Imagine this…it’s 5:30am, Mountain Standard Time, and I’m up early because of the time change (It’s 7:30am EST at home). I’m staying in an adorable Airbnb in the footballs of the Rocky Mountains – and I have a room with a view – overlooking a lake with the mountains in the distance. The “super snow moon” is shining so brightly I thought the sun was rising. I sit down to compose my blog (trying to accomplish this before I leave for a conference at 7am) and review some online critiques. It doesn’t take long for my head to start spinning. The texts this week (The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind and Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, by Noll) are heavily based in Theology. Don’t get me wrong, I love to learn about Theology, discuss Theology (with a good debate) and I understand the value of Theology. But it doesn’t come as easily to me to write from a Theology construct because it is outside of my expertise. There is one significant theme that did pique my interest – the insinuation that evangelicalism is not academically grounded with research (which happens to be one of evangelicalism’s greatest weaknesses according to the author).
Now it’s 1:50pm, MST, and I’m finally getting a few minutes to turn my reflection back to these texts for the week after attending my morning conference sessions. I’ve traveled to Colorado to conduct field research at the National Character and Leadership Symposium at The United States Air Force Academy. In full disclosure, Jake and Jenn have joined Ron and me for this incredible event. To put it lightly, the morning has been phenomenal. I am inspired!
In deciding to conduct field research here, I was excited by the advertised theme of “Leadership, Teamwork, and Organizational Management.” Of course this theme is pertinent to growing my personal leadership skills…but it would also challenge me to utilize organizational leadership skills in my collaborative relationships with the Somali refugee stakeholders in Columbus, Ohio. According to the conference materials “This year’s NCLS speakers’ stories will focus on the value, successes, and challenges of leadership at the personal (leading oneself), interpersonal (leading one or more people), team (leading a group towards a common goal), and/or organizational (leading an organization embedded within a larger institutional environment) levels.” Speakers include scholars, military leaders, corporate executives and world-class athletes. Some of the phenomenal speakers presenting include Dr. Brené Brown, Catharyn Baird, Leon Panetta, et.al. You are probably wondering how all this background connects to this week’s blog. Well, here goes – one of the first speakers of the day, (and it’s now 6:45am Friday) Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright (and known by his Airman as Jesus of the Airforce because he’s amazing), presented an inspiring message on leadership – to sum it up he states “ATTITUDE REFLECTS LEADERSHIP” – “Your people’s attitude is a direct reflection of your leadership.” He went on to share several compelling requirements for leading – and I found them accurate, insightful, and pragmatic. They include:
- Character – your personal ethos and values matter. Live with integrity and the heart to serve. Live honorably.
- Attitude – leadership requires a positive attitude – keep your people focused (because if there is a negative attitude, focus is non-existent)
- Discipline – create good habits, live a disciplined life every day – never expect anyone under you to live a disciplined life if you aren’t doing so yourself.
- Excellence – ask yourself how you can be great today. Excellence is not a single act, it’s what we do continually (love this)
- Teamwork – be part of something bigger than yourself – If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together African Proverb
- Speak truth to power
- Emotional Intelligence is essential – recognize your own personal “stuff”, recognize other’s “stuff”, recognize/acknowledge social challenges
- Credibility (I’m finally to the sweet point connecting to Noll’s books) –
- Deliver results
- Be transparent
- Make tough calls
- Be consistent
- Lead by example
- Work/life harmony – learn to say no, learn to unplug, focus on progress not perfection, exercise and meditate, be present, make time for fun
- Social media – be in, or be out (use it wisely, but if you use it do it for good)
- Put your mask on first – just like during an airplane emergency, you can’t help other’s if you don’t get oxygen for yourself first.
As an Evangelical Christian, I believe part of my (and all Christians) calling is to leadership. Of all the critical leadership traits identified by Wright above, Noll is specifically targeting the lack of credibility by evangelicals. So does his insinuation have merit? If so, in what way? I personally am always looking for data, research, and expert writings inspired by research. While I know and understand that faith is exactly the opposite – trusting the unknown and believing without proof – Christians have earned a reputation for hypocrisy. So perhaps the truth is that evangelicals do owe the world increased credibility. If our lived faith isn’t enough (because let’s be honest we aren’t always “performing” as we should) evangelicals need to find ways to produce evidence and research where we feasibly can. Look at Brené Brown’s (as you know she’s someone I highly respect) rise to “fame” (which she abhors). She has one of the most watched TED Talks, five best sellers, and is at the table with the top CEO’s at corporations all around the world…all because she invested time and energy into doing research into human behavior. LGP8 – WE are part of this solution. Next year we will provide the world with 15 more research informed dissertations. Oh, and did I mention I met Brené yesterday?