Four Beats of the Leadership Rhythm

I rarely host guest posts, but I thought this one from Nicholas Macdonald was worth making an exception for.

Leadership books can be complicated, giving loads of leadership principles that can leave leaders feeling bogged down and helpless. While these books are helpful additions to any leader’s library, sometimes it’s nice to hear leadership laws boiled down to the essentials. What does it look like on a daily basis to be an effective leader?

That’s why I’ve boiled hundreds of leadership books and articles down to what I call the “Leadership Rhythm.” Every leadership tidbit I’ve found falls under one of these sub-headings, and when I find something useful, I tuck it under one of them. Invest in these four rhythms on a daily basis, and you’ll keep yourself doing what leaders are supposed to do while magnetically attracting followers along the way:

1. Direction. Leaders, first and foremost, know where they’re going. In a world lost in apathy, we gladly submit ourselves to someone who’s carved a clear picture of the future, and resolutely sets a steel face toward that end. It doesn’t matter if it’s building a Fortune 500 company, or WWII – people flock to those who know exactly where they’re going:

  • Do you have clear, written goals in your personal and corporate life?
  • Do you embrace core values in your own life and in your organization?
  • Do you keep appointments, accomplish tasks on time, and keep your project/action lists updated?
  • Do you regularly spend time reading, studying and memorizing the Bible for spiritual direction?
  • Do you regularly seek out wisdom from others in your field?

2. Connection. The new IQ is EQ (Emotional Quotient), and the reason is: people with IQ know what to do, but people with EQ get things done. Leadership is all about relationships. If you can’t connect, you can’t lead. Personally, I’ve come up with a “relationship flow” that I try to incorporate into my daily life, that looks something like this:

  • Greet – Do you look people in the eye, smile, and use their name when you see them?
  • Listen – Do you ask good, conversation-geared open-ended questions? Do you regularly re-articulate what others say in your own words?
  • Affirm – Do you regularly affirm people’s positive qualities and accomplishments, publicly and privately?
  • Memory – Do you remember people’s names, goals, and prayer needs?
  • Sharing – In all of your tasks, connections and activities are you constantly thinking, “Who else can benefit from this?”
  •  Asking – Do you know people’s strengths, and regularly invite them to use those strengths?
  • Reconciling – Do you honestly apologize when you make a withdrawal from a relationship, or do you make excuses?

3. Expression. Great leaders don’t just have a clear picture of the future in their heads – they paint it in the most compelling way imaginable. If you can’t express your vision creatively and powerfully, all the direction/connection in the world won’t induce followers, just friends (which are great!)

  • Do you regularly spend time writing out your thoughts on topics, issues and problems?
  • Do you spend time learning expression through literature, non-fiction and great speakers?
  • Do you connect through social media (twitter, facebook, blogging)?
  • Do you make strategic time to communicate to your vision to your organization at least once a month?
  • Do you have a personal journal in which you express your thoughts/feelings about life?

4. Energy. Finally, for the above three components to work, a leader needs incredible drive and energy. I think of celebrities like Robin Williams and Will Smith – these guys don’t necessarily give us a clear vision of the future, but their pure energy makes them magnets for millions

  • Do you regularly exercise?
  • Do you know how much sleep your body needs, and carve out time for it?
  • Do you understand how your personality is energized (introvert/extrovert, etc.)?
  • Do take at least one day off a week to find energy for the rest of the week?
  • Do you know your body’s diet needs for maximum energy?
  • Do you regularly retreat to find energizing beauty in nature, literature, music, movies, art, etc.?

Take some time today to evaluate which areas are weak and strong. Then, plan some strategic time tomorrow to carve out for each rhythm. Not only will you become a more effective leader, but at the end of the day you’ll discover a happier, healthier you.

Nicholas McDonald is passionate about creatively communicating timeless truth. You can visit his daily blog,, learn about himhere, or connect with him on Twitter @NicholasMcD

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Children’s Bible Reading Plan

This week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

The second year of morning and evening readings in Word and pdf.

The first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

The daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books.

Old Testament

New Testament

8 Helps With Your Wife’s Biggest Problem

I thought that would be a slightly more enticing headline than “The Problem of Sin” which is the title of Chapter 9 in Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling. In this chapter Brad Hambrick and Robert Jones provide eight helpful distinctions about sin that not only help us minister to our wife or husband, but also to understand our own problems and provide suitable remedies.

I’m summarizing the eight distinctions below, but let me make a few observations. First, notice the depth of analysis. This is no shallow, narrow, superficial diagnosis, but a profound and incisive diagnosis of the human condition.

Second, I was impressed with the sympathy and compassion of the authors; their sensitivity to the complexity of the human condition and the multiple factors that contribute to (but don’t excuse) our sin-choices.

Third, I appreciated the refusal to resort to simplistic answers. As our problem is so deep and multi-faceted, the prescription must be equally profound and multi-layered. “A biblical grasp of sin requires greater counseling dexterity.”

Fourth, I loved the practical application. It wasn’t just a litany of our problems, but the authors continually went to the next step of saying, “Therefore, this is how and what we minister to people.”

Fifth, as the authors write in their conclusion, if sin is our primary problem, pastors should be encouraged that they are qualified and equipped to speak into every human problem. The authors are not advocating a “pastors-only” approach to helping people but as they put it, pastors “should lead the way in the field of people helping.”

Sixth, we have a great lab to test our counseling skills in – OURSELVES. As fellow-sinners, one of the best ways to learn counseling is to learn how to counsel ourselves and to understand and overcome sin with all God’s resources.

Seventh, I felt as if I was hearing the Puritans in modern language – and that’s a compliment! Reading this chapter reminded me of the best Puritan works on the nature of sin, and yet these truths were presented in brief and accessible form. And like the Puritans, the authors point us both to Christ as “the only one more powerful than the cause of human problems” and also to heaven where this great enemy of our lives will be no more.

Eight Vital Distinctions

1. The distinction between the sin we commit and the suffering we experience due to external sin.

We not only sin, we suffer the consequences of sin, and we do so in three ways:

  • We are part of a fallen, cursed creation.
  • We are sinned against by others
  • We reap the consequences of our own sin.

2. The distinction between sin as our inborn condition and sin as our behavior

Not all sin results from deliberate choices for known evil over known good. We must recognize that sin is not just an act or a thought but an inner disposition or state.

3. The distinction between sin as unbelief and sin as rebellion

Here the authors recognize that while some  sin is committed our of stubborn and militant rebellion, others are the result of fear, or unbelief, or even some educational disadvantage.

4. The distinction between sin as desiring forbidden objects and sin as desiring good things too much.

This doesn’t require any explanation, but here’s a thought-provoking comment from this section: “In our experience, most counseling cases today involve good desires that have become overgrown…Our overgrown desires are modern synonyms for idolatry and our aim in counseling is to encourage right worship, and not just eliminate bad behavior” (p. 146).

5. The distinction between sin as internal (concealed) and sin as external (revealed).

“Putting off internal sins calls us to put on Christ-centered attitudes by repenting in private prayer. Putting off external sins calls us to put on Christ-centered actions by repenting in private prayer and then confessing to those we have sinned against.”

6. The distinction between sin as commission and sin as omission.

The authors argue that “we sometimes unwisely focus on commission sins and forget about omission sins, the ones that can often hurt even more deeply.” They also point out that unless sins of omission are dealt with, they almost always end up as big sins of commission.

7. The distinction between sin as rational and sin as irrational.

Recognizing the rational and irrational nature of sin can help us help others by warning us against trying to explain all behavior, and also reminds us that change requires more than just accurate information.

8. The distinction between sin as degenerative and sin as self-contained.

Although we often view sin as self-contained, point-in-time bad choices with no interconnection or momentum, sin is more like a cruel taskmaster that victimizes and controls, or like a disease that takes over our whole system.

Previous Posts in this Series

Introduction: Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling

1. John Piper on Biblical Counseling

2. Charity and Clarity in Counseling 

3. The Counselor’s Role in the Holy Spirit’s Counseling

4. Is the Trinity Relevant in Counseling

5. Counseling and the Grand Narrative of the Bible

6. Biblical Counseling and the Sufficiency of Scripture

7. The Spiritual Anatomy of the Soul

8. Is there a sin gene?

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