December

Leadership & Formation #6: Enhancements

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Posted by greg

enhancements_1.jpgThe only time you are guaranteed 100% accuracy is when you aim at nothing!  Given what we have learned in posts #4 (Characteristics) and # 5 (Barriers) what can we do to facilitate a journey to finish well?  What can we do to begin living a life worth leaving in the lives of others?  What can we do to ensure a pleasing aroma rather than a stench lingers long after we are gone?  What can we do to further God’s redemptive purposes in this world before we leave this earth? 

J. Robert Clinton and his team extracted five ‘enhancements’ from their research data gleaned from the lives of biblical, historical, and contemporary leaders (~ 3800 case studies using grounded theory methodology) that when applied will help a leader finish well.  We have to be intentional about exercising these enhancements.  It will take time and practice.  Although the principles he espouses are focused on leaders in ministry, they apply as well to organizational leadership.  I have practiced these principles for the better part of my leadership life and I can attest unreservedly of their effectiveness and utility.

Once again, in Dr. Clinton’s own words…

Enhancement 1. Perspective

We need to have a lifetime perspective on work.  Effective leaders view present efforts in terms of a lifetime perspective. We gain that perspective by studying lives of leaders as commanded in Hebrews 13:7-8. I have been doing intensive study of leaders’ lives over many years. Leadership Emergence Theory (LET) is the result of that research.   Its many concepts can help us understand more fully just how God does shape a leader over a lifetime.

Enhancement 2.  Renewal

Special moments of intimacy with God, challenges from God, new vision from God and affirmation from God both for personhood and work will occur repeatedly to a growing leader.  These destiny experiences will be needed, appreciated, and will make the difference in persevering in a job.   All leaders should expectantly look for these repeated times of renewal.  Some can be initiated by the leader.  But some come sovereignly from God.  We can seek them, of course, and be ready for them.

Most leaders who have been effective over a lifetime have needed and welcomed renewal experiences from time to time in their lives.  Some times are more crucial in terms of renewal than others.  Apparently in western society the mid-thirty's and early forty's and mid-fifties are crucial times in which renewal is frequently needed in a leader's life.  Frequently during these critical periods discipline slacks, there is a tendency to plateau and rely on one's past experience and skills, and a sense of confusion concerning achievement and new direction prevail.  Unusual renewal experiences with God can overcome these tendencies and redirect a leader.  An openness for them, a willingness to take steps to receive them, and a knowledge of their importance for a whole life can be vital factors in profiting from enhancement 2 for finishing well.  Sometimes these renewal experiences are divinely originated by God and we must be sensitive to his invitation.  At other times we must initiate the renewal efforts.

Enhancement 3. Disciplines

Leaders need discipline of all kinds.  Especially is this true of spiritual disciplines.  A strong surge toward spirituality now exists.  This movement combined with an increasingly felt need due to the large number of failures is propelling leaders to hunger for intimacy.  The spiritual disciplines are one mediating means for getting this intimacy.  Such authors as Eugene Peterson, Dallas Willard, and Richard Foster are experts in this field of spirituality.  Leaders without these leadership tools are prone to failure via sin as well as plateauing.

I concur with Paul's admonitions to discipline as a means of insuring perseverance in the ministry (and organizational leadership).  When Paul was around 50 years of age he wrote to the Corinthian church what appears to be both an exhortation to the Corinthians and an explanation of a major leadership value in his own life.  We need to keep in mind that he had been in ministry for about 21 years.  He was still advocating strong discipline.  I paraphrase it in my own words.

                I am serious about finishing well in my Christian ministry.  I discipline myself for fear that after challenging others into the Christian life I myself might become a casualty.  1Co 9:24-27

Lack of physical discipline is often an indicator of laxity in the spiritual life as well.  Toward the end of his life, Paul is probably between 65 and 70, he is still advocating discipline.  This time he writes to Timothy, who is probably between 30 and 35 years old.

                    ...Instead exercise your mind in godly things. 8 For physical exercise is advantageous somewhat but exercising in godliness has long term implications both for today and for that which will come. (1Ti 4:7b-8)

Leaders should from time to time assess their state of discipline.  I recommend in addition to standard word disciplines involving the devotional life and study of the Bible other disciplines such as solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy. 

Enhancement 4.  Learning Posture

The single most important antidote to plateauing is a well-developed learning posture.  Such a posture is also one of the major ways through which God gives vision.  It sounds simple enough but many leaders don't heed it.  Two Biblical leaders who certainly were learners all their lives and exemplified this principle were Daniel and Paul.  Note how Daniel observed this principle.  In Daniel 9 when he is quite old we find that he was still studying his Bible and still learning new things from it.  And he was alert to what God wanted to do through what he was learning.  Consequently, Daniel was able to intercede for his people and become a recipient of one of the great messianic revelations.  Paul's closing remarks to Timothy show he was still learning.  "And when you come don't forget the books Timothy!" (2Ti 4:13). 

There are many non-formal training events available such as workshops, seminars, and conferences covering a variety of learning skills.  Take advantage of them.  A good learning posture is insurance against plateauing and a helpful prod along the way to persevere in leadership.  An inflexible spirit with regards to learning is almost a sure precursor to finishing so-so or poorly.

Enhancement 5.  Mentoring

Comparative study of many leaders’ lives indicates the frequency with which other people were significant in challenging them into leadership and in giving timely advice and help so as to keep them there.   Leaders who are effective and finish well will have from 10 to 15 significant people who came alongside at one time or another to help them. 

The general notion of mentoring involves a relational empowerment process in which someone who knows something (the mentor) passes on something (wisdom, advice, information, emotional support, protection, linking to resources) to someone who needs it (the mentoree, protégé) at a sensitive time so that it impacts the person's development. 

The basic dynamics of mentoring include attraction, relationship, response, accountability and empowerment.  My observations on mentoring suggest that most likely, any leader will need a mentor at all times over a lifetime of leadership.  Mentoring is available if one looks for specific functions and people who can do them (rather than an ideal mentor who can do all).  God will provide a mentor in a specific area of need for you if you trust Him for one and you are willing to submit and accept responsibility.

Simply stated a final suggestion for enabling a good finish is find a mentor who will hold you accountable in your spiritual life and work and who can warn and advise so as to enable you to avoid pitfalls and to grow throughout your lifetime of organizational engagement.

To be continued…


 

Leadership & Formation #5: Major Barriers

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Posted by greg

Barrier_6.jpg

Some time ago I approached my boss suggesting that my business card be changed.  Somewhat bemused he said it couldn’t get much longer. I said I wanted to shorten it to a title that reflects the primary role of a leader of others—barrier remover. Our job as leaders of others is to remove any impediment that restricts them from performing at their optimum best.  Our job is to help them flourish from the foundation of their wiring; to be all God intended them to be, and to realize their full potential.  In doing so, the organizations they serve will benefit.

 There are barriers however that are self-inflicted.  If these barriers are not addressed they will prevent a leader from finishing well.  To be sure, each barrier has gradations or degrees of dysfunctionality.  The degree to which a barrier impedes a leader will determine the degree to which one’s effectiveness is limited and thus their hope of finishing well.  J. Robert Clinton identified six barriers to finishing well.  Others could be added for sure but these six dominated the research.

Again in Clinton’s own words…

Comparative study of effective leaders who finished well has identified six barriers that hindered leaders from finishing well.  It only takes one of them to torpedo a leader. But frequently a leader who fails in one area will also fail in others. What are these barriers? We can learn from those who didn't finish well. We can be alerted to these barriers. We can avoid them in our own lives.  We need to look ahead in our lives and not walk right into these barriers.  We need to avoid being entrapped by them.  Proverbs 22:3 tells us that, “Sensible people will see trouble coming and avoid it, but an unthinking person will walk right into it and regret it later.”

Barrier 1.  Finances—Use and Abuse

Leaders, particularly those who have power positions and make important decisions concerning finances, tend to use practices which may encourage incorrect handling of finances and eventually wrong use.  A character trait of greed often is rooted deep and eventually will cause impropriety with regard to finances.  Numerous leaders have fallen due to some issue related to money.  Biblical Examples:  O.T.: Gideon's golden ephod. N.T.: Ananias and Sapphira.

Barrier 2.  Power—It’s Abuse

Leaders who are effective in ministry must use various power bases in order to accomplish their ministry.  With power so available and being used almost daily, there is a tendency to abuse it.  Leaders who rise to the top in a hierarchical system tend to assume privileges with their perceived status.  Frequently, these privileges include abuse of power.  And they usually have no counter balancing accountability.  Biblical Example:  Uzziah's usurping of priestly privilege.

Barrier 3.  Pride--Which Leads To Downfall

Pride (inappropriate and self-centered) can lead to a downfall of a leader.   As a leader there is a dynamic tension that must be maintained.  We must have a healthy respect for ourselves, and yet we must recognize that we have nothing that was not given us by God and He is the one who really enables ministry.  Biblical Example:  David's numbering.

Barrier 4.   Sex--Illicit Relationships

Illicit sexual relationships have been a major downfall both in the Bible and in western cultures.  Joseph's classic integrity check with respect to sexual sin is the ideal model that should be in leader’s minds. Biblical Example: David's sin with Bathsheba was a pivotal point from which his leadership never fully recovered.  It was all downhill from there on.

Barrier 5.  FAMILY--Critical Issues

Problems between spouses or between parents and children or between siblings can destroy a leader's ministry.  What is needed are Biblical values lived out with regard to husband-wife relationships, parent-children, and sibling relationships.  Of growing importance in our day is the social base profiles for singles in ministry and for married couples.  Biblical Example:  David's family.  Ammon and Tamar.  Absalom's revenge.

Barrier 6. Plateauing

Leaders who are competent tend to plateau.  Their very strength becomes a weakness.  They can continue to minister at a level without there being a reality or Spirit empowered renewing effect.  Most leaders will plateau several times in their lifetimes of development.  Some of the five enhancement factors for a good finish will counteract this tendency (perspective, learning posture, mentor, disciplines).  There again is a dynamic tension that must be maintained between leveling off for good reasons, (consolidating one's growth and/or reaching the level of potential for which God has made you) and plateauing because of sinfulness or loss of vision.  Biblical Example:  David in the latter part of his reign just before Absalom's revolt.

Forewarned is forearmed. There are many other reasons why leaders don’t finish well—usually all related to sin in some form. But at least the six categories are major ones that have trapped many leaders and taken them out of the race. Leaders who want to finish well, Take heed!

To Clinton’s list I would add a seventh barrier…

Barrier 7: Emotional and Psychological Wounding

Emotional and psychological wounding is all too frequent in people’s lives today.  Such wounding is often administered from the hand of someone we trust.  As terrible as it is, some leaders wear their victimization on their ‘sleeve’ for everyone to notice.  Nearly every conversation is punctuated with a rehearsal of the wounding.  Taken to extremes such behavior can prevent a leader from finishing well.  You may not get over it but you can get past it with God’s help.  Biblical Examples:  David’s children neglected by him; Jonah in Ninevah; Elijah in the cave

What contemporary examples can you identify for each barrier?

What barriers not addressed above would you add to the list?

Which barriers are impeding you from finishing well?

Who can help you overcome this barrier?

Who do you know who is struggling with one or more of these barriers?

What assistance can you offer to them?

Which barrier are you most susceptible or vulnerable?

What are you doing to remove the barrier?


It is never too late to begin living and leading in such a way as to finish well.

Stay tuned in for the Enhancements to Finishing Well.

To be continued…

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Leadership & Formation #4: Six Characteristics

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Posted by greg

 If finishing well is a preferred objective of your life what are the characteristics of people who finish well?  What can we learn from biblical, historical, and contemporary Christian leaders that will help us to be able to finish well?  When I am called home by the Lord I hope to cross the finish line utterly exhausted having given my all for kingdom purposes that matter, have set a model for my grandchildren to follow, having acquitted myself with honor so that I can lay my meager offering of dedicated service at His feet.  Like Paul, I want to be able to say…

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8).”

My mentor, Dr. J. Robert Clinton conducted exhaustive qualitative research to determine how God develops His leaders.  He first published his findings in the late 80’s and has since validated his original conclusions by studying the lives of over 3800 leaders.  In analyzing the data using grounded theory methodology four overarching observations came to light fraught with huge implications for leadership and how leadership is effectively developed…

  • Few leaders finish well.
  • Leadership is difficult.
  • God's enabling presence is the essential ingredient of successful leadership.
  • Spiritual leadership can make a difference.

In his own words Dr. Clinton presents his findings in support of his conclusions.

“Identifying the fact that few leaders finish well was a breakthrough warning for me. This led to further study. Why do few leaders finish well? What stops them? What helps them? What does it mean to finish well?  Comparative study of effective leaders who finished well has identified six characteristics. While there may be other characteristics that I have not seen, certainly these are important ones. Not all six always appear but at least several of them do in leaders who finish well. Frequently, effective leaders who finish well will have four or five of them seen in their lives. And some like Daniel in the O.T. and Paul in the N.T. demonstrate all of them.”

Characteristic 1:  They maintain a personal vibrant relationship with God right up to the end.

Example: Daniel is the classic O.T. leader who exemplifies this. In the N.T., Peter, Paul and John all demonstrate this. See their last writings—the tone, the touch with God, the revelation from God, their trust in enabling grace for their lives.

Characteristic 2:  They maintain a learning posture and can learn from various kinds of sources—life especially.  

Example: Daniel is the classic O.T. leader who exemplifies this.  See Daniel, chapter nine, for a late in life illustration of one who continues to study and learn from the Scriptures. Paul and Peter are the classic N.T. leaders with a learning posture (see 2 Peter 3:18 and 2 Timothy 4:13).

Characteristic 3:  They manifest Christ-likeness in character as evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.

Example: Daniel is the classic O.T. leader who exemplifies godliness (see the summary references to him in Ezekiel 14:14, 20). In the NT, note the evidence of character transformation in Paul’s life (2 Timothy 2:24 and an illustration of it—the book of Philemon). These were men who over a lifetime moved from strong personalities with roughness in their leadership styles to strong personalities with gentleness in their leadership styles.

Characteristic 4:  Truth is lived out in their lives so that convictions and promises of God are seen to be real.

Example: Joshua’s statement about God’s promises never having failed him in his closing speech demonstrate this characteristic of someone believing God and staking his life on God’s truth (Joshua 23:14). See the many aside truth statements that Paul weaves into his two letters to Timothy. See his famous stirring convictions echoed in Acts 27:22-25.

Characteristic 5:  They leave behind one or more ultimate contributions.

Example:  In a study on legacies left behind by effective leaders who finished well I have identified the following categories…


  • Saint (a model life that others want to emulate),
  • Stylistic Practitioners (a ministry model that others want to emulate), mentors (extensive personal ministry; end product changed lives),
  • Public Rhetoricians (extensive public ministry; end product changed lives), pioneers (start new works for God; end product is new churches, new movements, new works for God),
  • Activists (those who correct wrongs, end product, changed institutions, societies, etc. which reflect justice, fairness, etc.),
  • Artists (those who introduce creative ways of doing things; end products—whatever is created— as well as a model for how to do things differently),
  • Founder (a special category of pioneer who starts a new Christian organization; end product, the organization),
  • Stabilizers (those who can work in churches, movements, and other organizations to improve them and keep them alive and consistent; end product the organization revitalized and efficient),
  • Researchers (those who find out why things happen the way they do in Christian endeavor; end product an, understanding of the dynamics of things that can help others in Christian work),
  • Writers (those who can capture ideas in writing in order to help others in Christian work; end product, the writing produced), and
  • Promoters (those who can motivate others and inspire them to use ideation, to join movements, etc.; end product people committing themselves to new ventures).

(Many other legacies are possible but these have been clearly identified.)

Characteristic 6:  They walk with a growing awareness of a sense of destiny and see some or all of it fulfilled.

Definition:  A sense of destiny is an inner conviction arising from an experience or a series of experiences in which there is a growing sense of awareness that God has His hand on a leader in a special way for special purposes.  Over a lifetime a leader is prepared by God for a destiny, receives guidance toward that destiny, and increasingly completes that destiny. No Biblical leader who accomplished much for God failed to have a sense of destiny, one that usually grew over his/her lifetime. 

Examples: Joseph’s dreams and his saving of the embryonic nation; Moses’ saving of the nation; Paul’s vision to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Conclusion:  “The classic example in the O.T. of a good finish is Daniel who manifests all six characteristics. The classic example in the N.T. other than Christ is Paul. There are gradations of finishing well.  Some finish well but not quite having all six or lesser intensity on one or the other major characteristics. This list of characteristics is probably not complete. But these are certainly evident in many leaders who have finished well.”

  • Which of these characteristics are true of you?
  • What will be your legacy?
  • What lasting contribution will you make?
  • If you keep going as you are what legacy will you leave?

Stay tuned in for the Barriers to Finishing Well.

To be continued…

Leadership & Formation #3: Finishing Well

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Posted by greg

What compels a person to strive for excellence?  What pushes a person to succeed?  What motivates a person to do their best?  Certainly, a number of motives might be in play – some laudable and others not so.  I believe that deep within every individual is a desire to finish well.  Using grounded theory, a qualitative research methodology, J. Robert Clinton and his team of researchers studied the lives of Christian leaders – biblical, historical, and contemporary leaders to ascertain how they finished the race.  Over 3800 case studies have underscored the findings.  One of the startling facts is that only 30% finished well.  According to Clinton, anecdotal evidence from today indicates that this ratio is probably generous. Probably less than 1 in 3 is finishing well today.

Four types of finishes were defined in Starting Well by Richard Clinton and Paul Leavenworth.  These finishes were used to analyze the case studies of biblical leaders where enough data was available to determine how they finished. 

Cut off Early: These leaders are taken out of leadership by assassination, killed in battle, prophetically denounced, or overthrown. Some of this activity was directly attributed to God. Some of these were positive and others were negative. (Abimelech, Samson, Absalom, Ahab, Josiah, John the Baptist, James)

Finished Poorly: These leaders were going downhill in the latter part of their ministry. This might be reflected in their personal relationship with God or in terms of their competency in ministry. (Gideon, Samson, Eli, Saul, Solomon)

Finished So?So: These leaders did fairly well but were limited in their ministries because of sin. They did not complete what God had for them or had some negative ramifications surrounding their lives and ministries even though they personally were walking with God. (David, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah)

Finished Well: These leaders were walking with God at the end of their lives. They contributed to God's purposes at a high level. They fulfilled what God had for them to do.  (Abraham, Job, Joseph, Joshua, Caleb, Samuel, Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Jesus, John, Paul, Peter)

Clinton defines Finishing Well as referring to reaching the end of one's life, having been faithful to the calling God has placed upon that life...is about Christ followers being more passionate about Christ and His mission as they fulfill their life purpose than they were at the beginning. It also entails a life that experiences the depth of God's grace and love...it is living out one's destiny and the making of one's unique and ultimate contribution in expanding God's Kingdom.

How we ‘finish’ is all about legacy—the ‘aroma’ left in the lives of people who have come within our sphere of influence.  Have I fulfilled my divinely ordained purpose?  Have I made progress in leveraging my giftedness (spiritual gifts, natural abilities, and acquired skills) for eternal ends?  Will the substance of my life leave a positive impact that will endure after I am gone?  Although starting well is important, finishing well is crucial.

Within the soul of every human being God has placed a sense of the eternal that compels us to seek answers to the following questions having to do with purpose, progress, and permanence (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11).

  • Why am I here? PURPOSE
  • Am I making any headway? PROGRESS
  • Will what I do have any lasting significance? PERMANENCE

What is also true is that God has wired us for three reasons—a CAUSE to die for, a CHALLENGE to embrace, and loved ones to PROTECT just like Our Lord.  He had a cause to die for—the salvation of mankind.  He had a challenge to embrace—the crucifixion.  And He had loved ones to protect – humankind.

Finishing well takes into consideration all of these matters.  You are not an accident, a coincidence, a happenstance.  You were on the heart of God before you ever came to be (Psalm 139:1-18).  God indeed has plans for you and determined your purpose in advance of your birth (Ephesians 2:10).

So the big question is “How will you finish?”  Tangential to this main question are the following questions.

  • How will you be remembered? 
  • Who has been left better off because of you?
  • If you left this world today what type of finish would be true of you?

It is never too late to begin living a legacy worth leaving in the lives of others. 

  • What are you doing now to determine God’s purpose for your life?
  • What are you doing now to facilitate God’s giftedness in you?
  • What do you intend to do going forward to finish well?

Leadership & Formation #2

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Posted by greg

From my point of view Dr. J. Robert Clinton, professor emeritus of leadership for the School of World Mission of Fuller Theological Seminary, does the best job defining leadership and a leader from a biblical point of view.  He defines leadership as follows.

“Leadership is a dynamic process over an extended period of time in various situations in which a leader utilizing leadership resources and by specific leadership behaviors, influences the thoughts and activities of followers toward accomplishment of aims usually mutually beneficial for leaders, followers, and the macro context of which they are a part.”

It’s his definition of a leader, however, that captures the significance of being God’s leader for me.

“A leader is a person with a God-given capacity and a God-given responsibility to influence a specific group of God’s people toward His purposes for the group.”  Dr. J. Robert Clinton

Regardless of which definition you may prefer, one word is repeated frequently and is at the heart of leadership.  That word is INFLUENCE!

Let’s examine J. Robert Clinton’s definition as a leader more closely.

A leader, as defined from a study of Biblical leadership, is a person . . .

  • …with God-given capacity (denotes giftedness capacity in terms of spiritual gifts, natural talents, and acquired skills and suggests leadership character, as well as potential to be developed.)
  • …AND with God-given responsibility (denotes a downward sense of responsibility, a burden from God, to influence others for God; and, an upward sense of responsibility, accountability to God, for the people being influenced.)

…who is influencing

  • …a specific group of God’s people (those to whom the leader is given charge by God, those he/she is responsible for and may include direct and indirect influence over them).
  • …towards God’s purposes for the group.  (The prime function of leadership is the influencing of groups so as to accomplish God’s purposes involving the group.  This requires vision).  This external direction is what distinguishes a Christian leader from a secular leader.  Christian leaders must move followers toward recognition of, acceptance of and participation in bringing about that God-given vision.

A focus on leadership or a leader does not, in any way, diminish the role and function of a manager.  Comparing a leader and a manager has often been reduced to a simplified contrast – leaders lead people while managers manage things.  Managers also manage people.  The following comparison between leadership and management is more nuanced and accurate.

LEADERSHIP

Sets Vision

Provides Motivation

Sets Standards

Conceptualizes

Personal Authority Required

Future Focus

Grows & Enhances

 

MANAGEMENT

Implements Vision

Administrator

Implements Standards

Organizes & Plans

Positional Authority Required

Present Focus

Arranges & Tells

What is even more profound is the fact that God chooses his followers to facilitate His redemptive purposes in the world.  He selects men and women to provide leadership and management to accomplish his agenda.

As stated earlier, the quality of leadership and management expressed is totally dependent on what authority informs, conditions, and establishes it – the world, the flesh, the devil and his minions, or God.  Sometimes great change benefitting others arises from despicable motives.  The results do not, however, justify the means used to produce them.  For instance, a company builds a factory in a depressed area providing desperately needed jobs.  The motive of the company, however, is to make as much money as possible regardless of the harm it is doing to the environment through careless disposal of manufacturing waste that is polluting the water supply. 

Motives matter.  God judges the motives of our heart.

Proverbs 16:2 All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.

1 Chronicles 28:9 "And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.

1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

James 4:3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

What informs the exercise of your leadership or management?

What authority do you rely on for guidance?

What motivates your leadership or management?

Who do you respect as a leader or manager?

What informs and motivates them?

To be continued…

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