It’s Not About You


The following is an excerpt from my newest book length project.  The working title of this new book is “LeaderSheep; Leading from a posture of submission in Business, Ministry and the Kingdom of Heaven” and is tentatively scheduled for release in early 2018.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 11:1

Few books of the last quarter century have been more influential in Christian circles than Pastor Rick Warren’s,  “The Purpose Driven Life”.  In 2007 Publisher’s Weekly declared Warren’s magnum opus of Christian living the “best selling non-fiction hardcover book of all time.”  In just 5 years it had sold over 30 million copies and become the second most translated book in history behind The Bible itself.  In recognition of the influence he had had on a generation of Christ-followers  Warren was asked to pray for the nation at the inauguration of President Barak Obama in 2008.

The Purpose Driven Life was originally published at a time when America, and indeed the entire world, was reeling from the first act of war committed on her soil since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  The terrorist attacks on The World Trade Center and The Pentagon on September 11, 2001 shook America’s confidence to its core and sent people searching for answers to life’s biggest questions.  The sub-title of the book “What on Earth am I here for?” spoke to those people in a deeply profound way and helped to drive sales of The Purpose Driven Life to stratospheric heights.

But if anyone thought that The Purpose Driven Life was going to give them a feel good, step by step motivational message about how to get back on track through some inward journey of meditation and search for meaning they wouldn’t have gotten off the first page.  For those looking for that type of self-centered motivation the book opens with a punch to the gut that Warren delivers in a signature style reminiscent of an iron fist in a velvet glove.

The first four words of The Purpose Drive Life are “It’s not about you!”   

I can’t think of a better way to start talking about LeaderSheep than by setting the expectation, direction and tone of this work with a reminder that the purpose of leadership is not self-promotion.  It’s quite simply not about you!

In order to be LeaderSheep we must first recognize that we are not leading for personal gain or personal reasons.  Sheepish leaders have a clear sense of purpose, that much is true, but first and foremost they know that their purpose has actually nothing to do with them and everything to do with the flock.  If you are going to be a sheepish leader the first thing you need to do is find the purpose of the thing you are leading, be it an organization, a division or a product launch.

For more on finding purpose or to follow my progress I write this new book contact me at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.  As always I crave your feedback, questions and comments are always welcome…

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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A Quick Word About the Nature of Debt


The following is an excerpt from my new book – LeaderSheep; Leading from a Posture of Submission for Business, Ministry and The Kingdom of Heaven. For more information on this book and it’s expected launch date write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

 

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. [Romans 13: 8-10]

debtbondageBefore I continue I would like to pause here and give a clarification about the first century context for any discussion about debt. Debt in Paul’s world is not simply about money.   Indeed for much of world history, up until the last few centuries debt was a moral concept wrapped up in human relationships, intrinsic value and ultimate reality.

In today’s world we tend to think only in terms of physical capital. Cold hard cash as it where or credit instruments measured in fiat money. But we tend to forget that in ancient times “debt” went further than that and became a concept indistinguishable from relationships and human morality.

Human Capital is best defined as a measure of the skills, knowledge and experience possessed by an individual or population. To carry a debt therefore in a society governed more in terms of human capital than physical capital is to owe your life in exchange for comfort and security. Viewed in terms of human capital, institutions such as indentured servitude and even all out slavery start to take on a little more context and even a hint of moral acceptance. In a world before modern financial instruments, if my debt to society or an individual can be paid only in my skills, knowledge and experience than the only way to pay it back is to work it off rather than simply purchase my freedom with something as impersonal as money.

Don’t get me wrong, slavery in today’s context is wrong. As a society we have evolved and most people, at least in the west understand that human capital is infinite and therefore an inappropriate way of measuring one’s worth. But is the current system of financial debt, whereby a large portion of our earnings are earmarked for repayment even before we earn them any different in actual fact than a life of debt peonage from ancient times?

Often in ancient times people in bondage were abused, ripped from their relational context and held down by corrupt and dishonest systems of accounting but in world without banks and modern account, as a system of morality it does make some sense. Provided the masters were honest and kind to those who were in submission to their care.

So when Paul talks about debts in Romans 13 he is really talking about Human Capital. Just before is words on debt he says this:

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. [Romans 13:7]

love and lawStay out of “debt” so that you can focus you Human Capital on the things that really matter. Love is not only the fulfillment of the law but way in which you balance your Human Capital in the account books of society as a whole.

For more information on the The Meekonomics Project and my upcoming book LeaderSheep:  Leading from a Posture of Submission in Business, Ministry and The Kingdom of Heaven, write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

LeaderSheep – #HowILead From a Posture of Submission


The following post has been written and inspired in response to the call from LinkedIn Pulse for submission on #HowILead and contains excerpts from my upcoming book project “LeaderSheep; Leading from a posture of submission in Business, Life and The Kingdom of Heaven.”

sheep

“You’re a great worker and a fantastic salesperson but you’re not a very good leader.”

That was how my boss started my performance review back in the fall of 2003.

I was 31 years old. I had started at the company 4 years earlier as a local territory salesperson and risen to the rank of national sales manager. My first big project in my new role had been to oversee advertising sales for a nationally published industry directory. There were two other people on the project with me. After a cursory training in our target demographic and a quick talk about phone etiquette I divided the lead list among the three of us and turned my team loose on the phones.

The campaign lasted two weeks. In that time I sold four times as much as my two other team members combined. When either of them had questions or ran into difficulty I repeated the “training” from the first day and walked back to my desk. Halfway through the campaign one of them simply stopped showing up for work and the other quit shortly after we wrapped it up and paid out the commissions.

In hindsight I realize now that my boss was being kind. While the campaign itself was a success, we sold every square inch of advertising space available and at one point had to convince the publisher to add a few more pages just to satisfy the demand we had created, as a leader I had utterly failed.

Leadership means something different for everyone depending on where you draw your worldview from. While my boss was looking for a strong leader to step up and direct the project, inspiring, teaching and driving to the goal. I was far more interested in my own success and felt that “leading by example” would naturally inspire those around me to follow my work ethic and find their own motivation.

Was I wrong to think that way? Not exactly, but I was wrong to think that everyone else would agree with me and my “one-size-fits-all, just do as I do” approach backfired. My personal success on the project, while the rest of my team struggled, actually served to alienate the team rather than inspire them.   My lead by example style ended up coming across as aloof and arrogant.

When my boss told me that I was a terrible leader I was crushed. I had never considered that my example was anything but inspiring. My reaction to the worker who stopped showing up was to write him off as lazy and the one who quit just didn’t share our future vision for the company. It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with me, could it?

When I realized that in reality it had everything to do with me I repented of my arrogance and set out to learn as much as I could about leadership and business. What I found, quite frankly, disturbed me.

Most of the conventional wisdom on leadership espoused a macho version of personal branding and self-help. Too often leadership it seems is seen in terms of a sports or military metaphor.   Indeed some of the best selling business and leadership books of all time have been written by former athletes, coaches and military commanders.

The men who write these books, and they are almost always men, tend to have very little practical business experience. While running a sports team may technically be a business, and there may be some transferable skills learned in a military uniform I can’t help but wonder how any of these celebrities and commanders would fare in the “real world” of business. Or if they would have ever gotten a book deal in the first place if they hadn’t hit .300 for the New York Yankees umpteen years ago?

It’s as if the business press has nothing better to say than macho men know how to get things done and the rest of us just better learn to do it their way or be left behind. “Lead, follow or get out of the way,” as Thomas Paine once said.

Paine is arguably the most influential leader in American history. It was his 1776 pamphlet entitled; “Common Sense” that crystallized the patriot movement and helped to start the revolutionary war. Thomas Paine was a writer, philosopher and a political activist and it is his leadership maxim that has shaped our thinking on the subject for nearly 300 years.

Paine places people into three distinct camps, according to him people are either leaders, followers or a nuisance that must be pushed aside in the name of progress. It sets up a caste system and tends to promote the type of macho arrogance that comes out in almost all of the leadership writings I have seen and of which I was personally accused over a decade ago.

However, Thomas Paine neglected to consider that there are people who can both follow and lead at the same time and sometimes getting in the way of a wrong-headed idea is the only way one can show leadership and affect real change.

As I researched the ideas surrounding contemporary leadership I also went back to my Evangelical Christian roots. As my previous writing on the topics of economics and ethics has shown before I draw any conclusions I always test my thoughts against what the Bible, and most specifically what Jesus has to say.

Jesus, never said anything remotely like; lead, follow or get out of the way. The over arching message of Jesus on the topic of leadership was to serve.

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. [John 13:13-15]

In recent years the term servant leadership has become a buzz word in and of itself. But the over arching message I find there is still the same. A good leader is still in control, he or she may be trying to serve those whom they are leading but they are still overwhelmingly considered to be the ones in charge. In a weird way just because we slap the label “Servant Leadership” on something, we haven’t really changed the message. The servant leader is still afforded a certain amount of macho swagger.

Vary rarely do we see an example of true servant leadership in business today. Especially outside of the church or faith based ministry. Why that is should be fairly obvious. True servant leadership is a contradiction in terms. A servant leader must lead from a posture of submission; submission to another person, to a greater good or to the direction of a collective ideal. For many the whole notion of submission is contradictory to the idea of leadership.

A herd of sheep is a great metaphor for the type of servant leadership I am trying to describe here and why I have coined the term LeaderSheep.

Sheep tend to wander. If left to on their own without a shepherd sheep will put their heads down and simply graze through a field with absolutely no sense of direction. Many people see this as a weakness that must be tamed and brought under the control and direction of a strong outside force like a human shepherd or a dog trained by to keep them inside a restricted area. Shepherds have convinced themselves that they do this for the sheep’s own safety and wellbeing but really they are doing it for no other reason than to protect their asset.   If the sheep were allowed to wander they would get lost and fall into the hands of predators, or so we have been trained to think.

sheepherdBut take a closer look at the wandering sheep and you will begin to notice something. They aren’t wandering aimlessly at all. A herd of sheep functions as a unit, they maintain a collective desire to stay together for protection and to find the best grass to graze on. From time to time one might find a particularly juice patch of grass and lead the herd in that direction. Once the objective is accomplished that particular sheep will disappear back into the ranks allowing another sheep to step into leadership when the opportunity presents itself. This cycle of leadership and submission repeats itself continually as the herd moves about the pasture.

Knowing when to step up and use your gifts to accomplish a goal and then just as importantly knowing when to step down are two of the hallmarks of a good LeaderSheep. If Thomas Paine had understood the difference he might have said something more along the lines of “Lead, follow AND get out of the way.”

Here are what I believe are the marks of a LeaderSheep. First off LeaderSheep have a strong sense of purpose, they work well as part of a team and they are not put off by the size of the task or any apparent inexperience or under-qualification. They understand what must be done and they do it.

Second, LeaderSheep are driven by and conscious of results, they are above reproach and they are respected by their peers. There is no point in leading if you don’t know where you are going or what progress you have made toward your goal. Integrity is key and maintaining the respect of those around you is paramount to holding on to a position of leadership.

Lastly, LeaderSheep understand the limitations of their role. They are not afraid to stop doing things that just aren’t working or even let go of the leadership role when it’s just not their turn. Submission to the will of something greater, be it God or the group is the final act of a great LeaderSheep.

As I said at the outset, I’ve lived a lot of life and learned a lot since my first failure in leadership. In a way this is written as a warning to my 31 year old self. Since I can’t go back and change the past, I can at least make my thoughts, learning and perspective on leadership known. I hope I can teach you as much as I have learned in the process so that no one else has to work for an inept leader like I once was or endure an awkward performance review like mine all those years ago.

For more information on #HowILead and the upcoming book “LeaderSheep; Leading From a Posture of Submisson in Life, Business and The Kingdom of Heaven” or any of my other writing on the subject of Leadership and Behavioural Economics write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or visit www.themeekonomicsproject.com

 

6 Encouragements for Insecure Leaders


The following as an excerpt from my current book project, “LeaderSheep; Leading From a Posture of Submission in Business, Ministry and Life”  I just completed the first draft of Chapter 3 “Undaunted”, here is some of what I’ve written so far…

How many times have you had a dream? I’m not talking about a bucket list dream here, like climbing Mount Everest I’m talking about a dream that qualifies as a BHAG. (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)

dreambig

We’ve all had them. Big dreams that we can’t possibly accomplish on our own or as we are. Maybe it’s to grow your business into an international brand or take your ministry on the road. If you’re like most people, the minute you receive that vision you start making excuses about why you couldn’t possibly make the leap and stand on the pinnacle of success.

But reading trough Paul’s letters to Timothy I get a clear sense of how you can fight those feelings. There are at least six characteristics that Paul gives, possibly more, in order to help Timothy combat his own insecurities and depression.

First Paul reminds Timothy of God’s grace. [1 Timothy 1:12-17]. Paul remember was the man who persecuted the church and carried out capital punishment on followers of The Way long before he became an apostle himself. God’s grace abounds so much that even a man like Paul can become a great leader in the church and pillar of the faith. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” [1 Timothy 1:15]

When you become discouraged by the sheer magnitude of your BHAG and bogged down in the day to day operations of getting things done the first step is to remember God’s grace.   He forgave Paul and even gave him the tools to go out and spread the gospel to parts of the world untouched by its message. How much more will he be able to help you?

Second, you must hold on to your faith and remember why you started on this path in the first place. Doubt causes people to stumble. Grace is part of God’s nature but it is of no use to us if we don’t have faith. “I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well,  holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith” [1 Timothy 1:18-19]

It’s important to note here that faith is a command. Paul has just finished reminding Timothy how graceful God is, even toward a terrible sinner like Paul, and so the only appropriate response is to hold onto your faith. Anything less would be an insult to God’s character. When God has given you a grand vision, something worthy of being called a BHAG, and shown you love and grace in the face of your many failings, to become depressed and discouraged is an affront to the one who called you.   Therefore, being faithful to our calling is not a request, it’s a requirement.

Next Paul reminds Timothy to pray.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.

 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. [1 Timothy 2:1-8]

Prayer does many things, among them it helps focus our attention away from our personal bubble of immediate concerns and onto the bigger picture. When things become daunting it is important to step out of ourselves and get a broader focus. Paul tells Timothy that he must first pray for others, those in authority and to whom Timothy’s life is submitted in some way. By praying for the rulers Timothy is really praying that they too will see the headship of God and everyone would become submitted to the one true will of the father.

If your BHAG is truly from God it is by praying, first for others and then for yourself that you will know how the opposition you feel and the depression that comes with it is not from God and through prayer you and the people around you can begin to see clearly. That is how barriers are removed.

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, this one written from a prison cell somewhere in Rome, he continues on the theme of encouragement and reminds him of a few more fundamental keys to understanding and becoming undaunted but the focus shifts a bit away from what God can do for you to what is now expected of a LeaderSheep moving forward.

The fourth key to remaining undaunted therefore is a loyal conviction in pursuit of the call.

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. [2 Timothy 1:6-8]

You have a mission – God gave it to you – get after it. In the first letter we were reminded that God is graceful, and faithful and that we need to pray about all things for his blessing and direction. Now it’s time to get moving! Don’t be a wimp, if God is truly in it you have His power to get it done. 2 Timothy 1:7 is the battle cry of the insecure LeaderSheep. God’s spirit takes away our insecurities, gives us power, wraps us in love and sends us out to get the job done. I never would have put pen to paper and written a single book, let alone three, if God had not given me his spirit, love and discipline to get it done. If it is truly from God you cannot be ashamed of your calling. As my friend Cary used to say, “Get’er done – it is God’s gift to the world through you.”

But what if there is still opposition to your mission? What if there are people demanding attention that contradicts your mission? Well, it’s time to tap in to that spirit of power we were just talking about and take on the false doctrine of the competing mission. The fifth characteristic of the undaunted LeaderSheep is the ability to stand up to falsehood.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. [2 Timothy 2:16-17]

Gangrene is nasty!

Paul uses a word picture here that is unmistakable. False teaching is like rotting flesh that will kill you from the inside.   Standing up to falsehood in business and leadership is a huge need and great skill. It’s easy for insecure leaders to be seduced by negativity but once you tap into the power of vision and mission negativity has to go. There is still room for course correction but not negativity. And false teaching in an organization is almost always negative.

But false teaching doesn’t have to be just negativity. It can also be things that may seem positive but are just not part of the core ideology of the organization.   Falsehood in this context is anything that pulls you off course and distracts you from your mission. This too can spread like gangrene throughout an organization and kill the vision. It must be stopped in its tracks before it can damage the spirit and moral of those in its path.

So lastly and not to belabor the point, LeaderSheep must remain undaunted and committed to the truth of their mission.

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. [2 Timothy 4:2-4]

There will come a time when your mission is unpopular. Circumstances and sentiment will mount against you but if your mission is truly from God you must persevere in it and “be prepared to correct, rebuke and encourage”.

My personal mission in part it to teach people to live Debt Free. I started on that mission at a time when credit was cheap and saving was unpopular. The watchmen of our economy were working on the assumption that in order to stimulate the economy they had to make it easy for people to spend other people’s money. At the time I said no to that, repeatedly, loudly and at times emotionally.

I still say no that false sense of wealth today. It is unpopular, a lot of smart people disagree with me. When I first started preaching debt freedom the purveyors of debt ignored me but as I started to gain a following they changed tactics and instead sought to discredit me. To this day I am but a small voice crying in the wilderness but I know I’m right and the truth is that the rich will rule over the poor and borrowers are slaves to the lenders [Proverbs 22:7].

The road to debt freedom and true wealth is long. I get that, but the short cuts just aren’t worth it.

Whatever your truth is, whatever your mission, you will have detractors. They key is to preach “the word”, correcting, rebuking and encouraging, with great patience and careful instruction. No matter what you face. Myths have a way of being found out. When you build you house on shifting sand, as Jesus said, the storms of life have a way of eroding the foundation so that everything comes crashing down. [Matthew 7:26-27].

Remaining undaunted in your mission has a way of attracting the type of followers you want to have as a LeaderSheep. The kind that not only see the vision and share the mission but the kind that can make it their own and the kind that can step up into leadership on their own one day.

Earning your Spot on the Team


I’m currently working on the first draft of a book on Leadership, tentatively scheduled for release sometime in late 2016, or early 2017. The working title of the book is “LeaderSheep; Leading from a Posture of Submission in Business, Ministry and Life”. The following is an excerpt from the chapter on Teamwork that I wrote this past week, I hope you like it….

moonman

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade not because it is easy but because it is hard.”

With those words President John F. Kennedy launched the Apollo Moon Mission during a speech at Rice University in Huston Texas. That was September 12, 1962, seven years later on July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong was the first human to walk on the surface of our nearest celestial neighbor.

Contrary to the popular images we receive in the media, astronauts are not swashbuckling, thrill seeking, space cowboys. Despite the fact that we prefer to portray them in this way, being an astronauts actually requires a huge amount of humility, attention to detail and team work. When Neil Armstrong’s foot touched the surface of the moon it was the culmination of not just seven years of hard work but decades of theorizing, simulation, exploration and testing, that had been carried out by literally thousands of human beings on the ground and in short missions that just orbited the moon, long before Armstrong was even considered for the job.

How easily we forget that the mission Armstrong was a part of was actually the 11th mission of the Apollo space craft. NASA had launched 10 other Apollo rockets into space for the sole purpose of learning as much as they possibly could about the moon and space travel before they attempted to land there.

Today, NASA maintains a staff of about 40 astronauts, give or take, many of whom have never been to space and may never get the chance to go, along with thousands of other support personnel. Due to its international character, and the relative size of the International Space Station (ISS), the average length of stay in space (about four months), and the stringent medical requirements placed on astronauts, only an average of 3 people a year are ever selected for missions to space.   Each mission is carefully planned and choreographed for years before departure. Therefore the math suggests that over a thirty year career an astronaut might get just one chance to go up. When you consider previous experience in space as an asset though, chances are that fewer than half of the astronauts currently employed by NASA will ever get the chance to fly beyond our atmosphere.

The real job of an astronaut is not to spend time in space but to plan and simulate processes and procedures that are carried out by their colleagues on the ISS. This is usually done in an underwater buoyancy lab that simulates weightlessness or by using computerized models and simulators. The results of all of this testing is then relayed on to their colleagues in space.

astronautinwater

Partly due to all of this planning and simulating to date NASA has never lost an astronaut in space. A few dozen astronauts have been killed during launch and re-entry to our atmosphere and the Russians lost three men due to an oxygen leak in early 70s but considering the number of times we’ve sent people into space and inherent danger involved that is a remarkably small number. It is a testament to the teamwork of astronauts on the ground.

Chris Hadfield is the only Canadian ever to command the ISS. Over a 20 year career with the Canadian Space Agency and NASA he has been to space three times, twice on the shuttle and once in a Russian Soyuz capsule. He has spent more days in space than just about anyone currently employed by any space agency in the world. If anyone has the right to be proud of his accomplishments, it’s Hadfield. But in his book “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” Hadfield makes it clear that being an astronaut is not about personal accomplishments or glory, an astronaut, according to Hadfield is the ultimate team player. A proud, arrogant or even just a too overly confident astronaut is a dead astronaut.

Hadfield also understands the value of doing your job as part of a team before seeking a position of leadership. They way he puts it;

If you enter a new environment intent on exploding out of the gate, you risk wreaking havoc instead.

My own personal story bears this out. In hind sight, my boss and I should have known I was in for a bumpy ride when I arrived on the scene at my new job back in 2001.

Prior to moving to the Head Office and taking on the sales manager role in 2003, I had led a restructuring project within the organization. The company I worked for at the time was originally set up with a franchise model. As with most franchise models the Head Office set policy, managed advertising and ran the retail website. Independently owned regional offices handled local distribution and local relationships with suppliers. Right from the start there was some tension between the head office and these independently owned and operated franchises. When a few of the franchises started making their own policies that ran counter to the vision that head office had for a strong central organization things started to fall apart. One by one local franchises either closed voluntarily or had their contracts revoked for various violations of central policy.

From 1999 to 2002 I was one of these local franchise owners. For the most part I followed the rules but as other franchises across the country closed the decision was made by head office not to reopen them. Instead they decided to restructure the company and eliminate the franchise model altogether. As the last remaining franchisee I was offered a very attractive buyout and a job running the newly formed sales department at head office. But before I could do that, and before my buyout was completed I was asked to help clean up the mess left by former franchise owners all across the country. For about 2 years I split my time 50/50 between my responsibilities at head office and my own local franchise.

new sheriff

When I arrived on the scene for my first day at head office I walked into the warehouse, where a long time employee was diligently working through thousands of boxes of product that had just been returned from our franchise in Edmonton and announced, with all the piss and vinegar I could muster; “There’s a new Sheriff in Town!” The employee set down the box he was carrying and looking at me with thinly veiled cynicism asked what I thought he should be doing. Honestly, I had no idea. In less than 30 seconds I had managed to alienate the only other person in the room and the one guy who could actually teach me what needed to be done. I had exploded out of the gate, as Chris Hadfield says, and burned my credibility in one shining moment of arrogance. I hadn’t even bothered to ask my new co-worker’s name before I blew up any chance that he would be an ally in the process in which we were about to embark.

Thankfully Andy (I did eventually get around to asking his name) turned out to be a diligent colleague who took pride in the quality of his work. He eventually forgave me for bungling our first encounter and we went on to develop a very good working relationship although I never felt like he fully trusted me.

Here’s the point. Leaders must remember that they are members of their teams first. It’s an often quoted cliché that there is no “I” in “Team” and that’s true. But it goes deeper than that. The military structure of small units working toward a goal comes to mind here. The Sergeant of a platoon is just a much a member of the team as he is the leader. He is often the first one through the door, and the last one off the battle field. In the movie “We Were Soldier’s” Mel Gibson declares to his platoon that he will be the first one on the field of battle and the last to leave and the film makers drive that point home over and over again with artfully place images of Mel Gibson’s boots. At both the start and the end of the battle there are slow motion frames of him stepping off and back on the helicopter that brought him to the battle field.

Effective leaders, especially LeaderSheep lead their teams from within. They are the first ones in, the last ones out and hardest workers throughout the day.

Help! I Just Fell into a Rabbit Hole…


To be harnessed effectively, idealism needs to be grounded in a practical sense of how to get results and a grassroots understanding of the lay of the land. – Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn: A Path Appears; Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity

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I’m currently writing the first draft of a book on Leadership. The Book is tentatively titled “LeaderSheep; Leading from a Posture of Submission in Business, Ministry and Life”.

The first draft is always the hardest for me, as my thoughts form around a concept I continually fall down rabbit holes that sometimes take me weeks, or even months to find my way out of. The good part about that is that I end up developing a deeper understand of the concepts that go into my writing and find ideas for other books in the process, the bad part is that the book I originally thought I was writing tends to become something completely different and I end up with more ideas for other books in my head than I could possibly write in a life time. The concept of LeaderSheep itself was a rabbit hole I fell down while writing my first book “Meekonomics; How to Inherit the Earth and Live Life to the Fullest in God’s Economy”.

Anyway, it just happened again. This time I started asking questions about how leaders stay grounded in reality and what metrics they must learn to use in order to measure success.

You see, if you’re are going to lead a project with a big goal, and goal here isn’t really the best word, if you’re going to take on a mission, you need to have a strong sense of what success looks like. But what if your mission is so big that you will only see a small part of it succeed in your lifetime or what if your mission is part of a grander ideal that no one project could possibly encompass? That’s the kind of thing I’m thinking about as I write this book. Missions to eradicate human trafficking cure cancer and profoundly change the world we live in.  If your mission comes from a place like that, how do you measure progress, how do you know when you’ve made it and most importantly, how do you know when your time has come and gone and you need to take a step back?

I recently read Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s excellent chronicle of development economics, “A Path Appears.” It contains a lot of stories about how people are working on some of the world’s biggest and most entrenched issues. It didn’t help with the rabbit hole. I only ended up going deeper and further from my original goal, but maybe that’s just what I needed. While I didn’t get a lot of answers I did learn about the questions people are asking and the metrics they are using along the path. As a result there will be a big section in this new book on a new kind of leadership metrics, maybe even a whole other book about it. For now I just have to be content with the process and just enjoy the ride.

So a couple of questions if you’re so inclined to help me find my way through this particular rabbit hole.

  • Are you engaged with a big mission?

  • How do you define your role?

  • How do you measure progress?

  • How do you know when it’s time to step back?

Comments are appreciated or if you prefer a private conversation, write to; themeekonomicproject@gmail.com, use the subject line “LeaderSheep Metrics” so I can easily file the responses for use at a later date.

Thanks – Lauren.