All posts by cmarsh

Leadership and the Monsters within



The most notable of leaders tend to be extroverts with personalities of charisma that charm their followers towards the mission and purpose at hand.  The greater their charisma, the higher the pedestal we exalt them upon towards an idealized model of what we all want to become.  These leaders become great at performing in the outer world but perhaps also become effective at ignoring their inner life. Innocently and seemingly to our nature as humans, we set up these leaders for a long tumble off that pedestal if they in turn are not acutely aware of the danger of the stage of influence.  If the leader does not confront the monsters within, the stage of influence can become a place of delusion and self-importance where the leader is not spreading freedom to their followers but actually a thorny path of doing more harm than good.

“Good leadership comes from people who have penetrated their own inner darkness and arrived at the place where we are at one with one another, people who can lead the rest of us to a place of ‘hidden wholeness’ because they have been there and know the way.” (Palmer, p. 80-81)

I’ve been re-reading Parker J. Palmer’s “Let your Life Speak”, and in his conclusion for vocational leaders, he proposed 5 inner monsters leaders need to be acutely self-aware of:

  1. Insecurity about identity and worth – not knowing ‘who’ we are or ultimately ‘whose’ we are as the very children of a loving God.
  2. Obsessed with competition – believing falsely that the universe is a battleground and hostile to human interests as opposed to a belief that all things are working together for good.
  3. Functional atheism – the delusion that ultimate responsibility for everything rests with us.  This shadow leads to burnout and resentment, I’ve been here far too many times in my life.
  4. Fear of the natural ‘chaos’ of life – we believe that good leadership is about controlling and eliminating chaos as opposed to allowing it to lead us to greater creativity and break-through.
  5. Denial of death itself – not letting things that have run their course have a natural death, holding everyone hostage to a day gone by where there is no longer any life.  Ultimately this is fear of failure instead of seeing the new data as an opportunity for clarity for the next break through.

“A leader is someone with the power to project either shadow or light onto some part of the world and onto the lives of the people who dwell there.  A leader shapes the ethos in which others must live, an ethos as light-filled as heaven or as shadowy as hell.  A good leader is intensely aware of the interplay of inner shadow and light, lest the act of leadership do more harm than good.” (Parker, p. 78)

I resonate with all 5 of these inner monsters and I’m learning not to avoid them but to press right in on them and not let them control my inner life and heart.  Pressing in on them, presses them down to a foundational grounding out of which we live, love and lead.  Instead of saying ‘there are no monsters’, they may in fact be real, and they are ‘us’.

Peace to you and your own monsters,

Chris +




Can darkness be a friend?


13 But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. 14 Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me? 15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair. 16 Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. 17 All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me. 18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor — darkness is my closest friend. (Psalm 88:13-18 A Korah Prayer of Heman)

I wonder what the Psalmist meant in this closing line . . . ‘darkness is my closest friend’.  Simon and Garfunkel crooned out the same sentiment as the ‘sound of silence’. It is the dead of winter for all those seasonal affective disorder types, which might be a little of most of us.  Experiences of darkness and loneliness are part of the human drama, but a friendship?  This is an interesting perspective.

I think darkness has its’ part to play in the grand scheme of things.  Think about the top 5 life lessons you have learned.  How many of them came from incredibly painful but formative experiences?  As humans we have built in mechanisms to avoid pain and hardship at all costs, but darkness has its’ place. Pain and suffering grow us up in ways self-help books cannot.  Deeper maturity and character are often born out of opportunities to persevere and long suffer. How many times has darkness preceded the dawn in our lives?  It is darkest just before the sun begins its’ rise of a new day.

As a person of faith, I have been at this place the psalmist is expressing many seasons in my life.  My journal is filled with tear stained words on paper pouring my processing of darkness. In my crying out, I have repeated often the phrase: ‘God, if you don’t come through, there will be no coming through’.  Somehow, he understands me at that level.  He always shows up in that place of darkness . . . and then he does the extraordinary . . . he enters in. The God of blinding light . . . enters into my darkness.  The God who with one word spoke light into being at it’s very creation . . . enters into my darkness.  Why?  Is it because he likes the darkness?  I don’t think so, in my old age I’ve come to the conclusion that I just thinks he likes me.  I know he has to ‘love’ me, but I’m learning at some level that I think he even likes me.  The God of the universal cosmos, likes me, and enters in.  He pays attention to me, though he must be quite busy.  I receive these experiences as good news.

Can darkness be a friend?  It’s not very fun, but if God enters in and shows up, you might want to wait out the pain.  Pitch a tent, stoke a fire and hang out there a bit.  You won’t be disappointed. It is darkness that precedes the dawn.

The Gift of Good Grief

“Pain removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.” – C.S. Lewis in the Problem of Pain


The Christmas season always stirs up for me a sense of ‘good grief’.  A couple of days before Christmas in 2005, my wife and I received a call in the early morning to get to the hospital ASAP because our almost 2 year old niece had stop breathing in the middle of the night due to a rare strand of pneumonia.  At the time I was pastoring a networked house church community while teaching high school as my day job.  We rushed to the hospital and I remember struggling with my identity as to how to approach the chaos of the catastrophe.  Was I a pastor, brother-in-law or friend?  I was confused and overwhelmed.  We got to the ER and was ushered into the sterile room where my sister-in-law sat embracing her gift of a daughter that had now passed over the veil into the fullness of the Kingdom of God.  The pastor in me had only one goal, it was to raise the little one back to life.  All of the stories in our Scriptures tell us that this can be so, that we have a faith of resurrection.  But by the time my hands touched the bodily forehead of my niece, Kate, my prayer changed.  I was not destined to be there because of a bodily resurrection, I was there to be invited into a long season of ‘good grief’.

The questions that followed were clearly horrifying.  First there was the practical.  It was but 2 days before the Christmas holiday, is the funeral home available and open for planning?  Is there time to find a burial plot before the workers go on holiday break?  With all the holiday planning, when is the right time to have a funeral for a little one?  To have to compartmentalize practical questions in the midst of shock and early mourning seemed particularly cruel.  Then there was the deeply surreal and spiritual questions.  How do we now as a family approach the adoration of the Nativity scene having just lost one of our own dear babies?  The darkness was on the doorstep with the taunts of a destructive bully, how does one respond?  More specifically, how does a community respond?

Here’s what I have learned . . . you respond with ‘good grief’.

Suffering of most any kind can lead you to a place of utter isolation.  I found some hope in Shelley Trebesch’s book “Isolation: A place of transformation in the life of a leader” after this season of grief.  Shelley describes these places of isolation in terms of desert or wilderness experiences.  They are unwanted, unplanned and avoided if at all possible.  Her thesis is that we don’t try just to survive, endure or get past these times, but to begin to see them as the very transformational experiences that may be preparing us for another journey.  Within the crucible of pain, grief and isolation, we can learn and grow in powerful and transformational ways that only suffering can do.  We shouldn’t try and ‘avoid’ these times, but we should embrace them as a kind of ‘good grief’.  The crucible of pain reveals the shallowness of our previously held goals and expectations and we realize that God desires to deepen our life into more of what the truth really is about ourselves and our world.  In this way, the truth very much does hurt.  However, it is also only the truth that sets us free.

What I learned is that every single person that Jesus healed eventually died.  Every person he resurrected, died again.  So what is the point of healing in the Christian faith?  I believe that all healing has nothing to do with the actual act of healing, that’s simply just a re-arranging of sick cells in the body.  Rather, that each divine act against the laws of nature are meant to be a resounding announcement that there is a God and we aren’t him.  In the same way that we have a worked out belief in healing, we also need to grow up and have a mature belief in ‘not healing’.  When God doesn’t re-arrange cells as we wished he would, what do we do then?  I learned that when a spiritual community has ‘good grief’, meaning they grieve with a violent sense of hope, that also is a resounding announcement of a Kingdom that has come.  Healing and n0t-healing are both a primal and rebel yell of hope.

Since these tragic events of Christmas 2005, it changed the way our small church community worshiped.  It was as if our faith wasn’t about making ourselves feel better anymore, but that we were at war with the bully of despair and our cry was one of hope.  We didn’t want to sit still in our little cocoons, we wanted to buck up and have the courage walk through the dark night of our suffering to come out in the end to the light.  As a father, I had to deal with the mortality of my children.  Life needed to be about the precious now, and connecting with them was more important than my selfish ambitions.  Dealing with the loss of their cousin, the death of Kate changed my kids’ worldview.  They see the world and the future somehow more grown up.  They organize their thinking and planning about their bright future around the idea of spreading the virus of hope through their unique giftings and abilities.  Life is short and precious, make it meaningful.  Hope is violent, pick a fight there.

We need not seek to avoid these times, we can embrace them.  We don’t like grief, it’s painful, but in the hands of the One who made us, there is such a thing as ‘good grief’.   We can find Hope even in the most grievous of times and circumstances.  In utter darkness, light can yet shine through.  I love these words from Henri Nouwen:

Hope is not dependent on peace in the land, justice in the world, and success in the business.  Hope is willing to leave unanswered questions unanswered and unknown futures unknown.  Hope makes you see God’s guiding hand not only in the gentle and pleasant moments but also in the shadows of disappointment and darkness.” (60)  Turn My Mourning To Dancing


The Helical model of the universe and Ordinary Community

The Disclaimer:  I am not a scientist, I’m not an astrophysicist, I’m not a rocket scientist.  At best I’m a theologian or contemplative, at worst I’m just a dude.  I’m reflecting on this from my perspective, I’m not making truth claims or posting theories based on expert knowledge.  I know it’s just an attempt to illustrate a point and doesn’t in fact capture the entire picture of the galactic plane.  Ok? . . . ok.

The Video:  I find this video model fascinating for it’s contrast to our normal two dimensional understanding of how our universe revolves around the sun.  Most of us get our imagery from 2D posters on our junior high science classroom of a ‘heliocentric’ (sun centered) universe which was a great advancement from the ancient days of a ‘geocentric’ (earth centered) understanding of the universe.  There was a day when we literally thought and understood that the world revolved around us.  That came from a time in Greek thought where philosophy ruled the day.  Our starting point for reflection, contemplation and search for truth started with ourselves.  So naturally, the world came to be about us.

It was the advancement of science that began to tell a different story.  That the experience of gravity on earth did not mean that in fact then the earth was the center of gravity in the universe.  Rather, it was far more complex than that.  Rotation, axis and orbit can explain for the phenomenons we observe on earth and that it is the sun that is in fact the center of the big idea and the planets, systems and stars have a relational tie to it.  Science helped us see that the world is in fact not about us, that we have a part to play in a much larger drama and we should have some humility and responsibility about that galactic relationship.

Philosophy to Science to now Technology.  This video builds on the 2D heliocentric idea of the universe by taking it another step and illustrating that the better understanding of movement around the sun is to see it as ‘vortex’ motion of being intertwined amidst the solar winds as we orbit around the sun.  The 3D model shown here is the ‘helical’ model.  It invites us to understand the intertwining motion as even a more complex relationship we have at the ‘Macro’ level of how our universe works and then pushes us to reflect upon how we see this same design in our ‘Micro’ level life and creation all around us.  To me, it’s fascinating.

The Community Idea:  Again, I’m not a scientist, it just interests me for it’s perspective and it’s revelation of truths.  I highly value knowledge because it informs my real life.  What I am an expert in is ‘community’.  I’ve given my life and study to it for a couple decades now.  My dissertation was on the loss of community in the American landscape and suggestions on how we might find our way again in it.  I have often reflected and asserted that community is best understood as well as a ‘gravitational pull’.  Community gets centered around something that pulls people together.  Books, football, school, fashion, movies, coffee, wine, beer, lifestyles, interests, religion etc.  The strength and longevity of the community depends upon the nature of the gravitational center.  If a community forms around the celebration of the Winter Olympics, then it will be experienced once every 4 years and will cease after the closing ceremonies.  If the community forms around biological family bonds, then barring relational scars, it goes from birth to death and we are in a vortex with each other for every event in between.

I do believe that community is a vortex of relational pull towards one another.  Our lives can be intertwined in a very complex relationship and the longer the community is in that vortex, the stronger the relational pull.  As a relational universe, the proximity increases, the gravity increases and the community gets closer and more intertwined as it moves together on a time continuum we call ‘life’.

14 years ago, my wife and I experimented by starting a spiritual community in our home with the stated assumption that the center of our gravitational pull would be Jesus and the Scriptures.  The person of Jesus, his teachings, his life and his Spirit would be what we would organize our lives around and then let those things pull us together. We live individual, family and American suburban lives but we would confront that reality by choosing ‘community’ as our faith model.  We didn’t want individual faith, we wanted a shared story.  Ordinary Community was the result.  This is what we call ‘church’.

Over the years, this gravitational pull has exponentially increased.  The intertwining of our lives is a great contrast to the world’s ideals around us of a consumer lifestyle based on ‘avoiding boredom’ and individual wants.  The pull into spiritual community has redefined family for us.  We have a much larger network of brothers, sisters, spiritual cousins, aunts, uncles etc.  Our kids only know ‘community’ as their gravitational center.  This all may sound cultish, but it is the language of our Patriarch, that Jesus guy.  (Cults are defined by hoarding resources, we give away 100% of our shared resources, again that Jesus guy told us to)  Our lives are a moving vortex with one another as we spiral around Jesus and His Scriptures towards a more realized experience of Christian spiritual maturity.  Our hope is that as we do that then we love our neighbors better, love our enemies better, serve our world better, experience wholeness/peace/joy better and in fact live in the truth of what our entire universe is all about.  That we are eternal souls: created by God, resurrected by Jesus and called into a Spirit-filled life story together.  That our lives have context with each other and the world all around us.  Community is a messy vortex of intertwined motion, we spiral through life together and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

I love my gravity community.  #OCC4Life

Life seems to be mostly Unintended

You could be my unintended
Choice to live my life extended
You should be the one, I’ll always love

I’ll be there as soon as I can
But I’m busy mending broken
Pieces of the life, I had before

So, how’s it workin’ for you?  Do you have the life you intended?  Do you have the job you intended?  Do you have the partner you intended?  Do you have the body you intended?  Do you live where you intended?  Have you traveled where you intended?  Have you accomplished by now what you intended?  Has it all gone exactly as you intended?  I’m going to guess  . . . not exactly.

About 16 years ago I was studying the geographic, political and religious conflicts  in Palestine and went on an intended pilgrimage.  A few friends and I snuck out of our room in Bethlehem at about 1:00 a.m. with the intention of a little exploring and adventure.  What we didn’t know is that as a Palestinian territory the power was cut at night and the further we walked, the darker it got and we quickly became lost.  We didn’t know the streets, we didn’t know our way back and fear immediately began to creep in.  Our intentions for adventure turned into silent terror, we wondered to ourselves how the night would turn out.  The street we pursued got more and more narrow and it led to an opening we decided to push through.  As we passed through we looked in the distance and saw flickerings of light in the countryside, they were the fires of modern day shepherds/bedouins beyond the traditional site of the birth of Jesus.  We had wandered in the dark upon the courtyard of the Church of the Nativity.  We sat down in hushed silence and didn’t talk to one another, rather we received the moment for what it was.  Our intentions were for adventure, what we encountered were the unintended consequences of a vision of THE adventure, the night God became man and decided to live amongst us.  Life is full of unintended consequences.

Is our personal narrative meant to be intended?  Isn’t that part of the poetic mess we call our life?  Our lives are a mosaic of unintended consequences: the good, the bad and the ugly.  The trick may not be at all to accomplish our original intentions but to roll with the punches of our unintentions.  Life is about embracing the beauty of the now, not in the lament of the broken pieces of fallen intentions.  Live in the now, live in your unintentions and breath deeply of the beauty that is your real life, unintended as it may be.

If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.” (2 Corinthians 4)

The Art of Misfitting

As the playwright George Bernard Shaw once put it: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

From the time we are born, we are taught to conform and fit in.  There is a script in American culture that is already written and success is perceived as following the script.  Sit quietly in your big-box education setting where it is teacher and test oriented as opposed to centered on actual learning and experience.  Place your hope in achieving within a numerical grading system so that you can attend the college of your choice in which you hand over the raising of your offspring to a system of big university business that is designed to enslave you to debt for decades to come with no actual guarantee of gainful employment, let alone meaningful work.  Our young adults are riddled with quarter-life crises of ‘what if’s?’, ‘how did I get here?’ and ‘is this all there is?’.  We raise a generation of conformists as if our present reality is worth sustaining?

I call B.S.  Progress, reformation, change, development, evolution and the dream for a new tomorrow does not come from the center of the box.  Everything in the system is designed to sustain the system.  It is the free thinkers, the practitioners, the dreamers, the doers, the prophets, the revolutionaries, the starters, the pioneers . . . the troublemakers and misfits that push ahead into danger and then beckon others to follow.  It is the misfits that mark the trees for others to follow their road-maps for creating a new future.

You will not win an award for being a misfit or a free thinker who asks a lot of questions.  You will not get a t-shirt or a promotion.  You are more likely to be tarred, feathered and drug behind a wagon before anyone throws a parade in your honor.  Your reward has to be the wind in your hair, the taste of saltwater at the bow of the ship and the wonder of the unknown and the adventure.  Being a misfit is an art and you have to love your art for you, not for others to legitimize it for you.  If you are fortunate and blessed as I have been, you will find other misfits along your journey who will for at least a fleeting moment make you think that you are not crazy and it is in that moment that you experience genuine community.  Not the corporate buzz-word of contrived and pseudo community, I mean the actual thing.  It is a human sense of connection with others that is deeper than corporate buzz-words and t-shirt slogans, it is the cry of the heart for a kind of primal belonging that makes your soul satisfied.  The box can’t offer that.

So what is the art of misfitting?  It is staying in the game long enough to find your art, ask your questions and push out into the territories you long to explore.  If you are disappointing others who find your quest for something real to be unreasonable, well then, welcome to the island of misfit toys.  This is where true community begins.  Pull up a chair, cheers to your art of misfitting.

Here’s the thing about Dreams . . .

“Oh, my life is changing everyday,
In every possible way.
And oh, my dreams, it’s never quite as it seems,
Never quite as it seems.”

Here’s the thing about Dreams . . . they may or may not come true.  The reaching, the striving and the yearning, I think that’s just part of the human story.  Beauty and suffering are often companions along the same path, it’s just a matter of making friends with both travel-mates.  In my 41 year old mind now, I understand that journey matters.  The process of trying matters, it’s where some of the beauty is.  Failing is not so much about the fact you didn’t end up where you intended, it’s about the fact that you had the guts to give it a go in the first place.  Every time you try, every time you get up after you’ve been knocked down, every time you have the courage to give it a go . . . well in a way you’ve already won.

A lot of people talk about dreaming, but life has a way of beating that out of you.  I struggle with a cynical mind and a realist’s perspective often, I don’t get cajoled in with the flowery talk.  I’m slow to get in the water, but when I’m in, I’m all the way in.  At 41, I have no clearer understanding of who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing than what I did when I was 21.  I just try a lot slower now ;-).

But I haven’t let setbacks, unmet goals, unrealized dreams, shattered hopes or disappointing outcomes despair my next attempt.  If there is breath in the lungs, there is yet another day to keep trying.  I suppose this is my dark way of saying to you (and really to me), please keep trying.  Don’t give up, don’t give in to despair.  Get up because getting up is it’s own reward.  You don’t know if a stone has been rolled away, you don’t know if the opportunity you’ve longed for is at your doorstep, you don’t know if all your hard work will finally pay off.  But you have to try, you have to get up.  Make a choice today/tonight, to try again.  Don’t give up, dreams are worth whatever shreds of hope you have left.  It is not just a human story, it’s your story.  Live it.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover.

–Mark Twain


Why I fired myself as a Pastor

The vocation of pastor(s) has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Pastor: A Memoir


About 15 years ago I made a conscious decision that if I wanted to be taken seriously by a skeptical and cynical culture for the faith that I feel so strongly about, I couldn’t do it from a vocational role that was a stumbling block to that conversation.  When I was in graduate school (aka Seminary), I took a course in Anthropology where we got back to the basics of human communication and how culture messages work.  For anyone to be heard, they must have an ‘acceptable role’ within that culture so that people understood their place first, then their message.  If missionaries were going to go to a foreign land, they couldn’t come with their western labels such as ‘pastor’, they needed to take on a role that culture would accept like doctor, teacher or engineer.

I applied this same teaching and understanding to the cynical postmodern world. If people’s biggest barrier to understanding the true Christ was the hypocrisy of church leadership and/or the mismanagement of money and spiritual power, then why not do what I could to remove it.  If I was who I claimed to be, I would be able to do it without an office, position or budget.  So 15 years ago I fired myself as a pastor and have sought vocational roles within my culture that make sense to anyone (i.e. teacher, administrator, manager).  To say that this journey has been a painful and confusing one would be an understatement.  I have had very few if any models to learn from, I’ve largely tried to figure it out on my own and have found solace in many friends/sojourners along the way trying to figure out the same path.

To go along with the anthropological reasoning, the more I read and was taught about the successful tactics of pastoring or growing churches in the American landscape, the more I felt less comfortable in my own skin.  It is difficult for me to marry the core teachings of Jesus with the tenets of the American consumer and corporate culture.  In fact, at their core, I find them at complete odds with one another.  I could not and still cannot figure a way to allow them to sit in the same room or barter at the same table.  They both want to be king and there is only one King.  One or the other will reckon your allegiance, I want to tread very carefully in that arena.  You can only serve one master.

Christian community is not about money, power, position or titles.  It’s not about a particular place or a particular time or event in the week.  Christian community is most basically about a life that is organized around the teachings of a Jesus who said to love God and love neighbor (it’s not more complicated than that).  It is possible that this can be done without a budget, campaign, crusade, conference, seminar, workshop or infomercial Jesus.  But it’s not possible without a complete abandoning to your own selfish ambitions and having them replaced with the King’s orders.  This is the truth whether you pastor vocationally or not.  I believe God has called me to this sometimes painful and confusing journey, but it’s not really for me to figure out.  My job is to follow.

I have a bachelors, masters and doctorate degree in a vocational field I don’t work in.  On the surface, that is pure foolishness.  And it would be with the exception that I sucked the marrow out of each of those learning experiences to help mold and shape me into the person and leader I am today.  Spirituality is not a job, it’s a lifestyle.  When spirituality is no longer your job, you are free to love and serve and live as you truly believe.  It is that freedom over the past 15 years that I would not exchange for anything, they are my King’s orders to follow.

If you have a great need to be liked, you can’t be a great leader


“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” —Peter Drucker

Disclaimer:  So I’m not a Drucker-junkie as such as many has blogged on and taught on ad nausea in conference rooms, seminars, workshops and team meetings around the world.  However, he is really smart and often spot-on as he is here in this quote and I’m really just preaching to myself.  (Humor me if you can identify with it)

If you are a leader and have a great need to be liked, you can’t be a great leader.  I mean, we all want to be liked, that’s part of being human, it’s our preference.  Facebook clearly knew what they were doing by building a global social media empire based on the foundational idea that we want to control others’ perception of us and ultimately be ‘liked’.  But if you are insecure within yourself as a leader and have a great primary need to be liked?  You are a train wreck waiting to happen and are placing a millstone around the neck of your followers.  It’s a heavy load.

The constant need to be ‘liked’ breeds insecurity and chaos within an organization because the target is always shifting.  By the very nature of growing an organization; competition and changing markets are hard to keep up with and carry a heavy load of pressures and challenges.  If you add to this the manic need for the leader to be ‘liked’, then that’s an awful lot for any organization to overcome.  The aim should be towards market results and organizational mission, bringing others along for the ride for the achieving of specific measures.  If the organization has to exist for the leader to feel good about himself/herself, then it becomes the ship in the sea with no anchor, torn and tossed by the winds and waves.  If you have a great need to be liked, you can’t be a great leader.

Great leaders need to find their self-actualization of personal identity elsewhere, outside of their mission and job to lead others.  We are whole people and can never do this completely, but our rooting of personal significance cannot be primarily embedded in how others feel about us; particularly those who work with and for us.  This primary need of significance comes not in work, but in family blessing, community, faith, philosophy, worldview, self-discovery and reflective personal experience.

What we need is to die to our need to be ‘liked’ as a leader.  We cannot hang that insecure millstone around the neck of those following us.  It’s not theirs to carry.  We are to find and root that personal identity elsewhere and thus exist to add to the significance of our followers by providing for them consistent care and empowerment.  They don’t exist for us, we exist for them.  Great leaders don’t acquire power, they displace it towards others.

It is not until we die to this need to be ‘liked’ by our followers that we are finally free to lead them. 

Management, Leadership and Personal Identity in the Marketplace

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
Brené Brown



Forgive me as I’m working on some material, thoughts and personnel development for my day job in the marketplace and these are the thoughts I’m coming to.  Let me know what you think, challenge or question.

  1. Management – this is the base expectation for employees in the marketplace.  This is largely how do things ‘get done’.  Job descriptions are written and measured based upon these base expectations.  Showing up on time and fulfilling these expectations is the bare minimum of what it means to have employment.  The deeper levels of higher quality management revolve around such things as competence, controls, efficiencies and profitability.  Management is pragmatic, it’s getting things done.  Great management is doing those things more intelligently and effectively with enduring results beyond the competition.
  2. Leadership – this is not about things, but about people.  Leadership is about the empowerment process of making others greater.  Leadership is not only worried about the questions of what, but more about the questions of how and who.  Leadership is a broader process of drawing others into the game and allowing them to contribute with a kind of harmony that joins many parts into a cohesive whole.  When leadership has the trust of many and the many act and perform with this kind of unified whole within their giftedness, the results are powerfully exponential.  Great leadership is not about personal titles or offices, great leadership is about the empowerment of others towards a common goal.  It is not a science, it’s an interpersonal artform.
  3. Personal Identity – here’s the dirty little secret they didn’t teach you about in school or your college textbooks; your leadership and management skills are largely determined by how much you are aware of your personal identity that is rooted in your story.  Your story forms your core and it influences everything you do, how you act, how you are motivated and how you motivate, how you react and how you respond.  The painful parts of your story create vulnerabilities that when they are touched on, like a raw nerve, will cause you to over-react or lash out in fear.  The more grounded and mature chapters of your story allow you to anchor down in raging storms of marketplace life and act with power while others are tossed and turned by the circumstances of the day.  Out of your core you know who you are and why you are here.  Your core is formed out of your story, you can’t escape it.  We all participate in a lived story.

Our lives have to be bigger than our job descriptions.  We are more than what we manage or get done.  We are more than how others respond to our leadership.  If we get our personal worth out of efficiency numbers or what others think of us, we will live and lead largely out of a great deal of insecurity.  However, if we dive deep into our personal identity and interact with the vulnerabilities of our story, we will find the power to know who we really are that never changes regardless of the circumstances.  That’s the story I want to live and lead others into that same journey for their own discovery, freedom and empowerment.  The power that comes from knowing who we really are is not acquired like a commodity, it is learned and honed with deep introspection.  This kind of power is not contrived, it is exponential.