Visionary Leaders Vs. Masters Part Four

goal-vs-vision-1024x732I recently finished reading How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams. In it, Adams makes a good suggestion which goes something like this: Don’t set goals in your life, rather, build systems.* And that got me thinking about the difference between Visionary leaders and Masters — Visionaries set goals, Masters build systems.

As I wrote about before, a Visionary leader does not have much to offer other than his vision. To follow the Visionary you must celebrate his vision, but after that, you’re mostly on your own. And if you do not celebrate his vision you become a pariah. In fact, you could be very good at what you do, but if you don’t celebrate or connect to the vision you’ll be ignored. And vice versa, you could be terrible at what you do, but if you do celebrate the vision you will be promoted.

Visionary led movements which never transition to Master led movements usually die with the Visionary. I grew up in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). The CRC was founded in 1857 and has roots going back to the Reformation. I don’t doubt that the CRC will still exist 100 years from now. I also know of Christian church movements which are only 40 years old. These movements are Visionary led and I don’t see them lasting another 40 years. Once the Visionary dies, the fuel feeding the movement burns out.

So I agree with Scott Adams, but I will change the wording: Don’t rely on vision, rather, build systems. Systems will outlive the Visionary. You can start with a Visionary, but don’t die with the Visionary.

A system does not mean a bureaucracy. It’s true that can happen, but a Master won’t allow it. A Master creates a system in which everyone can operate freely and not be bogged down by unnecessary rules. Systems are not void of progress; they create an environment in which progress is normal. For example, a friend of mine is trying to lose weight. In the past he would always set a goal of how many pounds he would like to lose. He would reach that goal, but never sustain the new weight. Now, he has abandoned the goal setting and is creating a system instead. The system is not pushing toward a specific weight but rather is creating a lifestyle in which a healthy weight becomes normal.

Christian Visionaries love to quote this Bible verse: Where there is no vision, the people perish… See how important vision is? It’s in the Bible! But, it’s funny because they don’t quote the whole verse. In fact, they don’t even quote the full sentence. The whole verse is this: Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18 KJV) The word vision in the passage is the Hebrew word châzôn, which refers to a prophetic vision. The prophetic vision here is not some scheme conjured up by a leader, but rather it is a divine revelation from God instructing us how to live our lives. What is that divine revelation according to this verse? It is the law. And what is the law? It is a system.

A system sustains life and is superior to anyone’s vision. A system is intergenerational whereas a vision is only held passionately by the originator, and maybe by his immediate successor… maybe.

Forget the vision. Be a Master and build systems.

Read: Part One; Part Two; Part Three

DilbertGoals

* “A goal is a specific objective that you either achieve or don’t sometime in the future. A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, its a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal. If you achieve your goal, you celebrate and feel terrific, but only until you realize you just lost the thing that gave you purpose and direction. Your options are to feel empty and useless, perhaps enjoying the spoils of your success until they bore you, or set new goals and reenter the cycle of permanent presuccess failure. All I’m suggesting is that thinking of goals and systems as very different concepts has power. Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous presuccess failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn. The systems people are feeling good everytime they apply their system. That’s a big difference in terms of maintaining your personal energy in the right direction.” ~Scott Adams (from the book)

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Visionary Leaders Vs. Masters Part Three

one-size-fits-allIt’s easy to have strong opinions about generalities. It is equally easy to speak in absolutes when you think you know everything. But often these opinions and absolutes are not qualified. And once you start asking detailed and specific questions, those strong opinions and absolutes begin to break down. There is nuance to life and only God can see and know everything. As for us, we can only speak in absolutes when we know 100% of the facts (very rare) or when we repeat what God has already said (and even that is often argued about).

Visionary leaders tend to speak in absolutes. What they believe they know and what they believe they’ve experienced in life is a “one size fits all” for everybody, and if someone disagrees with them, they can’t except the idea that anyone could correctly see things differently from them.

This single-mindedness is both virtue and vice. Of course a visionary needs to have a single target in sight, and not be turned left or right by self-doubt. But, this also could prevent them from having any relationships with anyone who is not a follower of theirs. Now, a visionary reading this might ask, “So! What’s wrong with that?” And that’s fine if that’s how you want to live. But I think there’s a danger it will make you resentful, bitter, and suspicious. You’re trapping yourself into a limited way of thinking and you’ll be personally offended every time someone doesn’t agree with you or does not want to connect themselves with you.

Be a Master instead…

  • A master strives to have 100% of the facts but always is aware that he rarely does.
  • A master is open to new ideas and is not afraid of change.
  • A master never adds to God’s word, and never condemns where God does not.
  • A master has relationships with other masters and those relationships are built on a love for the work, not politics.
  • A master lets his apprentices go off on their own when they’re ready — he doesn’t expect them to follow him forever. But, he is always there to offer advice when needed.

Read Part OnePart Two; Part Four

Like People, Like Priest

I am a western English speaking Christian worker in Cambodia. I administrate a Christian elementary school. This position is a good fit for me for both general and specific reasons. It is generally a good fit because I like kids (usually), I care about kids being discipled for Christ, and I care about education. It is specifically a good fit for me because, as the administrator, I am able to work from behind the scenes and let much of the forefront decision-making be done by local people. Why is that important to me? Because I want my work to reach and be effective to Cambodians, and that best happens, in my opinion, when Cambodians work with Cambodians. As the old Khmer proverb says: Only the spider can repair its own web.

bbbAnd such is the principle of Like People, Like Priest; people will follow those they can relate to. If you’re an English speaking expat starting up a church in an Asian city with a high population of English speaking expats, don’t be surprised when the people coming to your church are all English speaking expats. And there is nothing wrong with that as long as you are honest with yourself and admit that you are the pastor of an expat church and not the pastor of a Cambodian/Thai/Burmese, or whatever nation you happen to be in, church. If you wanted to be the pastor of a church of nationals, there are some major steps that need to be taken to do that, mastering the language for example, and you might find you are unwilling/unable, for various reasons, to take those steps.

Being honest with yourself about what you are truly capable of doing is the first step to finding the right fit for your life and being an effective participant in the building of Christ’s kingdom. Who can you connect to? Who can connect to you?

Were You Duped by the Gillette Ad?

Were you, like myself and thousands of others, duped by the Gillette ad?

How do you know if you were duped?

You took sides.

And if you took sides, and defended the ad, I’m guessing you are liberal leaning. And if you hated the ad, you’re probably conservative leaning.

Here is the problem with that: Does a liberal’s definition of a good man and a conservative’s definition of a good man differ a whole lot? I’m guessing not. If you asked a conservative to write a list of ten things describing what a good man is, and asked a liberal to do likewise, I’m pretty sure those lists would be nearly exact.

Then why did the Gillette ad cause so much division?

Because it was designed to.

If Gillette truly cared about encouraging men to act as good men, could they not have created an ad which would offend no one and create no division? Of course they could. It’s not hard. Simply portray a variety of men acting in a variety of good ways in a variety of situations: A man holding a door open for a woman; a man defending someone against bullying; a man working with inner city kids; etc…. Create an ad like that, but do not infuse into it any accusatory or preachy tone. That ad would encourage men to act well and it would offend no one.

gillette women blue suits

Gillette does not care about men behaving well. Like an arms dealer making millions selling weapons to both sides of a war, Gillette is playing the culture war hoping to increase its profits. If, in ten years, Gillette believes it can increase profits by appealing to conservative men, you can be sure it will create the appropriate ads to do that. With this latest ad, Gillette seems to be targeting progressive liberals.

So lets all agree that there are both good men and bad men out there, on both the left and the right, and that most men are trying to be good men. And also, lets all agree that a multi-billion dollar corporation, like Gillette, is not the best place to look to for our moral standards.

Related reading

PS… Why are men buying Gillette razors anyway? They’re a rip off! Go and get yourself a Merkur safety razor, along with a box of a hundred blades, and you’re set for decades.

Where do You Fit?

fit in“So there’s this terrible tension in organizations, and I think what generally happens is all the creative people are there at the beginning. They get chased out until you have nothing but managers and administrators. Then the environment shifts, then the company dies.”

I’ve written some articles (see list below) about how a movement, at its beginning, will be run by visionaries and see rapid growth. But, once that growth tapers off, a new kind of leader needs to take control, one who knows how to manage the resources gained in the rapid growth phase. But, as Jordan Peterson talks about in the video below, you don’t want to get rid of the visionaries altogether. New creative ideas will always be needed in order for the organization to survive.

Do you know where you fit in?

Related reading…

Leaders of Movements

Men of Words

Visionary Leaders Vs Masters