Category Archives: Leadership

Making vs. Managing: Every Day

When you’re in charge of something, when you manage it, you check on that thing every so often. You look in on it as infrequently as possible, as infrequently as is organizationally acceptable.

That’s the natural mindset of the manager. It just is. But the mindset of the maker is markedly different.

When you’re trying to make something new or real or better, if shapes your day. Every day. When you’re truly trying to cultivate something, you tend to it every day. The cat wants to be fed every day. The kids want attention every day.

Matt Damon’s Mark Watney tended those Martian potatoes every day because his life depended on them. He was trying to bring green growth from indifferent red dirt.

Hobbies and interests? We cultivate those on the weekend or a couple weeks a year. Those are fun, but the best way to determine what we’re truly passionate about is to examine our every day.

What Pete Said

Years before Pete Carroll won the Super Bowl as the coach of the Seattle Seahawks, and before he led the USC Trojans to a title, he was the head coach of the New England Patriots. He won some games there, but his brief tenure was somewhat middling — nothing terrible, nothing remarkable. Then Carroll was let go.

On Sunday before the Super Bowl, Fox aired a pre-taped interview between Carroll and former head coach Jimmy Johnson. Johnson asked Carroll about what happened in New England and why Carroll was ready to give the NFL another shot in Seattle, and I found the response fascinating.

Carroll began by intimating that he didn’t have as much control over player personnel in New England as he wanted or maybe deserved. Then he said that when he decided to take the Seattle job, he spoke to Seahawks general manager John Schneider (aka Carroll’s new boss) and said this:

“I want our relationship to be famous.”

In other words, I want us to be on the same page. I want us to define our roles, own our roles, and trust one another to play those roles. I want us to work so well together — you as the GM and me as the coach — that football teams, basketball teams, hockey teams, creative teams, and executive teams come to us to study how we cooperate and collaborate.

As a football fan, I thought that was fascinating. Then, in an instant, I was hearing Carroll’s words again in my context as a communications pastor.

“I want our relationship to be famous.”

Have I said that to my supervisor or my executive pastor or my senior pastor? Have I thought it? Honestly, it never occurred to me. But more than saying it, could I mean it? What about my attitudes and actions would have to change? What would it take for church leadership teams around the world to come to Irving Bible Church and study how I cooperate and collaborate with my leadership?

I don’t know exactly what would need to change yet. The only answer I’ve come up with so far is, “A lot.” Evidently I’ve got some work to do.

Wait, What Is Vision?

For all the talk about the importance of defining an individual’s or organization’s vision, I’d never latched onto a definition of the word itself that really captured my imagination. Then one of my teammates here at IBC, David Grant, sent me this article by Scott Cormode for Fuller Seminary. Here’s how Cormode defines vision:

Vision is a shared story of future hope.

I just love that. Cormode’s piece is about how stories can compel people toward meaningful change. In fact, there’s a great example in the article about the leaders of a next generation ministry that took seriously the challenge to give their students stories of future hope.

If you’re still wondering what a shared story of future hope might look like, consider Cormode’s opening example: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. What was perhaps the most beautiful, compelling, and revolutionary vision of the last 100 years went something like this:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

And of course we know that Dr. King’s dream ultimately pointed to a story of future hope that was articulated long ago:

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all the flesh shall see it together.

As someone who has dedicated much of his thinking lately to story as it relates to the people of God, I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Cormode for his helpful definition: Vision is a shared story of future hope. Here at IBC we’re doing what we can to tell a shared story of future hope — the story of what God has done, is doing, and will do in and through us — and we’re inviting all who hear to join in.

Cardboard Leadership


A couple of weeks ago, my daughter Elise’s preschool sent her home with a big assignment: all the three- and four-year-olds had to transform a cardboard box into a car. Then, last week, all the students brought their cars to school and raced them in a big grand prix. I knew what I was going to see at the grand prix, and yet I still wasn’t prepared for it. Here’s what I mean …

When it came to designing and constructing Elise’s car, my wife Annie and I made a conscious decision: we were going to let her take the lead. Our primary interest, as far as this project was concerned, was Elise’s development and learning experience. (At this point I should probably mention that Annie is a certified teacher and a longtime practitioner of child development theory.) But what I saw when I attended the grand prix was that we were among the few parents who felt that way.

The other parents — as we suspected they might — appeared to have entered into a competition to see which adult could deliver the most impressive cardboard automobile. There were Batmobiles, princess carriages, sharks-on-wheels, and blinking lights. But there wasn’t any self-expression on the part of the kids. Our daughter’s car bore the telltale signs of unsteady hands, haphazard spacing, and an underdeveloped eye for color. Our daughter experienced the joy and frustration of a blank canvas.

A lot of the kids were pleased with what their parents made for them; our daughter was proud of what she’d made.

I’m far from being a model parent. Just ask Elise — she’ll tell you the truth. But I think I’m learning something about what it means to be both a parent and a leader. See, it’s always easier for me to do an art project myself — to sketch the princess, to build the castle, to color in the lines, to cut out the shape, to tape the pieces together — but my daughter will never grow into an artist that way.

It’s not enough for her to observe art being made or to receive art that has been made. She’s got to do some making herself. I’m learning that teaching and leadership aren’t the easiest ways to deliver a project, but they are the most formative for Elise.

If I’m truly interested in that which is most beneficial and transformative for Elise, I’ll commit to doing things the hard way. I’ll grimace as she stumbles and slips, but I’ll bite my tongue because she needs the practice. I’ll let her get her reps. I’ll also be content to show up at a preschool grand prix with a ramshackle racer covered in enough glitter to choke an elephant. I’ll stride past the row of cars that look like they were built by Audi’s cardboard design division and take my seat.

As the preschool director screams, “Start your engines!” I’ll smile — not at what I built, but who she’s becoming.