Books I have read: Fairness Is Overrated

Fairness is Overrated

Reading Fairness is Overrated and 51 other leadership principles you feel like you’re receiving great wisdom on leadership from someone who has been in the trenches – they know what they are talking about.


The book is divided into four parts and reflects the four pillars that Stevens believes effective leadership is built on.

  • Part one focuses on becoming a leader worth following. The lessons deal with the topics of integrity, family, being fully present, and margin.
  • Part two gives instructions on finding the right people. It addresses issues such as when to ignore resumes and when to pay attention to them, using social media in checking a person’s background and character, how to ask questions in interviews, and much more.
  • Part three addresses the topic of building a healthy culture within your organization. It talks about agendas, building teams, having fun together, and dealing with silos.
  • Part four touches on the topic of leading confidently through a crisis. The chapters deal with resignations, layoffs, firings, conflict resolution, and the importance of communication throughout.


The book is split into 52 small chapters – which give the feeling of Tim and you sat at a coffee shop having a discussion on a particular facet of leadership. At the end of each chapter, there are a couple of discussion or application questions. The book’s success will hang on how you engage with these as there is nothing revolutionary in the book – it is all about how you apply the wisdom into your context of leadership. A few of the chapters are specifically focused on those leading churches, but the vast majority are applicable to churches, businesses and voluntary sector organisations alike.


I found the book practical and encouraging. It was worth reading and referring to again later but not one I’d say is a must read.


Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

YC15 Blog: Powering Down: Leading through vulnerability – Selina Stone

412YC YC15 Live Blog Images3

This morning we’re at Powering Down: Leading through vulnerability led by Selina Stone.

She’s challenged us to

Think about a time when you have shared something personal with a person you were leading …

Think of an occasion when a leader you looked up to shared something personal with you …
How did that moment impact your relationship?

Following on if we believe sharing life is really important, why do we find it so hard to do. If we believe it to be a key thing to be vulnerable and open with young people why is it such a challenge?

John 20:24-29

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’

But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ 27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’

28 Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’

29 Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

Thomas is nicknamed doubting Thomas but it seems a little harsh, I’d probably want some evidence too. What jumps out about Thomas?

He was so vulnerable, giving up his life to follow Jesus and so he wants to know that this person is Jesus before he is vulnerable again.
Quite brave as saying what others are actually thinking but not brave enough to say.
He hadn’t seen it first hand, he was wary of the second hand stories.
Trying to protect himself and not be vulnerable, but he isn’t cynical.
He is doubting Jesus but not written Jesus off completely.
We often replicate this in our walk, often praying for God to show up. Trying to be vulnerable in our expectation of God showing up and leading us.

Thomas is the kind of guy who wants to experience this, he doesn’t just want to hear it second hand. I want to personally experience and see something to believe in what you are saying. He learns from his mistake – not being around when Jesus came the first time – but he was there the second time. He positioned himself to believe, to receive from Jesus.

Thomas is the one who says lets go back to Judea and die with Jesus when it was all kicking off with the crucifixion. He asks inquisitive questions of Jesus. On the one hand he is doubting but on another hand he has a certain amount of faith.

How does Jesus deal with Thomas, with regard to doubting and someone who is unsure of his position?

He wants to engage with Thomas and Thomas to engage with him.
It shows Jesus’ love and faithfulness.
Love the fact that Jesus made Thomas wait a whole week!
Jesus didn’t criticise Thomas.

Jesus has gone through the worst physical trauma that a human could go through and Thomas asks to touch that thing that will bring back both physical trauma, the wounds, the mental loneliness. He lets Thomas puts his finger in the hole where the nail was, and where the hole in his side was. That could be really painful for Jesus and yet he was willing so that Thomas could have a revelation of who Jesus is. Thomas gets to one of the most profound revelations of Jesus in the New Testament through closeness and pain.


Where in your story have you experienced pain or suffering, and then seen God bring hope and joy?
Who are you leading, who like Thomas, may need to touch that wound, in order to help them believe?
When could you take time to meet with this person for this exchange?

The Rank Foundation Time to Shine Internship Programme

The Rank Foundation

The Rank Foundation is running their Time to Shine Internship Programme which looks well worth checking out:

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  • Do you have a specific project need that will help your organisation to improve its performance?
  • Would it help if you could complete a particular task that is always on the ‘list to do’?
  • And do you know a young person who has the time, energy and commitment to help you achieve the task?

If so, the Time to Shine Internship Programme could be right for you. The Rank Foundation has an initiative that will enable young people to gain work experience on a full time basis over a period of up to 12 months, helping the organisation achieve a specific project task.

The task is yours to define, but it could be anything from devising and implementing a social media strategy to getting your intern involved in research, marketing, fundraising or community volunteering.  The task should be specific and measurable, as well as achievable within the timescale and within your organisation’s resources.

The Rank Foundation will award a grant to the organisation based on the Living Wage to cover the direct salary costs of the intern, an additional award of £1000 restricted to the internship activities (such as travel costs to non-compulsory events) and discretionary assistance towards training costs.

At the end of the internship  the organisation will have benefited by addressing a particular organisational development need, thus improving its services to the wider community, and the young person will have had the opportunity to test out their skills, improve employment prospects and of course they will have the space and ‘time to shine’!

Key dates to bear in mind are:

Closing Date for Applications Tuesday 6th October 2015
We will notify you of the outcome of this first stage by Friday 16th October.

If you are successful we will arrange a London-based or on- site interview which both the candidate and the line manager must attend.  Please let us know of any dates that are not suitable.  If you are unable to identify a suitable candidate please let us know as the placement could be offered to another organisation.
We will be conducting lots of interviews but will inform you of the final outcome no later than Friday 4th December.   Please do not offer the position to the prospective intern until and unless you have been offered a Time to Shine placement.

If you are successful the Intern must be able to start the placement no later than 11th January 2016.
Residential Conferences – for both the manager and intern – 18th/19th or 19th/20th January 2016 and a review event on 15th/16th or 16th/17th June 2016.
The Intern must also attend the conference and Showcase event on the 28th-30th September 2016.

The 5 Types of Work that Fill Your Day

5 Types of Work

How much of your workday is spent reacting to events that happen over the hours you spend at the office?  How much is spent on planning and strategy?  Finally, ask yourself how much time is spent towards real problem solving, or getting to the root problems of the issues you spent the other few hours reacting to?

If you can sit down and successfully audit the amount of time you spend on a given day doing what kind of work, you’ll have a better idea of where you should put your efforts, and what you can expect your average day to look like.

Scott Belsky writes a great post on this at the 99U. The five types he discusses are:

  1. Reactionary work
  2. Planning work
  3. Procedural work
  4. Insecurity work
  5. Problem-solving work

Miscommunication, empathy and email


This is a great post at the 99U. It starts:

When speaking face-to-face, it’s the verbal and nonverbal social cues that allow us to gauge the best way to arrange our wording in order to get our point across clearly. In email, we don’t get such real-time feedback. Once our message is in the hand of the recipient, we’ve lost all control.

This, of course, often leads to miscommunications, guessed intentions, and a total unawareness of whether an email was typed in red-faced anger or while sipping a martini by a pool. What really leads to those miscommunications is a lack of empathy….

“The most important thing is understanding each other’s language,” founder Drew D’Agostino said. “It’s not me completely adapting the way I communicate with you, but being aware and considerate of how you communicate best. Everybody’s different, and if we can just learn to recognize the communication styles of each other we can create much clearer interactions and productive communications.”

So how do we write emails that enable empathy—especially with people we might have never met in person before? And how can we be more empathetic when reading the emails of others? We asked D’Agostino to share Crystal’s best tips on how to bring more empathy to emails; both in the ones we receive and in the ones we send.

Read the whole thing here.

3 lessons we can learn from Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is a fascinating character – he’s seen as one of the most influential people of the last three decades. He’s changed the way that computing and technology intersects with the liberal arts street as he so often used to put it.

I love to read good biographies and I am fascinated by people’s stories. Not even necessarily famous people or key world leaders, I just love the story of someone’s life. Walter Isaacson does a fantastic job of truly getting underneath the surface of Steve Jobs – sharing the story, the values, the highs and the lows.

A few things jumped out at me:


Steve Jobs consistently developed news ideas, but it seems that very few of the ideas that and the brilliant Jony Ive (his main designer) came up with made it to even board level, let alone a product for consumers.

Too often I think in the church we try to use every idea for fear of missing an opportunity – we sometimes need to be pickier about the quality of those ideas. Equally, don’t be afraid of the radical ideas – the iPhone, the iPad, Pixar and Apple Stores were all ideas that were revolutionary in their own way – pushing the edge of our normal understanding.


Jobs didn’t organize Apple into separate divisions like, for example, Sony or Philips, instead he pushed his teams to work together under the one profit and loss line. My experience of working in the church is that we’re very quick to adopt a business model of silos: children’s and youth, worship, pastoral care, teaching, work with older people all have separate teams.

Instead, we need to be clear that whilst there are experts working in their own field that people must contribute to the one profit and loss for the company – we must contribute and work together for the vision and goals of the organization. Jobs uses to use phrases such as “deep collaboration” and “concurrent engineering” to describe the process. I’m deeply passionate that we need to see more of this in the 21st century church.


In today’s consumeristic world there’s a lot of focus on giving the customers what they want. Jobs challenged that. He took a quote from Henry Ford: “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’”. Jobs believed that people don’t know what they want until you show it to them and that’s why he didn’t place a large emphasis on market research.

Too often in youth ministry we’re tempted to swing from one iniative to the next trying to find the magic formula to get lots of young people to come to Christ and then grow in discipleship. Instead, Jobs believes that our task is to read things that are not yet on the page and that’s what youth ministry needs to be for the church – the prophetic voice that shows what the church should look like.

Leaders in business and politics have lots of to teach us, and we shouldn’t be afraid to learn from these leaders, but we also need to be clear that church isn’t an organization that can be run in the way a business or government can. Church has very different priorities, especially around values, in comparison with those organisations.

If you haven’t read Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson then do get a copy – it’s a fascinating insight into the change in technology and the arts that’s happened in the last 30 years.

Arrow Course Preparation Day: Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12.1

I had a great time on the CPAS Arrow Course preparation day, and heard some great teaching from Nick Cuthbert on Hebrew 12:1-13:

It is very easy to grow weary as a human, it is a struggle, especially if you have children.  We often feel live giving up, in The Road Less Travelled, Scott Peck says: “Life is difficult”

In England we think things will work but it doesn’t work we’re sad most of the time, in Africa we think things won’t work so we’re happy when they work!

It is hard to be a Christian worker today, it is very easy to grow weary and lose heart.  You will know colleagues who didn’t finish the race, they lost heart.  The writer says I am writing so you don’t lose heart.  Paul twice in 2 Corinthians explains this.

Listen to the cheering crowd

Remember the witnesses, remember the generations who have gone through what you have gone through and worse, and if they could see you they would tell you to keep going.  If you were to go to Italy to watch the Rugby you would be cheering on the England players most of whom haven’t played.  These people have, they have felt those moments and still they say keep going.  History reminds us of men and women who get through, that’s why reading biographies is so important.

In Hebrews 11 we see people who lived life as a half-way to a miracle – but a miserable place to be, Moses standing on the red sea shore with Pharaoh behind you it’s not a good moment; the same in the River Jordan; then Jericho walking around six times blowing their trumpets; disciples trying to feed 5,000 with some fish and bread!  Many of us are at that point, we haven’t seen the breakthrough of God.  Going through the process is important, see Joseph who wouldn’t have been the man he became.  Abraham never saw the miracle, he never saw the city.

Get rid of the weights

Get rid of the stuff you don’t need.  Athletes trained with weights on their back so it was easier in the actual race, but he says many people are struggling in the race because you are carrying things you don’t need to carry.  Much is linked to relationships, hurts and pain that we carry unnecessarily.  Get rid of them and you feel the relief and can run freely.

The sin that he’s referring to here is probably unbelief, as when things are hard, we’re tempted to say where is God?

Staying in your lane

Let’s run with endurance the race set before us.  When you set out on a race you’re enthusiastic but half-way through you question what are you doing.  God has given you a particular race to run, stay in your own lane, we often try to run someone else’s race.  We try to copy what other people do.  So when God meets you on the final day it will be because you ran the race he called you to – you may become very well known or no one may know of your ministry.

You are dominated in church life of the expectations of others.  If you are wise you discover who you are, if you run the race of who you are you will run it with ease, but if you run the race how others expect you to be then it will always be difficult.

Look beyond the tape

You run for beyond the tape, you set your sight on something you are going for.  Fix your eyes on Jesus, when things are hard we become consumed with what we struggle with, but if you fix your eyes on Jesus everything will come into perspective, you see something bigger than all the struggles.  Look beyond, your ministry is not the end of this life, there is something bigger and better to live for – there is another day we’re heading towards – heaven.  Only two days are important in life – today – that we live in and that day.

Growing process

God loves you and will teach you in the hard times, we learn in the struggles.  It is in the hardship and the times we want to give up.  It is more important what he does in you not about what you do.  John 15, you are the vine, the Father is working in our lives to make us all we are.  Those who receive the reward in heaven are the overcomers, that is hard work but important.

Books I have read: Building a Strategic Church

Building a Strategic Church

David Beer was one of those church leaders you wanted to learn from, one who I had the privilege of meeting and hearing speak several times.  In Building a Strategic Church he allows us to sit in a coffee shop with him and chat about lots of different areas of church ministry.

The book covers a huge number of areas with eleven chapters, each subdivided into little sections only a few pages long:

  • Why be strategic?
  • Strong leadership
  • Team spirit
  • Relational structures
  • Application preaching
  • Training and equipping
  • Exponential thinking
  • Generous attitude
  • Involvement with the local community
  • A caring heart
  • Putting it all together

After serving as Senior Pastor at Frinton Free Church (a church with approximately 600 members) he went on to head up the Purpose Driven Church movement in Europe.  This does mean that some parts of the book come across as overly American and reliant on the acrostics and structures that come from Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church.

The book left me wanting more in several areas, I would want to bounce ideas with David Beer, understanding why he does things in certain ways, and what he thinks about some of my ideas.  If you’re looking for a helpful overview to the how of church then look no further.

Servant leadership

Lead On - CPAS

I loved the article on Servant Leadership by James Lawrence in the monthly CPAS Lead On mailing:

‘The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between a leader is a servant and a debtor.’ Max De Pree

Defining reality: helping those we lead to see things as they are. Saying thank you: expressing appreciation for what people do. And in between, suggests DePree, a leader is a servant and debtor. What does this look like?

Christians follow a servant king, one who came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45). The defining symbol of this sort of leadership is a towel. Yet servant leadership is often misunderstood. For Christians it doesn’t mean serving people, but serving God and through our service of God serving people; a subtle, but significant difference.

Serve people and we end up becoming a doormat, dutifully doing whatever they think best. Serve God and then we become a doorway, through which we enable people to walk into the priorities of the king and the purposes of the kingdom. Servant leaders serve God first, which means there will be times when we don’t do what people ask, when we say no (see Matthew 20:20-28). Such leadership is often difficult.

For example, most of us would rather avoid difficult conversations – the PCC member who is ‘bullying’ others into agreeing with what he wants. Perhaps he has been doing it for years, and no one has challenged his behaviour. The servant-leader plucks up courage, even when they would rather avoid the conversation, and does what is required.

So the critical question for servant leaders is ‘what is required of me in my leadership role today that will further the purposes of the kingdom and bless others?’

Let’s pick up our towels this month, and serve.

Books I have read: Leading on Empty

Leading on Empty

This week I’ve been reading Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro.  I was recommended this book by one of my previous colleagues who had been really encouraged by Cordeiro’s honesty and attitude.  The book starts by reflecting on his experience of burnout and how he realised that his life was not sustainable and needed to change.

For me the most helpful aspect of the book was his honesty both as he reflected with what he needed to change – that it ran deep within himself; and the depth at which Cordeiro explained practically how he managed this – especially with the Personal Retreat Days – something I will certainly be taking on board as we move into 2014.

The concept of a dashboard which helps to measure vital systems essential for health and success was interesting, he used: Faith life; marriage life; family life; office life; computer life; ministry life; financial life; social life; attitudinal life; author’s life; speaker’s life and physical life.  I found Cordeiro’s thoughts on the different questions we ask ourselves in our 20s, our 30s, our 40s, our 50s, our 60s and our 70s helpful to realise that after ten years in ministry who I am, and the questions I ask of myself have changed during this period.

With recommendations such as “This is a must-read for all leaders” by Bill Hybels it certainly isn’t one to ignore, and whilst there is nothing that you probably haven’t heard before, it will certainly encourage you and challenge you to make your life more sustainable instead of constantly leading on empty.

The Challenges of Leadership in the Charity Sector


I loved the email article, The Challenges of Leadership in the Charity Sector by Charles McLachlan in this week’s Cinnamon Network mailing:

As my career developed in commercial organisations, I believed I also had something to offer charities – the Third Sector. It seemed easy to get invited to join trustees, act as a treasurer or get more involved in operational activity. Here was a place that I felt I could contribute, if only they would adopt some of the commercial disciplines of project management, financial control and clear lines of authority that I knew so well, then we could really make a difference together!

My early attempts at introducing some of these commercial disciplines were welcomed in principle however, but resisted in practice. As my mentor used to say, “Charles, just because it makes sense, doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do” and even more confusingly, “Charles, just because it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t mean it is not the right thing to do”.  I felt I must be missing part of the picture.

Then it clicked. I had hardly imagined the challenge charity leaders face when:

  • 90% of your customers don’t pay you for your services;
  • 90% of your staff hours are provide by individuals who cannot be motivated by pay or financial reward;
  • your investors often have stronger opinions about how you do things and what you do than the actual outcomes delivered;
  • available resources may be allocated in response to perceptions (internal or external) rather than a business case;
  • too often, absolute cost trumps value for money in spending decisions;
  • individuals with power may have no responsibility, and those with responsibility have little power.

As I began to fully understand this, I developed a new respect for leaders of charities. I also realised how much of what those leaders achieve could be applied with enormous power into commercial organisations.

The Third sector is often incredibly entrepreneurial. With almost no resources, a community action group can initiate the transformation of an entire neighbourhood, for example. The Jubilee Debt Campaign released billions of dollars of Third World debt to education and health care.

Does the commercial sector have nothing to offer the Third sector? No, I still believe that many of the disciplines of the commercial sector are required. But it is easy to squeeze out the power of the relationships that are the Social Capital underpinning the Third sector if you just turn the organisation into a more efficient financial machine. And for all of us, where financial resources are increasingly constrained, we should look to Social Capital as the entrepreneurial resource for leaders who want to re-invigorate Britain in the 21st century.


My struggle – leaders fail


One of my biggest lessons in leadership is that leaders fail, and that it is necessary and good to fail.

The more I read of leaders the more I realise that those we often hold up as fantastic leaders in their own fields struggled time and time again with failure.  Their success is built upon a foundation of failures from which they learn and grow.

As Thomas Edison said:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

The other thing I’ve learnt is that just because you fail doesn’t mean you should drop that dream or goal – it may just need more practice or not be the right time for it to work.  Just check out this infographic: