256 – Leading as Ambassadors

The ambassador walks everywhere in friendship. At times, he will face the wrath of a mob wishing to insight the fury of his home country. He has no power to defend himself, only the security of his embassy. His powerlessness is his strength because it allows him to walk through doors without posing a threat.

The ambassador listens and explains. He is everyone’s friend, to help connect one official to the official he answers to. He doesn’t agree with everyone, but he wants everyone’s voice to be heard by interested ears.

The ambassador must sometimes lay down the law and make known the way of the world. He doesn’t come to the rescue of every citizen abroad and he may need to lay down the law with his own people abroad.

The ambassador has unusual powers within which he must operate efficiently. If he can influence another nation to move toward peace, he must. He must conscientiously as compellingly articulate the goals and prerogatives of his own people while accurately conveying the prerogatives of other people to his own. Through diplomacy, the ambassador is in a great position to make a difference for better or worse, affecting the lives of millions.

The ambassador is a guest and must continue to act as a guest with gratitude and provide hospitality toward other guests he may receive. His efforts are not mere nonsense. His mission to communicate is like a bridge standing by to usher vital substance.

The ambassador doesn’t have the power to make one, single decision. He carries clout along with many powerful ears in his pocket. This he must use to advance the good cause. Diplomacy itself is not his power, it is his boundary. The ambassador’s power is reason and understanding, which he can only implement among the ears he already has.

Sometimes the ambassador is the only way to understand yourself in your own situation. Vibrancy and charm, wit and humility, hardihood and tenderness—these make for a spicy ambassador who is sure to be remembered and loved. The ambassador is no stuffed suit. When you are a guest, know as much deep in your heart, taking forth the mission of relationships.

257 – Tables Before Enemies

God prepares our banquet tables right in front of our enemies. This isn’t a cute encouragement, it is a mode of operation. It is how God works.

God will supply your need. If you don’t irritate Him or jinx your own luck through immorality, He may even provide well beyond your need. At times, God will give you just enough to fill your mouth, not your stomach, all as a part of Him training your trust. But, God also likes to play dazzling games.

Say you owe money to one of your enemies; obey God’s moral code to treat your enemies well and strive to repay—not from any loyalty to the debtor, but from loyalty to the God Who Repays. As you seek to fulfill your obligations to your enemies, God may dry up your cash flow just long enough to make you late on a payment. You wouldn’t do this, God does this just to irritate your enemies, then, later, He gives you a cash surplus to pay extra—making your enemies hate you even more, but still unwilling to harm you since they make money off of you. All the while, God may send you a fine banquet, literally, complete with wine, delicacy, and dessert. Because He is the God Who Repays, God repaid you for your trouble and repaid your enemy with trouble for troubling you.

Banquets in the midst of antagonism are God’s mode of operation. He will even convince your enemy pay for your banquet—willingly.

Take a moment to consider God as the Great God of Great Banquets. For a thousand years, Jesus will reign on Earth while the devil rots in prison. That time is referred to as the “marriage supper of the Lamb”. Once the Antichrist is defeated, birds will eat his dead army; this is called the “great supper of the Lord”. Even the world government Jesus reigns over will have roads and infrastructure built by the Antichrist. This is all because God prepares banquets and makes the devil pay for them.

God’s “white tux” attitude toward your enemies can rub off on you. You might not fret so much if you meditate on banqueting.

Psalm 23, Revelation 19:9, 17

260 – Leading as Aunts & Uncles

Aunts and Uncles are often halfway between a parent and a grand parent. In some ways, they are less of both, in some ways they are more.

A grandparent can tell the parents how to parent because the parents are the grandparent’s children; and aunt or uncle cannot because that would likely start a fight between adult siblings.

The whole family shares the obligation to provide leadership for the young. When adult siblings disagree about household affairs—likely dating back to debated ideals from childhood—the best leadership is by example. Parents lead in their own way and welcome the cousins, celebrating and learning from differences.

Cousins parents know each other because they grew up together. They know what they would do and few discussions would ever be new. Having aunts and uncles is one of the best graces God gave to the family structure because the cousins are different, yet the same. Aunts and uncles can’t just step in to “raise nieces and nephews correctly”, to do so would be foolish. They must lead with positive support, picking up the normal slack of human nature without interfering. Of course, they must also be tolerated, keeping parents on their toes.

In the later years, when the grandparents pass on, aunts and uncles become the new pillars for the family. They can offer wisdom and leadership, hospitality and help, a space to get away, harsh lessons, and kind counsel. The wise, great aunt keeps the family history and opens her doors to everyone in the family.

The “rich uncle” is a recurring reality. Often, the uncle became rich due to differences of philosophy from childhood. He was hated and everyone else became poor. In the adult years, his pleasure is to spoil the nieces and nephews, not out of spite, but to prove both that he was right about money and that, more importantly, it doesn’t matter. The cousins are all taken care of and the rich uncle’s siblings need not worry about their children’s future.

The aunt and uncle have much to teach the world and much to be emulated. Sometimes it’s best to see yourself as the aunt or the uncle in the room.

264 – Leading as Grandmama

In the 1997 film, “Soul Food”, the lead character named Grandmama fixed every problem in the family, merely by loving everyone. The family was full of problems, blood relatives and in-laws alike. Everyone needed a good sitting-down and told like it was, but Grandmama didn’t state the obvious. She just laughed, giggled, played, and made everything okay. She didn’t cover up or hide problems; she completed the greater mission of keeping the family together.

Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem is to just ignore it. Tell a joke. Make everything okay. Help the tired, self-destructing child get to bed—sleep is the need, not a lecture. Run the late dinner to the guests at the table and drop a small self-depreciating joke that would make anyone’s enemy would pause to chuckle. Smile and ask the 18 year old who ran out of gas, “Did we learn anything here?”

Don’t make matters worse by adding insult to injury. You may thing the punitive fine is educational; it’s not. Punishments are a deterrent, but even police are allowed discretion, choosing whether or not it would help or harm to issue a fine. To educate people is the goal. No one wants to fail and being stopped by the cops is more than enough to tell most everyone to get their heads in the game.

Fools hurt themselves, but they are still hurting. Don’t cave into that instinct to beat up the beaten down. A little well-placed compassion, a foot-up, a line tossed, an anonymous bus pass paid—charitable deeds communicate clearly that the fool’s blunder was seen, that the fool only fools himself, and that the fool is loved by a God who loves all fools.

It’s not anything complex to know that gently keeping the peace will make one valuable, both at the office and in the social stream. It’s not irresponsible to not scold everyone for every stumble. The pavement is a teacher good enough. Restating the already taught makes oneself ordinary, not marketable. The world of the self-ruined need news, hope, something they don’t know. We need help knowing it’s okay to walk again. We need people who will be like Grandmama.

268 – Leading in Family

It’s all been said, the books have been written. Do not father children or even begin romance until you are ready to lead family.

Think of the outcome. Life is not about sensation and personal pleasure. Life is about where things lead as much as it is the journey along the way. Only a fool enjoys a beautiful road to death.

If you want a happy friendship, family, business, team—think of where it will lead and if you are ready for the destination. And, always read up on all of the same topics others before you have experienced. Never think you know the road simply because you are traveling on it for the first time. Look before you leap.

College students are the third-most arrogant people in the world, teenagers the second-most, young parents the most arrogant of all. No one understands parenting until grandparenthood.

Young parents are the Second Lieutenants of family, they have just enough responsibility to give them just enough hardship to give them just enough arrogance to think they actually know what they are doing. Where should we think teenagers get it from?

The true test of a leader is not in what follows, but who follows. Leadership 101: To condemn one’s pupils is to condemn oneself.

Maybe the kids need to learn in their rooms. Maybe the married couple needs to read a book by Dr. John Gray. Maybe the new employee needs to listen to Tony Robins or spend some time reading about Joseph’s, David’s, Daniel’s, and Esther’s problems with bureaucracy. No matter where you find yourself leading, always ask yourself: Who’s actually older and who just wants to be?

When kids complain about having to bite closer to the apple core or clean their rooms—when a married couple fights—hen employees of less than five years, still in their 20’s, are fed up with stupidity in management—calmly and quickly brush it off and reassure them at the same time with these words: “Everyone feels that. I did. It’s normal. It makes you not special, with this anyway. But, you still have great contribution to offer.”

Then, end all discussion because it’s time to get to work.

272 – Leading as Enforcers

If we don’t lay down the law and regulate—to paint the lines in the right places and make sure that everyone stays inside those lines—to enforce the good rules that keep everyone safe, whether big or small, young or old—if we let lawlessness have the run of the mill—we do incredible damage.

It’s an old con artist tactic to sit piously, nod with understanding while others talk, show that “sad, sympathetic” face, keep calm and regal, and talk with the ideal, soothing tone that offends no one, all while the foundations crumble and thieves roam unchecked. The incompetent leader uses this tactic, allowing problems to grow while maintaining a vernier of a “pastoral” or “ministerial” or “presidential” or “kingly” manners, and those same problems actually make the people flock to their fraudulent leader who refuses to take action to stop those problems.

True, valuable, competent, worthy leadership will shake the building in order to restore the foundations to the healthy state they began with. Re-roofing, tearing-up carpet, knocking-out and putting-up partitions, digging basements, pouring concrete—construction and maintenance are dusty, dirty, disruptive work.

Of course, the phony, pseudo-pious leader will put out the prophet, slay the truth-teller, and accuse internal compliance inspectors of complaining—all the while mislabeling those activities as “necessary disruptions” when they are anything but.

If you want your life and your work to not become a train wreck, you must know the difference between foundational and theatrical leadership. The foundational leader knows a healthy foundation and enforces rules in order to keep the house in good repair. The theatrical leader does his work in rhetoric and style, politely perched atop a decaying social structure some else created. The mark of a foundational leader is proper enforcement of necessary rules.

When the good leader enforces necessary rules, many people object. Few understand foundation science and no one wants the floor to tremble. But, the very leader deemed the “trouble maker” could be the only person in the house with the competence and courage to save the house. Rules protect the innocent and keep everyone safe under the roof. Question leaders, but don’t complain about thriving steps causing tremors.

276 – Leading as Directors

Letting children run wild does them no good. It never does anyone any good, no matter how old we get. Allowing someone to ignore the boundary lines and break important rules not only harms other people, it harms the person breaking those rules and crossing those boundaries.

The damage of being allowed to live without boundaries occurs on multiple levels. It “enables” bad behavior to continue by “sending the wrong message”. An athlete who can’t play within regulation lacks skill. Little, cute Johnny may seem adorable to the in-laws while he fumbles around with the soccer ball at 7 years old, but unless he focuses his efforts he’ll grow up to be inept rather than a starter athlete appreciated by his teammates and adored by the crowd.

Receiving direction feels constricting at first, but it eventually empowers, like the focused light of a laser or magnifying glass.

Constriction and control is not an end in itself. Helen Keller was wild, unrestrained, and insufferable as a child, until a tutor was able to teach her the concept of meaning. She needed direction, but it had to be coupled with understanding. She had unusual obstacles that needed to be overcome first, but most of us don’t have the luxury of that excuse. Boundaries still must be enforced, usually without as much patience as an unusual “Keller” case requires.

Blowing the whistle when the ball goes OB helps the learning athlete understand gravity, how the world works, the flow of the wind, and what happens in the game. For rookies unable to stay in bounds, remove the lines from the court so the rookies don’t learn to ignore them. Parents of children who grow to be respected as adults will say to the five year old, “Oops, it went over the line. So, it’s my ball now. Tough luck.” That child will learn quickly to be awesome and other parents will never figure out why, but they will always be jealous. Good leaders kindly do the same with everyone, with everything, everywhere.

Learning to color inside the lines is about more than “neatness” and “organization”; it may not even hurt anyone; but staying within the lines proves skill.