To Live & Lead: My Personal Leadership Principles…

Over the years, I’ve exercised leadership in a variety of different settings…I’ve been an Officer in the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program, a Grocery Manager at Winn-Dixie, a Sergeant in the U.S. Army, a Student Officer at Faith Baptist Bible College, and (now, currently) a Lead Pastor here at Prairie Flower Baptist Church…I say all that to say this: For the last 20 years, since the time I was 14 years old, I’ve been fascinated and immersed in pursuing and perfecting (or at least attempting to perfect) the art of leadership.

So much could be said about the art of leadership. Indeed, I believe leadership is more of an art than a science, but that’s a topic for another day. But below are some of the leadership axioms – my personal leadership principles – that I’ve picked up over the years. These are the principles by which I try to live and lead. To be sure, none of these statements are unique with me, but (over the years) they were repeated over and over and over again (by those in leadership over me) to the point that I adopted these principles and made them my very own…Yes, these statements encapsulate my pursuit of excellence for the glory of God…

  1. Don’t Be A Slow Poke: “Move with a purpose.” -Learned In The Civil Air Patrol
  2. Don’t Be Messy Or Disorganized: “Pick it up. Don’t pass it up.” -Learned In The Grocery Store, Winn-Dixie
  3. Don’t Make Changes Quickly: “Slow is smooth. And smooth is fast.” -Learned In The U.S. Army
  4. Don’t Be A Simpleton Or Generalist About Life: “It’s complex. Learn to appreciate nuance.” -Learned In College
  5. Don’t Assume Everyone Knows: “Communicate early and often.” -Learned In Pastoral Ministry
  6. Don’t Be Satisfied With Just Being Ok Or Average: “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” -Learned Over The Years From Excellent Leaders In Business & Ministry

Yes, no one is perfect. Yes, there is always room for grace. Yes, we need to be kind and considerate to those who can’t keep up. But these are good leadership principles to bind yourself to…At least I think so…But what would you add to this list?

A Chicken With Its’ Head Cut Off…

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “So-and-so is running around like a chicken with its’ head cut off.” Kind of a disturbing idiom, but it carries the idea of a person who is haphazard with their schedule, aimless in their organization, or frantically reacting to life instead of proactively planning and responding to life. Does the chicken with no head expression describe you?

I’ve been in leadership long enough to realize that far too many people struggle with scheduling, organization, and general life planning. In fact, I am deeply disturbed at how many Christian leaders struggle with these basic leadership skills. It seems to me that far too many of us are flying by the seat of our pants, overstressing ourselves and frustrating the people around us, when we could carefully and smoothly get our work done.

In fact, let me talk directly to those of you in leadership positions. Maybe you own your own business or lead in a non-profit, let me speak to you very plainly. If you fail to schedule, organize, and plan your business or non-profit, you might find yourself very busy (and reasonably productive) as you constantly react to situations and people, but you will fail to achieve what you originally set out to achieve and your long-term goals won’t get met in good time (if ever)…Make sense?

I first became keenly aware of the importance of proper scheduling, organization, and planning while deployed in Iraq with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). I served as one of their Intel Analysts. Our plan/objective was simple: Kill and capture high value Al-Qaeda targets in Iraq. But here was our constant challenge/chaos: Angry villagers and tribal leaders who wanted clean water…I mean, there were constant riots. “Clean water! Clean water! Clean water!” Now imagine if our operators only focused on the chaos in front of them without ever addressing the underlying chaos enablers (i.e. the terrorists)…No good to dig new wells in these Iraqi villages if they’ll just get poisoned or blown up by insurgents. Gotta stay on task…Gotta stay on mission…Gotta stay on plan/objective…Kill and capture high value Al-Qaeda targets in Iraq and (in time) the clean water will come!

What’s my point? Well, as leaders in your field, you gotta become Masters of Chaos…Controlling the chaos or (inevitably) the chaos will control you. If you allow chaos to control you, then as a leader, you’ll be nothing more than a chicken with no head…And you’re the leader! So if you have no head, guess what happens to the people following you?

Well, what’s the why behind the what of this issue? Here are five of the hidden culprits of improper leadership administration (i.e. scheduling, organization, and planning)…

  • Lack of Passion – You won’t find any motivation to administrate well if you hate what you do. Do you LOVE what you do?
  • Lack of Focus – You won’t administrate well if you have developed poor habits of distracting yourself with entertainment, vices of various kinds, etc. Are you willingly A.D.D.?
  • Lack of Planning – You won’t administrate well if you don’t plan to administrate. Indeed, “Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance” (Army phrase). Can’t administrate something you don’t know needs to be administrated…Write it down…Plan to administrate…Plan to plan!
  • Lack of Discipline – You won’t administrate well if you don’t discipline yourself to keep on keeping on even when the going gets tough. You gotta be CONSISTENT with your administrative system. Get this…Administration is the essential, but unattractive oil of a properly functioning business or organization. You have to discipline yourself to stay on task, on target, and on time. Yeah, it’s boring. Yeah, it’s not fun. But, yeah, “administration won’t make your business, but it can certainly break your business!”
  • Lack of Gratefulness – You won’t administrate well if you aren’t grateful for the limited time you have here on earth. I am utterly convinced that so many people struggle with administrative skills because they lack basic understanding of, and respect for, time…You don’t have much time left on planet earth, and some of you are living (and working) like you have all the time in the world…A healthy understanding of your incredibly short life and a healthy fear of your impending death are strong motivators to get your junk together and administrate well…

And just to be clear, poor administration has nothing to do with a deficit of intellect, vision, or charm…In fact, some of the smartest, most visionary, and charming people I’ve ever met are just plain bad at administration because they lacked either passion, or focus, or planning, or discipline, or gratefulness, or some combination of these hidden culprits…

So, do you struggle with administrating your life and work? Are you just plain bad at scheduling, organization, and planning? Do you allow the chaos of your life and work to control you too much? Here’s two practical tips to be a better person and leader…1) Buy and use a paper planner…“A paper brain never forgets!” And 2) Buy and read the book, Mastering Life by Robert J. Morgan…Excellent book and easy to read!