Leadership and Self Awareness

Self-reflection by the Rhine

There is an old leadership principal that you cannot lead other until you can lead yourself.  In the Scriptures there are admonitions that bishop be the husband of one wife, have no debit, etc.  The idea behind this is that is our lives are a mess we will not be effective leaders of others.  Those of us called to lead unfortunately are held to a higher standard than those we lead.  If we wish to be in leadership, and we don’t want our lives under a microscope, then perhaps we need to find another profession.

I have begun to read a book about the leadership style of Civil War General Robert E. Lee.  For me this satisfies two areas of interest, the Civil War and leadership.  I do believe there are many leadership lessons to be learned by military leaders of the past as well as the present so this book piqued my curiosity as soon as I saw the title.

The authors lays out three principles of leadership; self-awareness, putting others first, and do what your conscious dictates and then proceeds to describe the leadership of Lee under these characteristics with self-awareness being first on the list.

“I cannot consent to place in the control of others one who cannot control himself.”

This was axiom that Lee lived by and how he led during his long and distinguished career.  Lee, like most of the men of his day, was raised in the Anglican tradition and it was through this tradition that he became self-aware.  He had a belief in original sin and this taught him to expect the failure of humans.  He believed that the more one worked on defeating the base passions in our lives the better we would become.  As a gentleman he believed that he had an obligation to do better and when, not if, he failed he needed to learn the lessons of that failure and put them into practice in the future.

Lee knew that if he wanted to lead by example and to inspire the respect of those he was leading he was going to have to fulfill the ideal of a person who was aware of his own failings and learned from them.  Failure is not a defeat it is a time to learn.  Sometimes the lessons we have to learn are difficult but they are necessary if we are not going to fail again.

Self-awareness is tied to self-denial.  Writing to his wife on the raising of their son he said, “teach him he must deny himself.”  This lesson comes straight out of the religious upbringing that Lee had as an Anglican, self-denial, never putting ones self-first, always thinking of others before you.  This is the second principal of leadership that will be discussed in a later essay.  However it is tied to self-awareness as well.

A successful leader must be self-disciplined and this self-discipline comes first from knowing and understanding ourselves.  Getting to know one’s self is not easy and perhaps is a painful exercise but if this is not accomplished one will not be an effective leader.  Knowing ones weaknesses and faults and working to overcome them is not weakness but strength.  Sometimes we think we can do it all when in actuality we cannot.

In my particular religious tradition self-knowledge comes through prayer and work with a spiritual guide. The spiritual guide is not one who has all of the answers he is the one who has all of the questions.  Self-knowledge does not come from the outside but from the inside, leadership begins on the inside and then, and only then, moves out.

The work of the spiritual guide or coach if you are not a particularly religious person guides us, with a series of questions, to discover the answers for ourselves.  The guide pushes us to go deeper into our lives of the past, our lives of the present, and perhaps our lives of the future.  The guide helps us discover for ourselves the weaknesses that we have so we have the ability to overcome them and work out a plan.

Lee was an amazing military strategist but he only had one set of eyes.  He need those around his to inform him of the ever changing landscape and how best to use the resources that he had available at the time.  He did not surround himself with “yes men” but with men who were not afraid to speak up and offer suggestions that might make the plan better and run smoother.  The mark of a true leader is to know that they do not know and to find people work with them who have that knowledge.

Cauliflower Rice/Couscous

From nomnompaleo.com

From nomnompaleo.com

I have started to change the way I think about food and what I eat.  I actually started a few months ago but I gave up because I really did not know what to make. In talking with others about this a book was recommended to me, It Starts with Food.  The book focuses on changing the way we think about food.  So with that in mind I set off to find some great tasking recipes and I found a real winner with this one.  Trying to reduce, or eliminate the amount of grains I am eating this one is great.  Use this when you would use rice or couscous although I have not tried it in soups or other dishes that would require it to simmer.

This is based on a recipe I found on the website Nom Nom Paleo  Do not over spice this dish let the cauliflower be the star.

1 small head of cauliflower (coarsely chopped)
1 small onion, chopped finely (I used some frozen onion I had in the freezer)
2 tablespoons butter (I used Smart Balance)
1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil (I used olive oil)
Kosher salt to taste (remember let the cauliflower be the star)
Black pepper to taste

1.  Chop up the cauliflower and place it in a food processor
2.  Pulse until it reaches to consistency of rice, about 2 minutes
3.  Saute the onions until translucent, in the butter and olive oil, salt to taste
4.  Add the cauliflower to the pan and mix well to incorporate the onions and fat.
5.  Enjoy!

In the comments let me know if you tried it and what you thought.

Here is the book


Freedom and Responsibility

goldfish jumping out of the water

On January 7, 2015, radical Islamist gunmen entered the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed twelve employees including several cartoonists.  The magazine had published several cartoons over the years of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the radical Islamists were there to exact revenge for the cartoons that they claim were disparaging to their faith.  These attacks set off a conversation around the world about free speech and if there are limits to what can or should be said.

On his most recent papal trip to the Philippines, Pope Francis was asked for his thoughts on freedom of speech and freedom of expression and the question was put to him should there be limits.  In answer to the question he joked with his spokespersons saying that if he said some “bad words” about his mother he should expect a punch.  This was a good illustration of the point he was trying to make.

“One should not use freedom of expression to provoke or offend others deliberately, and we should not be surprised when they react to such taunts.”  Now I don’t think His Holiness was making an excuse for the terrorists who murdered the employees of Charlie Hebdo, but I believe what he was saying is that with freedom comes immense responsibility.

There are some very fundamental human rights of which freedom of religion and freedom of speech top the list.  As an American I hold these freedoms sacred and would be willing to sacrifice everything, including my life, to guard these freedoms.  Wars have been fought over these very same freedoms and, I hate to admit it, will continue to be fought.  I believe that the securing of these freedoms is so fundamental to human life that is has become a national security issue for the United States as well as a moral imperative.  But this is not easy to achieve.

In response to the events of last year in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City, a group of protesters chained themselves to barrels filled with cement on two major roadways in and out of Boston.  This “stunt” snarled traffic and prevented at least one ambulance, with a critically injured person on board, from reaching the hospital.  Now, I fully support anyone’s right to protest – after all America was founded on protest – however, that right and freedom to protest comes with responsibility.  The person trying to get to work to put food on their table, or the patient in the back of ambulance trying to get to hospital, had very little to do with the events that were being protested, and in my belief the protesters did more harm than good to their cause.  Does your freedom give you the right to impinge on my freedom?

It has been said that your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.  Placing another life in jeopardy and preventing hard-working people from being able to get to work is over the top and all that stunt did was put more lives at risk.  Freedom was dealt a blow on that highway last week – a blow it may never recover from.

We are so blessed in America that we live a relatively free life compared to others in this world we live in.  But the responsibility that is attached to that freedom can be staggering at times.  We need to exercise that freedom with caution.  As Pope Francis said in the quote I used at the start of this essay, “One should not use freedom of expression to provoke or offend others deliberately.”  Now I will admit there is a fine line between what I might think is offensive and someone else might think is offense, but ask yourself this question: What is the purpose of saying what I am going to say or doing what I am going to do?  Is it to cause harm and bring someone down or it is it for educational purposes?  Pointing out where someone or something is wrong is fine but we can carry that too far.  I am a Christian and I make no apologies for that.  I believe that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way and that unless you are a follower of Him, then you are lost.  To me that is an undeniable truth – if that offends you, well I guess that is just too bad.  I do not say this to degrade your faith, or lack of faith, or your religion.  I say this because I believe it to be the truth.  I will not kill you if you don’t agree, but at the same time I will not apologize for it.

In the end it all comes down to our motivation.  What do we hope to gain by what we do or say?  The magazine Charlie Hebdo is a magazine based on satire and that involves poking fun at things – everything, as a matter of fact.  They have a right to print what they wish to print and you have a right to be upset about it, but when your right to be upset causes you to kill someone that is when you have crossed the line.

Podcast: The Qualities of a Leader


The training of leaders today is a multi-billion dollar industry, but what are the qualities that we look for in leadership?

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The Power of the Pause


The last few weeks I have been writing a lot about action, make a plan, look in the mirror, and other such essays on how to get motivated to get things done.  But, too much activity can be just as bad as not enough activity.  We need to lean to pause every now and again to, as the old saying goes, “stop and smell the roses.”

But more important it the pause allows us to check to see that we are still one course.  If we are moving full speed ahead the gentle course corrections become harder to make because it is not always obvious that we have drifted off course.  The pause, or a time to slow down just a little, will allow us to see when these corrections need to me made.

In his book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John Maxwell lays out the 4 benefits of the pause.

  1. Reflection Turns Experience into Insight

“Experience is the teacher of all things.”  I have started to program of intentional reflection of my life and of my leadership direction.  I am reflecting on the past to so I can dwell on the past but so I can see where I made mistakes, and also where I had success, and to learn from all of it.  The past will not dictate our future, or at least it shouldn’t, but it can guide us as we move forward.  Taking the time to reflect will take the experiences that we have had and give us some insight into our strengths and our weaknesses and guide us to making corrections.  Every experience should be one that we learn from.  Learning from the past will enable to grow into the future.

  1. Everyone Needs a Time and Place to Pause

This is a valuable lesson that we all need to learn.  The church tradition I follow has built into the calendar several times during the year when we slow down.  Two of the major ones come right before Christmas and right before Easter.  These are intentional times on the calendar when the world is moving quickly but we are being asked to slow down and contemplate the season we are about to enter. This helps us refocus our attention spiritually, but an intentional time of pause, or a time away, can do amazing things for our life in general.  I am not talking about vacation where we sometimes are busier than we are when we are home, this is an intentional time away, call it a retreat of you like, a time of rest and refreshment but also a little time for reflection.  This can be done alone or with the team.  It can be for a few hours or for a few days.  I would suggest a place away from the distractions of work and that all outside communication is cut off so the focus can be totally on the task at hand.

On a personal note, I try to take time twice a year, although the last few years I have been lucky to be able to take one time, to go away to a monastery for a few days and power down.  I spend the first day napping and walking and just relaxing and then the work begins.  I take a book with me that I want to read and study, and spend the next few days relaxing and studying but also reflecting on where I have been and where I am going.  These times have been very rewarding for me and I think if you take the time you will find them rewarding as well.  You might say “I don’t have the time.”  I say, “you have to make the time.”

  1. Pausing with Intention Expands and Enriches Thinking

This comes right out of the last one.  All of the great thinkers of the world spent time alone.  After a day of teaching and healing Jesus would go off by Himself to pray and to recharge in order to face what was coming the next day.

Several years ago I was granted a mini sabbatical from the church.  I had just come off a very difficult situation in my life and I need to recharge and refocus and I knew there was no way that was going to happen while continuing the daily work of running the Church.  I am grateful for the time away and for the fact that the lay leadership of the Church recognized the power associated with such a break.  We do not always have the ability to take several weeks off to do what I did but we can make the time in small bites right in our own world.

Each of us needs to create a quiet place that we can go and be alone to think and, as I mentioned in the previous point, to slow down.  Use this time to figure out what is really important and what is not.  Henri Nouwen said, “When you are able to create a lonely place in the middle of your actions and concerns, your success and failures slowly can lose some of their power over you.”

Unlike the previous example where I suggested going away for a few days, this can a time of an hour or so or maybe a half day, that just be alone with yourself.

  1. When You Take Time to Pause, Use Your I’s

There are four I’s that will help us form a direction:

Investigation – We do not just stop and smell the roses but we stop and figure them out.  What makes the rose smell so nice?  How does this rose grow and what kind of soil is it in?  Continual growth comes from asking questions about ourselves and our situation.

Incubation – I am not a great one for taking time to do things.  I am a judgmental thinker where I want the decisions behind me so I can move on with the task at hand.  I need to learn to slow down and really give thought to decisions and the outcomes prior to implementation.  It has been said that we want slow cooker decisions not microwave decisions.  There is one problem to watch for here, slow cooker decisions can often lead to procrastination so we have to be on guard for that.

Illumination – This comes when the slow cooker is on and the smells of what is cooking start to permeate the house.  By allowing the idea to simmer we allow it to permeate our entire being and we are able to see if from all angles not just one or two.  It becomes part of us and we let it dwell in us and in the end it is a much more satisfying result.

Illustration – If the foundation is not strong the rest of the structure will fail.  This is as true in business and it is in our personal and spiritual life.  The time we take in preparation is far more important than the time we will take to actually implement the plan.

This past summer the house I live in was painted.  It is a rather large building; it includes not only my house but the parish hall and a small chapel, so it took some time for the painters to complete their work.  I would guess that 75% of that time was spent in the preparation work of scraping, sanding, and cleaning up.  After all of that work was done the painting began.  But before a drop of paint touched the building the preparation work had to be complete.  If this was done the paint would fail over a period of time.  Spending time in preparation will have rewards that cannot be measured at the time but will become very certain in hindsight.

Slowing down and taking time to reflect is extremely important in all aspects of our lives.  We move at 90 MPH each day and because we move that fast we tend to miss important details that may help us to find our destination.  Take the time and slow down I think you will find the rewards worth the effort.


What Do You See in the Mirror?


In my last article I asked a question about the legacy that we are leaving behind and how would people remember us.  This week I am following up on that question with another that deal with how we see ourselves, after all if we do not like ourselves it will be hard for us to like others.

In the Snow White story, the Queen stands before her magic mirror and asks, “Magic Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”  The usual response from the mirror is, “My Queen, you are the fairest in the land.” This response makes the Queen very happy until the day Snow White reaches the age of seven and it all changes.  The mirror responds that the Queen is no longer the fairest in the land and that she has been replaced by another.

Although this is a fairytale, for some this is real life.  What do we see looking back at us from that mirror in the morning?  Do we like what we see, and by that I do not mean the externals, but what do we see on the inside?  Are we at peace with ourselves or are we hanging on to something from our past that tarnishes the image of ourselves.  All of these questions can affect our self-worth and as much as I speak about forgiveness of others we need to begin with forgiving ourselves.  Here are a few tips to help us move towards self-forgiveness.

We need to guard ourselves against self-talk.  Each day we carry on an internal conversation, or if you are like me this conversation takes place out loud.  Do you encourage yourself or are you hard on yourself?  Sometimes we are our own worst critic and we never have anything nice to say about ourselves.  In their book The Answer, John Assaraf and Murray Smith write about the negative messages children receive when growing up.  By the time we are seven years old we have heard “no you can’t” on average 150,000 times and “yes you can” about 5,000 times.  That comes out to 30 nos for every yes.  That is powerful.  Change the conversation and focus on what is good in your life.

One of the other techniques that will help us along this road is to stop comparing ourselves to others.  This is a needless distraction that will amount to nothing in the end.  We are all different people and we all experience things in different ways and to compare ourselves to others put an unfair burden on us.  Compare yourself to yourself from a month or a year ago and see where you are now compared to where you were then.

When I speak with people about how they feel about themselves, the conversation often turns to integrity. After all when you strip it all away all we have left is our integrity.  Scripture tells us to “let your yes be yes and your no be no.”  We need to do the right thing even if it is not popular and we need to be true to our values and to ourselves.  Positive character will expand into all areas of our lives and standing up for what we believe will give us great confidence and positive feelings about everything that we do.

Celebrate the small victories that come along in our lives.  Maybe you have decided to lose some weight or start an exercise program.  Maybe you have decided to go back to school or read a book, whatever it is celebrate the loss of one pound, one page, or one class.  Don’t wait for the final victory to celebrate do it each day.  When I started college I was of an advanced age compared to the rest of those in my class.  I was standing at the starting line looking toward the end, four years away, and getting very discouraged.  I decided to modify my direction and pointed myself to a two year degree and once that was completed to another two years and before I knew it the four years were completed.  Small victories get us through.

There is so much more that could be said about this and perhaps I will continue in future articles however transformation begins each day, make a point of looking at those qualities that you like and make a list of them.  Focus on the positive in your life and celebrate the small victories as them come along and don’t worry about what others are doing; you are you and not them.  Stand up for what you believe and don’t let “the crowd” dictate your beliefs.  Do all of these things, daily, and you will be on the right road to a better image of yourself.

MiniCast: The Significance of Water in Baptism


As a follow up to my previous radio program, I am presenting this MiniCast of Shepherd of Souls recorded on the Eve of the Great Feast of Theophany on the theme of the significance of water in baptism.  I hope you enjoy.

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Podcast: Baptism: What It’s All About


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Show Notes

“Through Baptism we are placed into a radically new relationship with all aspects of life and with the ‘world’ itself… a radically new understanding of life.  Baptism is the starting point and also the foundation of a Christian ‘philosophy of life’ a permanent sense of direction guiding us firmly throughout our entire existence, supplying answers to all questions and solving all problems.” Fr. Alexander Schmemann “Of Water & The Spirit”

Baptism is the first of the Sacraments and is the Mystery of the re-creation of man by “being clothed in Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)

Baptism is a fleeing from “this world” that has been stolen from God by the Enemy and has become a prison.
An escape from darkness and despair
Restoration of “true life” the life that has been lost to sin

Baptism is a recognition of evil in the world and a renunciation of that evil and a promise to follow the narrow way of God.
We turn our back on the world!

Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration
A Personal Pascha
A Personal Pentecost
An integration into the people of God
A passage from the old man to the new man

Baptism is performed through a triple immersion in water in the name of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.)

Preparation is an integral part of not only Baptism but all sacraments.
The Church is preparation
Liturgy is preparation
The very essence of the Liturgical life of the Church

Baptism is the celebration of Pascha (Easter) in our lives and in the life of the Church.

Pascha is the “feast of feasts” and is the fulfillment of Baptism.

Baptism is tied to Pascha through the Liturgy, we have all but removed Baptism from an association with the Liturgy.

The Evening Service of Pascha, now celebrated on Saturday morning, is the Baptismal Liturgy.

The Mysteries (Sacraments) of the open the door to the Grace of God

Grace is:
His Love
His Mercy
His Compassion
His Activity in our Lives

Leadership Lessons from St. Paul


In his letter to the church at Ephesus, St. Paul lays out the various leadership roles in the Church.  He says that “some will prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.”  He goes on to say that these positions exists for the purpose of “equipping the saints” that is, the people of God.  This passage, from the 4th chapter, lay out the leadership roles in the church the he calls gifts, they are gifts given by the Holy Spirit to those whom God has called to leadership.

I have said this in the past, the Orthodox Church is not simply another denomination or a religion it is, and it has to be, a lifestyle and the beliefs of the faith have to permeate ones entire life and this especially true for leaders.  If someone is not living the faith they will not be an effective leader for followers model the leaders.  You want to change your followers that change begins with yourself.

So these are the leaders but what values should these leaders have?

  1. Courage

The Church requires leaders, at all levels, to have courage.  This is the courage to stand for what is right and not for what is popular.  The Church, thorough her leaders, needs to influence society not the other way around.  We have far too many leaders who are all about being popular but popularity is not what it is all about.  Jesus did not come to win a popularity contest He came to transform the world and He did this with the courage of His convictions and everything He did and everything He taught came from that.

  1. High Standards

This flow comes from the previous value and it means that leaders hold to the standard and are not willing to easily compromise.  Sometimes compromise will be necessary but this change should not come easy and it should only come after long study and prayer.  We do not change with the direction of the wind.  Consistency in leadership and belief is what people need.  Your followers want to know what you stand for not only when things are going well but in times that are difficult.  Just like with the previous value, we have far too many leaders who are willing to compromise to make life easy on them, it is not about the easy road it is about the narrow, less taken road.

  1. Compassion

Leaders, especially those called to leadership in the Church, need to be servant leaders.  Church leadership should not put themselves above those they lead.  Church leaders exists to serve those they lead not the other way around and Jesus is the prime example of this because He came to “serve and not to be served.”  Leaders should not seek the prime seat or to get something out of being the leader, but the leader needs to set the example by showing compassion for those around them that they seek to serve.

  1. Commitment

There is no better example of this then “let your yes be yes and your no be no.”  Leaders have to not only be committed to those they serve but to the organization they serve.  The leader has to set the example of what it means to be a church member and will be held to a much higher standard than those who follow.  If you wish to be a leader then you have to be willing to give 110% of yourself to the Church.  The Book of Revelation tells us that the lukewarm will be “spewed forth from the mouth of God.”  We have far too many lukewarm leaders in the Church what we need are dedicated men and women who are willing to give their lives for the Church and for those they follow, this is the essence of commitment and is what is necessary now more than ever.

True leadership is all about transforming the lives of people and investing in them and their lives.  The Church needs leaders, both clergy and lay, whose only motivation is for that, transformation of people’s lives.