Category Archives: leadership

3 L’s of Leadership: How To Lead From The Middle (Or Even The Bottom)


The 3 L's of Leadership: Love, Laugh, Learn!

Are you a teacher leader?

He systematically walked in and out of every room, disturbing and unnerving all.  The staff braced themselves for the sure to follow email  pointing out negatives wherever he saw them.  Each approached him only when necessary since his whole demeanor screamed, “Leave me alone!”  This was their fearless leader–or was he?

We often think of leadership as the one who holds a leader-like title.  It’s like going around a park seeing labels on trees.  Unless we’re really interested in that tree, we’re not likely to look at the lable.  With leaders, we know when it’s right and when it’s not.  Calling something  ”leader” that’s clearly not is meaningless and unfortunate.

What, then, is a leader, and how might we be one?

Teachers are in a unique position to lead, though they may not realize it.  Think about your own school.  Who is the true leader?  Who do people go to for inspiration and new ideas?  Is there anyone who seems to keep a positive focus even in the middle of all of the negatives?  You too can be that person with perhaps a shift in motive.

Ask yourself a simple what?  What really motivates that person to lead?  Is it power?  If so, it’s the opposite of true leadership which Jesus modeled beautifully for us.  How did his leadership differ from what we see in the typical “leader” we often encounter?  Wouldn’t you say that the true, positive leaders in your school have some, if not all, of the three L’s of leadership?

Love – If we are motivated to become great, me might get a title, but we’ll not likely be the person that the title represents.  Jesus was clear that in order to become great, we must be the servant of all.  We can serve others with a heart full of true love.  That’s how it works.  Each day, we teachers can love our students, our fellow teachers, our bosses, our parent community, and our workplace.  We can do it because our hearts are full of love.  When our motive is love, we will share good things with others.  It won’t be difficult for us.  It will be a natural outcome from our pure motive.

Laughter – Real leaders tend to have a sense of humor.  They take the intolerable things and turn them into bearable situations.  Otherwise, they might have left years earlier.  These leaders don’t laugh so much at the situation, which tends to make things worse.  They actually look for things that bring them pleasure.  Imagine Jesus walking through a crowd and finding Zacchaeus up in a tree.  I think He was quite amused by the whole situation and saw that Zacchaeus needed a change.  Jesus initiated spending time with Zaccheaus in order to change his lifestyle.  Jesus laughed so much with these types of people that the church leaders were annoyed by him.  Yet, He led many to laugh and to love people.

Learn – Most real leaders have an attitude of learning.  They listen to people and yet they see the real meaning in the conversation.  They learn wherever they go and collect jewels which they pass on to others.  They are not know-it-alls, who are interesting at first but wear-off quickly.  Instead, they listen with the heart, and they share practically how to help the other person move forward.  Jesus listened to the woman at the well and offered her life-changing water.  Are we learning from this master teacher?

With these three L’s we’ll become, if not already, a teacher leader.  Imaging a school full of teacher leader who learn from each other, laugh, and love.

How do you lead from the middle?

“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” Ken Blanchard


Why We Do What We Do


Here's the way we cut our pineapple...

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.” Thomas Paine

When my son was born, my mom made him a wonderful sock monkey we called “George.”  Though it’s full of holes, it’s one of the things he kept from his childhood.

While talking to my daughter on Skype, I noticed her roommate had a crocheted blanket in a zig-zag pattern that I’ve seen at many a grandmother’s house.  I knew that someone she loved must have made it for her.

Traditions, whether oral or customary, are passed down from generation to generation.  The more we learn about other cultures, the more we are aware of the traits the people deem important enough to transmit over time.

Here are some interesting ones I’ve found while traveling around the world:

How to seriously multitask  – There seems to be no limit to what an African lady can balance on her head.  I’ve seen  a woman carry what looked like a house on top of her head, a baby on her back, and her knitting in her hand.  These tasks kept her busy as she walked down the road.

How to cut a pineapple – There are many rules about fruits here in Thailand. I just accept them and don’t even attempt to compete.  I stopped a lady in mid-process to take this photo of how a pineapple should be cut.  There are rules for how to peel a pomelo, how to wrap a banana, how to take the seed from a rambutan, and how to properly display a guava.  Don’t even think about fruit decorating.  This is just the basic stuff.

How to tie a shoe  – You may think there’s just one way to do it.  Try asking people from three or four different countries and watch what you get.  You may be surprised to see that some people make Mickey Mouse ears on both sides and then tie them together–or you may find something even more interesting.

How to put a rubber band on a bag – Here’s one I thought was a simple procedure, yet again, it’s the little things that can disturb.  I’ve cut many a rubber band off of a bag because I cannot get to the bottom of how it’s done.  Some of you won’t understand this tradition, but if you do–you are probably with me on this one.

How to say thank you – In Indonesia, the sweet lady who kept the nursery came to tell us that she was sorry that she had not done as good a job as maybe she could have.  Oh, no.  We tried to tell her how wonderful she was and how we appreciated all she had done for us.  We didn’t understand at the time that this was the way to part in that country.  It caught us off guard.  In the States we write thank you notes.  In some countries, we give gifts for all kinds of little and big things.  In many countries we bow appropriately.

We value tradition, though we often rebel against it.  As our world is growing smaller, though, it is important to tread lightly when getting to know people.  Traditions and values walk hand in hand, and if we hope to do the same, we will learn to open our eyes before we open our mouths

What are some of your favorite traditions?

Is Your Mood Ring Stuck On Black?


The natural colors and designs in nature are free for those who notice!

“The earth laughs in flowers.” e.e. cummings

Back in the 70’s, I was enamored by the faddish mood rings.  Whenever I put one on, though, I found it often turned a shade of gray or black.  At the time, I was horrified because as a sixth-grader, I wanted others to see me as passionate.  Of course now I know the reason.  My hands were almost always icy cold in the wintertime at our school.  I would see people working on the school furnace, but it seemed that none of it was piped down to Mrs. Blalock’s room.  Unfortunately, the mood ring didn’t reflect the idiom, “Cold hands–warm heart.”

Our moods come in many colors, but if we’re seeing too much black, perhaps we haven’t taken time to enjoy nature’s design.  Think to yourself, what did I notice on the way to work today?  If it was the changing colors of nature, the details in a leaf, or the shape of a mountain, chances are that our mood ring would show a vibrant or a dark blue.  In mood ring language, that may mean relaxed or even passionate.

Do we often find ourselves so busy that we run out the door without noticing the weather, the flowers, or anything about the nature around us?  If so, it’s time for a change of pace.

Stop and smell the roses.  That song was written for a reason.  When we are too busy, we fail to notice the miracles all around us, and we forget to count our blessings.

Just dance.  Lady Ga Ga might be a little strange, but she does understand the value of a bit of exercise.  In a gym or wherever you enjoy working it out is just fine, but I like exercising in the park.  With nature all around, I can’t help but give thanks for God’s natural wonders.

Come together.  I love to spend time with a friend over a cup of coffee. It’s even more fun if that person is passionate about life.  There are some people I love being around.  When I leave them, I usually leave with a smile.

The next time we find ourselves stuck on black, let’s get out and enjoy the natural songs of nature and of friends.

What do you do when you’re in a bad mood?

Day 327: Five Reasons Why We Waste Our Talents


Are you producing fruit?

“The fruit derived from labor is the sweetest of pleasures.” Luc de Clapier

I told myself I  hated singing in the old people’s choir growing up.  My mom had no patience with it because she knew that my voice was needed.  “If you don’t use your talent, you’ll lose it.”  I generally rolled my eyes and decided to sing with them and usually found myself enjoying it.

Fruit comes in seasons and likewise our ability to produce it.  I’ve been in seasons where I knew I was using many of my talents all at once.  In other seasons, I’ve felt quite unproductive.   Still, I feel annoyed when I’m with people who seem to be wasting their talents.  Maybe it’s that I see too much potential in people, but I don’t think that’s the case.

What keeps us from wasting our talents?

1. We can’t get started.  In my case, the most difficult part of producing something is getting it started.  I’ll tell you about my couch experience at another time.  It often comes down to someone who nags us until we get up there and use that talent.

2. We don’t know how to get involved.  Perhaps we are unaware of how we can use our talents.  The fun part about putting together a huge project is looking for those who have the potential to do it.  I love imagining different people using their talents to achieve a big goal.  At my university, I often found myself walking around the music department.   There were many practice rooms where I could hear a plethora of sounds including voices, pianos, and various instruments.  It’s fun to think of how to put all of that potential to use.  Sometimes, it just takes the right person coming to us and asking us to be involved.

3. We are afraid to risk.  If we’re not using our talents, there’s really no risk involved.  Yet, we somehow conjure up some imaginary risk that keeps us from trying something we’ve always wanted to do.  What’s that all about?

4. We don’t have a muse.  Some grow up in an environment where they are held back, put down, or simply not encouraged.  Fortunately, in my home, learning and trying out new things were the norm.  Maybe we should consider it our job to go around pushing people toward their gifting.  Do we  need a muse?  If so, we should get out there and look for the people who are doing what we want to be doing.

5. We’re too involved with other things.  Here’s the big one.  We never seem to get to the thing we want to do.  We keep finding other things to do instead.  Well, time is ticking.  It’s not stopping for us to use our talents.  We’ve got to use them or lose the opportunity to use them.  That’s the bottom line.

It’s all about our decision to produce the fruit we envision.  We can no longer blame it on others or on our circumstances.  Life is short, let’s live it well.

Is this your season to produce some fruit?

3 Reasons Why We Should Handwrite That Letter Today


A beautiful letter from a lovely lady made my day...

“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.” Phyllis Theroux

We fell in love before going to different countries on two-year job assignments.   Letter writing was a must since there were no emails or cell phones.  We still have those letters in a box.  They’re personal and passionate– a permanent love story.

I guess I could do the same with emails, but I rarely go back and reread them.  A letter, however, will stay in a drawer or a book where I might pull it out and savor the words many years after they were written.

Why should we handwrite a letter today?  Here are a few good reasons:

1. Taking the time to choose a card and to write from the heart shows we care.  While in Malaysia, I was able to spend an hour in an English stationery shop.  Moved to tears by some of the wonderfully written cards, I enjoyed searching for the perfect card and then adding my personal love letter.

2.  We’re more connected to letters we write by hand.  Of course we use our brains to type. Yet, there’s a greater connections between the brain and the hand when we form letters in handwriting. Essentially, we connect better with the words we write.

3.  We’ll be able to use our handwriting artistically.  Except for grocery lists, we rarely take time to write things down.   Here’s a chance to show off the beautiful penmanship we developed in grammar school.  Some are gifted at using their own style to encourage others with generous words and handmade cards.

Today is the day to blast back to the past.  Let’s open a drawer, find that favorite fountain pen, and write a letter with all of the  mush and gush we possibly can!  We’ll pour it all out there, cry for a minute, and seal it with a kiss.  I bet we’ll feel more romantic for having written it!

What is the most romantic letter you’ve ever received?

Day 311: Leading From The Inside


You'll find a real leader working too!

“You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader.” Anthony J. D’Algelo

I have met a few good leaders who were not in a position of leadership.  When I was younger, I found myself impressed with positions, but as I have gotten older, I’ve seen that some of the best leaders don’t hold that position.

This is not to knock the leaders in positions.  Many times they are put there for lack of a better candidate.  Also, those in leadership will grow in ability if they focus on being teachable.

On the contrary, this is to encourage each of us to lead positively right now.  How does this happen?  A few years ago, I found myself utterly baffled by what a creative team can accomplish when they set themselves wholeheartedly to a task.  From then on, I decided that I’d like to continue pursuing great visions that can only happen with a creative team.

Here are a few questions that can guide us as we lead:

1. Do we have a great vision that we can’t accomplish by ourselves or that shouldn’t be attempted alone?  Sometimes we don’t have a vision.  If this is the case, we might want to work with others who do have an admirable vision.  However, if we have a worthy goal that we are not attempting because we know we can’t get it done alone, we are surely in a position to lead.

2. Who shares a similar vision that might also want to accomplish the task?  The first task is to share your vision only with those you believe are like-minded.  If the right people want to join in getting it done, you’ll have the green light.  Before starting anything, I like to think about the many kinds of opposition I’ll face along the way and expect these to show their nasty faces.  However, it’s most important to see the finished product and to help everyone on the team understand how the finished product will look.  In this way, creatives can envision how they can join in and even enhance the finished product bringing it past what the visionary has presented.  These are the perfect people to have on a team.

3. Do we fully embrace the fact that this task can only be accomplished with a dream team, or are we just looking to promote our own agenda?  When we start with a vision, we have to see the whole thing as a group effort not as a self-promotion.  I’ve worked with people who have the vision of watching others complete their goals–somewhat like a “boy Friday” approach. This is not the team I’m talking about.  While these people think themselves grand, the rest of the “team” thinks otherwise.  No, a real leader will give a few parameters and let the creatives do their thing within those.  Here, the leader will see something emerge that he or she could not have imagined.  In turn, the leader will do everything possible to help these creatives know that their unique contributions have greatly enhanced the group vision.  Those creatives need to own their work, and the leader needs to lift them on a pedestal instead of squelching their creative contributions.

4. Are we looking to improve the work of the whole group in order to better our environment?  When our vision brings added value to our workplace, more people will want to be involved.  Here, a leader will need eyes to know how each member of the community can enhance the vision instead of pulling it down.  Sometimes it takes time to develop the eyes to know which people should be involved and in what capacity.   Yet, involving people can build a positive community event.

Regardless of who we are or what position we hold, we’re probably leading someone in one direction or another.  The question we should ask ourselves is whether or not we want to be intentional about it.

In what positive ways are you leading?

Day 305: Am I Blue?


Am I blue or did I just like this door?

“Artists can color the sky red because they know it’s blue. Those of us who aren’t artists must color things the way they really are or people might think we’re stupid.”  Jules Feiffer

Not that I’m complaining, but I’ve had more time than I expected this week.  Because of flooding, our school was cancelled.  For me, unplanned rest usually results in–reflecting, creating, and planning future events.

On Sunday, our pastor talked about rest.  Though I like a little rest, too much of a good thing annoys me.  In an attempt to use my time wisely, I bought a creativity book and took pictures around town.

Why was I fascinated by this blue door?

Freud would have some ideas, and  maybe it does signify my present state.  When I have time, I like to reflect on three things.  Even though these thoughts may make me blue for a few days, they usually end in some sort of positive result.

Blue- Am I heading in the direction I’m supposed to be heading?  At least every few months, I like to think about goals and directions.  Am I moving toward a goal that makes sense?  Do these goals reflect who I am and move me in a direction that matches my values?

Blue- What goals am I working toward right now that excite me?  I like to think about where most of my time is going.  Does this time I use move me toward a goal that excites me?  Am I using the creative abilities given to me by God or am I doing busy work that isn’t necessary?

Blue- Am I doing what God wants me to do? How does my work point others toward Christ?  Am I wasting a majority of my time on activities that don’t point anyone toward God?  If so, how can I make some needed adjustments?

These questions tend to pop into my thoughts when I have time to rest.  What do you ponder when you have free time?