are allowed into the country that they are not a health or security risk. Further, the public WANTS known criminals and threats to our community removed. Presently, there is no public confidence in the federal vetting system. There is no explanation for why politicians are not acting to change it, or impeding those who are.

What has been the federal government’s response to the public demanding a stronger, more accountable, and more reliable vetting process? Demand the citizens accept the status quo and foot the bill. Accuse them of xenophobia or racism if they don’t. Threaten states with loss of federal funding if they don’t comply with the status quo.

Those states which capitulate? Well, they then demand their local communities take on the burden, threatening them with the loss of state funds if they don’t comply. After all, federal dollars are involved, right? They’ll assert whatever other scary scenario is applicable at the time to ensure they do. A subtle form of coercion, but coercion nonetheless. No government of free citizens should force policy by coercion. It’s downright un-American.

However, since they do, that means you, the citizen and taxpayer, has LESS to tend to your family priorities—which are important to you—because the federal government feels better putting THEIR priorities ahead of yours, while spending YOUR money to do it. THEIR priorities, however misguided, ineptly pursued, or against the will of the public, come at YOUR expense. Both your dollars AND your peace of mind.

Is it fair, then, to ask the question, even in the “Land of the Free,” if America is taking in more people than the hope that exists in its promise to the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” can provide, or puts that promise at risk? Is it fair to ask if those “huddled masses” are truly yearning to breathe free? Is it fair to ask if those coming to America truly have her best interest at heart?

Most Americans believe yes. Our government needs to listen…and ensure that America’s security is their first priority. The immigration discussion has become a pawn in the war of competing political ideologies…at the expense of domestic tranquility. That needs to stop. Now.

Posted in Religion & Politics, Uncategorized

Trump Remorse? Not a Chance!

US-POLITICS-TRUMP-COMMENCEMENT

Perfect? No. Flawed? Like all of us. But my vote was an investment in a better & stronger America. In short, I voted for an ideal, not a man. Donald Trump had me at the escalator ride. I loved his confidence, his dogged determination, and his willingness to leave his lofty perch of wealth and fame to become the “whipper-boy” of the American Left and the oligarchs of both political parties in D.C., because he KNEW he could do it better…AND dared to say so. I still do. No one, in my mind, was better suited to take a wrecking-ball to our corrupt government system than a man who built his wealth and found his fame tearing down rot and rebuilding glory in its place. And, let’s face it, D.C. has plenty of rot.

I’m a Reagan conservative…so my support of Trump came somewhat of a surprise to me. I didn’t really see Trump as a conservative but I liked his willingness to speak his mind, speak plainly, and call-out the career politicians who claim they have the “fix” for what ails America, when it is them who created the problem. For sure the Trump Presidency has been particularly aggravating to the national GOP party apparatchik–the Mitch McConnell’s, Paul Ryan’s, and John McCain’s–who many believe, myself included, really needed to be kicked in the seat of the pants. Rank and file GOPers had had enough of their double-speak, myself included. Time for some straight talk and action.

The Democratic Party, the American Left, the GOP establishment and their friends in the American media have met their match in Trump because he has the “cajones” to stand up to them, call them what they are, and can withstand the onslaught of negative attacks from all directions on his family, his character, his accomplishments, and his vision…with a smirk that says “Is that all you’ve got?”

Trump’s plain speak is precisely what is necessary to solve America’s problems…and exactly why his supporters are still with him. The forked-tongue of political correctness has only shielded do-nothing politicians from accountability. For years our politicians “kicked the can” down the road—making things worse–by applying themselves to “politics” instead of the people’s business, and gave a thousand bogus excuses as to why they had could not get something done.

President Trump has confronted the problems they’ve avoided with direct action, using language that is not “sensitive,” according to the social justice warriors and political snowflakes.  He is not intimidated or moved by any of the criticism—as illustrated by his pressers and appearances—and I applaud it…loudly.

There are still those Trump detractors who believe President Trump is only about Trump. He doesn’t give a whit about the country, they say. America is simply his new choice of playground, they fret. They apply this to him almost daily: Trump only talks about himself, he calls people names, he just wants to be the center of attention, etc. His daily appearances on Twitter serve as reinforcement to them that Trump is some ego-maniac demagogue run amok in the Oval Office.

President Trump’s supporters know this is an unfair characterization of him. There is much more to Trump than the Left, Washington politicians, and the media understand. He has twisted them in knots and they are quite enjoying the show. They like that he is  thumbing his nose at the “political establishment” that has ignored us for too long. They love that he has taken over the narrative from the national media, communicating directly with Americans, via social media. Who would’ve thought the media would go nuts over something as simple as a “tweet?”

Trump is squarely confronting issues Americans care about and take interest in with a brutal honesty many share. The media may find them trivial, but we don’t: LaVar Bell (“ungrateful”), Elizabeth Warren (“Pocahontas”), CNN (“Fake News”), Kim Jong Un (“short and fat”), Hillary Clinton (“sore loser”), Senator Flake (“Sen. Flake(y)), the NFL (“weak and out of control”) to name just a few.  I like it. He gets it. It’s refreshing. My father was blunt, too. Greatest man I ever knew. Sentimentality and feelings weren’t his strong suit, either.

Trump’s supporters agree with his vision and grand plans for America. They agree with how he is going about it. They like him, they believe in him, and they are not buying that he does not care about America. They believe Trump truly does want to make America great again and they want in. If Trump is driving that bus, they are happy to ride along. They like that he is squarely confronting serious questions–political or social–with direct answers, while thumbing his nose at the politically correct oligarchy—Republican or Democrat—that has created the national situation we find ourselves in–politically and socially.

I’m happy with who I voted for. I’d vote for him again, a hundred times over. God certainly may have a lot of work to do, but my vote was a vote for ideas, expressed by a man who said he would fulfill them. Trump is just clearing the site of the old rot to make preparations to build anew. I’m patient.  My vote will pay back the dividends I expect. No way I’m selling this stock, or giving up on Trump.

Posted in Leadership, Uncategorized

Want to Lead with Integrity? Set an Absolute Course!

Leadership

Leadership expert John Maxwell once defined integrity as the “state of being complete, unified…” Though I agree, I think we can go even further in defining it. A much stronger definition of integrity, I believe, is given in the The American Heritage Dictionary. It defines integrity as “steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code; sound.” ‘Sound’ is further defined as “free from defect or damage.” The uniting of these two definitions more clearly identifies what traits someone should possess before we can say they have “integrity.” Only by “steadfast adherence to a moral code” can a leader realize true integrity. Being “complete” or “unified” is only the beginning of setting us on the right path. Integrity is a fortress assembled brick by brick, through an unwavering commitment to a set of absolute standards. This fortress called “integrity,” if embodied by the leadership, provides an organization with a solid foundation for success and bring many tangible benefits.

A Foundation of Trust

The first benefit and cornerstone of integrity is trust. Too often the mantra in leadership is “Do as I say, not as I do.” At its foundation this approach to leadership is self-serving; it seeks only to accomplish the demands of the leader without considering the effect it has on those forced to carry them out. Anyone who has children can attest to the frustration of this philosophy every time their child models the poor behavior they have seen exhibited by their parents. While children may follow their parent’s directives out of necessity, or perhaps even fear, they will never fully respect authority that is a bad example. It is hypocritical and illegitimate. This results in a failure of trust, trust that the leader has issued directives for the right reasons—out of conviction—not an act borne of personal pragmatism. Subordination should not be simply the result of the leader having authority, Maxwell says, but by leadership having a positive influence—influence that inspires a willingness to obey.

We find such inspiration in the Bible. Moses inspired this kind of trust. Moses faced the pharaoh, led the flight from Egypt, and crossed the Red Sea. His leadership and successes led to the Hebrews trusting him and his decisions, even if that trust was—at times—somewhat wavering. But if that trust, however minute, had not been evident, every directive given by him would have been met with suspicion. Moses was successful in leading the Hebrews from the Egyptian captivity to the borders of the Promised Land because they trusted him and the Godly standard he represented. There can be no integrity in a leader who is not trustworthy.

Trustworthiness brings with it the ability influence others. Having a reputation for the doing the right thing because it is the right thing—without first considering how it may or may not benefit the leader—exhibits a moral commitment that inspires people to act the same way. For example, a leader who is not willing to accept blame for a mistake, but instead passes blame off to a subordinate who is not responsible for the mistake, is not likely to be trusted. Hence, their ability to inspire others to follow them is diminished because their lack of integrity has now called their judgment into question. In contrast, however, a leader who is consistently willing to accept responsibility for his actions is more likely to be followed since subordinates see he is willing to put his name on his plan—for better or worse. He will be seen as one who is not likely to make decisions without first considering the consequences. A business leader in any community is more likely to acquire business contacts and retain clients if he is known to do the right thing, even if it is not beneficial to his bottom line. In most communities, businessmen who are known for this often serve as examples to other business leaders. Subsequently, with this in mind, their subordinates are more likely to heed his directives and follow his example.

Maintaining Consistency 

Leaders must be cautious, though. Trust and inspiration—once established—can quickly be eroded if the leader does not consistently hold himself to the same standard he expects of his subordinates. There is an old cliché that asks “You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” Sometimes talking the talk can inspire people for short periods. Eventually, though, a leader will lose credibility if he is seen as just a talker. People expect others to live by the same standards they verbally affirm for other people. This is exactly why Christians hear “Judge not, lest ye be judged” so often. It is not because judging is wrong. It is because people do not want to be judged by those who do not live by the same standard they are demanding of others. This applies more urgently to leaders. There is a tendency for some leaders to think that once they have achieved a position of authority, even if they achieved that position initially with trust and influence, they can play fast and loose with the rules, bending and twisting them for their own benefit.

These types of leaders wrongly assume at this point that simply asserting authority for authority’s sake is enough to get subordinates to toe the line. But this does not work. People in authority must also “walk the walk.” Very few people are willing to perform for a leader those things which the leader is not also willing to do himself. If a leader wants to be respected and trusted, he needs to lead from the front of the pack, not the rear.

Once a leader has actually proven himself to be a leader—not simply pretended to be one—he has established the core of a solid reputation and respectability among his subordinates and is accepted within his sphere of influence. He is recognized as someone who believes on the inside what he portrays on the outside. His decisions are known to be consistent, well-reasoned, and beneficial to all parties. His convictions cannot be shaken. Thus, he is respected for who he really is, not what position of authority he holds; he has achieved respectability as a consistent and competent leader.

Preserving Respectability

Respectability, however, like all of the other benefits of leading with integrity, is quickly lost if a leader fails to continue doing it. Thus, leaders must be motivated by something higher than themselves. Morals and values among men seem to shift with every generation. So, in a pragmatic sense, it might seem easier to lower our standards as society lowers theirs while still maintaining a higher standard than what society expects, or even defines as admirable. But, is that high enough? After all, even a group of poor performers inevitably has one who has performed the best of the poorest. Simply being the best of the worst is no real accomplishment. Leaders should strive to be motivated by the best of the best, no matter how low the standard of expectation.

This approach agrees more with the understanding of integrity in the introductory paragraph. This is where the Biblical standard of leadership is applicable. Christian leaders especially must aspire to that high standard defined by the Bible, not the prevailing wisdom of the time. It is this wisdom that the apostle Paul recommended that Timothy, the young pastor, hold close to his heart so he may be found perfect and complete (II Timothy 3:16-17). This agrees with Maxwell’s initial definition of integrity, even in the face of declining standards (I Tim. 4:1-7; II Tim. 4:1-5).

It is crucial to understand this because, had Timothy compromised what he knew to be right, he would have been lauded as being open-minded and progressive in his thinking. However, there is no virtue in challenging moral absolutes, though it may seem in vogue. This is precisely what Paul warned Timothy that men would want from his leadership. But that is not the standard to strive for. Paul exhorted Timothy to hold himself to the absolute standard that God had set to make “full proof” of his ministry. Leaders should make “full proof” of their example, too. The not-so-subtle erosion of standards that exists in our present society is something we must guard against. We should not lower our standards because society does.

A consistent and unwavering submission to a firm standard, combined with the aforementioned trust, influence, and respectability establishes credibility. This credibility means your word is your bond. No oaths are necessary, no witnesses to testify on your behalf. Your character will stand on its own. This carries with it the expectation that that you and your belief system are one and the same. This consistency, Maxwell asserts, is the key to effective leadership. But integrity in leadership is something that needs to be achieved. It cannot be given, fabricated, or covered in insincerity. It must be pursued. But even once it is achieved, it must be guarded by he who has it because so much depends on it. If guarded successfully, I believe, as Maxwell suggests, we can define a leader who earns, guards, and maintains his integrity as a leader who is “complete and unified.”

(C) 2017. All rights reserved

Posted in All Things American, Uncategorized

Freedom & American Exceptionalism: Part II

thomas-jefferson-and-the-constitution

Philosophical Roots of America’s Founding

America’s founding began long before 1776. Though America’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence, relied on the individual rights “…nature and nature’s God…” entitled us, the Declaration relied on the sacred and undeniable truth of natural law and self-government established by other thinkers to get to this point.

Aristotle acknowledged the existence of a divine order and first mover. Augustine of Hippo, the renowned theologian, made this “first mover” a question of theism, presupposing that this “prime mover” was none other than the Judeo-Christian God, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Thomas Aquinas built upon this presupposition, offering that the natural law acknowledged by Aristotle revealed the divine law and lawgiver explained by Augustine. If that was the case, Aquinas believed, we had a responsibility to reflect that truth in the laws of society.

A natural universe and its divine order were God’s gift to men, John Locke said, which gave him the freedom to pursue his God-given responsibilities, so long as he used his freedom responsibly, and government should aid that pursuit. Being a unique creation of God, the imago Dei, is what makes man exceptional. God, Reagan said, intended man to be free. Like Augustine, Aquinas, and Locke, Reagan believed that freedom came with a responsibility to help our fellow man, not just in America, but wherever she had influence. Government should aid self-governance with a noble aim, not replace it.

Individual Liberty

The right of self-governance was not something government could award, Reagan said. Self-governance was our God-given right. Even the discussions concerning the ratification of the U.S. Constitution affirmed pre-existent and historical rights. It was enshrined in the founding documents, inspired by the writers of history, and placed in the Declaration by Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson did not seek to establish or reveal any new ideas of government. He simply affirmed what was already “self-evident.” He wrote of his authorship of the Declaration in 1822, “I did not consider it part of my charge to invent new ideas altogether, and to offer no sentiment never expressed before.” And he didn’t. It was commonly accepted, through a philosophy that acknowledged a natural and divine law that was based in history, that men were free. That freedom came from “…nature and nature’s God…” King George simply needed to be reminded.

Freedom, though self-evident, still needed to be defined and understood for it to be truly exceptional. Man was free, but what was his responsibility? If the laws of nature and nature’s God gave him “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” what did that mean? And how did men fulfill that obligation? How was the success of government dependent on the answer? Freedom, Locke had said, could not be used as license to act however one wished.

Self-reliance

In a strictly theological sense, freedom is the ability to live according to one’s conscience, with an accountability to God, as explained by the Apostle Paul in Romans, chapter two. There was no respect of persons with God, according to Paul, men would all be judged by the same standard. In a political sense, as Reagan said, it is the freedom to control one’s own destiny, so long as one looks out for his neighbors, an idea found in Locke’s Treatise’s on government. In doing so, he lives a life that will one day be judged by God, not men.

Each individual man will be judged by the same divine standard. In the legal context, according to William Blackstone, in describing the rights of Englishmen, this naturally leads to self-reliance and self-determination. Man was entitled to pursue his own interests and was entitled to the fruits of those efforts, but he was accountable to God. The government had become too overbearing, Reagan said, and was helping itself to that which it was not entitled. It dictated how individuals should exercise freedom, seeing citizens as dependent on government, and not government dependent on citizens. Freedom, liberty, and rights are not given to us by government. Government exists to protect freedom, not grant it. Any governmental system which seeks to encroach on this truth, does so to its own detriment.