MOL001 – Self-Leadership

(This is a continuation of the MOL writings; a series in which I discuss highlights from my graduate program in Organizational Leadership. For more background information on this series, please click here)

Self-leadership, simply enough, is the practice of leading yourself. Despite the simplicity of this idea, many people do not lead themselves; as if leadership was only measured by followers.

This is the first lesson in leadership: in order to remain an effective leader, one must practice rigorous self-leadership.

In the a follow-up book to their wildly popular The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes & Posner write, “Because leadership is personal, it also means that leadership development is self-development” (Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge, p. 122). The foundational text to self-leadership is Samuel Rima’s Leadership from the Inside Out.

The Call to Self-Leadership

The greatest issue facing leaders today is the disconnect between personal belief and public behavior (aka, authentic leadership). Increasingly, we hear of various leaders in our church, community, and government that are under public scrutiny for their personal choices and moral failures: pastors living lavish financial lifestyles, politicians having extra-marital affairs, businessmen swindling money. This dichotomy arises from a lack of self-mastery, or self-leadership.

For Rima restoring the art of self-mastery, or self-leadership will answer the call on our society’s need for authentic leadership: “…all effective, enduring leadership must be built on the foundation of effective self-leadership. It is our ability to successfully lead our own life that provides the firm foundation from which we can lead others” (p. 28).

Self-Leadership Defined

Self-leadership is defined as the ability to define personal mission and values, and to utilize resources to achieve goals and obtain effective, strong leadership others can rally to and hold confidence in. Though self-leadership can be treated as methodical, Rima argues that self-leadership is an art; there is some methodology behind it yes, but the most effective self-leadership style resembles the practices found in art. As with art, practicing self-leadership has its benefits, but often with significant costs.

Defining your Calling and calling

Self-leadership calls for the further discussion of our vocation, avocation, goals, and motivation. Self-leadership as a discipline is useless without defining and understanding one’s direction and motivation in life. First, the difference between vocation and avocation must be considered (or “Calling” and “calling,” respectively). Our Calling not only is our vocation but for those of the faith it is “to be reflectors of the wonderful light of God so that it will illumine the path of others and guide them to hear, understand, and respond to the Calling that God may be issuing to them as well.” (p. 58). Our calling, however, is the avenue through which we achieve our vocation; our “calling” supports our “Calling” often through ordinary employment. The point of intersection of these two—transcendental Calling and menial calling—is the explosive point in which one can find satisfaction in one’s avocation.

Applying Self-Leadership

Okay, you now know the why and what of self-leadership, but what about the “so what?” So what self-leadership should do is focus in holistically four areas of life to be in harmony with your vocation. The four spokes in a balanced practice of self-leadership are spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual.

  1. Spiritual: Leadership is a spiritual activity, and as such, a leader’s success or failure can be contributed to spiritual success or failure. Therefore, it is imperative to establish healthy leadership our spiritual lives, this the first venue is the most important, majority of public leadership failures might have been prevented if adequate leadership in soul care were exhibited. As Christians, and leaders within this context, special—and intensive—energy needs to be devoted to spiritual self-leadership, for out of the grace and love poured into us from God is how we are able to lead. If one cuts off the supply, how then can be appropriately and effectively lead? A Christian will not be able to lead effectively in this case, and in fact his leadership would be dead.
  2. Physical: Just as spiritual stagnation leads to fatal leadership, so also a lack of physical self-leadership leads to fatal leadership, and even literal physical death. What if you are a gifted leader who is passive in regards to physical self-leadership, and a heart attack claims your life and consequently your leadership? Your leadership and legacy are gone. The story alone acts as a great motivator to not allow inactive physical discipline to undermine one’s effective public leadership. I affirm strongly the need for a public leader to exhibit strong leadership in physical health to convey confidence to his followers that he is able to overcome the many obstacles to maintain the perseverance, physically, that leadership demands.
  3. Emotional: Emotional instability and lack of self-leadership can greatly undermine each of the three other venues of self-leadership, even if those areas are mastered. Dark moods can be a great barrier to others in our leadership and must be brought into control so that we can “fulfill our Calling and achieve our life goals,” (p. 192). No one is harder to follow than someone in leadership that cannot approach situations and others with emotions mastered.
  4. Intellectual: Self-leadership in the venue of intellect may be achieved the most naturally throughout the course of life, but too may be the hardest venue to make adequate time for. As Christian leaders we must, “recommit ourselves to the lifelong discipline of ongoing intellectual exploration, growth, development, and inter-disciplinary discourse” (p. 209). We need to become lifelong learners.

Why Self-Leadership is More than Self-Discipline

By now you’re wondering if self-leadership is actually just simple, old-fashioned discipline. If self-leadership is to be considered separate from personal discipline, what factor, or factors, would distinguish them apart? Personal discipline could be defined as intentional habits or practices directed towards personal effectiveness or growth. Conversely, self-leadership is the, “mobilization of necessary resources to realize something more beneficial and more effective at achieving their … stated mission” (p. 29).

Self-leadership, then, is intricately tied to accomplishing a stated mission, or pressing on to intersect our life with our vocation. The difference is subtle, personal discipline is directed towards inner growth, but without an explicit goal; self-leadership is missional inner-life discipline, aimed at realizing one’s Calling. Though the differences are covert, the assumption that self-leadership and personal discipline are the same is erroneous.

In Conclusion

There is a dire need to develop leaders who have holistic, integrative self-leadership in order to change the tide of public disdain and mistrust of leaders. This authentic leadership is achieved when someone brings their spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual spheres into alignment with their vocation. As it turns out, these are the best leaders to follow.

Have you heard of the idea of “Self-Leadership”–or one similar to it? Share your thoughts below if so, or even if not!

The next MOL writing will discuss writing a Leadership Development Plan which can be a dashboard for applying self-leadership and ensuring success in it.


5 Tips for Beginner Speed Readers

In a recent post I highlight in my Third Movement: Reading that I speed read. Namely, I have engaged in the skill and refinement of reading rapidly and now average ~600 words per minute (wpm) (The average college graduate can read 250 wpm, which actually is the fastest the eye can read untrained and unaided). This allows me to consume 2 average-size books a week, if I make the time for it.

I received a number of responses and questions regarding this feat, so many in fact that I wanted to write and highlight a few thoughts of mine. Anyone can speed read. Anyone can practice this skill. Anyone can achieve this superhero power. Even you.

I’ve wanted to speed read for many years and previously thought that it was only a matter of reading hundreds of books to naturally “get faster”. While this indeed happens and is an avenue to quickening your reading consumption, there’s an easier, less time consuming method. I want to share 5 of these tips with you, all of which will give you results immediately.

I do not intend to plagiarize here, but desire to simply relay information I have gathered from Peter Kump’s work “Break-Through Rapid Reading”. My observations borrow heavily from his work in the field, in addition to a few of my own. Should you purchase the book? Absolutely! As I said, speed reading is a skill, not a talent, and Kump gives excellent drills to hone in your speed reading skills. For $10, it’s a life-skill worth spending the money to acquire.

Now for the 5 Tips:

  1. Start reading everything with your finger.When first learning to read we are taught to use our finger to guide our eyes. As it turns out, our eyes move so fast and often regress from the text that a finger gives our eyes something to fixate on to concentrate on reading. This is crucial in learning to read. It’s crucial in speed reading too. Go ahead and start reading everything with your finger. You’ll increase you words per minute by 100–200 words. It’s that helpful.
  2. Stop reading the words in your head. Also when we are first learning to read, we are encouraged to read out loud–mostly as proof that we are pronouncing words correctly, and actually reading the assignment. This slows readers down significantly and we all to some degree still “read out loud” in our head. Start practicing not saying each word–or any word–“out loud”. In time, you’ll speed up ~50–100 wpm.
  3. Before you start reading define how you want to read. Not everything can be read quickly–nor should it. And likewise, not everything needs to be read. Before sitting down to read discover the purpose of what you are reading: Is it for an exam? Read more thoroughly. A work memo? Read a less thoroughly. A novel/biography? Read quickly. Scripture and devotional material? Read meditatively. Before this concept it never occurred to me to read different content in different ways, but it makes so much sense, right? Inevitably you will read faster once you refine this skill, but knowing what you need or want to get out of the text helps immensely in speed reading.
  4. Read in your peak productivity hours. Reading right before you fall asleep every night, while convenient for a busy schedule, will invariably lead to slow (or no!) reading. Identify your peak productive time of day and set aside 15–45 minutes to read what you want. For me, this is in the morning after my devotional time and before going to work. Sometimes it’s after dinner. If I read before bed, it’s because I need to fall asleep, but need an escort to the sweet land of slumber.
  5. Start with modest gains, easier reads, then build up from there. My friend wanted to speed read legal documents, immediately. While it’s possible, it’s probably a good idea to start with some easier reads, like novels or biographies. I prefer biographies because usually the plot is someone’s life events and it’s easy to follow along while practicing these new skills. I recommend these books to new speed readers:
    1. Steve Jobs
    2. Les Misarbles
    3. The Chronicles of Narnia
    4. Harry Potter

That’s my handful of tips I suggest to future super-heroes and super-heroines who want to speed read. May they aid you to discover imaginary worlds and a wealth of knowledge!

Do you speed read? If so, share your tips below!

If you don’t speed read, does this seem achievable now?

Achieving, the Killer of Delight

2013-06-24 20.59.30

This past week was killer: jam-packed from the early mornings to some late nights with work, grad school homework, small group, conversations, and prepping for our week-long vacation with my family in South Florida. Today, sitting in the Chicago airport, I cannot believe how we managed this busy schedule and didn’t get sick or back out of many commitments–God’s grace sustained us definitely. One of those graces is delight.

Have you ever taken the Strength Finders assessment? Strength Finders is a great tool to identify your strengths in hopes to help you maximize and operate in those strengths (as opposed to focusing your precious energy on your weaknesses). I have taken the assessment 3 times and each time two strengths have remained constant: learner and achiever. If you know me, you immediately know those are some of my biggest strengths. I completely embrace these strengths and try to maximize them constantly. But there’s an inherent problem with constantly applying my strength of Achiever, namely I never am satisfied; I never stop. And we–I–need to stop, to break, to delight.

The night before I had a 4-page paper due, 100 pages left to read for that paper, and needed to finalize some testing and code-writing for a work project with a deadline all this week, I hit my tipping point: either fry my brain and get this all done, or break away and take care of my soul.

There was an intense battle between achieving and delighting within me for15 minutes, which felt like 15 hours of feverish sleep. Then I realized: my drive to achieve and get my checklist done is killing my need to stop, to take joy in the journey, to nurture my soul, to delight myself in God in order to remain connected to his work remaining for the rest of the week.

I did the unthinkable. I put everything away. I turned everything off. I chose to delight myself in where I find God. I refreshed my heart, mind, and body rather than complete my tasks.

It was the best decision I made.

I laced up my Asics and went for a run, unplugged and I saw the most beautiful sunset I’ve seen all summer.

I read a new book I just received from the library on my hero, C.S. Lewis.

I sat on our balcony and watched the clouds cover the massive skies with their majestic forms while sipping iced tea.

I listened to my favorite album ever: Illuminate.

Why didn’t I understand this before? I asked myself. Achieving was killing my delight in the journey. Achieving was threatening my identity in Christ.

I encourage you to take a break from achieving and spend that time to delight in God. Take joy in your journey. There’s no better use of your time! Share some of the things where you are able to delight in God below, and share some tips that you find helpful in maintaining a balance between doing and being.

#TwentyFive #Gonna Thrive – 2 Month Status Update

(Author’s Note: I started this blog on Friday, June 21; however, I was interrupted by the biggest thunderstorm I have seen in the Midwest. Flash floods and winds up to 70 mph. Needless to say, I sought safe cover immediately. When I was able to resume, we lost power for 8 hrs. The dates therefore, are a few days off)

If you follow me on Twitter you are aware that starting the day I turned 25 I have tweeted about various activities with the hashtags #TwentyFive #GonnaThrive. These tweets are related to a larger objective to live intentionally this year and pursue life goals, establish desirable habits, an increase overall wellbeing. This started 2 months ago today, and I thought it would be great to provide an update about this and share with you the 5 movements of my #TwentyFive #GonnaThrive campaign.

The Start of #TwentyFive #GonnaThrive

The Start of #TwentyFive #GonnaThrive

The First Movement: Digital

My first goal was to digitize my life. I’ve written about my unsuccessful attempt to read the Bible digitally here, but that is just one area. I have moved to taking all notes (sermon, Sunday school, small group, and meeting) on my phone or tablet, I journal completely in Evernote (writing on that soon), and am trying to read books electronically (when I catch up on my queue, they will be electronic). The primary motivation factor in the digital trend was to archive in a meaningful and accessible way all of my journaling, notes, thoughts, meetings, and ideas. It’s going really well, and I wouldn’t go back…unless the power goes out indefinitely…

The Second Movement: Sleep & Morning Routine

My second goal was to increase the quality of my sleep while still being able to start my day 30–45 minutes before I had to. This goal is most definitely the hardest to balance with life, work, and grad school; I seem to either wake up early enough or sleep well enough. Never both in the same 10-hour window. (Ideally, I’d like to sleep 7 hours, from 10:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.). As an analyst I love data, and consequently purchased the Sleep Cycle App to help me measure the length, quality, and progress of my sleep. It works quite well! But still a lot of improvement to be enjoyed on this goal.

The Third Movement: Reading

My third goal is to read more books outside of grad school. I can speed read (about 600+ words per minute) so I can fly through content pretty fast; I need only to make the time for reading. My goal is 30 minutes a day (which is 18,000 words/day, or 72 pages(average)/day, or two, 200-page books/week). This is achievable, however I find that I am not able to carve out 30 minutes a day consistently. (On average I read 150–200 pgs/week).

The Fourth Movement: Health

My fourth goal is to “workout” more. Very SMART I know. The hope is to do pushups/crunches every morning, lift weights twice a week, and run at least twice a week. Again, achievable, but I simply have not cut out enough time to do this. I may need to alternate this goal with my reading goal and find a good balance here.

The Fifth Movement: Writing

The renewed interested in maintaing this blog is evidence of my fifth goal, to write. Of course I am not able to write as often as I would prefer, but I find my writing creativity coming more consistently than in months past. And I have enjoyed writing, which is the most significant difference this time.

That’s a quick look at my 2-month #TwentyFive #GonnaThrive goals. I’ll be sure to mark my progress and update you in another 2-months. But now I ask you, Do you regularly set goals for your self-improvement? What goals are you most inclined to set? What goals are you most likely to fail in achieving?

Would love to hear from you!