Unhindered Leadership

October 23, 2014 — Leave a comment


That’s the last word in the book of Acts, Luke’s account of the Holy Spirit’s leadership in spreading the gospel from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, to the remotest parts of the earth. Acts 28:30-31 records: And [Paul] stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.

I’ve been meditating on these two verses for the past month. Can you imagine Paul, one of history’s greatest pioneers, locked down under house arrest in his final days of ministry, chained to a Roman guard (and paying for the privilege), welcoming anyone who comes to visit with his arms and heart open wide? I would be tempted to find those circumstances bleak. But God uses the terms “open” and “unhindered.”

Lesson: Your leadership doesn’t have to be hindered by circumstances or other people’s actions that are beyond your control.

In my own leadership journey I’ve often been hindered, and observed other leaders getting stuck, by some of the following:

  • a poor attitude
  • constant cynicism, criticalness, selfishness, self-pity
  • inability to forgive and release people from past mistakes
  • getting continually (and willingly) sucked into other people’s smaller problems that I cannot solve
  • shifting blame for missed deadlines or underperformance rather than accepting personal responsibility
  • “every day is a crisis” mindset
  • inability to have brief, crucial conversations with colleagues in real time as conflicts arise

By faith, I seek to live freely. Open. Unhindered.

How have you experienced hindered or unhindered leadership?

What are the top global trends that will influence your life, work, or ministry for the next several years?

Recently a colleague asked me that question. As I reflect on my continuous diet of news, research, and reading, here are my top 8 Global Game-changers:

  1. Cloud computing
  2. Biotech
  3. Globally connected economies and markets
  4. Wealth gap/income disparity
  5. Mobile device as primary personal all-in-one communication/info tool
  6. Shift from hierarchy -> networking model in every institutional form (governments, education, non-profits, Forbes 500 corporations)
  7. Terrorism and extremism’s violence as a norm
  8. Spiritual revival and awakening as people turn to God for answers to 1-7 above

What’s on your list?

Confession: I love working from a clean desk.

My creativity blossoms when I see a clean whiteboard or a fresh page in my journal. At least to start something. But once the ideas get flowing and people and projects come together I have learned, over many years in leading, that mess is best.

Over the past year I have been working with a team of creatives. These folks thrive amid messy desks, crazy decor, strange art, police tape, hi viz colors, unfinished meals, and the constant buzz of collaboration. Our little area in the corporate HQ doesn’t quite fit into the normal culture. A discarded oversized whiteboard maps out the next iteration of a mobile app. No Thomas Kinkade paintings here.

It’s one of the messiest places I’ve ever worked. It’s also one of the most productive. We’ve nicknamed our little corner The Oxpen.

Howard's snake and gator head.

Howard’s rattlesnake and gator head

Oxpen 1

The Oxpen

Proverbs 14:4 says: “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come from the strength of the ox.”

Translation: You can choose clean and orderly, or you can choose messy and productive. You can’t have it both ways as a leader.

Movements of God are messy. People are messy. Leadership is messy. Leaders embrace the mess. As we lead in a 21st century world of rapid iteration, agile product development, and 7 second social media attention spans, we’ve got to create environments where the oxen can make a mess. The farmer’s goal isn’t a clean manger; it’s a well-tended highly productive field. Unless you’re running a hospital or a silicon chip factory, your goal as a leader is not a well-ordered workplace. Your goal is fruitfulness.

Don’t be afraid to step in the fertilizer and embrace the mess of the oxpen.

Is your leadership messy enough?