Sunday, June 29, 2008

Safety and the Internet

My kids were given a leaflet on the last week of school term entitled: "Safety and the Internet." This leaflet is produced by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection to help parents be involved in the online lingo that children are exposed to. The chart below represents some of the online language often used in chatroom situations using software like MSN, Facebook, Skype, or any of the many free online chat facilities.
  1. Cybertips Canada
  2. Protect Children
  3. Kids in the Know
  4. Safe Canada
  5. Age-Specific Tips
  6. Parents Guide for 8-9 (pdf)
  7. Parents Guide for 10-12 (pdf)
  8. Parents Guide for 13-15 (pdf)
For parents, it is good to be web-aware. Do try to update yourselves as much as possible. Perhaps in the process, parents can use this as an opportunity to connect with our kids. Teachers can relate to the children.


Thursday, June 26, 2008


Success. How do we define success?

The Age-Based Definition
Its meaning is as elusive as the age of a person.
  • For a 10 year old, it is to be able to win all the glass marbles during the game.
  • For a 20 year old, success is basically getting to the top school of choice.
  • For the 30 year old, success is getting married to the right guy/gal, and get a promotion in one's organization as soon as possible.
  • For the 40 year old, success is to reach the highest earning bracket.
  • For one in his 50s, success start to focus on helping one's children to attain good results and career development.
  • For the 60 year old, success is seeing all his family members live in harmony.
  • For the 70 year old, success is having multiple generations living together under one roof.
  • For the 80 year old, success is seen when one's legacy of life is passed on to the next generation and the next.
  • Beyond the 90s, success is being able to live a life that one does not regret.
The Secular Definition
In other words, one's view of what success is, is often connected to where we are in life. Popularly, success has been linked to materialism or ranked high in careerism. Another view of success is in terms of health. An ex-colleague of mine shared with me his conviction, that from a health standpoint, a healthy person is already a millionaire. From a wealth standpoint, the latest report shows Singapore having 77000 millionaires, making the island state #7 fastest growing millionaries in the world. Interestingly, the list has many Asian nations rising to the top. The same report does not say what is the cost of attaining such gleaming results. Social problems, suicides, relationships have soured more than before. Relationships and general quality of life have become inversely proportional to rising affluence and individualism. There is always a price to pay.

The Power Definition
Success coaches like Anthony Robbins believes that one's success is tied to the ability to release the power that is within a person. His popular "Unleash the Power Within" has topped the bestseller lists. Robbins's teachings are highly seductive. He says:
"One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular."
He defines success as follows:
"My definition of success is to live your life in a way that causes you to feel a ton of pleasure and very little pain - and because of your lifestyle, have the people around you feel a lot more pleasure than they do pain."
Such a hedonistic philosophy appeals to many seeking to live a more fulfilling life. Unfortunately, it is like trying to lose weight without a corresponding diet control. It is doing what one 'feels' right. It is one that pits pleasure against pain, and that negative things are to be avoided. However, what about the fallen nature of man? If one is able to unleash the power within, what about the sinful inclinations of a person? Can a person become so success-driven that morality takes a back seat? Success according to power, is based on one's hunger for a power-unleashed lifestyle.

The Relationship Definition
Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People has been a bestseller for many years. While he is careful to say that friends are not to become a means to an end, I must say that his teachings tend to start from the personal self, from which all relationships are developed from. It is like saying, if YOU want a successful career, make friends. If YOU want a happy life, make friends. If YOU want to be a good leader, create a friendly environment. See the point? His main point is the way that the secret to happiness and success is to be able to work and live among friends. My question to such a philosophy will be, what if one day, one does not have a tangible goal anymore, does that mean one then does not need to make friends?

Another popular speaker is Barbara de Angelis. Her books by the title alone gives me the shivers. "Are you the one for me?" already starts from a self-centered premise. Her teaching is quite similar to Anthony Robbins:
"No one is in control of your happiness but you; therefore, you have the power to change anything about yourself or your life that you want to change."
The focus of power and control is enthroned in the self. A successful person is defined as a person with great relationships. Appealing indeed, but insufficient in itself. It introduces another complicated dimension. "What is the meaning of good relationships?" Chances are, the definition has to do with some heavily motivated self-driven perspective.

The 'Maximal Utilization' Definition
Success is also defined by some in terms of utilitarianism.
Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be. If we do our best, we are a success. Success is the maximum utilization of the ability that you have. (Zig Ziglar
Ziglar's books like See you at the Top, Top Performance: How to Develop Excellence in Yourself and Others, and Staying Up, Up, Up in a Down, Down World are popular because it reflects the inner desires of many people, especially in the prosperous societies. Like the pragmatic who believes: "If it works, do it," this kind of utilitarianism is driven from a maximal output perspective. Unfortunately, space at the 'top' is extremely limited. There can only be one US President at any one time. Even large corporations have only one CEO. There is only one Pope. Countries have only one head of state. What about the rest of the people? Granted, they will strive to reach the top of whatever situations they are in. Taken to an extreme, this appears to be a very cruel philosophy. It simply tries to pumps one's drive continuously, without enough consideration of where and who the person is made to be. Not everyone can be at the top. There will be lots at the bottom.

There are a lot more secular philosophies that are out there. The trouble is, the supermarket of motivational and success-driven speeches are too narcissistic and hedonistic. It smacks of gnosticism too. At a glance, it may seem that my critique of the philosophies may be too harsh. However, the seductive nature of their teachings require a more deliberate critique from a Christian standpoint.

The Biblical Understanding of Success
What is the biblical definition of success? It is certainly very different from Anthony Robbins, Barbara de Angelis or Zig Ziglar. The gospel of Matthew preaches the kingdom of heaven as the key to living a Spirit-filled life.
  • "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3)
  • “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3)
  • “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:4)
The Apostle Paul's exhortation to Timothy is that "godliness with contentment is great gain." (1 Tim 6:6). This alludes to my previous blog post about 'The Rich Man Problem.' In that article, I argue that we need to have a healthy sense of what is enough, so as to rein in our human nature of uncontrolled desires and infatuations. A healthy sense of sufficiency can only be found in identifying with the person of Christ. Such an attitude is evident in the attitude of the Old Testament servants. Abraham's servant's motive for success is essentially obedience to his master.
He said, “O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham." (Gen 24:!2)
King Solomon asks for success in terms of wisdom to rule the people. God was pleased as a result. Joshua, who succeeded Moses was given this commandment with a promise:
“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. " (Joshua 1:8)
In the Old Testament Hebrew language, there are at least 7 different words to describe success. Many of them has to do with wisdom. Possessions are seldom the motivation for success. Daniel was given success in Babylon not because he wanted to be rich and famous. Instead he desired to be faithful to God. Another observation in the Hebrew rendition of success is that 6 out of 7 times, 'success' is a verb rather than a noun. This is insightful because it reveals that the essence of success is not in the achievement of things but an attainment of righteousness and wisdom that comes from a pure and sincere heart. It is the attitude of the heart that matters more in the biblical understanding of what success means. Matters pertaining to the soul are seen to be essential for living. Let me end with this story as a glimpse of success.
Once upon a time. There was a rich merchant who had four (4) wives.

He loved the 4th wife the most and adorned her with rich robes and treated her to delicacies. He took great care of her and gave her nothing but the best.

He also loved the 3rd wife very much. He's very proud of her and always wanted to show off her to his friends. However, the merchant is always in great fear that she might run away with some other men.

He too, loved his 2nd wife. She is a very considerate person, always patient and in fact is the merchant's confidante. Whenever the merchant faced some problems, he always turned to his 2nd wife and she would always help him out and tide him through difficult times.

Now, the merchant's 1st wife is a very loyal partner and has made great contributions in maintaining his wealth and business as well as taking care of the household. However, the merchant did not love the first wife and although she loved him deeply, he hardly took notice of her.

One day, the merchant fell ill. Before long, he knew that he was going to die soon. He thought of his luxurious life and told himself, "Now I have 4 wives with me. But when I die, I'll be alone. How lonely I'll be!" Thus, he asked the 4th wife, "I loved you most, endowed you with the finest clothing and showered great care over you. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?"

"No way!" replied the 4th wife and she walked away without another word.

The answer cut like a sharp knife right into the merchant's heart.

The sad merchant then asked the 3rd wife, "I have loved you so much for all my life. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?"

"No!" replied the 3rd wife. "Life is so good over here! I'm going to remarry when you die!" The merchant's heart sank and turned cold.

He then asked the 2nd wife, "I always turned to you for help and you've always helped me out. Now I need your help again. When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?" "I'm sorry, I can't help you out this time!" replied the 2nd wife. "At the very most, I can only send you to your grave." The answer came like a bolt of thunder and the merchant was devastated.

Then a voice called out: "I'll leave with you. I'll follow you no matter where you go." The merchant looked up and there was his first wife. She was so skinny, almost like she suffered from malnutrition.

Greatly grieved, the merchant said, "I should have taken much better care of you while I could have!"

Actually, we all have 4 wives in our lives. The 4th wife is our body. No matter how much time and effort we lavish in making it look good, it'll leave us when we die.

Our 3rd wife is our possessions, status and wealth. When we die, they all go to others.

The 2nd wife is our family and friends. No matter how close they had been there for us when we're alive, the furthest they can stay by us is up to the grave.

The 1st wife is in fact our soul, often neglected in our pursuit of material wealth and sensual pleasure.

Guess what? It is actually the only thing that follows us wherever we go. Perhaps it's a good idea to cultivate and strengthen it now rather than to wait until we're on our deathbed to lament.
This story may seem fictional, but it drives home the point that we cannot place our hopes on things temporal but on things that are eternal.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Rich Man Problem

"The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his desire; but the belly of the wicked shall want." (Proverbs 13:25, JPS)

"The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, But the stomach of the wicked is in need." (Proverbs 13:25, NAS)

Tom comes from humble beginnings. Growing up in a poor neighbourhood slum, he remembers the daily toils of his parents simply to put bread on the table. Sometimes, a bowl of plain soup is the best meal in weeks. Since that tender age of 8, he resolves never to be poor again. Twenty-Five years later, he sits in a highrise tower complex, staring at the center of the city's prestigious financial district. He has become the definition of the world's meaning of success. Yet, what is glittering on the outside only reflects a fading shimmering of hope on the inside on what is the meaning of life. He ponders the riches he has, but does not know how to deal with it. He realizes that material riches does not contribute much toward any forms of inner fulfillment. Life is empty, once again. Yet, he sees many of his colleagues struggling tooth and neck to try to be where he is. If only he could tell them that life up there is no glamour. Simplicity is more fulfilling than any quantum of material riches. It is the ability to answer properly the question: "How much is enough?"

It is the irony of life. Before one attains that state of plenty, one dreams and longs for it. Upon reaching that stage, how does one get rid of the associated problems of fame and riches? The problem of being the target of conspiracy and relationships that only lasts when one is rich and powerful. Friends are hard to come by. Loneliness lurks in every known room of Tom's life. A guarded disposition against opportunists has become a way of life as Tom traverses the corridors of his own personal life. At every corner and every turn, Tom has to watch he he says and not say, who he talks to and the pesky press and media which thrives on bad news happening to the rich and famous. "How I wish to be simple again!" is the cry that Tom can only share with trusted friends and family, if any.

Proverbs 13:25 contrasts two persons. The righteous man knows what truly satisfies. The wicked man is completely lost with things that is never fulfilling. One knows himself what he needs. The other is totally unaware of himself and has lost any sense of discerning what is needful and what is not. For the righteous, he knows the answer to the question of sufficiency. For the wicked, nothing is ever enough. I remember the words of the Director of Operations many years ago in a MultiNational firm I worked for, as he addresses the discontentment among the employees over the quantum of pay increment. "How much is enough?" is that question that echoes inside the minds of many employees, without any reciprocal answers. He drives home the pertinent point, that many of us do not really know ourselves, or our jobs enough to justify the amount that we feel we need. How much is enough? To the wicked, nothing is never ever enough. For the righteous, there is a clear sense of what it means to say to oneself: "That is enough." Warren Wiersbe says it well:
Material wealth is either a window through which we see God, or a mirror which we see ourselves.
Indeed, the external things we have (and our attitude toward it), can be used to mirror our inner selves. It tells us how we are doing inside, exhibited by our attitudes toward possessing them.

Laura Nash and Howard Stevenson, both from Harvard Business School, share this story from their book, Just Enough.
“Long ago in ancient China, the king wanted to reward a loyal citizen. The king gave this simple man the right to mark out as much territory as he wished, and [said] that the area would be his. All he had to do was walk around, marking off the boundaries of his desired reward, and then return to the king to claim this land.

“The man set out, and on the first day he walked three miles. As he turned back to the palace in the far distance, he changed his mind. Perhaps he’d need a bit more, maybe just as far as the eye could see. A week later, he had finished walking this distance. But what if there was a drought or flood? Wouldn’t it be better to mark out enough land for farming and fishing, and maybe a woods for hunting?

“It took him a year to complete all these goals. As he set off to return to the palace and complete the circle, he thought about his children. Would this be enough to pass on to them for 10 generations? Maybe they should have access to the ocean, in case they wanted to become shipping merchants. He walked further. By now he was quite tired, but on he went, inspired by the knowledge that each step was increasing his holdings.

“Ten years later, he began his journey back, an old and tired man. Just as he entered the palace, he dropped dead. He never realized the ambitions he had continually adjusted upward. His children had no land. He never enjoyed even a fraction of the good life he sought because of his bondage to ‘never enough.’”
While it is true that being rich can free one from the worries of poverty, one must be on the lookout that there is a terrible bondage that can make our hearts captive to the chains of greed and the bondage of covetousness. "Do not covet" is the last of the Ten Commandments, but perhaps the most effective wrapper to keep together all the other earlier commandments. We do not covet after other gods otherwise that will mean idolatry that will anger God. We should not covet a 7-day work week in the name of beating the competition, for that will erase that essential Sabbatical rest day. We do not covet after the attractiveness of worldly possessions, for that can easily lead to theft, murder, adultery, false testimony and anything else that does not belong to us. Covetousness is the cancer that spirals in uncontrolled growth and will never be satisfied until the entire body is brought down to its ultimate death. It has been said that a cancerous cell is one which seeks to draw all attention to itself, where growth is never controlled, and where the purpose of a cancerous molecule is to consume limitlessly and grow at the expense of others. Nash and Stevenson observe and were themselves 'discouraged' by the consistent failures of people who have attained the societal's definition of worldly successes. They prescribe the following:
Our model is absolutely counterintuitive to the advice that tells you the secret to success is passion and focus, focus, focus. Interestingly, research in complex decision making suggests that it is actually possible to reach a constructive sense of limitation more easily in a complex landscape than when you seek one big, far-off goal."" [Laura Nash and Howard Stevenson, Just Enough, (John Wiley 2004), x-xi]
They have essentially two objectives. Firstly, they want to help one to handle 'legitimate performance difficulties' in today's business world. Secondly, and more importantly, they yearn to link such skills to something deeper in order to create an 'authentic view of success.' (xii) In other words, any forms of methodology or success can only last as long as its anchoring beliefs. The more solid the commitment to a lasting set of values, the more reliable and dependable are the methods and means to achieve success. In contrast to a world of greed and ambition, the Harvard professors advocate that once the evidence of success in terms of HAPPINESS, ACHIEVEMENT, SIGNIFICANCE and LEGACY are attained, the key is to be able to say "JUST ENOUGH." Embedded in such a belief is the cultivation of meaning and understanding what a satisfying activity looks like. Their model is summed up as follows:
  • Anticipate and sort the basic expectations of success (Happiness, Achievement, Significance, Legacy)
  • Set limits on your desires so that you can regularly experience satisfaction along the way and make room for multiple kinds of success (the kaleidoscope strategy)
  • Learn what shapes your goals (the components of your self-definition)
  • Learn how to direct the right degree of resources toward each basic desire with the right timing (Just Enough) (xxi)
Huh! Another framework. That is what MBAs (sigh... I am one of them) are made of, the ability to frame all of life into something manageable. Learning the models is one thing. Knowing which to use at what particular situation and time is another.

Professors Nash and Stevenson combine their mathematical prowess and humanistic sensitivities to concoct a model for fulfillment in an age where the understanding of success has been warped and deranged out of order and proportion. They are right to observe that success needs to be adequately understood on the basis of its connection to a deeper structure. However, they lack specifics. They are in the right direction when they say that happiness is inside us, but they lack specifics on what that means and they do not go far enough. By saying that Achievement is In-Out, Significance is Out-In, Legacy is Out-Out, and Happiness is In-In, they seem to have encased the meaning of success and fulfilment in a 2x2 matrix in a 3-Dimensional world. That too lack practical specifics, though it is a good initiating sounding board for people seeking to find meaning in their work. In a way, I do not feel too comfortable with models that appear to give a message of salvation to work and the meaning of work, without anchoring themselves on a supernatural source from above. On what basis should anyone work from when implementing this model. Human wisdom? What about the complexities of life and relationships that combines all four aspects of the model? What are the factors to decide on the order of priority? Do we depend on our own fallen wisdom to decide? Do we hire more 'success consultants' to make sense of what we need to do? Any secular philosophy will ultimately remain secular. Happiness, Achievement, Significance and Legacy seen from secular eyes is unfortunately inadequate. For Christians, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. We put on Christ's lens in order to clearly see the world and the attitudes we need to have. Nash and Stevenson helpfully remind us that we must not be lost in the race for material success and earthly possessions. They are correct to remind us that we need something deeper. All in all, I feel that the book, despite its merits eventually does not go far enough. It leaves behind an aftertaste of having eaten but never really satisfied. I wonder if the title of the book "Just Enough" has got something to do with this aftertaste? Perhaps. One thing I know, a heart of thanksgiving according to the Bible, leaves a much more lasting aftertaste than any of the models taught. Paul's exhortation to give thanks continually comes to mind. I believe it goes deeper than Nash's and Stevenson's prescription.

One way to cultivate a theology of enough is to have a heart that is always thankful. Of course, one can always rationalize in a Murphy-like manner that "It could have been worse." Yet the main beneficial aspect of thankfulness is painted inside the hallways of one's thoughts and feelings in the form of not taking what we have or not have for granted. The Psalms are full of thanksgiving.
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. (Ps 9:1)

I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to You among the nations. (Ps 57:9)
This is another reason to read and meditate on Psalms regularly. It takes a truly thankful heart in order to be able to express joy in gratitude for all the little things we have. Truly, a little feather held with an open palm of thankfulness is much more satisfying than a gigantic boulder grasped with two grappling arms of covetousness. The former feels free and willing to let go. The latter is worried about security and fear that others may come and steal one's property and belongings. Cultivate a thankfulness. The Chinese have a saying: "拿得起放得下, 会让你获益良多" (Willing to take up, willing to place down, brings great benefits). That is another way of saying how we need to learn to include "Enough" more frequently in our vocabulary of life. Let me conclude with one of Marva Dawn's insight:
"How fettered is our hope by the plethora of goods we have and think we need, by the notion that we can fix problems if we just have enough stuff! How small is our picture of the Triune God manifested in Christ that we might think, under duress that He is not enough." (Marva Dawn, Unfettered Hope)
Let the rich person with plenty cry out enough. Let the poor plead to be able to say, give me just enough. Let the Christian always be able to say: "Give me Christ. That is all I need for only in Christ, we can truly say: "I have enough." May the following be our prayer (Proverbs 30:7-9):

“Two things I ask of you, O LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God."



Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thoughts on Biblical Leadership


This week at Gordon-Conwell has been a journey through the path of leadership. We learned from the esteemed Ray Brunt, the author of the powerful article: “Leaders Growing Leaders” which is the first of two articles in his address to the need to grow leaders for the public service. Particularly helpful is his distinction of leaders in terms of people who grow others to be leaders. Leaders are those who ‘beget leaders and leave a legacy’ (Brunt, “Leaders Growing Leaders,” 12). This is demonstrated through four means, namely; Exemplar, Coach, Mentor and Teacher. Leadership is demonstrated, guided, and for the less initiated; taught explicitly. The more the leader understands his students, the better and more precise his teaching technique. Taking time to build relationships prepares students to learn well. Walter Wright, formerly a President of Regent-College affirms that:

Leadership as Relationship
“Leadership is a relationship – a relationship in which one person seeks to influence the thoughts, behaviours, beliefs or values of another person.” (Walter C. Wright, Relational Leadership, Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 2000, p2)
Jesus builds relationships constantly. Whether he is doing his miraculous works, or rebuking wrong teachings, he is demonstrating leadership to people around, the onlooking spectators, his disciples and even his enemies. Jesus was popular with the poor, the needy, the marginalized and the outcasts of society. He was hugely unpopular with people in the higher echelons. Yet, Jesus is demonstrating leadership, in the midst of both positive and negative perceptions. That is a key thing. Leadership should be life-giving, based on truth-telling rather than popularity.

“Leaders Growing Leaders” despite all its powerful message, contains a glaring limitation. While it is powerful and effective, it is more applicable for those people who have significant years of leadership opportunity and experience. What about the younger folks? What about people who are relatively inexperienced, who desires to grow in learning leadership but are limited by tradition and hierarchical structures? Of course, while one can argue that the posture rather than the position is more appropriate, the fact is it has been written by a gentleman who is sharing from his years of knowledge and experience. Brunt meticulously weaves in the call for leaders in society to include younger ones in their organization so that the young can observe how leadership is done. This article is clearly for people who are relatively more senior in any public organization. Leaders Growing Leaders is a good article, I must admit. Yet, I would have preferred, from a more inclusive perspective. Perhaps, “Growing Leaders Grow Leaders” will be more encouraging to the young, or the young at heart. I was reading yesterday Paul’s exhortation to a young leader, Timothy.
Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” (1 Tim 4:12)

Leadership as Learners
A posture of learning is the mark of a disciple. Contrary to what many believe, the word ‘disciple’ does not mean discipline. In Greek, disciple is translated (μαθητής, mathetes), also understood to be ‘student’ or ‘learner.’ A disciple of Christ is essentially a student of Jesus. Discipleship is learning to be like Christ. A Christian is a follower of Christ. I will assert that if we are not able to be good followers, we cannot ever become good leaders. All of us has to learn from someone, or through some circumstance. Nobody can truly begin from a high pedestal. Leadership growth is essentially a series of spirals from one level to another. Different circumstances will draw out different leadership characteristics from us. For example, one who is gifted in one type of skill-set, will be better equipped to learn a second perspective. Timothy is a young leader, close to the heart of Paul. The apostle Paul is his mentor and teacher. Leadership is essentially an attribute that is learned. Leaders are learners.

Leadership as Faith-in-Action
One of the marks of leadership is the courage to take risks. Peter Senge says:
We are coming to believe that leaders are those people who ‘walk ahead,’ people who are genuinely committed to deep change in themselves and in their organizations. They lead through developing new skills, capabilities, and understandings. And they come from many places within the organization.” (Peter Senge)
I rose up this morning thinking about leadership and faith. As one who loves to conjure up creative acronyms, I came up with the following:
F – Faithfulness
A – Availability
I – Inclusiveness
T – Teachable
H – Humble

1) F- Faithfulness
In faithfulness, a leader learns to persevere on in what he believes to be the core values of life. Without faith in something, the person loses his sense of identity. Warren Bennis describes it succinctly:
“The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his own person. The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.” (Warren Bennis, On Becoming the Leader, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1989, 45)
Though Bennis compares the difference between the manager and the leader, I believe he is highlighting the essence of a leader rather than simply downplaying the importance of a manager. A leader is essentially one who does the right thing because he believes in that right thing. Having established a belief, he holds on to that value and live a life of faithfulness. If we believe strongly in the institution of marriage, should we not be faithful to our spouses? If we believe in the Trinity, should not community figure more prominently in our daily lives?

2) Availability
It is one thing to say that we are available when needed. It is yet another to be physically present. These past two weeks, I have been blessed to sit through and listen in to wonderful teachings from the faculty at Gordon-Conwell about leadership and workplace theology. Dr Haddon Robinson, the revered preacher and servant of God, currently interim president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary made an honest effort to be with us, in spite of his busy schedule. That made a lot of difference, at least for me. Being available to us makes a lot of difference. He exemplified leadership by being with the ‘least’ of us, taking questions from younger students willingly. I am reminded of Jesus’s words in the oft-quoted verse in Matthew 28. Sometimes, Christians remember ‘Go ye therefore’ to the point that they failed to equally stress Christ’s presence: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Maybe, people who are afraid of sharing the Christian faith with their neighbours have read the first part of Matthew 28:19 and failed to comprehend more fully the meaning of Christ being present with us ALWAYS. Put it another way, if we know that Christ is with us and for us, should not Christians be people full of courage in Christ? Christian leadership is that willingness to be available for others, because Christ is with us.

3) I – Inclusiveness
This is where I feel is a good supplement to “Leaders Growing Leaders.” Leaders must constantly learn to be inclusive, and not imagine themselves to be so high up in the hierarchy that they have no personal touch at the lower levels of the organization. This truth was brought home by a presenter yesterday about her organizational culture which allows a subordinate three levels below to report certain aspects of an important project to an executive three levels above her. Jesus calls ordinary men to follow him. Paul calls young Timothy into his ministry. Young Samuel was called by God. All these people were included in the wide ministry of the Word.
“A Christian leader is someone who is called by God to lead and possess virtuous character and effectively motivates, mobilizes resources and directs people toward the fulfillment of a jointly embraced vision from God.” (George Barna, The Second Coming of the Church, Nashville: Word, 1998, p107)
Barna hits it rightly. A ‘jointly-embraced vision from God’ cuts across all ranks. Being inclusive means mobilizing all available resources, all people who catches the vision of God. We cannot exclude people based on any form of human-differentiated device.

4) Teachable
This is the mark of a disciple, as mentioned earlier. As long as one adopts constantly a disposition of learning, as long as one remains teachable, one is exhibiting one of the biggest traits of effective leadership. Thrall et al, asserts that ‘change and growth require teachability.’ This is even more important as we are in the midst of one of the most fast changing and rapidly growing period in history, with technology and frantic pace of life becoming the key drivers of society.
“One of the first signs of an endangered leader is a decrease in his willingness to hear and learn from the experiences of others. Beware of this trap! Remember, fifth-rung experiences come from God, not your own superior abilities or character. Protection and direction come from listening, hearing and aligning with the truth others have to tell us.” (Thrall et al, The Ascent of the Leader, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999, p154)
That is a wonderful reminder that leaders do not stop growing and learning. They must remain teachable. That is a mark of a leader.

5) Humble
“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader. ” (Max de Pree, Leadership is an Art, New York: Doubleday, 2004, p11)
Max de Pree’s book is becoming one of the classics on leadership. It is a short book but long in valuable insights about leadership. It is also very Christian. The gospel writer Mark sees Jesus from the lens of a servant leader, one who is humble to come to serve and not to expect to be served.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many..” (Mark 10:45)

Jesus did not come first and foremost to be a servant for the sake of becoming a servant. He came out of love. This is important. Sometimes Christians debase themselves so much that they think being humble is simply to look down on oneself. Wrong! Being humble is essentially putting on Christ, to put God’s purpose before us. Robert Greenleaf hones in on this point.
“The great leader is seen as servant first, and that simple fact is the key to his greatness.” (Robert K. Greenleaf, Servant Leadership, New York: Paulist, 1977, p7)
I should end with a story from the desert fathers.
I have intentionally chosen to use 'humble' rather than 'humility.' I feel that using humble as a verb is more vivid. 'Humility' as an adjective tends to imply having attained that state.
A brother went to find Abba Serapion. According to his custom, the old man invited him to say a prayer. But the other, calling himself a sinner and unworthy of the monastic habit, did not obey. Next Abba Serapion wanted to wash his feet, but using the same words again, the visitor prevented him. Then Abba Serapion made him eat and he began to eat with him. Then he admonished him saying, 'My son, if you want to make progress stay in your cell and pay attention to yourself and your manual work; going out is not so profitable for you as remaining at home.' When he heard these words the visitor was offended and his expression changed so much that the old man could not but notice it. So he said to him, 'UP to now you have called yourself a sinner and accused yourself of being unworthy to live, but when I admonished you lovingly, you were extremely put out. If you want to be humble, learn to bear generously what others unfairly inflict upon you and do not harbour empty words in your heart.' Hearing this, the brother asked the old man s forgiveness and went away greatly edified.

This is truly one of the greatest marks of Christian leadership, that of a watchful disposition to tell the truth at the right time, to the right person in the right capacity. This can never be done on our own strength or wisdom. It has to be led by the Spirit of God, so that no man will ever boast.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

More Silly Goals

This silly goalkeeping moment is simply too funny not to share....

This next snippet is entitled: "Joy and Despair in 30 seconds."

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Top 10 Worst Goalkeeping Moments (Laugh)

This tells us that even professionals can make mistakes. I love the last one.

This second one is a classic 'great save' followed by an equally great blunder.


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