228 – Leading as Fathers Who Love Sons

I write not about biological, 24/7 fathers. Parenting around the clock is an experience to itself. I write about love, respect, and care for any younger generation.

Older and younger generations feel a tension. The older we get, the more we become who we are at our core. Some become better, many become worse. There is more to leading than grumbling about youth doing things that youth do. There’s more to growing up than spiting one’s own behavior merely for being young.

People in younger generations need space. Sometimes it makes no sense, but it is necessary. Resistance comes from younger people softly, but it must be heeded. Even when a young person misunderstands the older, he must figure out basic rules of concluding and communication on his own. There’s enough advice in this world to know not to hold a grudge about an unconfirmed offense. If a lad or lass needs to wander off and fret about a big nothing, just let it be.

There are steps that can be taken to approach and invite friendships, just tread softly and happily and don’t impose yourself. Drip ideas, lay down the law if it is your place, but check your condescending tone at the door. Youth under punishment rarely want an explanation, but one or two good sentences will give them enough to chew on to make it educational. When they come slinking back, don’t push them away.

And, for Heaven’s sake, don’t hold a grudge against someone younger than you. Grow up and at least pretend to be an adult. Adults don’t quibble with children.

Care, concern, value, respect—whether you harbor these virtues toward the younger generation, your true colors will show when you face each other’s differences. Elders have wisdom, youth have innovation and energy. God put us together and He wasn’t a fool in doing so; the old man complaining about the youth is the fool because he implies his own failed leadership.

Provide, govern softly, lay infrastructure, encourage, drip nuggets of teaching that help interpret the moment, and give space when quietly signaled to. Be the one initiate patient understanding. Maintain love and give respect to everyone younger than you.

232 – Leading as Sons Who Love Fathers

In Heaven, there will be no younger and older generations, only one people where all are brothers and sisters without aged bodies. When confronting the normal frustration with any older or younger generation, it can help to envision others at your own age and also to envision yourself at their age. But, there is much more that can also be done to strengthen intergenerational friendship.

At times, your elders will look to you for leadership—especially when they contend with you. When an older person fights with you as if they were your peer in age, they are unwittingly sending the message that they think they are immature and need leadership from you. Don’t object, give them that leadership. Instantly imagine yourself as the adult in the room and be patient, respectful, and instructive as you must be with anyone younger than yourself.

Even when not acting younger than their age, older generations always appreciate leadership from younger generations. Be worthy of this respect. Be kind and tender, don’t act like people can take your wrath merely because they have more gray hair. You, be the leader, clean up their generational trash left behind. Be gentle as a servant with the authority of a butler to have any guest helped or removed from the house. Don’t be cold or uncaring when you are required to lay down the law.

Hopefully, people in the older generation have leadership to provide you. If so, accept it, be respectful, and act like you thoroughly understand that you are under their oversight without complaint. Thank them, be cooperative, follow procedures, and give them honor worthy of a king.

Of course, always learn from everyone and anyone in any situation. Whether you need to be the adult in the room, the child in the room, or if everyone is mature enough to act timelessly and agelessly—learn from the older generation’s wisdom. Even when you have innovative insight that will help, your innovation must be coupled with wisdom. Even when an older man is wrong, he knows elements of history, so listen to his explanation for his opinion. You will be there one day, make the journey painless as possible.

236 – Leading as Teachers

Everyone is at a different learning level, even within the same grade. The duty and responsibility of a teacher is to recognize these differences and accommodate each student.

Not all students are formal. In fact, most of the “students” you will “teach” might never cross your mind as students until decades later, if at all. The person on the street asking for directions, the man at the airport fumbling with his papers because he doesn’t know the system, the young cashier who can’t figure out why you gave $11 when the bill is only $6 and tries to give you the extra dollar bill back before making change .. everyone of these people is your student for the moment. Don’t let them know that you’re their teacher, just be kind and make sure they learn without knowing they did. Act a little dazed, if you must, just make sure they can figure it out.

My grandfather was wonderful at many things, except teaching how to tie shoes. He did it so fast that none of the grandchildren could understand. His sons would laugh while his daughters smiled and demonstrated how its done. He would have made a terrible flight attendant demonstrating pre-flight safety. All teaching material must be graded and understandable.

Everyone must learn everything we know. If you struggle with patience while other people are learning, it could be that you have not continued learning yourself; it could also be that you have not taken enough time to pause and teach others along your journey.

There are three main learning methods; we each have a forte: touch, sight, and sound. Some students need to have “experience” or “mass” in order to understand a concept. Multiplication tables might be easier with groups of legos just as government paperwork might make more sense if it is grouped with paperclips and stacked in order of processing.

Know the levels and styles of learning. Keep an ongoing self-awareness of your own increments of learning. The steps of learning are very, very small. They seem much bigger going through them than looking back. Remember what it was like. When you read about Jesus, remember that he is the best teacher who lived.

240 – Leading as Guides from a Distance

Control and leadership are opposites. If you control something, you don’t need to lead it; if you lead people, then you don’t need to control them.

Micromanaging drains resources, but so does fixing other people’s mistakes. Leadership requires keeping a distance, allowing people to make mistakes, clean them up, figure things out, and celebrate the victory that comes from their own effort. The adage “managers do things right, leaders do right things” holds true.

Know when to intervene: never too often.

Coach from the sidelines, give pointers, but let the players work the game. There’s a time for both harshness and encouragement, but the important ingredient is to keep off the field. Sit and watch the toddler walk; don’t help him, celebrate his steps from at two arms’ reach, and make sure he doesn’t play with the pretty hot burner on the stove.

Guiding a tour can require some planning and preparation, but you can’t prepare for everything. A quick orientation before the tour is designed to make the tour better, it does not replace it. Have a plan, hold a group huddle for vital warnings before entering the jungle, pause along the way so no one gets lost, and make sure you know your stuff so you can answer any question and solve any problem as they come up.

While some planning is necessary, plans are for the leader, not the group. Give people a schedule, make sure it’s readable, but be flexible. If other people know the mission and direction then the tour will lead itself and you will be free to focus on enhancing the journey rather than hoping that it finishes at all. If someone wants to stop and see something special on the way, that’s a good thing.

Welcome initiative and be patient when things aren’t done perfectly. Let people try and try a few times, offer rewards for success, and when necessary, step in and give a talk-through demo. When people are striving to get their on their own initiative, they’ll place high value on what you have to say. You’ll have to say it often, though. So, get used to repeating the same truth like a broken record.

244 – Leading as Peers

The secret to teamwork is to know what game you’re playing.

At a small, but busy, restaurant in Asia, the entire staff is trained in every job of the house. Everyone does everything from washing dishes to mopping the floor to running food, seating guests, taking wait numbers, busing tables, even preparing the meals. The menu is simple, so no one needs to be an expert chef. That simplicity might be part of the owner’s strategy, though he wouldn’t tell me his trade secrets.

But, it always caught my attention that no one ever had to direct anyone else to do any job. They had a shift manager deciding when people could go home; that was about it. Yet somehow, every job got taken care of quickly and seamlessly. A staff member would stop busing a table to greet a guest at the door, then take up the role of host for the next two hours while another employee stepped in to finish busing the table. It works like that all night, night after night.

It’s not that the staff thinks of themselves as a “team”, they just know how to do every job and they know the business should operate. Dinner guests should have a certain experience, the staff do whatever needs to be done to make that happen. That’s the simple direction given to everyone.

Teams have problems when they don’t know what game they are playing. Someone wants to be the MVP or the boss at the company thinks that a kind voices in the office will get more sales .. try telling that to the Wolf of Wallstreet.

You might not have the privilege of being told what game you’re playing. Under bad leadership .. or no leadership .. you will need to figure that out yourself. A partially-absent supervisor might never be happy, so you be diplomatic instead.

Look where the need is and fill it. You don’t need to be “above” other people in order to lead from among the group. Be a contagious example and don’t pretend to beat any drum. If you end up drumming, let others take turns. The best way to lead peers is to remain one yourself.

248 – Leading as Subordinates

We rarely have the luxury of working under competent supervision. Most of the time, management is chosen from a very small group of qualified people, their main qualities being crisis management, being able to do the job of three people when necessary, and doing whatever is necessary .. even unethically .. to keep daily drama from escalating to higher levels of oversight.

You may be more suited to lead, but you must learn some things that only come with time before the greater group can benefit from your better judgment. By then, your better judgment should become even better yet. If your better judgment doesn’t improve with time, then you really wouldn’t be a better leader, you only think you would be.

Even under competent leaders, you can lead those around and above you in some capacity. Be patient and respectful always. Don’t heckle at stupidity, no matter how well-deserved. No, it won’t help educate.

Help and lighten the mood, mainly by keeping your own stuff in order. If you need extra time with your work, move out of other people’s way and kindly apologize for your mess.

I once had a table of guests who were angry about having to wait. I broke protocol, slipped in a few lines about thanking them for waiting for the other people who were also waiting. The head of the table was mildly offended, sassed at me, I sassed back that he was right, and thus we all got along great the rest of the night.

Tense situations might need a little stretch and ice breaking, but your job is to make sure that “it’s okay” when it happens. You’ll need charm and patience like this when you don’t have the authoritative powers to right the situation. Do what is within your power and practice your diplomatic wit so that you have it well mastered for when God puts you into your own leadership position.

Be an example that your superiors wish they could follow. Make crud roll downhill onto you, not uphill. Humbly suggest on occasion, but avoid being first in the line of fools to open your mouth. Do excellent work within your power that inspires all around.

252 – Leading as Masters

The master has his own way and no one understands him. He is a master, after all. Teachers are for understanding, but masters are for improving. The way of the master remains a mystery that dazzles all who behold. Thinking that you understand proves that you need a master to remind you by sheer demonstration of his own skill that you know absolutely nothing.

The master might have you haul buckets of water or punch a bag while he goes about his own training. You may think that he doesn’t notice, but he gauges your form out of the corner of his eye with accuracy you can’t fathom and subtlety you’d never suspect.

Only with time, diligence, frequency, and old age can you reach the stage of the master. In some ways, you have the status of a master. Usually, the best way to handle those difficult situations is to see where you are already a master.

Once a man asked how much money I made. I told him it is bad form and bad luck to disclose income. When he suggested some numbers I smiled, chuckled, and told him specifically how cute he was. I may not be the master by the social numbers, but I was certainly the master in the moment in the art of saying, “No.”

When people push you, just “master” right back at them. A little comedic superiority could lighten a heavy mood, only a sissy would be so offended, as many shed tears in the shadow of the master.

Above all, the master knows only to teach what he has mastered. Being a young master is most difficult because one has mastered so little in one’s youth. Knowing what you can’t teach is a hard pill to swallow when you know that you can’t teach most anything because you’re not a master yet. So, first master yourself: Look down your nose, straighten your back, and say with lazy confidence, “I should never even try to teach such a thing since I’ve not mastered it yet.”

Never serve dual masters and never sign up for dual loyalties. Choose your skill, study its master, and only teach what you’ve done.