Leadership by Example

Once again, I was asked to write a short for STAR News, a magazine for Law Enforcement Personnel. Here it is…

Leading by example is nothing new. For thousands of years individuals have looked up to their superiors. When the example of integrity and excellence was present, they were inspired and challenged to be more than they themselves thought they could be. When it was not, the lack of example has led to frustration and even disdain for the superior. This interesting quote comes from Onasander, a Greek philosopher from the first century A.D., and shows that even 2000 years ago men wrestled with these very issues.

“Most men are distressed when placed under the command of ignoble individuals. For no one voluntarily puts up with submitting to a master or a leader who is inferior to himself.” (Onasander, The General 1.17)

My challenge to you is two-fold.

First, be an individual marked by excellence. It changes your environment as well as the people around you. The level of professionalism will rise and you will be responsible for it. Live a life of excellence in everything you do. Remember, Family, Faith, Country and Department. Each need true men and women of excellence to set the tone for tomorrow.

Second, be careful whom you allow to be your example. Our vehicles have backseats filled with individuals who failed this test. Even on the department, be wise. The example you follow sets the path for your future. There are so many quality men and women in our department who do it right! Find one, and learn from them. Excellence is learned, and while you are learning others will learn from you.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Psalmist (3000 years ago) states that God has led him into a life of excellence by witnessing the examples that had been set for him. God’s mercy and grace had led him to a life of being an example to others. With that, he is able to confidently say in Psalm 71:7:

“My life is an example to many, because you have been my strength and protection.”

One final note: On this job and in life, everyone is a leader. If you started this article thinking that it only applies to your superiors you are wrong. You are a leader. All of us are. There are many people looking to you for quality decisions and a life of excellence. Read that again: There are many people looking to you for quality decisions and a life of excellence. Don’t let them down. Fulfill the roll.

It’s Good to be Home

I was asked to write an encouragement piece for Star News, a law enforcement publication. This article was run shortly after the death of a Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy and became an important piece. The only article from which I received direct feedback from the Deputies.

Take it from a road warrior; it is good to come home. Don’t misunderstand, there will always be excitement in the journey, but even the journey gets old. Each of us in the human species has needed a vacation from our vacation. As I write, I am in a hotel longing to see my wife and kids. Even Dorothy said; “There’s no place like home” as she tapped her ruby slippers together and grabbed Toto for the journey.

Why is it so good to be home?

Home is familiar. It is safe. Home is a place of security where the unknown gives way to the familiar and love is felt. There are many reason this is so: from the security of the family to the relationship with the neighbors, the support of friends and colleagues, and the unseen protectors who guard our security.

I want to give a shout out to Law Enforcement personnel who add to that feeling of security at home. It is good to know that there are protectors, watching over our neighborhoods and cities, dispatchers who put them to action, and a long list of support personnel that work on their behalf to better equip and support them. Because of them, it is good to be home.

So here I sit in the hotel wishing for the comfort of home. However, down deep, in the deepest parts of my soul, I wish for my REAL HOME. I look forward to the ultimate peace of an eternity with the Lord. As we all have protectors in our neighborhood, ultimately, we all have the same eternal protector. He is a God who loves us and knows us by name. He wants to be involved in our lives. He cares. He is One who is our ultimate protection: the protector of protectors. Let us not forget about Him.

The Psalmist wrote: The Lord is alive! My protector is praiseworthy! The God who delivers me is exalted as king! (Psalm 18:46)

He wants to protect you… You know, out there… In life… May I suggest that you call upon Him from time to time. He has the ability to bring you home.

Learn Up. Train Down.

There is a great scene in “We Were Soldiers” where Mel Gibson says; “Learn the job of the man above you and teach your job to the man below. We will be landing under fire gentlemen… Men will die.”

It has been said that the measure of a great leader is this, that in his or her absence, the organization will continue to function in precisely the same manner. For the leader, this is both honoring and terrifying.

I remember telling my leaders that if we get to the point where someone else can run this organization better than me, I will happily step aside. I said that because I believed (rightly so) that the organization was the most important thing. But, did I actually believe that I would step aside? Of that, I am not so convinced… It sounded like a dignified statement from me as their leader, but each time I said it I trembled inside.

It’s kind of the same as confidently saying that we could die for our faith or for our country. It is easy to say when the chances are slight that we will ever be tested in that manner. Each of us hopes that it is the truth, but we will never know unless put to the test.

Learning Up

Learning up is easy for many of us. In fact, we see it as preparation for promotion. Thinking back on a previous employment, I remember the moment I knew I would be moving into my next position, I made every effort to learn the job of my superior. I went with him to meetings, learned from him, asked him questions, and prepared to take his place. His allowing me to learn from him said more about his character than it did mine. I wonder if he ever hesitated to teach me when he knew I desired to replace him? I doubt it. He understood the second principle, Train Down.

Train Down

The transformational leader trains his direct reports to fill his shoes. A nominal leader avoids training others in intricacies of their position. The reason is most often a fear of being replaced or deemed unnecessary. However, when the transformational leader understands that the organization is the priority, he will allow others to learn what they need to learn to advance the missional causes of the whole. If this means that he becomes unnecessary, then so be it.

HOWEVER…

Most of the time, the resulting team-building and empowerment solidifies the leader in his position and further empowers him to lead the group or team. In other words, great value is found in that leader. When he actively trains to become replaceable, he becomes indispensable.

A Hat Called Love

I have had another article (this one very short), A Hat Called Love, published in the Star News, a monthly magazine for Law Enforcement Officers. The article is reproduced below and is written to encourage the Peace Officer community who have such a difficult job.

I recently met a man who boasted of his extensive hat collection. “I have a hat for every day of the week and at least two for every conceivable occasion” he said. He went on about the manner in which a hat should fit and what it should convey. While it seemed like one of those moments where you wished you could disappear, I was actually quite enthralled. I wondered to myself which hat-if any-he wore when at home. I wondered if his many hats were all about show.

As I pondered the conversation, I realized that I, myself, had many a hat. In fact, I have a hat for nearly every occasion as well, and I wear them frequently. I wear a hat called Father. One titled Husband. One is called Boss, another, Authority Figure. On occasion I get the distinct opportunity to wear the one titled Fool.

Here’s the question I must ask myself. Which hat do I wear at home? We all assume a number of different roles throughout the day to get the job done—but still—we are most defined by who we are when all the hats are removed.

But it’s a rough world. The streets are pretty bad!

Yeah, I know, from time to time we all need to put on the ugly hat. Ugly in our actions, our attitudes, our demeanor… But God forbid, at the end of the day that we leave the ugly hat on. Between you and me—that ugly hat—it’s really ugly! Furthermore, the people at home, the ones who love you so very much, really would like you to throw it away! I hope that when at your leisure, the hat you wear is brimmed with the words Love, Integrity and Excellence! Let that hat define you. Then, you too can boast of your hat collection.

Above all keep your love for one another fervent, because love covers a multitude of sins. • 1st Peter 4:8

When it Rains, it Pours

NOTE: Written years ago, right before the passing of my grandmother.

The beauty behind storms of adversity is that they tend to reveal who you truly are. For me it means focus and a sharpening of mind and action. But it also means a hint of calculated, emotional removal from the circumstances. Down to business. Hear Father. Do as instructed. I do not know whether this is a good or bad, healthy or harmful. I will leave that to the reader. However, after a week like this one, I thank Father for the ability to focus in the downpour. Life is grand and full of tragedy at the same time and I am often reminded that without the knowledge and covering of Father’s sovereignty it would at times be too difficult to bear. May I share?

The funny thing about storms is that–many times–they come out-of-nowhere. Skies are clear and then, “Crack!” Lightning splits the sky. Saturday was such a day. The skies were clear and the weatherman had given the “Thumbs Up!” On the sidewalk before me I saw the first drop of water darken the concrete. Little did I know it would be a violent and vicious storm.

Crack!

My elderly grandmother, who had always been both physically and mentally strong, suffered a massive stroke. Grabbing the umbrella, I braved the weather and made my way to her side. Praying into her–I believe–understanding ear, I shared Father’s spiritual and physical healing abilities so that she would have hope. It gave me hope as well. He and only He could speak through the noise of the rain and clear her storm.

Crack!

The next wave of the storm came in the form of a hostile dialog with an individual with whom I had to stand my ground for what was morally right! Without getting into it, Father was being portrayed as evil in a storm of hostility and I had no choice but to stand for Him. So again, I grabbed my umbrella. You see, I love Him–He gives me breath–and I had to make a stand on the side of righteousness. It brought harder rain, but I chose to ignore the downpour and do what was right.

Crack!

The storm had now grown to the height of its intensity. A call from the Sheriff’s Department… “Chaplain, we need you right now! We’ve got a dead baby! The guys are having some trouble handling the scene. We need you here.” So I grabbed the umbrella again, and flying to the scene I ministered in the storm.

It seems that the eleven-year-old babysitter decided she would give the one-year-old baby boy a bath. She was distracted and left the room. It was raining so hard by now that the child was left floating in one of the enemy’s puddles.

The baby was without a heartbeat for more than ten minutes and when I left the chopper was preparing to transport the child to Children’s Hospital. What did I do? I placed my umbrella over the child. I laid hands on him and prayed to Father. As the child was being prepped for flight, he opened his eyes and began to have a seizure. Is he alive today? I may never know. I did my part. I covered him with my umbrella. I protected him from the rain. It was all that I could do. That was all I was meant to do.

Clear Skies…

Right now, as I write, the umbrella is closed and in my hand. I have peace. The umbrella of Father’s sovereignty gives me that peace. The storm lasted four days. The sky still has clouds in it, they have not fully rolled away. Grandma is still in the hospital with little improvement, the hostilities from my moral stance are unsettled and I still have no idea about the child. However, the umbrella is right here in my hand, and I will open it again when the first drop of water appears on the road before me.

A God of Justice – A God Who Honors

Here is another article I wrote for Star News, a monthly publication for Law Enforcement personnel.

Our men and women behind the badge face untold challenges. One of those challenges is the battle with resentment. They give their lives to their profession and unfortunately, sometimes, for their profession. They do what they have been sworn to do, and do it professionally. Unfortunately at times, though they did everything right; the book was solid and the evidence clean, the suspect walks. I always thought of this as unfortunate, but recently had an experience that brought that reality to heart. I am called to be a man of peace and love, but I am also a man who wrestles with resentment. I see that the justice system sometimes fails us and evil people walk. The Scriptures tell us about these people in the book of Isaiah.

(Isaiah 59:3-8) Your hands are the hands of murderers, and your fingers are filthy with sin. Your mouth is full of lies, and your lips are tainted with corruption. No one cares about being fair and honest. Their lawsuits are based on lies. They spend their time plotting evil deeds and then doing them. They spend their time and energy spinning evil plans that end up in deadly actions. They cheat and shortchange everyone. Nothing they do is productive; all their activity is filled with sin. Violence is their trademark. Their feet run to do evil, and they rush to commit murder. They think only about sinning. Wherever they go, misery and destruction follow them. They do not know what true peace is or what it means to be just and good. They continually do wrong, and those who follow them cannot experience a moment’s peace.

Yet still they walk. Here was my dilemma, my battle to overcome resentment.

One April, our Captain asked me to offer the opening prayer for Law Day (a banquet organized by state and local politicians). This Law Day banquet was to give honor to Law Enforcement Personnel, Court Services, Corrections, Judges, and Attorneys; both Prosecution and Defense.

Through a misunderstanding, I thought that I was opening a “Law Enforcement Appreciation Banquet.” I had my thoughts in order, a prayer that asked God’s protection and blessing upon those I respect, that put their lives on the line to keep us safe. Fifteen minutes before I spoke, I learned that it was not only “Law Enforcement,” but also the lawyers, judges, and defense attorneys. It forced me to love others across difficult boundaries. I had to change the way I think.

I realized that when we do what we are called to do, to the best of our abilities, God is honored. The end results are insignificant to our blessing. God’s is pleased when His children do what He expects them to do, to fight injustice. Whether or not someone else allows them to “walk” has no bearing on the pride of doing it right. Nor does it affect God’s perspective of a job well done!

Supreme Court Justice Horace Gray once informed a man who had appeared before him in a lower court, and had escaped conviction on a technicality, “I know that you are guilty and you know it, and I wish you to remember that one day you will stand before a better and wiser Judge, and that there you will be dealt with according to justice and not according to law.”

Sometimes they get away. Allow God to worry about that. Battle your resentment with the knowledge that you did it right, and that God is pleased.

(1 Peter 2:19) For God is pleased with you when, for the sake of your conscience, you patiently endure unfair treatment.

Anger Management

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverb 15:1

The trickiest of all human emotions, anger can be normal and healthy. Sometimes! It depends on its use. It can help us respond in threatening situations, fuel our motivation for achievement or dealing with injustice, or it can bankrupt us in a moment, leaving us empty and devastated.

So how do we manage such a tricky emotion? How do we use it for good and avoid the pitfalls?

In our realm as leaders, our environment demands an atmosphere of trust and collaboration. Anger management is crucial to longevity, productivity as well as for general health and happiness. It is highly appropriate that we learn to manage it well. Consider the following: A positive anger response helps us to react quickly and decisively to solve problems, achieve goals, and intensely focus on objectives. A negative anger response can ruin our career, damage relationships, harm our reputation and alienate us from our peers. During a negative anger response we must learn to recognize the signs that indicate a loss of control. Diffusing negative anger is never easy, but there are some concrete steps that help make it possible.

Duke University’s Redford Williams, MD, along with his wife Virginia, authored the best-selling book Anger Kills. They recommend creating a “Hostility Log” as we begin to responsibly handle our anger. The idea is that when we understand what triggers us and causes us to get angry, we are more capable of developing strategies to avoid the triggers.

Let’s look at some other positive steps.

Acknowledge That You Have a Problem – If you do have a problem, those around you see it clearly. Remember, that you will never be able to fix that which you refuse to see. A leader positively acknowledges his or her deficiencies so that they may be dealt with.

Use Your Support Network – Notice I said to use your support network and not find one. You have one already, those who love you are your best possible support. Furthermore, there are many professional avenues you can take, including your pastor or mentor. All of these services are eager to help, especially your family.

Interrupt the Anger Cycle – Pause, think, breath (deeply), tell yourself you can handle this situation, and stop the negative thoughts… Relax! This may seem ridiculous but it is not. Verbalizing your ability to handle the situation transfers what may otherwise be only a thought to a tangible, actionable affirmation.

Be Objective – Use empathy to put yourself in the shoes of the other party. Remember that everyone makes mistakes and that no one is perfect, including you. Also remember that those mistakes serve to teach us how to be better people.

Find Humor in the Situation – Laugh at yourself. Think about how ridiculously you were about to act. Be proud of your ability to avoid looking foolish. Not everything in life should be taken seriously. Think about that YouTube video, the guy in the office who goes ballistic and trashes the place. It made you laugh, but at the same time you thought to yourself; “How pathetic!”

Build Trust – When we trust another we do not assume they have malicious intent in their actions toward us. By being trustworthy we release others to trust us in like manner. Angry people tend to be cynical so work on trust. If you think they are all out to get you, you will not be equipped to deal with integrity toward them.

Listen – In angry confrontations, or when someone has annoyed us, we tend to speak and not listen. We prepare our verbal comeback to their offensive statement. This often leads to a failure to actually hear what is being said, and to jump to destructive conclusions. Then, we lash out based on our faulty conclusions and escalate the situation. A wise individual listens!

Be Assertive – Assertiveness is not aggression. Assertiveness is preemptive. An assertive person will clearly define their expectations and boundaries. This empowers others to know where they may or may not go with you in their conversation or actions. The defining of personal boundaries does wonders in the realm of interpersonal success.

Forgive – Forgiveness is an amazing way to release hostility. One who forgives others shortcomings is one who brings peace, not only to others, but also to self.

Even if your anger is not to the point of being a problem, these steps are vital practices in relieving stress and avoiding the path that leads to anger issues. Know them, understand them, and if you do not need them, perhaps you can help another who does.

Choosing to Cope or to Thrive?

I was once again asked to write a 400 word piece for Star News, a publication for Law Enforcement Personnel. Here is my latest piece dealing with stress.

We work in a world of extremes. So much so that we are sometimes genuinely surprised, albeit rare, by a day when nothing happens. We need those days. The reality of this job however, is that it can be stressful. Very stressful. Not just for those in the field but for all. How you deal with that stress can determine your ability to cope as well as your longevity. It is interesting how many of us have said that our goal is to make it home. Very few of us have ever said we want to finish well. The first has a forward-looking vision of ten hours, the later looks to the life we will have beyond the career.

If you think about stress management in terms of coping (short term) and longevity (long term) certain important factors become apparent. If you are trying to “cope” you can deal with the temporary effects of stress in harmful ways. If you are looking to last, stress must be handled in productive ways. We must make every effort to deal with our stressors in a way that both helps us cope and builds strength, health and longevity.

Here’s what I mean. Look at the coping factors. Each of them might help you deal with the stresses in the immediate but will have a detrimental effect on the long term.

Short term, harmful, coping mechanisms may include: Overeating (or non-nutritional), alcohol, smoking, extreme activities, or other forms of binging.

These will help you cope, but they will not help you finish well. Consider dealing with stress in positive ways that do both; help you cope and help you last.

Long term, helpful, coping mechanisms may include: Healthy eating, exercise, prayer and meditation, a hobby, and music.

I know one individual that began attending religious services with his wife. He had always thought, “that’s her thing” but soon realized that the comfort, life truths and family unity that he found there did more to curtail his stress than any prior practice. Besides, he became a better person.

Why settle for something to get you through a day when you have the ability to chose something that will get you through life.

As I write, I think of a starving man, frustrated by the fact that he has been living at the side of a lake full of fish but has failed to catch a single one. He is nearly dead from starvation. Meanwhile, a man approaches offering him either a fish, or a fishing pole. With the desperation that only a starving man could understand, he chooses the fish.

HINT: Choose the pole!