Tag 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

Day 356: I Hope You Dance – A Christmas Wish


In a sea of flowers, we may not notice this beautiful, quickly wilting rose.

“The sharp thorn often produces delicate roses.” Ovid

She finds herself in a hopeless situation.  She asked me, “What can I do?”  The words rang in my brain this morning.  After all, what can she do?  She no longer has parents. She’s overstayed her visa. She can’t work.  She is locked in a temporary prison. This is one of hundreds of people, all with a desperate story.  Yet, she is so fragile–looking sick, frail, and perhaps anorexic.  Who knows how long she will call this existence her life?

As I sit here sipping coffee and eating a slice of pecan pie, I’m trying to make sense of this daily life I lead.  Sure, I get to rub noses with people who have real problems, but what is this hope I have to offer them?

In Luke 2:6, we read how Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem to be taxed.  He traveled this route because he was fulfilling his right as a citizen of his country.  Yet, more than a thousand years before the birth of Jesus, it had been foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  Joseph may have questioned God about why he was to travel all of this distance when it was time for the birth of the baby– as he probably didn’t know about the foretelling of the birth.  Yet, it wasn’t necessary.  In this story, we can see clearly that God’s divine appointments happen in His time, as a result of what we might call circumstances.  The bottom line is that He knows them all and well in advance.

Since God cared so deeply about the place where Jesus should be born, doesn’t it make sense that He also cares that each of these people I met are in a seemingly hopeless situation?  Does He hear their prayers and answer them?

Yesterday, I met a delicate rose.  It seems she is wilting quickly.  My prayer for her this Christmas is that somehow she will dance in the hope of a living God.  I believe He cares that she is far away from her home in a situation that I deem as hopeless.

Is it possible that He has a purpose in her long distance travel?

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?

This River We Call Life


Life on the river marches on.

“Here, on the river’s verge, I could be busy for months without changing my place, simply leaning a little more to right or left.” Paul Cezanne

From time to time, we use the river taxi to travel from the political district in Bangkok.  On most auspicious occasions, it’s the best way  to avoid a heavy traffic jam.

Catching a glimpse of daily life there seems almost intrusive as I observe people carrying out daily routines.  They’ve become accustomed to onlookers and don’t seem to let it bother them.

It reminds me that I do quite the same.  Without changing a lot around me, I might get involved with a project that keeps me afloat but has little impact on my world.

Here are a few ways to get more involved in this river we call life:

1. Make an effort to improve someone else’s world. Yesterday, a very poor lady came to me.  I was expecting her to ask for something, and I found myself putting up a shield.  Actually, she was just a sweet little lady wanting to talk, but this encounter told me something about myself.  Deep down, I don’t want to be bothered by other people, and that is very wrong.  If I am unwilling to be put out a bit to help others, I’m never going to make a positive impact.

2. Spend less time on the facade and more time on the inside.  When we went to visit Macau, we found a beautiful road that led to a facade.  It was the perfect place to make pictures.  Unfortunately, meeting the people of the country told us something very different.  Wherever we went, we found the people rude.  Maybe it was just a fluke, but we could not wait to get back to Hong Kong and have never returned to Macau.  Some places on the river are also inviting.  Yet, the up close version doesn’t always play out.  As a rule, it’s best that we spend time improving our insides.  The outside is bound to shine brighter as the inside grows more beautiful.

3. Do everything with gusto.  Inevitably, we see someone splashing around in the river having fun.  The river is there to be enjoyed, and I tend to smile when I see someone laughing on its banks.  The river we ride continues to change.  It’s our job to take advantage of each unique moment.

Cezanne spent a lot of time painting apples, but his depiction of the river is also quite beautiful.  Though we have our daily chores, like painting apples, we can also show others a more beautiful view of this river we call life.

What are your impressions of the river?

3 Cheers For Starting Over!


Do we really make efforts to live up to our class motto?

“There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.” Jean-Paul Sartre

Each year it seems I get at least one of those students who is crying out for attention.  Having not found enough of it in a positive direction, they reach out for it in the wrong places.  This year, I have six of these students.  Of course it’s a little much.  Some are carry-overs from other teachers and some are brand new to us.  Finally, in mid-year, they’re learning to work well as a team.  Unfortunately, we had a slip up yesterday, and that’s where I have an opportunity.

Just as we adults make mistakes, and we do make them over and over, children also need opportunities to start over.  Today will be that day.  As normal, I will greet my children at the door with a handshake and a smile.  I have the unique opportunity to let this student know that he can start over today.

Teachers can give the gift of starting over in several ways:

1. Forgive and forget. I sometimes have difficulty forgetting and allowing the student to truly start over.  Yet, when I do wrong, I expect others to forget it.  One thing we should remember is how to delete the data we’ve stacked against a student.  How will they ever change if we don’t give them a daily opportunity?

2. Look for the positive.  This can be difficult.  Some students have worked hard to master making bad choices, and it is often hard to find even one small thing to say something good about. Yet, if we look long enough with the right kind of eyes, we’ll see some magical moment when we can loudly cheer, “Great job!”

3. Set the student up for success.  I must admit that, at times, I’ve found negative thinking taking root about a student.  In our minds, we might even plan out something we will say when the student crosses the line.  Yet, we know that the way to help the student do well is to set them up for success.  We need to look for ways where they can excel.  We know it, and we have to be intentional about it daily.

Let’s remember why we started this occupation.  It wasn’t for the money; it was to change lives.  Let’s not grow weary in well-doing.  Today, we can start over and allow our students to do the same.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne Frank

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?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Wonder


One can wonder if he doesn't lose that sense.

“An empty canvas is a living wonder… far lovelier than certain pictures.” Wassily Kandinsky

The boat rolled from behind a curtain and with it the coolness of dry ice that hovered over the audience.  You could say I was in a state of wonder when I first saw a professional stage production.  At an early age, I was absolutely hooked.

As a college student, I attended most productions on campus.  I once embarrassed myself snickering uncontrollably in the show Our Town, which was both serious and about death.  Otherwise, I’ve never moved from the wonder of the stage.

As an adult, I sometimes walk onto the stage just to smell it.  I’m still hooked.  “You can take the girl out of the play, but you can’t take the play out of the girl.” (mine)

Sometimes we forget to stop and allow ourselves the experience of wonder.  Did you stop and enjoy a sense of wonder at something you saw or felt today?

Day 318: Solutions Are More Fun When They Explode


One way or another, we'll get this problem solved.

“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” Eleanor Roosevelt

As a kid, I always thought it would be cool to see chemicals explode in the laboratory.  Though teachers know that it can lead to disasters, students find it exciting.  I wonder how we can come up with solutions to problems that are explosive?

I guess it’s our human nature to complain. Yet, we get little accomplished that way.  What if we made it our goal to think up solutions instead of complaints?

For example, instead of complaining about the dirty curtain on the stage, I could just take a bucket of soapy water and start cleaning it myself.  If I ruin the curtain, I suppose that would be an explosive solution, but most likely, I’ll get a clean curtain instead.

Finding solutions can be fun!  Most of the creatives give us ideas that change our thinking.  Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Think of a more exaggerated version of the problem.  Instead of thinking, “Wow, this is a super boring meeting,” use your time creatively.  Exaggerate the idea of boredom by thinking, “If I were in charge of this meeting, how could I make this meeting even more boring?”

2. Think of the opposite.  Instead of thinking, “He thinks he’s too good to talk to me,” think the opposite.  You might change your thinking by saying, “Oh, he probably knows that I know all of the America’s Next Top Model Trivia questions; he’s afraid I won’t want to talk to him because he never watches it.  I will be the good person and say hello first.”

3. Think of the problem as a simile.  Instead of thinking, “I don’t know how I’m going to finish all my work today,” use a simile to change your work into something more approachable.  For example, “That pile of papers is like an Earthquake from Swenson’s.  I can’t wait to dig into it.”  Yeah, I know that’s stretching it, but you get the idea.

All I’m saying is that there are ways to get around a difficult day that can still keep us smiling.  Thinking up these kinds of explosive solutions will at least keep us entertained in the process.  Am I the only one who talks to myself?  Share your explosive solutions here.  I always love a new one!

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 309: Three Ways That Charismatic People Bring Hope


A hopeful message is always welcome!

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Maya Angelou

Charisma is not something to take for granted.  It is a gift that some have and if used properly can bring hope to the hopeless.

Last night, I watched an older Japanese pop star mesmerize a crowd.  Though his whole concert was in Japanese, he had a kind of magic that cast a spell on us all.  What is it he has? My brain couldn’t quit asking.

Here are some things I was able to put my finger on:

1. He knew how to connect to the audience.  The concert got exciting when the artist played his hit song, but he drew us like a magnet when he talked with the audience.  This Japanese artist told about the debt he could never repay.   During the tsunami, earthquake, and nuclear accident, he said that the Thai people had been very generous.  Then, he told how his heart is going out to them in this difficult time of flooding in Thailand.  After delivering several words of hope, he sang a popular Thai folk song.  This was not an easy feat.  The Thai language is full of interesting tones and sounds, and I’m sure the singer had spent a long time learning it for the concert.  Yet, this was another way that he was able to connect to them at a deep level.

2. He spoke with enthusiasm and humility.  He spoke, not as a show-off, but as a humble friend.  Even I felt on occasion that he was speaking directly to me, though I sat in the nose-bleed section.  Many misunderstand how to encourage others.  They often try to impress with their achievements, but this master knew to capture a group with just the opposite–enthusiasm and humility.

3. He used his skills to deliver a message of hope.  As this excellent singer entertained us all, I thought about how I had seen Bob Hope and others go to entertain the troops overseas.  Using our gifts to bring hope to others is very important.

Last night, I enjoyed more than a great concert.  I learned from a master storyteller the importance of bringing a message of hope to the discouraged.  Whenever we visit those who are sick, in prison, discouraged, and poor, we need to be bringing them a message of hope.

Do you know of someone who is full of charisma?