Friday, June 24, 2016

BREXIT: Good or Bad? A Few Thoughts

There are a lot of opinions flying around today about what exactly the Brexit vote means. For those unaware of what this even is, a vote took place yesterday in Great Britain about whether or not they should remain as part of the European Union. A vote to leave, or exit, the union has been nicknamed (for better or worse) Brexit. This term is similar to the term used for the potential exit of Greece from the European Union dubbed Grexit. It would seem this is the term of choice.

Many people are negatively referring to this as an outbreak of populism but that word can mean different things depending on who is using it and in what sense. Stripped of the political nuances some on either side of the question ascribe to it, populism is simply the belief in the power of ordinary people and their ability to control their government rather than have it controlled by a small group of so-called elites.

First, with that in mind, I think it is a good thing. It says clearly that the majority of British citizens do not believe they are getting a fair deal as part the larger European Union. Whether or not that is in fact true is open to debate but as I have remarked to people for many years, fairness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. In any event, the democratic process is at work and I think that is a good thing.

Second, people generally and financial markets specifically dislike uncertainty. There will be unrest in the coming days as people around the world process what this vote means in practical terms. Financial markets around the globe will process through this as well and dip for a period of time though the smart folks have already thought through how to squeeze these lemons and make lemonade.

Anyone who supports self-government should applaud this historic vote and the courage it took for the people of Great Britain to chart a new course into the unknown. The British economy will not collapse, the world will not come spinning to an end, and here in the United States people will forget about it just as soon as one of the current major candidates for political office says or does something the news media thinks we should care about more. Something tells me we will see more such votes around Europe in the coming years.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Summer 2016 Reading List - Part Two

I am grateful for the interest in my summer reading list. The first part I posted yesterday received pretty good traffic. As promised, here is the second part of the list. In my secular career, I have been blessed to know some exceptional leaders and I have also learned a great deal from a few people who are not gifted leaders. Since this is an area of interest, I am always on the lookout for good books on the topic of leadership.

Why do only a few people get to say “I love my job”? It seems unfair that finding fulfillment at work is like winning a lottery; that only a few lucky ones get to feel valued by their organizations, to feel like they belong.

Imagine a world where almost everyone wakes up inspired to go to work, feels trusted and valued during the day, then returns home feeling fulfilled. This is not a crazy, idealized notion. Today, in many successful organizations, great leaders are creating environments in which people naturally work together to do remarkable things.

In his travels around the world since the publication of his bestseller Start with Why, Simon Sinek noticed that some teams were able to trust each other so deeply that they would literally put their lives on the line for each other. Other teams, no matter what incentives were offered, were doomed to infighting, fragmentation and failure. Why? The answer became clear during a conversation with a Marine Corps general.

“Officers eat last,” he said.

Sinek watched as the most junior Marines ate first while the most senior Marines took their place at the back of the line. What’s symbolic in the chow hall is deadly serious on the battlefield: great leaders sacrifice their own comfort—even their own survival—for the good of those in their care.

In his classic book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni laid out a groundbreaking approach for tackling the perilous group behaviors that destroy teamwork. Here he turns his focus to the individual, revealing the three indispensable virtues of an ideal team player.

In The Ideal Team Player, Lencioni tells the story of Jeff Shanley, a leader desperate to save his uncle’s company by restoring its cultural commitment to teamwork. Jeff must crack the code on the virtues that real team players possess, and then build a culture of hiring and development around those virtues. 

Beyond the fable, Lencioni presents a practical framework and actionable tools for identifying, hiring, and developing ideal team players.  Whether you’re a leader trying to create a culture around teamwork, a staffing professional looking to hire real team players, or a team player wanting to improve yourself, this book will prove to be as useful as it is compelling.

This books is a comprehensive guide to unleashing the inner-leader in us all and to building a solid foundation for a lifetime of leadership growth and mastery.  The book offers a concrete framework to help individuals of all levels, functions, and backgrounds take charge of their own leadership development and become the best leaders they can be. Arguing that all individuals are born with the capacity to lead, Kouzes and Posner provide readers with a practical series of actions and specific coaching tips for harnessing that capacity and creating a context in which they can excel., Supported by over 30 years of research, from over seventy countries, and with examples from real-world leaders, Learning Leadership is a clarion call to unleash the leadership potential that is already present in today’s society.

According to Kouzes and Posner, “Leadership makes a significant difference in levels of engagement and commitment and is perhaps the most important asset in every organization, yet recent research points to a shortage of leaders. It is a serious global concern. The world needs more exemplary leaders in order to promote high-performing workplaces and inspire feelings of greater self-worth and meaningfulness. The shortage, however, is not because of the lack of potential talent. The people are out there, the eagerness is out there, and the capability is out there. The shortage results from prevailing myths—myths about talent, strengths, position, self-reliance, and effort—that inhibit the vast majority of leaders from shining and organizations from realizing the full benefits of the talent they already have.”
Learning Leadership provides readers with evidence-based strategies to ignite the habit of continuous improvement and the mindset of becoming the best leaders they can be. Emerging leaders, as well as leadership developers, internal and external coaches and trainers, and other human resource professionals will learn from first-hand stories and practical examples so that they can deeply understand and apply the fundamental for becoming the best leaders they can be.

As someone with a heart for the education ministry of the local church, no summer reading list would be complete without something focused on education and learning. So, with that:

To most of us, learning something "the hard way" implies wasted time and effort. Good teaching, we believe, should be creatively tailored to the different learning styles of students and should use strategies that make learning easier. Make It Stick turns fashionable ideas like these on their head. Drawing on recent discoveries in cognitive psychology and other disciplines, the authors offer concrete techniques for becoming more productive learners.

Memory plays a central role in our ability to carry out complex cognitive tasks, such as applying knowledge to problems never before encountered and drawing inferences from facts already known. New insights into how memory is encoded, consolidated, and later retrieved have led to a better understanding of how we learn. Grappling with the impediments that make learning challenging leads both to more complex mastery and better retention of what was learned.

Many common study habits and practice routines turn out to be counterproductive. Underlining and highlighting, rereading, cramming, and single-minded repetition of new skills create the illusion of mastery, but gains fade quickly. More complex and durable learning come from self-testing, introducing certain difficulties in practice, waiting to re-study new material until a little forgetting has set in, and interleaving the practice of one skill or topic with another. Speaking most urgently to students, teachers, trainers, and athletes, Make It Stick will appeal to all those interested in the challenge of lifelong learning and self-improvement.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think about these AND what you're reading this summer! 

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Summer 2016 Reading List - Part One

Summer is upon us and it is a really fun time of year. I have enjoyed seeing the commencement photos of those graduating from high school, college, graduate school, seminary, etc. via social media and look forward to seeing how God uses all of those amazing people in the next chapter of their lives. Summer usually means vacations for most of us but it is also a great time to get some reading in. This is the first summer since 2008 that I have really been in a position to do some self-directed reading for my own enrichment. Still, I thought I would share with everyone what I will be reading this summer.

Winner of the Christianity Today 2014 Book Award in Biblical Studies, Paul and Union with Christ fills the gap for biblical scholars, theologians, and pastors pondering and debating the meaning of union with Christ. Following a selective survey of the scholarly work on union with Christ through the twentieth century to the present day, Greek scholar Constantine Campbell carefully examines every occurrence of the phrases 'in Christ', 'with Christ', 'through Christ', 'into Christ,' and other related expressions, exegeting each passage in context and taking into account the unique lexical contribution of each Greek preposition. Campbell then builds a holistic portrayal of Paul's thinking and engages contemporary theological discussions about union with Christ by employing his evidence-based understanding of the theme. This volume combines high-level scholarship and a concern for practical application of a topic currently debated in the academy and the church. More than a monograph, this book is a helpful reference tool for students, scholars, and pastors to consult its treatment of any particular instance of any phrase or metaphor that relates to union with Christ in the Pauline corpus.

I don’t know many Christians who can speak with much knowledge of the crusades and their influence on world history in general and Christianity specifically, me included. For that reason, this is the first of two books I am reading on the topic this summer. What is the relationship between the medieval crusades and the problems of the modern Middle East? Were the crusades the Christian equivalent of Muslim jihad? In this sweeping yet crisp history, Thomas F. Madden offers a brilliant and compelling narrative of the crusades and their contemporary relevance. Placing all of the major crusades within their medieval social, economic, religious, and intellectual environments, Madden explores the uniquely medieval world that led untold thousands to leave their homes, families, and friends to march in Christ’s name to distant lands. From Palestine and Europe's farthest reaches, each crusade is recounted in a clear, concise narrative. The author gives special attention as well to the crusades’ effects on the Islamic world and the Christian Byzantine East.

The Crusades: A History is the definitive account of a key topic in medieval and religious history. Jonathan Riley-Smith, a world authority on the subject, explores the organisation of a crusade, the experience of crusading and the crusaders themselves, producing a textbook that is as accessible as it is comprehensive.
This exciting new third edition includes:
- Substantial new material on crusade theory, historiography and translated texts
- An expanded scope that extends the text to cover the decline of crusading in the nineteenth century
- Valuable pedagogical features, such as a revised bibliography, maps, illustrations and a brand new chronology
This book is essential reading for all students and scholars seeking to understand the Crusades and their significance in world history.

Check back tomorrow for the rest of my summer reading list. Let me know what you think of these selections and what you plan on reading this summer!