Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fowler's Failures At USNA

"For God does not show favoritism." ~ Rom. 2:5-10
And neither should we as leader show preferential treatment.

What is going on at the Naval Academy? Read the following links to gain an understanding of the latest leadership failure by the Academy administration in the wake of the "Honor Guard" scandal.

USNI Concept of Honor
Tom Ricks
The Capital

As a young recruit during my first week in Boot Camp this powerful decree was impressed upon me by a guy with a red rope on his shoulder, "You will not lie cheat or steal, nor tolerate those that do!" If there be any truth in these reports this Midshipman should clearly be punished and declined the honor of leading in our great Navy or Marine Corps. Furthermore, I submit that any leader that tolerates or has tolerated such dismal lack of character in those under their command should be immediately removed from their position of authority as well. Leaders uphold, enforce, and maintain standards. It might not always be fun, but it's what we are paid to do. Some things are not left to judgment - any sign of weakness of integrity in a future Naval Officer must result in dismissal of that candidate. Our Sailors and Marines expect and deserve nothing less. Greater grace must be granted to the dependent masses of Sailors and Marines (and their families) that will be lead into harm's way by their Officers rather than provided to the individuals in desperate need of repentance and remediation. Mercy is best shown to dishonorable perspective leaders as they are shown the door. The necessity in times such as these is too great for such tolerance. I can simply continue to echo the long strings of comments by so many on this issue. I would add that this problem is less about the Mid in question as it is an even deeper problem of senior Naval leaders being delinquent in carrying out their duties to uphold the core values upon which the service is founded: Honor, Courage, Commitment! The Supe is deserving of standing before an Honor Board to provide an account and be held responsible for his repeat honor offenses. The essentials for leadership to exist are: authority, responsibility, and accountability. It's time to exercise accountability. It is my hope that this story is not finished. Let's keep in prayer this great American institution that has, does, and will continue to create some of our nation's greatest leaders.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lessons From The Ever-Observant

"You see, you and I don't live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn't set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in the ten thousand little moments of everyday life." ~Tripp, Whiter Than Snow

They are always listening. They are always watching intently and observing your every move. They know what kind of clothes you wear, what you drive, what you like to eat. They watch how you walk, talk, and carry yourself. You are under a microscope and a stethoscope. It's just the reality of being a leader - particularly on board a ship. While your buddies in the business world are able to fake a facade and keep up appearances for the 8-10 hours a day they are in the office – it cannot be done in the confines of a piece of floating metal, with ever-observing Sailors densely packed onboard, in the middle of the ocean for 6+ months. It just can't be done. We work where we live. There is no escape of examination. Sailors are very perceptive and great judges of character. Every moment. They cannot be fooled for long, if at all. You will be found out and known for who you truly are. The sea has a way of revealing the true nature of a person. Underway, if you are awake you are at work. If you are not horizontal, in your rack, then you are being employed - standing watch, walking your spaces, at your computer, or in meetings. And, rather you sleep or you work you are being watched.

I know this to be true. There I was somewhere in the middle of the Western Pacific, returning from deployment, having just pulled out from a liberty port in Australia. I was a young Ensign, underway, as the JOOD (Junior Officer of the Deck), standing the mid-watch (2200-0200), on the bridge of a Destroyer. The Conning Officer and I were leaning on the window sill near the alidade (the normal place to spend time on the mid-watch) talking about our last port and thinking about the potential of the next. [At this point it should be mentioned that I was the lay leader onboard and responsible for conducting all Sunday Christian services and Wednesday Bible studies – so, the entire crew knew I was a believer]. As the bow cut through the moonlit shimmering waves we talked. And as the Bible says, where many words are sin is not far – the idle words turned to gossip and disdain for another person. The name of one of our fellow JO’s became the focus as we began talking trash about him. We were carrying on, in whispers, about how Ensign Jones would show up uninvited on the quarterdeck and annoyingly tag-along with the group of us wherever we went. The conversation continued to worsen (as such things tend to do) until I decided to meander out to the bridge wing to check the contact picture. On my way back in, as I’m stepping through the hatch, pausing to pull the handle shut behind me, I hear a sweet quiet voice come from the dark area near the helm. A young, Christian girl (who had once sought me with deep spiritual questions), Seaman Smith, was the helmsman and begins to ask me a most haunting question. Without malice, in her gentle southern draw, she says, “Excuse me, Sir.” I respond, “What is SN Smith.” She continued, “I was just wondering, Sir, what do you suppose Jesus would think?” Unaware, I asked “About what?” Her response still reverberates in my soul even as I write this . . . “About what you were saying of Mr. Jones.” Dumbfounded and ashamed I stood crushed under the conviction of those words. I still feel pain as a lump fills my throat and tears come to my eyes when I think back on that brief moment. I wish I would have responded in godly repentance, instead I was frozen and stunned by my sin. SN Smith was God’s mouthpiece that night. Certainly, the character of a life is set in ten thousand little moments of everyday life. Witness, which is to say Christian credibility, can parish like bio-luminescence off the ship’s bow. You are always being observed.


[The picture to the right exemplifies my assertions, failing to focus on the most vital part of this foundational verse]

Servant Leadership is insufficient to describe how Christians are to lead in the military. Here is a brief synopsis of the theory:

The phrase “Servant Leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. In that essay, he said:

"The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling (really? natural?) that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice (or the Lord brings it about) brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature."

"The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served (here's the main fault!)."

Virtually every Christian organization refers to leadership as being servant leadership, though they may be unclear on exactly what it is that is being supported (for military ministries this may be especially true). Servant leadership is fundamentally impractical for military leaders who have the distinct duty of prioritizing the unit’s mission above their subordinate’s needs and desires (to include the requirement of those individuals to give their lives for unit/national success). After all, how is asking a person to engage in mortal battle or (the other extreme) to clean the head, ensuring that their "highest priority and desires" are being served? Furthermore, how is requiring your followers to go to sea for extended periods, away from their families, and risk their lives serving them? We have to think about what we are saying - words matter. Christian military ministries repeat the need to be servant leaders, failing to define it, leaving it to ignorant interpretation, or subjective individual adoption of the impractical and clearly unChristian model provided by Greenleaf (that's if most people even pause to consider what they believe and how it impacts the way they lead for Christ). To advocate an unaltered Servant Leadership model for military leadership causes confusion and exasperation for Christians sincerely seeking to do God’s will and glorify Him through their service. Often these ministries, while well intentioned, as equipping organizations to Christian military leaders provide insufficient practical and relevant material while advocating a less than Biblical model for how to lead where they have been called. This is not done purposefully; yet accomplished none-the-less through failing to define the terms on which so much of what they advocate is based. The faulty assumption that everybody understands what is being said leads to a multitude of methods for execution, to include the common action of inaction. Essentially, there is a gap between what we say we believe and what/how we do it. My hope is that this blog will be part of the conversation that will help to bridge that gap for many Christian leaders, thereby enabling them to establish a solid foundation based on a fully Christ-like model of leading in service to the King while wearing the uniform of their nation’s military.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Leadership For Human Flourishing

This new model declares that as leaders we should be about redeeming the people we lead. Not redeeming in the sense of salvation; but we should be exchanging our lives to serve those we lead and in so doing bring people from what they are to what they could be (really what they were originally designed for). A Redemptive Leader will not merely look at his followers and see them as they are, but will perceive them with a vision for fulfilling their maximum potential under their leadership. Functionally, this means that we foster great working conditions, we ensure they have all they need to be successful in their jobs, we assist them in advancing in career milestones (increase in rank or qualifications), and we care about their families - truly loving them holistically, throughout the spectrum of the areas of their lives. In serving we will be redeeming the spheres of influence which God has appointed us to. The framework of this transformation is relationship; all change occurs in the context of authentic relationships. The communal aspect of Redemptive Leadership is foundational. The Redemptive Leadership model stems from the application of Biblical and Kingdom theology to existing Servant Leadership models. It is redemptive because the leader exchanges themselves for their followers. Furthermore, it is redemptive because of the exchange that is evoked in both participants as the sanctification process tears away the shackles of sin that have enamored them from living out the function for which they were formed. Do you see the transcendence inherent in this greater vision of leadership? You have not been commissioned to accomplish tasks, but to engage this broken world for Christ in existential relationships that will powerfully prosper your subordinates in the Name of Christ and for His glory. As Redemptive Leaders we should wholly strive for the flourishing of our subordinates, peers, and even seniors; and in so doing restore a fallen world to the prosperity of relationship intended prior to the Fall. Serve with agenda as Christ did and in faith, by His grace, your work will lead to many that are lost and broken being restored to the Redeemer.

Monday, January 25, 2010

To Serve w/ An Agenda

The secular world has readily adopted Servant Leadership as viable and effective, yet are we not called to something completely different than mere “value based leadership” by taking care of our people. I would assert that any theory of leadership (Servant or otherwise) is insufficient without Christ as the center. I have been pondering a new model of leadership I describe as “Redemptive Leadership” that is aligned with the premise of being flourish-focused (in the Biblical sense of the word; this will be defined and explored) as leaders. There is much hype in Christian and even secular circles of Servant Leadership based on Robert K. Greenleaf’s work culminating in the popular book of the same name. However, I am proposing that Servant Leadership is limited in scope, not fully representative of Christ-centered leading. The Bible describes the mission focus of the Lord stating, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life for the redemption of many” (Matt. 20:28). Servant Leadership enthusiasts assert that leaders should serve without an intended organizational goal; they are completely determined to simply serve their subordinates without an expected return. Yet, I submit that Christ had an agenda in serving – to redeem His people, restoring them to all that the Father had originally created them for. Redemption is the exchange of one thing for another; Christ traded His life for those that were condemned and helpless to save themselves, and in so doing restored the fallen creation to an intimate relationship with God. I will explore the implications of His redemption on our ability and intent to lead redemptively in the coming days. Questions/comments?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

COMFORT in Haiti

Check out the good work our brothers & sisters are doing in Haiti on the XO's blog.

Let's support them through prayer!