Archive for October, 2019

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. –John Quincy Adams

What else is the leader response-able for?  Consider the following:

  • The leader must be concerned about the institutional value system. The value system is the tap root that feeds, nurtures and sustains the principles and standards that guide and support the practices of each person, team, department, division, Board, and institution.
  • The leader must be clear about which values are ‘core values’ – those 2-4 values that to the best of the ability of each person, team, etc. will never be compromised. This means that these core values must also be clearly understood and embraced by all.  The core values shape our individual and collective behavior.
  • The leader ensures that all know what the value system is rooted in, how the values are expressed (lived into and out of), how they are audited, and how they are determined to be ‘core’ in the first place. These are not easy charges to hold.
  • The leader is also response-able to ensure that future leaders will be developed. The risk in developing future leaders is that some of them will leave the institution.  Leaders who are rooted in an abundance mentality will not be threatened by this but will embrace it.
  • The leader is response-able to ensure that the institution is open to being influenced and is open to shifting, changing, transforming and evolving. The leader supports a balance between ‘maintaining’ and ‘experimenting’.
  • The leader seeks to understand the Culture and, perhaps more importantly, the Sub-Cultures that form two of the major tap roots that both nurture and deplete the health of the institution and its members.
  • The leader knows that the development of each person, team, department, division and board is crucial for the leader knows that ‘what we can become is rooted in who we are and who we are choosing to become.’ The leader knows that ‘all’ are in a constant process of ‘becoming.’
  • The leader owes ‘all’ a commitment to his/her own development.
  • The leader is committed to a number of ‘ways of being’ – here are a few of them: Being Rational, Being Authentic, Being Vulnerable, Being Present, Being Faithful, Being Useful – there are others but these will suffice for now.
  • The leader ensures that the ‘Environment’ and the ‘Climate’ support the health of ‘all.’ The ingredients of what helps ‘all’ be healthy vary.  It is crucial, however, for the leader to ensure that ‘all’ understand the ingredients that nurture and deplete the physical, intellectual, emotional, relational and spirit(ual) health of the person and the institution and to enhance what nurtures and minimize what depletes.
  • The leader ensures that ‘all’ develop or develop more fully ‘critical thinking skills/capacities’.
  • The leader ensures a commitment to high achievement and to working with distinction – ‘being mediocre’ is not an acceptable ‘way of being’ for anyone.

In closing this morning, I leave us with a guiding question: ‘What is it, without which our institution would not be able to live into its potential?’ 

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. –Theodore M. Hesburgh


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The last responsibility a leader has is to say ‘Thank You.’ –Max De Pree

Last Friday my friend, Steve, and I immersed ourselves in a long searching conversation.  Our focus was: Nonprofit Leaders.  Steve has spent most of his adult life in the service of nonprofit organizations.  He has been the ‘designated leader’ in several and he has served – and continues to serve – on nonprofit Boards.  He is a visionary and an influencer.  He is also deeply respected by those he has served.

Here is my understanding of the question Steve is holding: ‘How can I help nonprofit, designated leaders, develop their leader-capacities AND what do they need to develop or develop more fully?’  Steve is also clear, he does not want the responses to simply come from ‘books.’

During these past 49+ years I have had the privilege – and opportunity – to serve, be mentored by and experience a variety of nonprofit leaders in five countries.  I have also had the privilege – and opportunity – to serve, be mentored by and experience a variety of for-profit leaders in five countries.  The leaders I came to admire and the leaders that were consistently the most ‘successful’ were more alike than not [because the ‘world’ of the nonprofit and the ‘world’ of the for-profit organizations are different there are also significant differences when it comes to what is required of the leader].  My focus will be on the similarities.

Here is my list:

  • The leader is ‘steward’ and ‘servant’. As a steward, the leader ‘holds in trust’ the organization – the purpose, the vision, the mission and the stakeholders.  As a servant, the leader seeks to serve the highest priority needs of the organization (the challenge is to discern and name the needs that are then deemed to be high priority).
  • The leader commits to being unconditionally response-able, responsible, accountable and, when necessary, to being appropriately reactive. These ‘disciplines’ require intentional preparation.  One of the leaders that influenced me used to tell folks: ‘During a crisis, don’t just do something, sit there!’   This leads me to the next discipline-skill-capacity.  [By the by, fire-fighters taught me the importance of preparing to both ‘respond & react.’  I have written about this in previous postings].
  • The leader seeks to ‘listen-first’ in order to understand. The designated leader of a nonprofit in the Netherlands taught me that we think differently when we are thinking in order to ‘understand’ than when we are focused on ‘taking action.’  The first allows our thinking to expand – we think more broadly and deeply – and the second forces us to focus our thinking – we think more narrowly, search more narrowly and are less open to more possibilities.
  • The leader is clear as to a desired outcome. There are many outcomes that the leader must pay attention to.  Here is just one: Which of the following outcomes is the leader seeking of the led: To comply, to adapt, to buy-in or to emotionally own?  Which of the following help the leader achieve the stated outcome: To coerce, to manipulate, to persuade, to influence.  It is crucial for the leader to know when and why he/she chooses one of these interventions.
  • The leader consciously embraces a number of ‘tensions.’ Here are a few of the ‘common tensions’ a leader is challenged to hold: Individual-Community, Mercy-Justice, Short Term-Long Term, Being Faithful-Being Effective, Maintaining-Experimenting, Past-Present-Future.
  • The leader is committed to ‘high achievement’ rather than to ‘competition’ [In 1990, the ‘Dean’ of Disney University taught me that this was Walt Disney’s commitment – and Walt, as we know, was fairly successful].
  • The leader is clear as to when he/she is called to be a manager and when he/she is called to be a leader AND the leader has developed his/her capacity to engage both [too often a leader will use the word ‘leader’ when he/she is actually describing a ‘manager’ – simply stated: the ‘manager’ is charged with focusing on the ‘Mission’ and the ‘leader’ is charged with focusing on the ‘Vision’].

Leadership is a serious meddling in peoples’ lives. –Max De Pree

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Good morning Gentle Reader.  I have been re-reading and re-savoring Victor Hugo’s monumental work, ‘Les Misérables.’ The best translation was done by Isabel F. Hapgood in 1887 in case you want to explore his masterpiece.  I have the unabridged version – 1400 plus pages.

This morning I have decided to offer you a number of quotations from Victor’s book.  If one or more of these resonate with you I invite you to spend some time reflecting upon the passage(s).  Each of the following emerge early in the novel.


There are many mouths that talk and very few heads that think.

 True or False, that which is said of man often occupied as important a place in their lives, and above all in their destinies, as that which they do.

 [The Bishop] talked rather than preached.

 ‘Place your hopes in the man from whom you do not inherit’ – Bishop to one seeking an inheritance

 He was tolerably eloquent [said of the youthful Vicar]

 ‘Examine the road over which the fault has passed’ [Counsel of the Bishop]

 ‘Man has upon him his flesh, which is at once his burden and his temptation. He drags it with him and yields to it.  He must watch it, check it, repress it, and obey it only at the last extremity. There may be some fault even in this obedience, but the fault thus committed is venial; it is a fall, but a fall on the knees that may terminate in prayer. To be a saint is an exception; to be an upright man is the rule.  Err, fall, sin if you will, but be upright.’ [Bishop in a sermon]

 ‘The faults of women, of children, of the feeble, the indigent, and the ignorant, are the fault of the husbands, the fathers, the masters, the strong, the rich and the wise.’ 

 Teach those who are ignorant as many things as possible; society is culpable, in that it does not afford instruction gratis; it is responsible for the night which it produces.  This soul is full of shadow; sin is therein committed.  The guilty one is not the person who has committed the sin, but the person who has created the shadow.

Oh you who are!  Ecclesiastes call you the All-powerful; the Maccabees call you the Creator; the Epistle to the Ephesians calls you liberty; Baruch calls you Immensity; the Psalms call you Wisdom and Truth; John calls you Light; the Books of Kings calls you Lord; Exodus calls you Providence; Leviticus, Sanctity; Esdras, Justice; the creation calls you God; man calls you Father; but Solomon calls you Compassion, and that is the most beautiful of all your names

 ‘If I have money I go to the poor; if I have no money I go to the rich.’ [The Bishop]

 ‘I am not in the world to guard my own life, but to guard souls.’ [The Bishop]

 ‘Let us never fear robbers or murderers.  Those are dangers from without, petty dangers.  Let us fear ourselves.  Prejudices are the real robbers; vices are the real murderers.  The great dangers lie within ourselves.  What matters is what threatens our heads or our purse!  Let us think only of that which threatens our soul.’ [The Bishop to the fear-full]



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Gentle Reader, you might remember that like Lincoln, I am a conservative-progressive.  Like Lincoln I seek to ‘conserve’ the best of our Nation and like Lincoln I seek to embrace progress and help our Nation develop into a Nation that is more equal, fair, just, caring, compassionate, and civil.  Like Lincoln, I believe that ALL people are created equal, that each person is a human being.

On 16 October, 1854 Lincoln delivered what many consider to be his most powerful speech.  Both Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address’ and his ‘Second Inaugural Address’ remain his top addresses.  This morning I have decided to quote at length from his speech (the transcription takes up 36 single-spaced pages).

Lincoln Speaks: By the constitution, each State has two Senators—each has a number of Representatives. But in ascertaining the number of the people, for this purpose, five slave; in proportion to the number of its people—and each has a number of presidential electors, equal to the whole number of its Senators and Representatives together. But in ascertaining the number of people, for this purpose, five slaves are counted as being equal to three whites.  The slaves do not vote; they are only counted and so used as to swell the influence of the white people’s votes.

The practical effect of this is more aptly shown by a comparison of the States of South Carolina and Maine. South Carolina has six representatives, and so has Maine; South Carolina has eight presidential electors, and so has Maine. This is precise equality so far; and, of course they are equal in Senators, each having two.

Thus in the control of the government, the two States are equals precisely.  But how are they in the number of their white people?  Maine has 581,813 – while South Carolina has 274, 567.  Maine has twice as many as South Carolina, and 32,679 over. Thus each white man in South Carolina is more than the double of any man in Maine. This is all because South Carolina, besides her free people, has 384,984 slaves. The South Carolinian has precisely the same advantage over the white man in every other free State, as well as in Maine. He is more than the double of any one of us in this crowd.

 The same advantage, but not to the same extent, is held by all the citizens of the slave States, over those of the free; and it is an absolute truth, without an exception, that there is no voter in any slave State, but who has more legal power in the government, than any voter in any free State. There is no instance of exact equality; and the disadvantage is against us the whole chapter through. This principle, in the aggregate, gives the slave States, in the present Congress, twenty additional representatives.

Now all of this is manifestly unfair; yet I do not mention it to complain of it, in so far as it is already settled.  It is in the constitution; and I do not, for that cause, or any other cause, propose to destroy, or alter, or disregard the constitution.  I stand to it, fairly, fully, and firmly.

Sadly, for me and others, today (2019) there continues to be something else that is not only ‘manifestly unfair’ it is ‘manifestly immoral.’  There are a significant number of States that again ‘count’ all of their citizens and yet openly strive to hinder or directly block these same citizens from exercising their right to vote (this ‘right’ is also, in a democracy, an ‘obligation’).  Who are these citizens who are hindered or blocked from exercising their ‘right-obligation’?  They are first and foremost non-whites.  Secondly they are the elderly (whether White or non-White).  Thirdly they are College/University students who are living and studying in these States but are not ‘permanent residents’ (other States make provision for these students in order to ensure that they can exercise their ‘right-obligation’).

Lincoln Speaks…Are ‘WE’ paying attention?

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Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. –Emerson

In his autobiography, Nikos Kazantzakis, author of The Last Temptation of Christ, described an incident in which he came upon a cocoon nestled in a tree.  The butterfly was making a small hole as it was attempting to emerge.  Now Nikos was not known for his patience; in fact, he had a reputation for being impatient to the tenth degree.  So Nikos, the impatient, gave into his own temptation and decided to help out.

He bent over the cocoon and warmed it with his breath, by which he succeeded in speeding up the process.  It was as if the breath of the Holy Spirit had helped breathe life into the butterfly.  Like the breath of the Holy Spirit, our breath produces unintended consequences.  The butterfly did emerge, alive.  However, its wings were hopelessly crumpled and stuck to its own body – it had needed the sun’s patient warmth not Nikos’ impatient hot breath to love it into life.  Moments later, after a desperate struggle, the butterfly died as Nikos held it in the palm of his hand.

‘The little body,’ he wrote toward the end of his life, ‘is the greatest weight I have on my conscience.’ 

Each of us does great self-violence by not being patient with our own development, which by design and necessity needs time, care, love and compassion.  When we ‘rush’ into life we communicate to our own souls that we don’t have faith in them and in their direct connection with the breath of life that sustains them and that nurtures us into life.  We want to be in control and so we give in to our own temptation and adopt impatience as our middle name as we try to ‘make’ our life happen.

We forget, or deny or don’t remember that ‘Life’ requires our ‘being’ more than our ‘doing.’

We suffer from a cultural dis-ease: waiting means doing nothing.  We don’t trust the process; it is, in many ways, counter-cultural for us to trust the process.  We misunderstand examples that the universe provides us.  For example, we don’t discern that Newton’s apple experience only bore fruit (yes, I did just type those words) only after years of development; we don’t understand that Samuel Coleridge’s epic poem Kubla Khan, which is said to have popped into his head in complete form, had been slowly nurtured into life during many years of preparation (he was, in fact, preparing himself without knowing what he was preparing for).

In our own haste, we miss the reality that great insights generally emerge after long periods of observation, meditation, experimentation, frustration and re-starts.  In our culture we love the answers and we suffer, perhaps even tolerate, the questions.  We do not love the questions into life.  We see challenges as ‘problems to be solved’ rather than as paradoxes to be embraced or dilemmas to be engaged (we seem to dislike, or is it ‘hate,’ paradoxes and dilemmas).  We worship the diamond and forget the coal and the time and pressure it took for the coal to transform (remember, ‘transformation’ = a fundamental change in character or structure).  Given all of this, it makes sense why individuals, relationships, teams and organizations seek first to shift or change and shun the process that would help them transform.

What is the butterfly within you that needs to be slowly and patiently nurtured into life? 

 Here is a photo of Nikos Kazantzakis; I love this photo – it speaks to me of warmth, care, love and, in older age, perhaps patience.

Nikos Kazantzakis



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…the dark night of the soul is where we learn who we are, without people telling us. –Adèle Green

We are imperfect beings.  We cannot absolutely avoid ‘The Forest of Darkness.’  Yes, some spend less time there than others.  Some only step into the darkness and then flee – each of us has developed our favorite ways of fleeing the darkness.  For some it is fleeing to ‘noise’ – inner and outer.  For others it is fleeing to ‘busyness’ or to the dis-ease called ‘hurry sickness’ [Thanks Milan Kundera].  Some flee to their favorite ‘addiction.’  And some take a journey along the river of de-Nile.

It is crucial to remember – or strive to remember – that our darkness is a gift.  Our darkness is also a manifestation of our potential – to go deeper still.  Our darkness can be the garden where we nurture our compassion, empathy, caring and love – first for ourselves and then for others.  ‘Self-love’ is a crucial discipline – how many of us seek to ‘love another’ and yet withhold our love from ourselves?  ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ also applies to ourselves.

As ‘thinking’ beings we can – and too often do – think intellectually about ‘The Forest of Darkness’ and yet distance ourselves from it emotionally and spiritually.  We live in a Culture of short attention-span.  We want to quickly move on to the next experience.  ‘The Forest of Darkness’ invites us to enter and stay for some time.  I think this is one reason that we become lost in the darkness.  Paradoxically, the darkness is a ‘trial’ and a ‘gift’.  We are called to embrace both.

Like a good mentor, ‘my’ darkness calls me forth, pushes me, pulls me, nudges me, urges me, guides me and leads me to a path of inner light, growth and healing.  Unlike the darkness that prepares us for sleep, this darkness calls us to ‘Wake UP!’  If we sit quietly in our darkness we will begin to hear the soft voice of our inner guide presenting us with some disturbing questions.

Here are a few of mine:

  • How do the patterns of your behavior influence – if not determine – your life?
  • What are the deepest longings of your soul?
  • What are your favorite ways of depleting yourself? What is so enjoyable about them?
  • How do I really ‘do unto others’?

I have found that these, and other questions, enable me to become more aware of my blessings, strengths, potential and growing edges.  They also confuse me, confound me, disturb me and challenge me.  They can reveal my insecurities AND  they can be a gift that enables me to embrace them.

I have learned, via experience, a number of things as a result of my visits to ‘The Forest of Darkness’.  Paradoxically, with each visit I have to re-learn them.  Here are two of them:

  • Darkness can be a gift and an opportunity for healing, understanding, and renewal.
  • Even though the darkness is whelming me over there will always emerge little pieces of light to guide me AND I must look for them when I am emerged in the darkest part of my forest – they are always there, waiting patiently for me to ‘see’ them.

Be not afraid. –God

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Too many of us panic in the dark.  We don’t understand that the idea is to surrender to it and journey through to real light. –Sue Monk Kidd

For some, they can journey along for a long time and then in less than the blink of one eye they can step into the ‘Forest of Darkness.’  For others – I am one of these ‘others’ – their journey’s path borders the ‘Forest of Darkness’.  These folks are always aware of its presence and they know that a step or two will put them in this forest. This one step will not just put them into the forest but will put them deep into the forest.

Sometimes the ‘Forest of Darkness’ is not a forest but is a ‘wasteland’.  The following image brings to life the wasteland that I have often wandered in (now there is a bit of irony, or is it paradox).


When I am in this ‘wasteland’ I am not only feeling lost, I am feeling terrified.  I have a spiritual/psychological ‘thirst’ that cannot be quenched – I am dying of thirst.  I am disconnected from myself and from God.  I cry out from the depths of my abandonment: ‘Why have I been forsaken?’

When I am in this ‘wasteland’ I do not know which way to turn – there seems to be no path to follow; I just wander around – no direction.  I add to my own thirst by ruminating about all of my failures and my flaws.  The darkness has been replaced with the wasteland of depletion and self-violence.

If I am not care-full I can easily be swallowed by the siblings I call ‘Discouragement,’ ‘Depression’ & Desolation’.  I also become more aware of the collective evil that covers the earth like a heavy black shroud – the evil that is consuming and destroying us.

When I choose to feel empathy and compassion for others – when I experience their pain as my pain and root this experience in empathy and compassion I begin to feel and experience that in reaching out to others that the springs of life, hope and love begin to quench my thirst.  I begin to see a light in the distance and know that if I walk toward the light that I will emerge out of my ‘wasteland.’  I also know that even if I cannot ‘see’ them that others are walking with me and this gives me hope – hope for all of us.

As I journey towards the light – I am no longer simply wandering aimlessly – I also begin to notice that the ‘wasteland’ contains life.  It always has, I was blinded by my own darkness and could not discern the life that exists there.

As imperfect human beings there is no way that we can avoid our inner darkness – whether it be the ‘Forest of Darkness’ and/or the ‘wasteland.’

Rather than becoming fear-full of the darkness we can…

…fear of the dark is not limited to childhood – it just changes direction. –Joyce Rupp







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