Thursday, March 20, 2014

What do innovation and dreams have in common?

Photo used with permission

Have you ever had a dream that was so vivid it seemed as though it was reality? You know, the one where you wake up and think you can fly, or look good in a mullet?

There is a great fascination with humanity as it pertains to dreams. How many of us have been asked or even asked others what dreams they might have for their lives? Sometimes our dreams may include a preferred relationship, job opportunity, home, car, vacation or other things. At other times, the dreams that we have are more focused on seeing the Kingdom of God become a reality.

When I read the story of Joseph, I'm consistently reminder of the power that dreams can have in a person's life. But there is a distinct difference between dreaming and innovating that we as leaders need to be aware of.

1. Dreams aren't for everyone. In a conversation with a great friend of mine, Travis Wilkins, I was reminded that dreams aren't for everyone. Joseph was given an incredible dream by God...and he was excited. And when we as humans get excited, we want to share our excitement with others. As a young man, he believed that his brothers would share in his excitement...but the opposite was true. Joseph's brothers were frustrated with his dream, and plotted to eliminate their juvenile brother as a result.

So what's the point of this facet of the story? I believe it's to show us that dreams aren't for everyone. The excitement that we experience through the hope that dreams can bring should be shared, but not necessarily with everyone. I wonder if this story may have played out a little differently had Joseph found a person of peace, someone who believed in him and loved him, to be his confidant. 

Sometimes we unknowingly create enemies by sharing our dreams with people who aren't ready to hear them, or who really aren't people of peace in our lives. Dream your dreams, but take great care to find those who truly love you to share in them with you...a principle and model that Joseph demonstrated later on in his life.

2. Dreams without innovation may not really matter. Just like the dreams we have when we are flying, anything we think of but never work towards just doesn't matter. Some of us love to stay in the idea stage of leadership. We think about what could be or should be, but we rarely venture in the lab to begin experimenting or innovating with our dreams. Ever wonder why that is? 

I think that sometimes we let expectations, fear of failure or fear of the unknown limit our dreaming to a blue-sky stage instead of inspiring us to begin to innovate. Dream your dreams, but please find ways to experiment with bringing them into reality over time.

3. Dreams speak of hope, innovation lives it. Dreams are an invitation to hope. Innovation is an invitation to live it. Martin Luther King uttered the most famous line "I have a dream" when he spoke or racial equality. This dream was an invitation to hope, but it was brave souls like Rosa Parks and others who began to live into this new reality through innovation.

There's a line from one of my favourite movies, We Bought a Zoo, that I believe sums up this invitation culture the best - "sometimes you only need 20 seconds of insane courage to do something incredible." As leaders and parents we sometimes need to find these 20 seconds in our lives. And if we have the ability to begin to see different challenges that we face in light of 20 second courageous intervals, maybe the hope we so desire to experience and thrive in will actually become the reality in which we live.

Discuss this: What tendency do you lean towards as a leader, a dreamer or an innovator? If there is one thing you need insane courage for right now, what would it be?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

When your leadership is threatened

Every leader will face a season where his or her influence seems to be fading. Sometimes this can be due to age, sometimes to irrelevance or sometimes due to a copious amount of mistakes that are made.

In other moments and seasons, a diminishing influence in leadership may occur when a younger and perhaps even more gifted leader comes into the picture.

The biblical narrative is chalked full of a number of different stories of leadership transitions, both positive and negative. For the purpose of this short article I simply want to focus on two such stories highlighted by Dave Brotherton in his live interview with Mark Buchanan conducted online through Canadian Youth Worker here.

Saul meets David
Saul was the first king of the nation of Israel. The story of Saul and David begins with David defeating an enemy, Goliath, who was terrorising the Israelites. David, a teenager at the time, fought Goliath in battle. No one from Saul's court or mighty army was willing to lead out in battle against this supposed giant.

In this moment, David not only seized a level of authority and fame, but also elevated his leadership voice substantially.

As this story progresses, Saul becomes increasingly threatened by the ability, talent and popularity of David. At one point, Saul tries to end David's life by hurtling a spear at his head...side note, if someone physically threatens you as a leader, I would say this classifies as a failed leadership transition...just saying.

Saul maintained the title of authority, but David's leadership ability and anointing from God elevated him to a place that surpassed Saul.

Every leader will face their own David and/or Saul moment. As a youth pastor, there are leaders and teens in my ministry who are going to do even greater things that what I've been able to accomplish in my leadership thus far (and in the future). I have a decision to make when the stories of these brazen, young & incredibly gifted leaders collide with my own leadership story. Will I hurl a spear at their heads hoping to wound or kill their ability, or will I have the confidence to step outside of myself, lend whatever leadership reputation I may have built to these younger leaders for the sake of the Kingdom?

Eli mentors Samuel
Eli was the high priest of Israel at the time when a young boy named Samuel came to live with him. One evening, the Lord began to speak to Samuel (which was a privilege typically reserved for the priesthood in Israel...of which Samuel was not yet a part of). Samuel, not knowing what was happening runs to Eli several times seeking to respond to what he thinks is Eli calling out to him.

At some point, Eli clues in that Samuel is hearing the voice of God, and instead of letting his jealousy overwhelm him...he coaches Samuel to embrace the Lord's invitation. Eli knew he was being passed over, and he could have held on to what "he built" for the sake of his family and his reputation, but instead he allowed wisdom to shape his decision to celebrate Samuel instead of destroy him.

So when threats occur...
When your leadership feels threatened will you throw a tantrum like Saul, or embrace wisdom like Eli and support, coach, empower and cheer on those who will do more amazing things that we can possibly imagine?

Are there people in your current sphere of influence as a leader that you need to begin to view differently in light of these two stories? What is God saying to you, and what are you doing about it?