IVP - Online Pulpit - Critical Needs of a Leader by Rick Ezell Archives

December 1, 2008

Passion - A Critical Need of a Leader

Passion. There is a word that gets a lot of bad press because it is often misunderstood. To some, the word passion brings back memories of illicit desires for a high school flame at a drive-in movie. To others it evokes images of a murder committed in a fit of rage. It is true that passion is behind almost every sin.

But passion is morally neutral. It is simply a strong feeling or deep longing for something. In essence, passion is the fuel that ignites the fires of our meaningfulness, the force that drives the soul and the burden that compels the individual to action. Passion gives us a clearly defined reason for living. It moves ordinary people beyond ordinary human activities. It causes people to make a difference in business, sports, academia, science, politics and ministry. Some of these people explode like a Molotov cocktail to inflame a whole generation. Others burn quietly in the furnaces of everyday life, unknown to all but their immediate acquaintances yet making a difference in their world.

“What distinguishes the empire builders in the end is their passion. They devote their lives to an idea that in time becomes an ideal. More important, they inspire others to buy into their dream. All are out, in one way or another, to change the world,” wrote Michael Meyer in The Alexander Complex. Georg W. F. Hegel in Philosophy of History correctly stated, “Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.”

While passionate people may make a great deal of money, they don’t work for money. William Shakespeare, Thomas Edison, Estée Lauder, Walt Disney and Sam Walton were inspired not by money but by a drive to fulfill an inner longing. They were passionate about what they did because they were inspired to do it—it is their life.

Passion is not something we work up but something planted within our being. Passion derives from the God-given ability to feel so strongly about something that it causes us to relentlessly move toward the object of desire. Channeled correctly, passion is the birthplace of a dream, the trailhead of a new path God calls us to follow.

Significant passion originates with God and takes root in receptive and obedient hearts. Passionate people have their heart engaged in their work. Their work moves them like a lover ignites their soul. Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, had as his life’s motto: “May my heart break for the things that break the heart of God.” Here was a man passionate about the things that moved God. He was excited about caring for the hurt and wounded people of this world. He was engaged. Despite the magnitude of helping a starving world with physical and personal struggles, Bob Pierce gave his heart and soul to stamping out world hunger.

Passion comes from the heart of God to embrace our hearts, and it compels us to act. Passionate people translate their devotion into action. They discover, as we must, that unchanneled passion soon dissipates. They know that passion without action is just a dream, and action without passion is drudgery. But passion with action is sheer delight.

You can decide now that you are going to be passionate about life and ministry. You are every bit as capable of living with passion as is an Olympian or a Nobel Prize winner. Passion is not a privilege of the fortunate few; it is a right and a power of every human being. You can show the world all you are capable of, all that, deep down, you know you can be.

Posted by Rick Ezell at 9:12 AM

November 1, 2008

Excellence - A Critical Need for a Leader

“If anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

People who pursue excellence strive for the best in their families, their businesses, their ministries and their personal lives. The thread of excellence runs through the fabric of their lives. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.” Whatever our role or lot in life, we should strive for the best.

Jesus was committed to excellence. The New Testament writer Mark reminds us, “People were overwhelmed with amazement, ‘[Jesus] has done everything well,’ they said.” (Mark 7:37 NIV). God gave his very best—his Son. And his Son gave his very best—his life. His followers should do no less. To do less than our best is less than adequate.

What Is Excellence?

  • Excellence doesn’t mean being the best but being your best. Understanding that variation makes all the difference in the world.
  • Excellence is not success. Success means being better than everyone else is.
  • Excellence is not perfection. Excellence is doing the best you can with what you have.
  • Excellence is not being “good enough.” Excellence is going the extra mile.
  • Excellence is not arrival. Excellence is found in the journey, not in the destination.
  • Excellence is a process, the long-term pursuit of quality.

Tips for Pursuing Excellence

Discover your niche. Excellence requires finding what we do well and then doing it. When we discover our niche it helps us exercise our spiritual gifts and natural talents. Consequently, it helps us to prioritize our time, finances and other resources. It aids us in saying no to the many demands, comparisons and comments that might sidetrack us.

Give attention to detail. The difference between something good and something great is the attention to detail. In the end people will never know how long it takes you to do something. They will only know how well it is done.

Be committed to work. Long ago an ancient Greek wrote, “The gates of excellence are always surrounded by a sea of sweat.” It takes work to achieve excellence. There are no shortcuts.

Focus your mind. Your mind needs to stay in the present in order to pay complete attention to the task at hand. Unfortunately, errors occur when you are distracted. You must focus your mind to remain firmly planted in the here and now.

John Gardner writes in his book Excellence: “Some people have greatness thrust upon them. Very few have excellence thrust upon them… . They achieve it. They do not achieve it unwittingly by ‘doing what comes naturally’ and they don’t stumble into it in the course of amusing themselves. All excellence involves discipline and tenacity of purpose.”

And the apostle Paul reminds us that “those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.” Let’s serve Christ well by being excellent leaders.

Posted by Rick Ezell at 9:25 AM

September 1, 2008

Looking Ahead - A Critical Need of a Leader

Bill Walsh, the former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, was thought to be eccentric because of how extensively he planned his football team’s plays in advance of each game. Most coaches would plan a few opening plays and wait to see how the game unfolded. Then they would respond with plays that seemed appropriate. Walsh wanted the game to respond to him.

Walsh won a lot of Super Bowls with his “eccentric,” proactive approach. He was a leader that looked ahead. Another great leader instructed, “The wise look ahead to see what is coming” (Prov 14:8 NLT).

Looking ahead helps determine your organizational future. Like Bill Walsh, good leaders plan ahead so that life will respond to them. When you fail to look ahead, you will spend your days in crisis mode. You will fall into a trap of “panic planning.” Looking ahead is attempting to write history in advance.

It Gives Direction

Looking ahead is like using a highlighter on a road map: it indicates where you are, where you are going and how you are going to get there. The road map not only provides information for where you are going; it also suggests where you are not going. Planned abandonment—what you must not do—is just as important as planned adventure—what you will do. Looking ahead helps determine the few things that are worth doing and worth doing well. One of the best benefits of creatively looking ahead is that it allows you to simplify—to repack your bags, lighten your load, take only what is needed for your journey. * It Helps You to Create Rather Than React*

Looking ahead allows you to plan your own actions in advance so that life will respond to you. Each step along your journey you are faced with choices to either create or react. Many people spend their entire lives reacting—to news, cars in traffic, people, events, challenges and obstacles. But there’s a better way to live. It involves making hard choices in advance and following well-laid plans. It involves choosing to create. You create by planning, forecasting and looking ahead.

Looking Ahead Saves Time

In my day planner I’ve written: “One hour of planning saves three hours of execution.” I am a proponent of looking ahead because of its time-savings return. It provides me with a marvelous return on my investment. I have a limited number of hours and days; if I don’t use them wisely by looking ahead I will forever forfeit those gifts. * It Allows You to Build on Strengths*

When an organization is expanded, it builds on strengths, not on weaknesses. Effective leaders determine what the organization can do best and then use those to its advantage. The best resources—time, money and personnel—are assigned to enhance the strengths.

It Gives Energy

Failing to focus, you dissipate your energy on less important matters, improper agendas and lost crusades. You become a dabbler, wasting your power on trivial matters. There may be much activity but little productivity. On the other hand, when your look is focused, concentrated on the vital matters, you are renewed, revitalized, and remade. It Is a Spiritual Experience

Looking ahead can’t be done without the power of prayer. As your eyes engage the plan, allow your heart to engage the heavenly Father. Looking ahead means praying together and planning together. “Where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Mt 18:20 NASB). Without Christ you can do nothing.

Posted by Rick Ezell at 9:28 AM

August 1, 2008

Prayer - A Critical Need of a Leader

Prayer is the indispensable and vital function of a leader. No aspect of leadership is more essential and crucial to the growth and health of the church than spending time with God. We are never taller than when we are on our knees. We are never stronger than when we are confessing our weaknesses. We are never bolder in public than when we are quiet before God in private. Those individuals that have been mightily used by God have been great men and women of prayer.

Prayer Brings God to Us

Prayer reminds us that we need God more than he needs us. The essence of prayer is to join God; it isn’t God joining us. We ask what is on God’s heart rather than telling God what is on our hearts. Prayer is the lifeline that saves the drowning soul. Prayer is the umbilical cord that provides nourishment to the starving spirit. Prayer is the channel by which God’s lifegiving presence flows to us.

St. Augustine, the early church father and theologian, said prayer is like a hapless man in a boat who throws a rope at a rock. The rock provides the needed security, stability and life for the man. When the rock is lassoed, the man doesn’t pull the rock to the boat (though it may appear that way); the boat is pulled to the rock. Jesus is the rock, and we throw the rope through prayer.

Prayer Changes Us

The early disciples were once timid and afraid, hiding and secretive, embarrassed and ashamed. But when they prayed for boldness and power in public ministry, God changed them. He transformed wimps (weak, ineffectual and insipid persons) into warriors (bold, courageous and powerful people).

Richard Foster says, “To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives. The closer we come to the heartbeat of God, the more we see our need and the more we desire to be conformed to Christ.”

Don’t pray unless you want to change. Don’t pray unless you want to be propelled to action. Don’t pray unless you want to move on the offensive. Don’t pray unless you want to go to war. And when you go to war, you need power.

Prayer Unleashes the Power of God

Prayer is the most powerful weapon in the leader’s arsenal. Is it any wonder that the evil one seeks valiantly to keep Christ’s followers from praying? When we don’t pray, Satan has won the battle. But when we pray, the power of God is unleashed.

The power is felt on the human front. Sidlow Baxter wrote, “Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers.” The power is felt on the spiritual front. Samuel Chadwick said, “The one concern of the devil is to keep saints from prayer. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”

Prayer Equips Us for Battle

The battle of Christian leadership is for the hearts of men and women. God needs us on the frontline telling others about him. The war is won in the trenches of men and women’s wills. Prayer equips us for that engagement.

How foolish one would be to go to battle without proper preparation, training and equipment. How foolish we are to go to spiritual battles without prayer.

Posted by Rick Ezell at 9:30 AM

July 1, 2008

Reading - A Critical Need of a Leader

Each summer for the past several years my family has vacationed in a small Florida town on the Atlantic coast. During those vacations while waiting for the next wave on a boogie board, I have made some rather astute observations: Waves are always changing, unpredictable. Don’t turn your back for long to the waves. Don’t envy those near you catching waves or you will miss the “big one” coming toward you. Knowing which waves to let pass and which ones to take is the key to great rides. Knowing how to get off the wave before it throws you onto the beach will prevent scraped elbows and knees.

An effective leader, like an effective boogie boarder, must understand the waves of culture. One of the critical needs of a leader is to read the waves. Effective leaders don’t make waves but recognize the waves of culture fast approaching them. “Reading the waves” means assessing the events and occurrences in our world and drawing conclusions (often educated guesses) about what will happen in our world tomorrow.

How does a leader read the waves?

Look at the world. Yogi Berra spoke an inadvertent mouthful when he said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” Our society admits all too often that they “should have seen it coming.” Leaders have a responsibility to see what is coming down the road so as to better inform their organization.

Eavesdrop on society. First look, then listen. What are people saying? What are they thinking? Where are they going? What are the trends? What are the turning points in society? Overhearing “conversations” often leads to a world of information.

Talk to people. One of the best ways of reading the waves is to talk to people. Leaders don’t always need to hire a marketing firm; they just need to get out of the office and see what is going on in the world. In Urban Christian Ray Bakke suggests “that pastors should invest one day a week in ‘networking’ their communities—building personal relationships at all levels.”

Read. An effective leader is a well-read leader. Look for what’s different, incongruous, new, worrisome, exciting. Read broadly. Read for different points of view. Read the feature stories and skip the celebrity profiles, crime reports and the latest scandal. Read up on at least one new subject every week. Read the local newspapers. * Assess the present.* Peter Drucker is considered by many as “the father of modern management.” Leadership Network recently excerpted some of his most important lessons. The one that jumped off the [page] at me was, “Know the value of foresight; … you can’t predict the future, but you must assess the futurity of present events.” * Know what God is up to.* Scripture tells us that there are some things that only God can do. We need to have spiritual eyes to identify those things. The fact is that we have been so ingrained in a cause-and-effect way of doing things that sometimes we fail to see when God is working. We need God to open our spiritual eyes so we can see him at work.

God works through big waves and little waves. Let’s learn to read the waves so we might successfully ride with God into the future.

Posted by Rick Ezell at 9:32 AM

March 1, 2008

Persistence - A Critical Need of a Leader

Victory belongs neither to the faint-hearted nor to the weak-willed or the uncommitted. Not if the enemy is great and his resolution strong. Only by facing the opponent head-on with undaunted valor can the battle be won. Victory necessitates that we fight on with undying, inflexible persistence.

People living significant lives accomplish the seemingly impossible because they never give up. They never buckle under. Despite mounting criticism, intense opposition and overwhelming obstacles, they persevere with determined resolve. They refuse to throw in the towel.

Often, the easiest thing would be to quit. Just give up. Return to the comfort and convenience of mediocrity. Forget about one’s dream, one’s passion, one’s goal. Give in to the words of the critics, give up to the opposition and give way to the obstacles. Simply tuck tail and run away.

There is great power in persistence. The race is not always won by the fastest. The game is not won by the strongest. Winners are those who keep on keeping on, who refuse to give up.

Former President Calvin Coolidge wrote:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan “Press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Consider the words of race car driver Rick Mears:

To finish first you must first finish.

And Napoleon Hill, after studying the lives of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, said:

I had the happy privilege of analyzing both Mr. Edison and Mr. Ford, year by year, over a long period of years, and therefore the opportunity to study them at close range, so I speak from actual knowledge when I say that I found no quality save persistence in either one of them that even remotely suggested the major source of their stupendous achievements.

It is always too soon to quit. One of the most powerful and destructive tools that Satan has in his arsenal is discouragement. The subtle but dangerous compulsion to give up, to quit, to say “What’s the use?”

When you are tempted to quit, resist. We must endure in the battle until the evil day is over. We must press on in the face of the temptation to quit. Until the war is over, we must fight to the end. Until the race is finished, we must keep running. Until the wall is built, we must keep stacking bricks. Never give up. Never.

In a race it doesn’t matter who starts but who finishes. In a ball game the most meaningless statistic is the half-time score. Persistence is the power that keeps us from giving up. We need to be like an oak tree. An oak tree is a little nut that refused to give up his ground. Have you ever wondered how the snail made it to the ark? By persistence.

We will be buffeted and pummeled. We will be criticized and opposed. We will be attacked and assaulted. We will struggle and fall. But we must fight one more round. We must rise each time we fall.

Posted by Rick Ezell at 9:34 AM

December 1, 2007

Thinking - A Critical Need of a Leader

Some years ago a magazine pictured a man staring out of a window; the caption read: “Why does this company pay this man $100,000 to look out a window?” Because the lifeblood of any organization lies in ideas and creative thinking.

Solomon wrote: “For as he thinks within himself, so he is” (Prov 23:7 NASB). Thinking is powerful. Flying a plane, air conditioning, cell phones, vaccines, the World Wide Web—without thinking, these were “impossible.” Everything begins with a simple thought.

Ideas are a great moving force of history. For that reason, thinking is a critical need of leadership. We are never free to do what we cannot conceive. A leader’s thinking must shaped by the following:

Vision: What Is Our Dream?

Carl Sandburg was right: “Nothing happens unless it is first a dream.”

Vision is a process of the mind—it’s mental, not visual. Vision is seeing what everybody has seen but thinking what nobody has thought. Vision, in a biblical context, is to ask: What would God have me do? What does God want with our organization, our church, our ministry, our family? Where does God want us to go?

Someone has said that what is needed to build pyramids is someone who can think and ten thousand people who can grunt. Unless at least one person is thinking, no pyramids will be built—and neither will a church or business or ministry or family. * Values: What Is Important?*

Values have to do with how we treat people, how we do our work, what is important to our organization. Values are the standards, the principles, the code of conduct that characterizes our organization.

Organizations don’t dream up values, they already exist. But leaders give the organization’s values shape and form. It’s like some universities that decide to pour sidewalks after students have first worn a path. Look at your organization. Where are the well-worn paths—the actions, the beliefs, the attitudes—that matter most? These are your values: make them known.

Venture: What Are We Willing to Risk?

Organizations that make a difference are willing to think outside the box. For example, a company was in the well-digging business. For years the employees had thought only in terms of how to make better augers to dig wells. They hired a new president and on his first day at work he said, “We are no longer in the well-digging business. We are in the hole-making business.” Thus his employees began to think in terms of efficient and effective means of making holes, and they soon discovered that lasers dug holes better than augers. They achieved the same goal but accomplished it more efficiently.

Look at things differently, and take risks as a leader. * Vehicle: What Will Get Us There?*

Once the vision, values and venture are in place, we need to think about what steps to take to arrived at our objective. How can we accomplish our desired outcome? A dream without a strategy is merely wishful thinking, but with a strategy it becomes powerful thinking. * Victory: What Will the Celebration Be Like?*

A leader thinks like a champion. He or she thinks in terms of success, not just “getting by.” The leader has the ability to stir things up, to capitalize on a unique window of opportunity. The end result is to move forward, to accomplish goals, to be God’s faithful servant, to celebrate being a part of God’s kingdom.


If you are in a place of leadership, wake up and start thinking. Take off your nightcap and put on your thinking cap.

Posted by Rick Ezell at 9:36 AM

September 1, 2007

Time Management - A Critical Need of a Leader

Eleanor Roosevelt, whose staggering schedule included writing a regular newspaper column, numerous speaking engagements, and participation in both national and international projects, was once asked how she managed to accomplish so much. She simply replied, “I never waste time.”

Here are some suggestions might help us manage our time.

Surrender Our Time

To surrender our time is to be governed by a compass rather than to be controlled by a clock. A clock measures time. A compass provides perspective and vision. A clock determines efficiency—how long it takes to accomplish a task. A compass determines effectiveness—doing the right tasks. Both have their place, but the mega-priorities of the compass subordinate the mini-priorities of the clock. We must subordinate our schedules to people, purposes and principles. And just as a magnetic field governs the compass needle, God governs the direction of our lives. We surrender to his will.

Balance Our Time

A balanced life is characterized by order, peace and wholeness. Each part of the balanced life gets the right amount of time and effort. Balance doesn’t mean giving each part of life the same amount of time but giving each part the necessary amount of time.

Jesus is an excellent model. Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus was pressured by friend and foe alike. Yet we get the feeling that he never hurried, he never had to play catch up, he was never taken by surprise. He managed time well, because he knew the importance of balance. * Redeem Our Time*

In When All You’ve Ever Wanted Is Not Enough Harold Kushner says that when we open a new jar of coffee, we use generous portions because we have a full jar. But halfway down the jar we are a little more conservative. We realize that the coffee isn’t going to last forever. By the time we reach the bottom, we find ourself measuring portions very carefully, reaching into the jar for every last grain.

We often treat our time that way. When we are young, we are careless about how we spend our lives. After all, we have an entire life in front of us. About halfway through life, it begins to dawn on us that we won’t live forever, and we begin to reevaluate every area of our life.

No matter how efficient we are at time management, we usually feel we don’t have enough time to accomplish everything we desire. Therefore, we must learn to redeem our time, snapping up all the opportunities available.

Imagine a box large enough for three bowling balls. Is the box full? Hardly. Now imagine marbles placed in the box, filling it up to the top. Is the box full? Now imagine someone putting BBs in the box. Full? Now imagine someone putting sand in the box. The box now looks full. But is it? Imagine someone pouring water into the box.

Each of us has several important tasks that require large segments of our time. In completing those tasks there are gaps in our schedule that beg to be filled. It’s in those gaps that time can be redeemed.

A businessman carries a briefcase with paper and envelopes. In odd moments he keeps countless friendships alive. Another man memorized the Sermon on the Mount on his daily train commute into the city. My mother, though extremely busy, found enough minutes to create a beautiful quilt full of memories for her family.

Time is precious and priceless. It’s a gift—that is why it’s called the present.

Posted by Rick Ezell at 9:39 AM

July 1, 2007

Vision - A Critical Need of a Leader

The words of Robert Fritz are permanently etched in my mind: “It is not what a vision is, it’s what a vision does.”

What Does Vision Do?

Vision sees. Helen Keller was asked, “Is there anything worse than being blind?” “Yes,” she replied, “having eyesight but no vision!” Vision is the stuff of the future—the vivid image of the compelling future God wants to create through you and your congregation. Mike Vance tells of being at Disney World soon after its completion when someone said, “It’s too bad Walt Disney didn’t live to see this.” Vance replied, “He did see it—that’s why it’s here.” George Bernard Shaw: “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream of things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’” The best leaders and the most powerful motivators are those with the ability to envision today what others see tomorrow.

Vision believes. Abraham decided not to live on the basis of what he couldn’t do but what God said he would do. A. W. Tozer said, “God is looking for those through whom he can do the impossible. What a pity that we settle only for those things we can do ourselves!” Vision is the capacity to step beyond our limitations and into God’s ability.

Vision acts. Twenty times Scripture exhorts us to be courageous. Thucydides, a Greek historian, concluded, “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding—go out to meet it.”

Vision instructs. Too often we choose paths before we know the destination. Without a clear view of our destination, we can determine only that we are moving, not whether we are progressing. Vision guides our decisions.

Vision interprets. Vision distinguishes the good options from the bad and, more importantly, the best opportunities from the good. It clarifies the significance of our condition and the relevance of our alternatives.

Vision inspires. John Stuart Mill said, “One person with a dream is equal to a force of 99 who have only an interest.” People tire, but not of pursuing their dreams. A person’s dream is equivalent to his battery pack. Like the energizer bunny, a great pastor will have a crystal-clear, consistent, inspiring dream that will energize the congregation for thirty or forty years.

To see your vision become reality do three things: See it clearly, say it continually, and show it creatively.

What Kind of Vision Do You Have?

Myopic vision. Leaders with myopic vision are so terribly near-sighted that they live only for today. Their vision of the future is fuzzy.

Peripheral vision. Leaders with peripheral vision are blindsided by side issues. They are fearful of shadowy difficulties and people standing on the sidelines that might defeat their efforts. Thus forward movement is hampered.

Tunnel vision. Leaders with tunnel vision see only what’s dead ahead of them and assume that their restricted view of reality represents the whole world.

Panoramic vision. Leaders with panoramic vision see the big picture. They see beyond today—what is ahead and what is to their sides. Pastors with a vision have a grasp of the key ingredients of a healthy church and know the steps that it will take to get them there.

Vision is perhaps the greatest need of church leadership today. As someone said, “Our preachers aren’t dreaming. That’s why the church is such a nightmare.”

Posted by Rick Ezell at 9:41 AM

April 1, 2007

Selecting - A Critical Need of a Leader

In a speech to West Point cadets following the Persian Gulf War, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf said, “In the final analysis, you should never forget that the airplanes don’t fly, the tanks don’t run, the ships don’t sail, the missiles don’t fire unless the sons and daughters of America make them do it. It’s just that simple.”

Good leaders realize that selecting the right people is one of the most important tasks they face. Putting the right people in the right place at the right time is a critical component of leadership. But who are the right people?

The Right People Are Called

People with a calling live by a deep purpose that flows from a divine perspective. They don’t promote themselves; rather they promote a higher cause, something bigger than themselves: a mission, a challenge, a goal or a movement. People called by God have a sense that God has directed them to whatever type of service or work they have before them. Consequently, they do not quit (and could not quit if they wanted to).

The Right People Have Character

People of character live by a personal code of morality that doesn’t succumb to the whim of the moment or the dictates of the majority. Character is not reputation, what others think of us, nor is it success, what we have accomplished. Character embodies the total of our being and actions. It originates with who we are, but it expresses itself in the way we live.

Leaders can’t compromise the need for character when selecting people. No matter how gifted, qualified or seemingly mature a person is, without character those attributes are rendered useless in God’s kingdom.

The Right People Are Committed

Committed people are spiritually authentic; they have made a mature and consistent commitment to Christ and his kingdom purposes. God’s Word shapes their daily lives, and they seek the leadership of God’s Spirit through prayer. Committed people can honestly say to others, “Follow me.”

Wise leaders surround themselves by people committed to God. * The Right People Are Compatible*

Leaders enlist qualified and passionate people to whom they can relate well.

Vince Lombardi once told the Green Bay Packers, “In terms of skill and ability, every one of you is easily replaceable; there are plenty of players around with athletic talent to equal yours.” He went on to explain that the quality that distinguished the Packers from other teams was their “chemistry.” The chemistry that developed between team members and the coach transcended individual talent and prior professional experience. Chemistry enabled the coach to get superior effort from his players.

Peter Drucker said, “All work is for a team. No individual has the temperament and the skills to do every job. The purpose of a team is to make strengths productive and weaknesses irrelevant.” Compatible people work well together and help their teammates perform better so that the common goal is accomplished.

The Right People Are Coachable

Coachable people are aware of their own limitations and are eager to improve. John Wooden, the former basketball coach of the UCLA Bruins, said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

The Right People for the Right Job

A leader who selects the right people for the right job at the right time can give them tremendous responsibility and count on them to do the job. Who are these “right” people? Compatible and coachable people of character who are called and committed to Christ and his kingdom.

Posted by Rick Ezell at 9:43 AM

March 1, 2007

Persuasion - A Critical Need of a Leader

Some chief executives, coaches and parents have a knack for inspiring people. They know they can’t really motivate others; people motivate themselves. But they know how to turn the key that makes people achieve. Persuasion means drawing or pulling people in the direction you want them to move, instead of pushing people in the direction you want them to go.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower understood this principle. In one cabinet meeting, he demonstrated the art of persuasion by placing a piece of string on a table. “Pull the string, and it will follow wherever you wish,” he explained. “Push it, and it will go nowhere at all.”

It is an attitude more than a technique: Give to others what they want, and they will give you what you want.

1. Begin with an objective view of reality. Don’t hide the facts. Don’t hold anything back. Don’t mince words. Examine the situation, then call it as you see it. Sometimes, we have to be shocked with brute reality. Fact: If we skip work enough times, we will get fired. Fact: If we don’t do our homework, we will fail.

2. Identify with people. In order to motivate people, we have to identify with them. It is no longer their problem. It is our problem. When we blame and criticize, we squelch motivation. When their goal becomes ours, we motivate.

When Lee Iacocca became chairman and CEO of Chrysler in 1979, he knew he would have to ask employees to take a pay cut. So Iacocca called a meeting of key management and union executives, and announced that for the next year his salary would be $1. He identified with the workers, saying in effect, “We are in this together. And together we can make it through.” The gambit worked. Later, Iacocca said, “When everybody is going through the chute together … you can move a mountain.”

3. Emphasize the benefits. People are experts at cost-benefit analysis. Everyone asks what’s in it for me. Explain the benefits—give them a good reason—and they will follow where you lead.

Think with me for a moment. People don’t buy a newspaper; they buy news. Spectacles aren’t purchased, but better vision. Not a single person wanted a drill; they were buying holes. People buy things that produce good results. Highlight the benefits.

4. Don’t underestimate character. People don’t follow plans or visions or mission statements. People follow people. Personal character is the most effective means of persuasion.

When France fell to Hitler in June 1940, Germany immediately prepared to invade Britain, and the prospects for a successful British resistance were bleak. Today, England owes its freedom to Winston Churchill. He single-handedly breathed hope into a dispirited and frightened nation during those months.

5. Action precedes motivation. Most often, it is not feeling or desire but action that precedes motivation. We should not wait until we feel like doing what needs to be done. Quite possibly, we may never feel like it. Instead, we need to “prime the pump” by taking a small step, even if we are not in the mood.

6. Catch God’s dream for our lives. The fuel of dreams feeds the fires of motivation. When we do what God wants us to do, like the Energizer Bunny we keep going and going and going.

Like Count von Zinzendorf, Christian leaders should have an eternal focus on Christ: “I have one passion: it is he, he alone.” We endure hardship, setbacks and disappointments because we believe it is for God’s glory.

Ultimately our power of persuasion will only be as strong as our relationship with Christ.

Posted by Rick Ezell at 9:46 AM

February 1, 2007

Attitude - A Critical Need of a Leader

Victor Frankl, a courageous Jew who became a prisoner during the Holocaust, endured years of indignity and humiliation by the Nazis before he was finally liberated. His captors had taken away his home and family, his cherished freedom, even his watch and wedding ring. He was a helpless pawn in the hands of prejudiced, sadistic men. But he realized there was one thing no one could ever take from him: the power “to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstances, to choose one’s way.”

A leader understands this fundamental principle: Between stimulus and response a person has the freedom to choose. We have response-ability—the ability to choose our responses to life’s assaults.

Attitude alone fuels our fire or assaults our hope. When our attitude is right, no barrier is too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme and no challenge too great. William James, the father of American psychology, said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that people can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”

Here’s how it works: Uplook impacts outlook that determines outcome.

1. Uplook is our focus on God.

Focusing on God turns a negative experience into a positive one. We turn bad days into good days by trusting God. Let him handle your situations and concerns. Focus is like gathering evidence: Look up at God. Has he ever been unfaithful to his promise? Remember all the times he has been there for you. We believe that even in the worst situations, God will bring good.

2. Outlook is a positive attitude.

A new driver for an interstate trucking company found the cross-country trips extremely tiring. But he noticed that the older driver he traveled with thrived on the road. He always looked fresh. So one day the man asked his partner what his secret was. “It’s all in your attitude,” he replied. “While you went to work this morning, I went for a ride in the country.”

Like the seasoned driver, our outlook on the life God has given us should be on the beauty of the scenery and not on the drudgery of the trip.

3. Outcome is the result of our efforts.

Outcome is the result of faithful uplook and positive outlook.

Faithful uplook and positive outlook is illustrated by the Apollo 13 space mission. Mission Control knew that bringing the astronauts back from the far side of the moon was next to impossible. But they never gave up. They accomplished one small task at a time. The looked for partial solutions and strung them together until they brought the men home safely. They were successful in spite of overwhelming technological breakdowns because they believed they could do it.

While the astronauts’ lives were still in doubt, there was a pessimist who feared that Apollo 13 might become the “worst space disaster” in American history. The ground commander in Houston turned to him and said with optimism, “On the contrary, sir, I see Apollo 13 as being our finest hour.” He turned out to be right.

The fastest athletes do not win races; the strongest men do not win fights. Races and fights are won by those who want to win most of all. Likewise, we “win” (outcome) when we focus on God (uplook) and expect him to do great things (outlook) in our lives.

Posted by Rick Ezell at 9:49 AM