Leadership for a New Era: Lessons at 40 that I still believe in today..

Sometimes when I write something and come back to it years later, I wish I had said some things in a different way or left some things unsaid.  However, this speech is one that I gave a few years back for Public Policy students at William Jessup University (www.jessup.edu) where I serve as President.  I believed it then, and I believe it still!

Because each one of you are leaders, it is a particular joy to speak to you as I know you are multipliers; you will each have impact on the lives of many others.  This topic of leadership in a new era has great import for how you conduct your lives as leaders.   Your living and your leadership are, of course, intertwined and inextricable.  

I believe that Leadership in the New Era will be transforming when leaders exercise their influence as men and women of integrity in right relationship with Christ, with themselves and with the world around them.

Some people say that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.  Past results are the best predictor of future results.  But, as Yogi Berra famously said, “The future just ain’t what it used to be.”   That matches my favorite saying about picking winning stocks; it came from Will Rogers.  He was asked how to make money in the stock market; he said, “That’s easy:  when a stock is down, buy it.  When it goes up, sell it”.  The reporter then asked, “what if it doesn’t go up?  Rogers replied, “then don’t buy it”

We are in times that appear to be a break from the past.  Tomorrows that appear to be discontinuous by degree from the yesterdays that have preceded it.  Listen to this representative quote:

“Wealth in this new regime flows directly from innovation, not optimization.  That is, wealth is not gained by perfecting the known, but by imperfectly seizing the unknown” (Kevin Kelly, New Rules for the New Economy, Wired, September 1997)

Let’s be clear:  Some things never change…and they are the same as they always have been.  I’m standing at the beginning of a whole new era for William Jessup University; simultaneous to that, I’m standing at the edge of a whole new chapter for me personally…plus I turn 50 in 3 short months, so the whole world may look different then!  

 I have had the privilege of studying and serving in various roles of leadership for over 30 years now.  I am a student of leadership.   In light of that, there are some affirmations that I can make with confidence and some that may be more of an “imperfect seizing of the unknown”…or as the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13, “seeing through a glass darkly”.

 Here are some observations I made at 40 that I am revising for our purposes tonight and for the road ahead that I hope will be helpful to you for leadership in this new era:

1)   Focus produces energy and excellence.  Life does not come focused.  You do the work and make it focus.  What will I focus on?

  Focus:  Deciding what you must be great at and being ruthless about accomplishing it…this “one” thing I do

This is not “zero based budgeting”….but this is TBA (is not “to be arranged” in the course schedule) it means  transformation based accounting.  Are lives being changed?  Are people coming to know Christ and becoming more like Him?  Is your church or agency fulfilling its unique, “thumbprint” vision ?

  Jim Collins, From Good to Great, …hedgehog, “what are you best in the world at, most passionate about, and what drives your economic engine”….for a church, it has to be changed lives, fulfilling the Great Commission. 

Dr. Tim Elmore…..every leaders creates an atmosphere of Destiny, a sense of Family, and a Militant Spirit

  Leaders ask questions….AND  take responsibility for answers.  They ask what needs to be done?  What can I do?  How will it happen?

2)   Character counts.  It just does, over the long haul.  You have to look at yourself in the mirror every morning.  I want to look at a man of integrity.

Every leadership study I have ever read says that integrity is the number one characteristic of effective leadership. Character is more important than smarts, looks, or power.  Lasting leadership is about character.

3)   Get your priorities clear and live them out.  This is a personal and organizational truth.  Arrange your life around your God given priorities; your family, your friends, your purpose in life.

Christopher Robin, in Winnie the Pooh, gives my favorite definition of organization:  “Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it’s not all mixed up.”  Scripture tells us that God is a God of decency and order.

Leaders traffic in hope.  We have to help people see reality, confront the brutal facts, become more strategic, increase our distinctiveness, focus on mission and values, act courageously AND with compassion.  Why did you, your business, your school, your family, your life get given to you?  Arrange your life around your God-given priorities.

4)   Life’s best lessons are learned deeply.  Often those lessons come with pain.  Seeking a pain free life means you may miss those lessons.  You can’t “hurry-up” and get spiritual in the midst of a crisis.  You have to learn the lessons well.  

Those who love me best in life have walked with me through life’s deepest waters.  Don’t hydroplane in life.  Love deeply.  Think deeply.  Act deeply.

5)   Jesus never leaves you but He will let you disobey Him.  When you do, you will face the consequences.  But, His grace is never ending and an amazing source of healing.

Colossians 2:6-7 definition of discipleship:  So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness

6)   The basics of integrity, relationships and stewardship get tested over and over again.  So guard your heart!

  “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  (Proverbs 4:23)

When James A. Garfield, who afterwards became President of the United States, was president of Hiram College, in Ohio, a man brought his son for entrance as student, for whom he desired a shorter course than the regular one.  “The boy will never take all that in,” the father said.  “He wants to get through by a shorter route.  Can you arrange for it?”

“Oh yes,” replied the president of Hiram College.  “I can arrange for it.  Your son can take the shorter course.  It all depends on what you want to make of him.  When God wants to make an oak, He takes a hundred years; but when He wants to make a squash, He requires only two months.” – Young Christian Worker.

  You are called to be servant leaders in this new era.  Lead with boldness…HOLY boldness.  And do so as ambassadors of the One who gave up His place for His purpose. 

On another occasion “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (Mark 10:42-45) 

Leadership in the New Era will be transforming when leaders exercise their influence as men and women of integrity in right relationship with Christ, with themselves and with the world around them.

Published by drjohnjackson

President of Jessup University (www.jessup.edu), speaker and author of books on leadership and transformation

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