Leaders: Just Breathe


I am a “seize the day” type of guy.  I love to squeeze out every bit of drop from my day.  In fact, I find it hard to enjoy down time – to breathe, to reflect, to pray.  Oftentimes, I find these moments to be unproductive.  I could be sending off another email.  There is a phone call that is urgent (so I think).  The completion of another task will satisfy that incessant desire for fulfillment.  It is not uncommon for me to evaluate the productivity of my day based on the number of items checked off a list.  In other words, effectiveness is defined as busyness.

Johnny Diaz recently penned a new Christian song titled Breathe.  The chorus reads,

Breathe, just breathe                                                                                                                                        Come and rest at my feet                                                                                                                                    And be, just be                                                                                                                                                    Chaos calls but all you really need                                                                                                                       Is to just breathe

This notion has two implications for me.  First, it is personally convicting.  Christ calls me to “be” not principally “do.”  I am called to take moments to cultivate my relationship with him.  Without consistent moments throughout my day, I become wound up with tasks and duties, only to find myself becoming irritated at the end of the day.  Attempts to detangle cannot simply be left to a devotional life or worship service; it requires constant spiritual breathes to reflect on God’s working in my life – to pause, to wait, to seek.

Second, it is necessary as a leader.  Leadership requires vision-casting and decision-making.  Effective leaders are productive.  In fact, the more productive, the better the leader.  Phrases such as high capacity, organizational efficiency, and managerial greatness are tossed around, used to compliment those leaders that accomplish the most around us.  Oh, the standard that we elevate! Granted, it is not wrong to be efficient.  In fact, I would argue it is good stewardship.  However, productivity at the expense of spiritual passion and health is improper and eventually destructive.  If not corrected, it leads to pride, burnout, and the objectification of those around us.

The remedy:  consistent moments to stop the busyness and breathe.

It is vital to create personal sacred space throughout our day to realign with our Lord.  Truth be told, it is more efficient.  Hurriedness leads to mistakes, oftentimes resulting in a need to do something over.  When we do not prayerfully think through priorities and vision, we misalign them finding ourselves focused on the wrong things.  Or, worse yet, a void of reflective prayer elevates tasks over persons, tempting us to steamroll people in order to feel productive at the end of our day.  In other words, effectiveness should be defined as prayerful and reflective work, not simply more work.  Leaders who practice such discipline are healthy, grounded, and properly focused.  And ultimately, they create an attraction that allows others around them to equally find that sacred space and productivity.

So just breathe.






Leadership and Anchor Points


I love to sail.  One of my favorite moments in sailing is anchoring the boat off the shore of Chicago to watch the Air and Water Show.  One of the best feelings in the world is sitting with my family as F-16s buzz the boat overhead.  It is a popular weekend for boating.  It is not unusual to have hundreds of boats lined up.  Obviously, a properly fixed anchor is essential to enjoying the show.  If not, your boat will drift off crashing into an unexpecting and certainly soon-to-be frustrated boat owner a few feet away.  I have seen it happen; it is not pretty.

Key:  freedom is dependent on a fixed anchor.

The news has been dominated by a variety of “crashing boats” when it comes to leadership.  What is the difference between a fact and an alternative fact?  Truth is objective; therefore, facts are objective.  When leadership proposes alternative facts despite clear evidence to the contrary, it signals the presence of an unfixed anchor point.  Truth can be adjusted to meet one’s ends.  The anchor point then becomes personal ambition rather than an objective reality.

A conservative nominee has been offered for the Supreme Court bench.  Clearly, there is disagreement over his suitability, primarily related to social issues.  At what point does life begin for a person, conception or birth?  Do religious institutions have the right to express their beliefs even if popular culture disagrees with these views?  These are topics that will be debated during Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing.  Decision-making matters when it comes to leadership.  There are differing opinions when it comes to social issues.  Thus, we need an anchor point.  Otherwise, our decisions become planted in opinion rather than a concrete truth.

Leadership involves power and influence.  One can easily squash another person based on their position.  Or, one can view their status as a means of leverage, either for good or evil.  History records numerous examples of individuals who have used their leadership position to harm.  Even though the concept of servant leadership is popular, it is not easy based on the inherent temptations when it comes to a position of power.  If our anchor point is not fixed on the values of Christ, power will corrupt.  Our sinful human tendency will prevail.

As a believer, there is a constant struggle when it comes to leadership.  It involves the old vs. new man articulated by Paul in Romans 7 which are then exasperated by the conforming pulls of the world.  Thus, it is critical for believers to be deeply anchored in the transcendent values of the kingdom which do not change.  For leaders, this foundation is essential.  It frames our perspective and decision-making.  When we are rooted in Christ and then allow those values to permeate our leadership, eternal values become our fixed point – immovable, unchanging, sustaining.  This foundation is freeing as it allows us to navigate with confidence the shifting truth that is so prevalent in our society.  And in doing so, it cultivates a spiritual leverage that can be used for the advancement of the gospel.