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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Command At Sea

Command at Sea: the prestige, privilege and burden of command
By Joseph Conrad

Only a seaman realizes to what great extent an entire ship reflects the personality and ability of one individual, her Commanding Officer. To a landsman, this is not understandable - and sometimes it is even difficult for us to comprehend - but it is so!

A ship at sea is a different world in herself, and in consideration of the protracted and distant operations of the fleet units, the Navy must place great power, responsibility and trust in the hands of those leaders chosen for command.

In each ship there is one man who, in the hour of emergency or peril at sea, can turn to no other man. There is one who alone is ultimately responsible for the safe navigation, engineering performance, accurate gunfire and morale of the ship. He is the Commanding Officer. He is the ship!

This is the most difficult and demanding assignment in the Navy. There is not an instant during his tour as Commanding Officer that he can escape the grasp of command responsibility. His privileges, in view of his obligations, are almost ludicrously small; nevertheless, this is the spur which has given the Navy its great leaders.

It is a duty which richly deserves the highest, time-honored title of the seafaring world - Captain.

Standby . . .

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Mt. 14: 22-36

Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. Mk. 6:51

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Mk. 4: 35, 41

He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Mk. 6:48

Riding ships in stormy seas is an amazing experience that form the inner soul of the true Sailor. Unique to our profession is working with crashing waves around us - sea spray dousing you and the crew as you make preparations for entering port or an underway replenishment. It is a strange kind of fun as water smashes up and over your bow and the ship heaves as it yaws, pitches and rolls. Storms at sea put you directly in touch with the true magnificence of the Creator. God does some of his most spectacular work with raging black saltwater.

Stand by for heavy rolls while the ship comes about . . . in the coming days I am going to be writing about some heavy things. I write this blog mostly for my self - to work out my thoughts - and for others to read them and stir within their minds their own thoughts on the subject being presented. These days my thoughts are on repentance and my sin, redemption and my Savior. I have to understand how these things hinder and help, ruin and reform, and truly, practically influence the way I lead rather in the engine room, combat, or the bridge. I am convinced that if I am going to be serious about how I lead I have to be serious about how I sin. So, let's talk about the raging black saltwater within us - for God does, indeed, do some of His most spectacular work in the midst of it. To this end, I am going to be writing about sin and the ways of a Repentant Leader. If that word scares you or you think it may be discouraging - you would be partially right. You may not want to read for a time. But, you will miss out on the creation of a fuller understanding of the Gospel and its ability to completely transform you. So, I am going to be writing a series about things more sober, yet powerful. I've explored enough nuggets of leadership principles for now - something more is necessary. I think it may be time to think more seriously on more serious things. So, I'll consider the implications of the verses above and the Gospel-metaphor of the storm and the boat. Leadership begins with the leader - self-reflection is necessary for leadership development. I hope you will keep reading. If these daily doses of Biblical leadership thought stir your spiritual-mind then I would encourage you to tell 2-3 fellow leaders about it (simply text, IM, e-mail, Facebook the web address).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Beekeeper or Butterfly Farmer?

"We realize that the practical difficulties will always be great enough. We realize, too, that, theoretically, the question is exceedingly complicated. And we realize that we have a long way to go. But the direction in which we ought to work is, in our humble opinion, reasonably clear" ~Van Til

There is an inextricable link between organizational culture and success. Leaders construct the cultural frame for their followers to artistically design the team's masterpiece of achievement. Author of leadership, Warren Bennis, described the leader's role as those capable of leveraging "gifted people in ways that allow them both to achieve great things and to experience joy and personal transformation that such accomplishment brings." The sound of biblical servant leadership rings clearly through that statement. Our intent for our followers is to provide the environment for their development and flourishing framed and connected in the setting of the group (i.e division, department, watch team). Our people will be transformed and fulfilled best (in the secular work place) in dependent relationship with others. Change is a community project. We create the culture of community that distributes and enhances the common grace of God for the common unregenerate man to experience and enjoy. As leaders we are called to organize people providing the structure for them to realize the unencumbered essence of who they truly are (or could be) as they operate collaboratively with others that are likewise being transformed.


Two leadership styles are possible - metaphorically you can lead as a beekeeper or as a butterfly farmer. Beekeeper leaders attempt to contain the chaos of constantly busy people, "blowing smoke", guarded by nets and protection that separate them from their followers, while attempting to extract as much productivity out of them as possible. Butterfly farmer leadership is exemplified by those that provide the appropriate environment for their people to experience metamorphosis as they become beautiful and radiate their surroundings with the product that naturally results. Which type of leader are you? Which type of leader would you prefer to work for? Is your sphere of influence a farm or a hive? How can we foster a farm-like environment?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fruit Stems From Root

All behavior is fruit rooted in the thoughts, ideals, and values (i.e. worldview) of the individual. Therefore, would it not be the focus of an effective leader to seek change in this area first with little concern for behavioral effects? In a spiritual context Jesus said, “every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit” (Mt. 7: 17-18). Similarly, Paul states, “be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Rom. 12: 2). While behavior may be a secondary concern, the successful leader will discern the heart of the issue creating a barrier to productivity and begin to develop redemptive change to the underlying flaw inherent in the worldview that is causing the problem. As the folks at CCEF like to say, to begin with behavior would be like gluing healthy fruit on a sick tree; for a time the appearance of change would exist, but eventually the individual or organization may find themselves worse as the root issues become increasingly entrenched. Productive behavior may be beneficial for this short life, but my position of authority has been granted to advance the more eternal things of the Kingdom. Character development in our followers is critical as a leader, while preferential behavior may be a naturally occurring byproduct. Leadership founded on behavioral change will be categorically ineffective in bringing about persistent change in an individual or organization (i.e. division, department, watch section). The Law demonstrates man’s inability to change until the heart is renewed. Pursue heart change, lest we “whitewash the tombs” of the Sailors that we are called to lead.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

To Do List

"27'Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.' 28Then they asked him, 'What must we do to do the works God requires?' 29Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'" Jn. 6:27-29

What if God wasn’t at the top of the list, but was the entire list? Denis Haack explains the often mistaken Christian view of work asserting that many Christians justify all of the things and activities on their lists in terms of spiritual goals. Haack bothers me with his Biblical statement that, “Our careers (a term adopted from the world) are seen as secular but able to provide opportunities to do spiritual things, like evangelism rather than seeing our work itself as spiritual.” The Puritan William Perkins summarized the biblical teaching correctly when he said, “The main end of our lives. . . is to serve God in the serving of men in the works of our callings.” Does not the listing of priorities (even with God graciously placed at the top) seem like a completely inappropriate Christian perspective on our calling as created beings? Let’s consider work from a truly biblical perspective before we buy in to the worldly notions of the role of work in our lives (as if they were really ours anyways).

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Covenant Leadership

"26But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves." Lk. 22:26-27

When Admiral Vern Clark was Chief of Naval Operations he instituted a formal Navy program called “Covenant Leadership”. The premise is Biblical in nature and applicable because of the oath that every service member makes upon enlistment. He believed that they promised to obey those appointed over them and in return the Navy’s leadership was required to enter into a contractual understanding in which they promised to serve their subordinates. He formalized the program through written guidance, establishing a clear mandate and expectation on behalf of both parties that strengthened the Naval service through a foundation of objectively defined terms and trust. He then ingrained the covenant into the core values, his guiding principles, and the organization’s culture. To further encourage the adoption and exercise of the covenant by both followers and leaders alike he linked it with an area of rating on performance evaluations. The Admiral knew how to implement his ideas. Do you serve as one promised to serve those who have promised to serve the organization? Jesus served us before we agreed to enter into covenant with Him (He was the initiator). Jesus serves us, even now, when we have some understanding of the covenant we have been called to, but continually break it/fail to honor it. How does understanding the Covenant aspect of the Gospel (God as pursuer, covenant maker, promise keeper, and servant-King) influence the way in which you functionally lead?

Time Management (No, Stewardship)

14 But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God." 15 My times are in your hands; Ps. 31:14-15


Time is a resource allocated to the believer for stewardship. I submit that time management (synonymous to stewardship) is similar to personal financial management. The Lord declares the allocation of the money He has provided to you for managing a spiritual act, never separating the management of resources from all of life as being essentially spiritual. Christ states, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21) Likewise, time management of everyday events should be thought of holistically as a spiritual act of stewardship as it is written in Romans 12:1 “Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” How are you using your time? Wisely - as a good and faithful steward? Endeavor to redeem the time lost, making the most of it in submissive daily living.