For My Christian Friends, Leadership, Creativity & Disciplines from Rob Bell

Apparently Rob Bell has been holding some two day leadership / creativity symposiums this summer. I’m pretty sure I’m not creative or christian enough to get in the door. However, it appears that Leon Bloder is, so he went and I am thankful he wrote about it. This blog from one session of the event is really good; he shares some essential learnings he gleaned on creativity and leadership. Here are a few select quotes that stood out to me. I hope you read the whole article.

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
- Gustave Flaubert
(I won’t pretend that I knew who he was until I got on wiki)


“Once you have structure, then you can be spontaneous.  If you don’t have structure, everything’s chaos.”
- Rob Bell


“The day will happen to you, unless you happen to it.”
- Rob Bell


Go Ahead, Be Elite And Be Confident

At the beginning of the season, Eli Manning was asked by a reporter if he was an elite quarterback, playing at a comparable level to Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. His answer… “Yes.”

Much was made of his response. Pundits don’t have better things to do with their time than debate performance, wins, losses, and a whole host of subjective criteria.

Sunday Eli Manning won his second Superbowl Championship. He also won his second Superbowl MVP award. Mr. Manning also had one of the best statistical Superbowls ever played at his position. He is now easily one of the best of all time in the category that really matters… Superbowl wins.

There is a fine line between arrogance and false humility. In that middle ground is an admirable trait of leadership: Confidence. Confidence breeds confidence in others. Confidence combined with performance cultivates a team. Teams accomplish missions.

Develop your skills. Become one of the best at what you do. Don’t be afraid of being forthright when you are asked a direct question about the nature of your skills. Give an honest assessment. Go out on the field and prove it. Enjoy the victories that are sure to follow with your teammates.

The Face of Intensity

The face of intensity and soon to be the winningness coach in NCAA men’s basketball history – Coach Mike Krzyzewski. As a coach, he is an expert at balancing critique with praise.

Boil down great coaching feedback into it’s rawest sound bites and you might mistakenly determine that the leader hates their athletes more than their enemies. It’s not true. The best coaches LOVE their athletes, want the best for them and are willing to say what is absolutely necessary for them to hear in order for them to get better.

I have three sons. As their father the hardest thing to show them is where they come up short. Sometimes I can coach them with cheer and good humor. But other times require intensity and critique. What keeps me from being an a evil monger who is tearing down his children?

Love and trust.

I love them and want the very best for them. Along the way, I ask them to trust me. I show them the goals of my instruction. I praise their best efforts and hard work. I revel in their achievements. But I very much want to help them to get better. In order for them to grow the must be challenged and they can’t always be coddled.

Avoid the temptation of our society to always be ‘nice’ and to never say a hard thing. Demonstrate to your team members that you care about them reaching their best potential by giving them the feedback that they need in order to get better.

Congrats to Coach K! — Enjoy more intense Coach-K pics. — Tune in to watch him go for the record tonight.

Your Role When You Are Pissed

* This email dialogue between myself and a younger leader is posted with permission.

On Aug 4, 2011, at 7:42 PM a friend of mine wrote:
Ok… so what’s the deal w/ people who out rank me putting me as the last priority? Maybe I need to be knocked down a few rungs (you’re welcome to do so if that’s the case) but since our leader has stepped down, I’m one of the most visible people in the org. and yet I’m out of the loop. I made a meeting with our new executive interim consultant dude to talk about the transition time & how my role can be most effective toward our goals. He was all about it over email, but when the appointment came, he didn’t show. Not communication was made for forty-five minutes after our scheduled start and when it finally came it was, “we’ll have to reschedule”.


This isn’t an isolated issue for me. I think I remember telling you about a few interviews that went like that. It seems to happen often where I wait for them (sr. leaders), hoping to get a word in. I’ve even gotten out (of the office) with them for coffee or something, and they’ll get a call that they double booked from some incompetent assistant, and you know who get’s the shaft? Me. Not their assistant, or the person back at the office. I’m sick of being told by the actions of people more accomplished than me that I am not important enough to them to sit and talk to for as little as 15 minutes. Especially when I know damn well I’m way more important than that, personally and professionally to this organization.

Is it just how it is for my place in life? Or, is there a way to get their attention? I’m not necessarily asking for the face time. A text at the time of the appointment so I don’t sit on my ass for 45 minutes would have made me so happy. Is that too much to ask? ugh.

On Aug 5, 2011, at 7:09 PM, Ryan Russell wrote:
I thought if I made you wait a whole day that would help (knock you down a rung or two). j/k

Here’s the deal… very, very few people think intentionally about the people below them on the org chart. Unfortunately, they are always thinking about the people in ‘power’ positions and those above them. Oddly they forget that good/great leadership means that you respect and lead well those who are following you, not just positioning or posturing for those above you. And during times of transition, turmoil and stress… people become their truest selves.

Sounds like this interim consultant guy cares most about making money and being available to those who he perceives matter. He is playing politics not just leading.

Here’s your role: lead people well. Always do your best for those who you are leading. As hard as it is (and it is VERY hard, ask me and I will be the first to admit that I have struggled with this) you should focus on maintaining your attitude and serving your best. Always be available to make a difference. Cast vision. Encourage the members of the organization. Remain prayerful. But, more than anything… don’t stop leading. Develop more and more people around you. Make investments.

I read a great quote the other day from George Marshal (leading military commander of his time)… roughly it said, “The infantry need leaders. Officers need to lead themselves.” Translation = look for leadership where ever you can get it, but at the end of the day you need to lead yourself well and those who are counting on you.

On Aug 6, 2011, at 12:44 PM a friend of mine wrote:
Thanks for that. The “your role” is just what I’m needing. Appreciate u bro.


Certainly there is something to draw out of this email exchange for both senior leaders and younger leaders. I made a lot of mistakes when I was younger and was blessed to have some patient, but no-nonsense leaders above me. Equally though, there are some leaders in ‘position’ above others who forget that they are there to exemplify good leader, not just play the power game and posture for others.

Great Teams Can Be Heard

I regularly listen to the Dan Patrick show ( and it has quickly come to replace all other sports talk shows as my very favorite to download and give time to while I am running or driving. Here’s the key ingredients of ‘why’ – Humor, Sports and Team Work. Even if you don’t like sports that much, download the podcast and listen for a while. Pay close attention to the personal exchanges. You will hear relationship, defined roles, humor, specific goals for the show (such as excellence), trust, accountability and it will become quickly evident that these guys really enjoy working together. In fact, it is so evident that they enjoy working together as a team that it challenges me to be a better leader in developing my own team.

When a team functions well, there are few things that are more fun to be a part of. However getting to this place in time takes a bit of hard work and patience. It’s not easy to explain but there is something more fun about achieving a big goal or objective together.

Being Surly Guarantees Failure

Become known as the ass, the grump, the NO guy. Let pessimism run deep in your soul. Always have a ‘critical eye’. See things as obstacles rather than natural challenges. Laugh little. ‘High-five’, never! Treat life and work as a robot… no good times or parties allowed. Appreciate few things and articulate your thanks seldom. Be known for your resistance rather than your support, advice, aid, insights or wisdom. While you’re at it, also find a way to include bitching, complaints, grumbles, negativity, resistance. frowns and anxiety into your repertoire . Hold on fast to all wrongs and resentments and failures for a really long time. Most of all, be sure to dwell on the little things.

It’s easy to notice these traits in others, but it is quite hard to identify our own patterns of surliness. Correct your course. Be the optimistic leader that people cheerfully line up with.

Imperfect and No Replay

“It was the biggest call of my career,” an emotional Jim Joyce told reporters, “and I kicked it. I just cost that kid a perfect game.” - Jim Joyce, MLB Umpire

Life is full of imperfection and there is no replay. What makes for great people and great leadership is how you respond to the imperfections in life. It’s what happens next that defines you and your character.

Sports talk radio was alive last Thursday morning calling for the activation of ‘instant replay’ for close calls in situations such as the one that occurred on Wednesday where veteran Umpire Jim Joyce cost Armando Callaraga a perfect game with his errant call at the end of the game. [video] Major League Baseball kept the game intact, blown call and all… kinda like the real life situations we all live and lead in.

However, what is most astounding to me is not the call and the ensuing argument over the need for instant replace, but rather HOW Jim Joyce, Armando Gallaraga and also Jim Leland (the Tiger’s manager) handled the situation. Check out the audio of their reactions and a summary of the situation adeptly handled by Colin Cowherd.

Pricing the Pickle

Before we began, $60 per month seemed a little steep for a 6 year old’s karate lessons. My wife took our son to the first few sessions and came back with such glowing reports about the instructor that I had to go check it out for myself. Turns out the dude is very good… and not just at the butt kicking part. He smiles with the kids, learns people’s real names, places jokes in the middle of sessions for the parents, stays firm but friendly and gently employs an “evil pickle’” (a padded green baton) to test the children on their acquired techniques. It isn’t easy to maintain the attention, interest and respect of both 6yr. olds and also adults all while delivering REALLY good karate instruction.

There are defects in his business model to be sure but, I was reminded how personal, high quality and friendly leadership goes a really long way when setting value. Once I experienced the karate lessons I was happy to only be paying $60/mo.

*** Oh, and just so you don’t write this guy off as a fun, groovy kid teacher, I want to mention that his dojo wall is line with his world class accomplishments and articles from every major media source highlighting his personal accomplishments.

White Paper War

“We will fight the White Paper as if there is no war, and fight the war as if there is no White Paper.” -David Ben-Gurion, Head of the Jewish Agency for Palestine in September 1939 (he later became Israel’s 1st Prime Minister)

1939 was not a good year to be a Jew.  In Continental Europe, Nazi Germany was embarking on systematic genocide of Jews and in Great Britain, a combination of Anti-Semitism and a desire for Arab support in the war effort against Germany created the famous “White Papers”.  The White Papers were laws passed in Britain that limited Jewish immigration to Palestine and gave local Arabs the right to control land, travel, and transport for Jewish refugees from Europe.  The British Government was desperate to appease and have the support of the Arab population in the Middle East during the war and so it enacted the White Papers to the frustration of Jews in the British Empire and beyond.

So if you’re a Jewish leader in 1939 what do you do?  You do something unique.  Why?  Because you have to.  Ben-Gurion decided to launch a 2 front movement with the Zionist movement.  It would strongly support the British/Allied cause in World War 2 and simultaneously disregard and circumvent British Authority when it came to the White Papers.  Jews were smuggled into Palestine every way possible and at the same time Jews served in the British Army fighting Germany all the way to 1945.  Finally, in 1948 Israel became a sovereign nation led by Ben-Gurion.

In leadership, you may find yourself in situations where people need clarity, even when it’s not easy to provide.  Ben-Gurion set out to define for Jews a reality, fuzzy, but HONEST.  For 7 years they worked at 2 seemingly opposing strategies but ultimately leading to one goal.  Sometimes people just need honesty, even when it’s confusing.

Taking Responsibility

Having grown up with three brothers, it’s painfully obvious to me that guys are just as emotional, irrational…you name it as girls, they just might express it differently.  As women, double duty is required of us especially in the workplace when overcoming stereotypes.  We have to know who we are, who we work with well and how to respond appropriately as needed to each individual we come into conflict with.

Ways to Deal with Stereotypes and the Conflicts that Occurs from Them:

Roll with the Punches: Know your environment and be aware and well studied in co-workers characteristic.  Don’t find yourself shocked or caught off guard by people and presumptions.

Pick Your Battles: In the vain of rolling with the punches, knowing when to punch back if needed is key.  Have a mental inventory on less to greatest importance.  If you push back on all things, you will loose power and influence and become an annoyance.  Choose wisely and make it count.

Self Edit: Think through each situation thoroughly and take emotion completely out of the picture before you send that email or make that call.  Have a clear agenda focused on task completion rather than an agenda focused on airing frustrations.

Consider the Source: When in conflict, consider the person you are in conflict with and ask these questions: Do I care what they think?  Are they worth my time and energy?

Big Picture Reminders: You are in the workplace to excel and be promoted.  All energy should go towards this.  Stay away from the drama.

Know when t0 Quit: If you find that you are not being treated right and your particular workplace or boss is causing personal turmoil, know when to walk away.  There is a better workplace for you.