In my leadership work, I group skills and strategies into the four areas above. First, Foundations give the leader the clarity to know how to lead the team because the final result in clear; second, build and maintain effective relationship to assist in getting to the vision; next, develop effective systems allowing each team member to excel and to work together efficiently; and finally, create balance in work, in life, and between work and life.
The format for this year consists of interviews with Christian leaders from many different types of leadership styles and perspectives - some pastors, some musicians, some lay leaders, some Christian business professionals, and more. My guest this month is well-known author Les Brown
As a renowned public speaker, author, and television personality, Les Brown
has risen to national prominence by delivering a high energy message which tells people how to shake off mediocrity and live up to their greatness. It is a message Les Brown has learned from his own life and one he is helping others apply to their lives.
Hugh Ballou:Les, please share with our readers about how we prepare ourselves as church leaders.
Les Brown: With a clear vision we begin to live from that place once we know what that vision is. Live from that vision. And, stay on course in manifesting and producing, and having a servant driven life that will allow us to be an asset to the planet rather than a liability.
Ballou: There are some times when the going is rough. And, I know you tell some great stories when you're on stage about how you have met odds which other people would have given up on. I don't know if you know but I spent 40 years serving the church, and it's a pretty hard place to serve. So you got any extra words of encouragement for those days that aren't as easy as e hope they would be?
Brown: The rough times are the times that it gives birth to a part of yourself that you don't know. When I look at my life no one could have convinced me given the fact that I was born in an abandoned building in a poor section of Miami, Florida, called Liberty City with a twin brother and then we were adopted. I was labeled uneducable -- mental retarded -- put from the 5th grade to the 4th grade, failed again when I was in the 8th grade and having no college training. No one could have predicted that out of such a poverty stricken background that I would be who I am right now.
Now when I look at my life, I am very grateful because now I understand in all things give thanks because had it not been for those adverse circumstances, I would not be who I am now and that came as result of work and that's what you have to do. Even in the church, even in your life, even in your career, even in your community.
“Commit thy works unto the Lord and thy thoughts shall be established.” That we must never ever stop, looking to the right, or, to the left, and beginning to lament our situation. The key to our situation is to grow through it rather than go through it because it has not come to stay, it has come to pass. And knowing that, having a relentless sense of optimism and positive expectation and continuing to keep the main thing the main thing. That kind of laser focus will allow you to grow and to manifest and to produce results in your life that you could never begin to imagine.
But most people don't do that. Most people, as Maya Angelou would say, go so far and then they park and I believe that they park because of the fact that we live in a world where we're told more about our limitations rather than our potential. We live in a world where we're not validated, where we're not empowered, where we're not appreciated and, and to that extent, most people go to their graves, their gifts, their talents and their abilities in them because they are not willing to do the work.
Ballou: Amen to that. And we as effective leaders can share those kinds of words of encouragement with those whom we lead. That takes me to my next area of leadership which is “Relationships”. I know you have many, many upstanding relationships. What as a leader is important about maintaining and creating effective relationships?
Brown: They are crucial for your development and ongoing growth and expansion as a leader. I think three steps are very important when you look at church leadership and leadership in terms of policy makers or from a political context. I used to be a state legislator in Columbus, Ohio. I was chairman of the Human Resource Committee and the Education Committee and a committee activist. And what I learned that there are three keys that are very important for leadership.
Number one is mindset transformation.
Number two is to always be driven to expand your skill set. Einstein said the thinking that has brought me this far has created some problems that this thinking can't solve.
And number 3 is practice the principals of “OQP”, Only Quality People, surrounding yourself with people that you can learn from. Doctor Dennis Kimble out of Atlanta said if you're the smartest one in your group you need to get a new group. And many leaders unfortunately do a disservice to themselves when they surround themselves with people that they know more than, people that are always pulling on them and depleting their resources and their emotional and mental and spiritual strength, but are not pouring into them.
You look at the Dead Sea as a metaphor. The Dead Sea is a Dead Sea because it is an outlet but it is not an inlet. No water comes into it but it gives out water and that's why it's dead. And so, many leaders never ever begin to achieve the level of impact they want to make and influence because of the fact that they're depleted.
They burn out, because they're the go-to person, and people always draining them. So that private voice, which we do a training called mind set behind the money -- and that's in every dimension of your life -- it begins to turn against you. You begin to unconsciously make decisions that cause you to produce results that do not represent the best and the highest that is in you, because it says to you, you can't do this or what I'm doing does not matter and, and after a while many leaders just give up.
Many are present physically. But they're not there mentally and so it's very important that you surround yourself with right relationships that can feed into you.
There are two types of relationships. There are nourishing relationships and toxic relationships.
Nourishing relationship bring the best out of you. They hold you accountable. They raise the bar on you. They challenge you and they keep you on point.
Toxic relationships drain you and they bring the worst out of you. They know how to push those buttons and bring ugly out of you then.
So you have got to have relationships around you that really bring the best out of you and empower you so that you can do the work that you're assigned to do.
Ballou: Oh, yeah! Awesome. My third area of leadership leads into systems. I heard you speak of inspiring people to move. You've talked about opportunity. I think part of our systems is that we get into ruts and we do things like we've always done them. But you speak of times in your life when you've had opportunity, like at the radio station. You've had opportunity and you've seized that opportunity. What can you say about systems within the church?
Brown: We’ve heard this saying that opportunity knocks on every door. I don't believe that.
I believe that opportunity stands by silently, waiting for you to recognize it.
And so this is the era of the three Cs:
- accelerated Change
- overwhelming Complexity and
- tremendous Competition.
As the late Peter Drucker would say, now we have to begin to look at where we are, what it took for us to get here, understanding that the game plan and the strategy and the systems that work in a domestic economy will not work in a global economy.
So we’ve got to raise the bar on ourselves, we’ve got to reinvent ourselves, we must literally be born again. We've got to die to who we've been to give birth to who we must become. We have greatness within us, each and every person. But greatness is not our destiny -- greatness is a choice that we make every day. And the only way that you can manifest your greatness is that you must have a game plan and systematically put yourself in a perpetual state of discomfort so that you discover things about yourself that you don't know right now.
Ballou: Powerful words! Starting off in September we deal with church choirs, we deal with planning worship, it's important to think those things. My fourth area is “Balance”. We preach about taking the Sabbath but church leaders work on Sunday. We preach and teach about creating balance in our lives so that we're fully present when we go to work. What do you have to say about this area of balance?
Brown: I rather think in terms of an integrated approach as opposed to balance. I think that we have to integrate in our lives the things that will nourish our spirits, the things that will enhance our overall sense of well being, the game plans and strategies that will improve our lives, because you don't get in life what you want, you get in life what you are.
The things that we are going to do are reason for being and our achievement goals -- you know, hearing my father glorify that "ye bear much fruit." We're here to bear fruit, to make impact, and so, when we have an integrated approach, when we place in there family time, when we include in there fun time, leisure time. When we include in there living a life of contribution, when we include in there time to calm down and to be centered and grounded, and be silent and go within and say, “Speak Lord, Thy servant heareth thee.”
An integrative approach is very important, because all of these things are very important, an overall sense of well being, our health, our relationship with our family members, the people that we care about, the cause that we have embraced, the reason for our doing the work that we do. All of those things must be an integrative approach and how we move forward in life in order to make the greatest impact and be able to be an asset to the planet rather than a liability.
Ballou: I see you have a number of books and recordings on Amazon. Is there any particular book that you'd like to highlight?
Brown: Yes, Fight For Your Dreams!. That's my latest book. What I'm doing now is training 10,000 voices of hope. - Ten thousand voices. Messengers outside of church and outside of politics. Just 10,000 voices of ordinary people to teach them how to become strategic experiential story tellers. And by so doing they'll be speaking one language. And when we're speaking one language, we're promoting hope and we're promoting methods. We're not promoting religion. We're not promoting politics. We're promoting hope and methods on how you can bear much fruit. And when we are speaking one language we can accomplish anything that we imagined that's biblically based and evidence proven.
Ballou: Les Brown, this has been a wonderful interview. You have shared great wisdom with us. Thank you for sharing with our readers today.
Brown: This is Mamie Brown's Baby Boy. God blessed you the day you were born. Thank you and God bless you.
Arrive at your place of comfort utilizing the best of what you can learn from others. Build your foundation, maintain your relationships, utilize effective systems and keep a healthy balance in your life. Begin today. There's not an arrival point. It's simple a journey.
Grace and Peace to you in your duty and delight as a Christian leader.