Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From Brokenness to Openness

What do you do when you reach the end of your rope? Who do you turn to when your family and friends turn their backs on you when you are down to your last few dollars in finances? What happens when you feel like not even God hears your prayers? What do you say when you feel like you are in a place of hopelessness and brokenness and feel the darkness creeping in on you from every direction?

I don’t know about you but a situation like this has happened to me more than once in my lifetime. I think we both agree that this is not a desirable position in which to find ourselves. However, all is not lost. When I am in a situation like this I remind myself of the words of an iconic United States Marine named Chesty Puller. The timeframe was during the Korean War. Chesty (whom I believe was a general at that time) and his men were surrounded on all sides by the enemy and the situation was desperate.

When informed of the situation and asked what he was going to do, Chesty made the following comment: "So they've got us surrounded, good! Now we can fire in any direction, those b*****ds won't get away this time!" Chesty and his men fought their way out of that situation, and I suggest that it will take a fight for you to get out of your situation. I am sure that Chesty and his men developed tactics and a strategy in order to fight their way out.

As Christians we know that if we are doing God’s will then the battle does not belong to us, but to the Lord. However we still have to be present in order to learn from the circumstance or situation. We cannot merely wish that the Lord fight our battle. We have to be there to develop a strategy and put some skin in the game. I don’t know if you know it but we live in a participative universe. God won’t help us unless we help ourselves.

If you are looking for tactics or a strategy in order to turn your adversity into an advantage. Then I suggest you come to my “Straight Talk about Success and Spiritual Growth” public seminar on May 15, in Houston, Texas. In this seminar, we will discuss how to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way to having success in every facet of our lives. We will provide you a strategy that will turn your brokenness into freedom and openness through a better relationship with God

We will also provide a CD set via the Internet which will discuss in greater detail the information provided in this seminar. For more information about the seminar and how to register, you may go to the following website: www.asapresents.com/Seminars.html.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Roving Leadership

Last week, while driving during rush hour on a congested Houston freeway one of the young men whom I mentor made the following comment: “Mr. Al, it would be easier and quicker to get to my house if you turn left up ahead instead of going straight.” After I thought about what he said, I came to the realization that his directions would save me at least 10 to 15 minutes of driving time. I asked him why he did not tell me this information any of the previous times that I took him home. He replied that he was not sure how I would take the fact that he was giving me directions. I told him: “Son, with the price of gas nowadays, any time that you save me driving would be truly appreciated.”

I thanked him for the information because it was truly beneficial for both of us. The benefit being that I saved gas and he got home quicker. I was happy that, after two mentoring sessions, he felt comfortable enough to speak up when he thought it was necessary. I wonder how many people do not speak up in businesses or other organizations because they feel that they would hurt the leader’s ego/feelings. We all know or have heard of certain people who will sit by and watch an organization deteriorate rather than provide a beneficial suggestion that they know will work and benefit everyone. I am not a psychologist and therefore unable to tell you why these individuals act the way they do. However, I do know that if situations like these are not changed then the organization will die a slow and painful death.

In his book titled “Servant Leadership”, Robert Greenleaf discusses a concept called “Roving Leadership”. By using this concept the leader/person in charge recognizes that he/she may not know all there is to know about the job or task at hand. Therefore he/she creates an environment where team members feel empowered to speak-up and use their expertise to help solve their mutual problem. The beauty of this “Roving Leadership” concept is that anyone can use it in their office, home or personal relationships because it fosters an environment of cooperation and teamwork. This type of environment allows everyone to contribute mutually to the success of everyone else and the team as a whole.

In one way or another we are all leaders. Being a leader does not necessarily mean that we are the head of an organization, business or military unit. Many times we find ourselves becoming “leaders by default”. We can be a single parent raising a family alone or the De facto leader of a social organization. A leader is simply someone who leads and/or has influence over another/others. My point is that we can all improve our business, home or relationships by not feeling threatened when others “step up” to solve a mutual problem. Are you willing to give it a try?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

For Whom The Bell Tolls!

The recent civil wars in the Mideast as well as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan have affected not only their immediate geographies but the entire world. These events have caused me to think just how interconnected we are, not just electronically but also financially and emotionally. For instance, the Civil War in Libya has cost many lives as well as purportedly affected the cost of oil here in the United States. The earthquake in Japan caused a tsunami that not only caused the loss of a large number of lives in Japan but also physically and economically affected many countries around the Pacific Rim including the United States.

There are many Americans and people of other nationalities around the world attempting to communicate with the Mideast and Japan to find out the status of their loved ones that were vacationing, visiting on business or otherwise living in those places. There are many Americans of Japanese and Mideastern descent living here in the United States who are concerned about their loved ones back home. Yes, there are many ethnicities and nationalities affected by these events. However, if you take a step back and look at this a little more globally you will see that overall it is the human race that is affected.

These events and thoughts bring to mind the words of John Donne and Meditation 17 from “Devotions upon Emergent Occasions”. They read: "No man is an island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the Sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a Promontory were, as well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee...."

It does not take a catastrophic event to have a worldwide effect because like it or not we are involved in mankind. Something as simple as how we treat our friends, family, coworkers and the strangers around us can leave an indelible impression that may lead them to do great things that not only affect their communities but may have a beneficial effect upon the entire world. Conversely, how we are treated by our friends, family, coworkers and strangers around us can leave an indelible mark on us that may change the course of our entire day as well as our lives. It is never too late to be nice to someone.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Servant Leadership

About one week ago I was talking with my friend Jesse (who is a West Point graduate and now semi-retired after a very successful business career). We spoke about the lack of effective leadership in this country, more specifically about the lack of true servant leaders. A servant leader is one who helps the members of his/her team to reach their full potential and therefore perform at their best for the organization. This concept of servant leadership was developed by Robert K. Greenleaf in his book titled “Servant Leadership”.

A servant leader is not a “me first” leader. Let me see if I can illustrate this point. As a Naval Aviator in the United States Marine Corps I always made sure that the people who reported directly to me ate before I did. My rationale was that these were the people that worked on the aircraft that I flew and as much as possible I wanted them to have the best of everything including the best cuts and pieces of meat. Many times my men wanted me to go to the head of the line but I always refused and followed them through the line and then I ate what was left.

My payback was the fact that many times when I was scheduled for a flight I would notice that “my guys” would spend extra time pre-flighting the aircraft and making sure that every system was operating to the best of its ability. This not only helped keep me safe but also affected the operational readiness of my squadron, which increased the operational readiness of the entire Marine Corps.

You see I learned early in my military career that if I worked hard for my men then my men would work hard for me. Additionally when we were deployed I would spend time with my men to determine how their family members were doing back home. When necessary I would point them towards proper resources in order to resolve concerns and issues.

My point is that we need more servant leaders in our businesses, organizations and homes. A servant leader is made and not born. I do not believe that this theory of leadership is taught enough in our organizations and schools. I do however believe that the reason it is not taught more often is that not enough people know about it or have experienced its benefits. We can build strong organizations and countries by putting the needs of others before your own. Just take a look at what a man named Jesus Christ accomplished using this model of leadership.