Why Your Influence Matters

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks with my nieces wedding (more on that later) and I’ve missed connecting with everyone! Honestly, many times I was scribbling pieces of blog ideas on scrap paper and napkins in sunny California and just couldn’t make it happen. I gave myself permission to take a break.  BUT, I am back in the blog saddle and have so much to share with you over the next months.
This week I want to introduce you to an extraordinary woman and a new friend, Jenni Catron. She’s released a book that resonates with my definition of making a difference~INFLUENCE! She has masterfully written a book CLOUT: DISCOVER AND UNLEASH YOUR GOD-GIVEN INFLUENCE that will encourage you to see your own personal influence as leverage to making a God-imprint in your world. She is a gifted leader and the real deal. When I first picked up her book, I thought, I am going to write her and share a little of my own story. Not expecting a response, she not only wrote back right away, but I was so blessed by her willingness to engage. We’ve since exchanged books and emails and she is the beautifully authentic! Whether you are a seasoned leader, emerging leader or someone who believes in ordinary everyday influence, this book is for you!  I invited her to do an interview and so here she is…drumroll please….photo 2Jenni Catron!
Can you share the clout journey of writing this book and what has brought you to the concept of “clout and leadership?” What was your first “aha” moment with the idea of clout?
I have had a passion for leadership for as long as I can remember.  I believe it’s one of the gifts that God has given me but I’ve been perplexed over the years trying to define and understand how to best steward this gift of leadership.  Over time I’ve grown to believe that leadership begins with influence but the more I studied my own motivations and observed the behaviors of other leaders, the more I discovered that we tend to skip ahead to doing the things that we perceive make us leaders and take for granted the exploration of influence that God has designed us for.
 
About ten years ago I went through what I define as my “crisis of purpose”.   As a confident and driven person I had pursued dreams I had outlined for my life but I had done so without taking a healthy look at how my life up to that point had shaped me and how God had innately gifted me.  It was that season that I stumbled upon this passage from Galatians:
 
“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given.  And then sink yourself into that.  Don’t be impressed with yourself.  Don’t compare yourself with others.  Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”  Galatians 6:4-5 (The Message)
 
This verse awakened me to the need to understand who I was first as a child of God and then secondly how the gifts, talents, experiences and opportunities that he had given to me could be used to do “my creative best.”
What is the difference between clout and influence? 
I use the words clout and influence interchangeably.  I define Clout as your God-given influence.  It’s the collection of gifts, talents, experiences and opportunities that God has given to you and to no one else.  That collection creates the foundation for your influence – your clout.
How do you use clout to lead well?
When we understand our God-given clout I believe we lead from a healthier and more authentic place.  Rather than trying to be what we perceive we should be or what others want us to be, we lead from a place of confidence in who God has created us to be.  
You talk about 7 Clout Killers in your new book, what are they? Can you share one or two that have been barriers for you and how you have overcome them?
The Clout Killers that I discuss in the book are fear, comparison, jealousy, scarcity, insecurity, pride and control.  I’m sure there are others that can derail us but these were the ones I’ve seen most consistently show up in the life of leaders.  They are the tactics that the enemy tries to distract us and derail us with.
I think fear is the big one for all of us.  In fact I call fear the frontrunner of the clout killers. It’s usually an “I’m not enough” fear that triggers the others. For instance fear that I don’t measure up to others leads to comparison and fear that I’m not good enough triggers insecurity. While all of us wrestle with different clout killers in varying degrees, fear, comparison and insecurity consistently show up for many of us.
What next steps would you offer to a leader who is seeking to leverage greater influence?
I would encourage you to “make the careful exploration” that Galatians 6 talks about.  I believe we must lead ourselves well to lead others better.  When we do the tough work of seeking God for our identity, giftedness and calling and then pray through and discern what might be hindering us or holding us back (the clout killers), we are better equipped to understand our sphere of influence and lead more authentically in that place.    
You are encouraging people to name someone in their world who deserves a “clout award.” Who would that award go to in your life and why?
Oh, there are so many people!  But one that immediately comes to mind was the owner of the ice cream shop that I worked at in high school.  She believed in me more than I believed in myself.  She saw potential and gave me opportunities to explore my talents and gifts and in doing so she equipped me with confidence.  She didn’t need the attention for herself.  She invested me in me to enable me to grow.  
What’s next for Jenni in leadership and how can we come alongside and pray for you? 
I’m in another season of conquering some fears and growing in my faith.  I am in the process of transitioning to the west coast to take a leadership position at Menlo Park Pres.  It’s a wonderful church under the amazing leadership of John and Nancy Ortberg.  But change is challenging and I’m praying that I can learn a new culture, earn influence with a new team and utilize my gifts to help propel the vision of this church forward.  Thank you for your prayers and encouragement!
P.S. I hope you will enjoy this book as much as I do and will discover your own unique CLOUT. Not sure what I was really thinking, but authors are real people, and I know it’s crazy because even though I am an author myself and hope I would do the same when someone writes me, I am blessed by Jenni’s authenticity and encouragement to me personally.

Who Needs Experience to be a Leader?

photoA few years ago I had the privilege of being part of a seminar entitled “Spiritual Leadership” with Henry Blackaby, who wrote the best-selling Bible study Experiencing God. We were gathered as leaders to explore the topic, “What Does a Spiritual Leader Look Like?” Simply stated Blackaby said, Spiritual leaders move people onto God’s agenda.  Read that phrase again and let it sink in. I know I wrote it down at the time and have never forgotten the force of those words.

I might add that nothing is more important than true spiritual leadership. It is even more important than experience or what we think experience should be! Can you hear what I am getting at?

It’s okay to feel like you don’t have enough experience.

God knows,

He made you,

He understands,

He gets it that you need Him more than you need your experience.

Blackaby went on to say that Christian leaders who know God and who know how to lead in a Christian manner will be phenomenally more effective in their world than even the most skilled and qualified leaders who lead without God.

There have been many times throughout the years that I have struggled with my own lack of qualifications, I never had the opportunity to graduate from college or seminary, but God has affirmed me over and over again as I have submitted to him in obedience that He is the one who calls a leader and desires to do extraordinary things through a willing heart.  It has only been the past few years that I have had the opportunity to go back to school. I just recently in 2012 graduated with a Master’s in Leadership. Yahoo! But let me tell you, I felt old going back after nearly 30 years. But it was God’s timing complementing this leadership season in my life and my window that God definitely planned.

As men and women called to lead, we are leading others prayerfully to discover their window of opportunity that God wants them to see. We help them to unlock their God-given dreams and gently pushing them to take a step. Living and operating under true spiritual leadership is essential for our maximum effectiveness.

One of the greatest temptations that we will face as leaders is to lead in our own strength.  How do we stay guarded and alert to this temptation? It is making sure that we make time practice the principle of regularly examining our own hearts and lives.

Holiness is more important than experience. When we focus on God we will move people onto God’s agenda and not our own.

(An excerpt from Cynthia Cavanaugh’s book, Unlocked: 5 Myths Holding Your Influence Captive 2013 New Hope Publishers)

 

New Chapters….Letting Go

I was sitting on the floor in our guest room with a stack of binders. Four to be exact. They were the aftermath of a closet purging of which I emptied 15 binders. Years of teaching, seminars and random musings I’ve collected along the ministry trail. Tackling the first 15 weren’t too hard. The last four I left for another day to come back to because I had to think about it. Actually, to be truthful, I had to let go.

The binders were full of just paper, planning an event that happened almost 10 years ago. Why was I struggling? I came to realize it was more the emotional connection of what was contained in the binders that was difficult to pry my fingers off to put it in the recycle bin.

The binders represented a regional event and conference. It was God-orchestrated in which servant leaders came from all over North America (at their own expense) to engage women to love on their cities and learn how to leverage their influence to make a difference. It was an event to call out women to be world-changers.

I remember receiving calls from other parts of the nation asking how we were we able to get the kind of well-known speakers when our church could only could squeeze in about 700ish pre-firemarshall inspection! What was our secret? My answer was, “I can’t tell you, it is a God-thing.” Really, like God cares about celebrity speakers! It’s our heart and motive, but that’s for another blog post. Geesh!

I don’t have room in this post to tell you the whole history, all I can say it was above and beyond what I could of even imagined as Ephesians 3:20 encourages us, to dream big. I remember a few nights before the conference I was on my face before God. I heard him whisper in my heart to get ready, that he was going to show Himself in a way I hadn’t seen before. I shared with the team, we prepared ourselves and He wasn’t kidding!

The first night, the beginning of summer, the room was hot because the air-conditioner broke moments before the evening started. Nearly 800 glistening women from 147 churches and organizations were squeezed into the room that night hungry for God.

God showed up like He promised.

He revealed himself.

Lives were changed.

My faith increased.

I sat down and wept as I watched God move through the room changing hearts and calling his daughters to rise up! It was a moment I never ever, ever will forget. Of course, I want to save every scrap of planning contained in that binder because it represented more than my heart can convey at this moment. I tear up even now thinking about it!

So the other night as I read through each section,

I thanked God.

I cried.

I praised Him.

And I want to believe there will be other moments like that night.

There has been so much that has happened post-conference years. Some really amazing times and some deeply pain worn paths. To be gut honest, some of the more ugly moments I feel has disqualified me for the future. But then I remember, God defines me not my past. Brokenness is a pre-requisite that gets us ready for the next chapter.

God is doing a work in my heart and as I’ve been on this purging binge throughout my house, I sense He is whispering his wooing words of love to me that there is a change coming. I sense He is saying to lift up my head, pay attention and watch and be ready. Let go, trust Him. A new chapter, a new story and a new beginning that He wants to write on my heart.

It’s funny how God will use something so human, so routine and drudging as purging a closet to speak to my heart. That’s what I love about God, he really, really gets me and He knows how to reach my heart. My job is to listen. I am choosing to listen and not blow this off. I sense it is significant and I need to pay attention. Wait, watch and lean in.

What is God saying to you today? What letting go do you need to do so the new chapter can begin?

 

 

 

What Do You Believe About Leadership?

Over the years I think my definition of leadership has changed with each season. In my rookie years of being a leader, I am ashamed to say that……

A sense of entitlement and importance marked my leadership.

I deserved to be a leader because I could tell people what to do and was good at it.

I was superior and therefore you should follow me.

OUCH!

Writing those words makes me want to crawl into a closet and hide from sheer embarrassment. As I matured, (Whew, thankfully!) I grew up and my definition of leadership changed and so did my focus. It became more about God, more about others and less about me. In the last several years it has morphed into…

Much more about God.

Way more about others.

And much, much less about me.

Philippians 2:1-8 has become my benchmark for leadership.

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. (The Message Bible)

You might call it my theology of leadership. What I believe about leadership shapes my thoughts, attitudes and the way I walk it out~my leadership theology. Everyone has a theology of life, leadership and living. It’s what we think about God and truth. I had to answer that question in a class that delved in deeper to discover what my personal theology of leadership actually was. I came to the conclusion that Philippians 2 would be the bedrock of my leadership and here are a few thoughts and conclusions that I arrived at.

1. Don’t do it alone. 

I believe that God never asks us to function in isolation.

The past few years I’ve been in the learning lab of defining moments~hurtful excruciating turn your faith upside down type moments. The temptation has been to abandon community and go it alone. It’s too hard. Isolate. Hide out. But that is not the answer, because part of my own theology of leadership is that we don’t do life alone.

I have been blessed to have many influential leaders in my life that are part of my community. Some have mentored me~up close or from afar. Some have been friends, family, and ministry partners. I need them, I need you. I need community.

I get into trouble when I try to function alone.

2. Don’t rush character development

Not rushing the process of development in my own character by learning to embrace the journey of God’s sovereignty in my life can be gut-wrenching. Waiting is hard. We aren’t in control of life or of other people. Like a fool I think I am, but I am not. Lean in, trust and hang on, I have found God knows what he is doing.

3. Find a tribe. AKA be a part of a team.

Jesus had his core discipleship team~the twelve. He didn’t do it alone. Jesus balanced relationship with task in working with his disciples. He understood them, embraced their quirks and most of all loved them. He invested personal time with them, accepted them in spite of their weaknesses and as a result they followed him because he loved being with them and literally gave his life for them in the end.

4. Invest in others

I try and make it a priority to invest personally in the lives of those I lead. I have found this to be extremely rewarding, and somehow, the business always gets accomplished and we have a blast together! Learning, loving and serving the people God wants me to be in relationship with will become my legacy.

5. Be real

Being real is being human. Nothing is worse than fake. I am committed to being authentic as a leader. It is a risk. You might get burned. I have several times but it’s worth it. I’ve found that people like a leader who is real.

These are some of my thoughts about my theology of leadership. If you haven’t had the chance to think it through. I would encourage you to grab a pen and paper today and just start.

Write what you believe about leading. Where does it come from? The Bible? A book? Or both? What’s important to you? What’s your DNA of leadership and who you are?

This is not an assignment but rather an opportunity to figure out what you believe because at the end of the day, it does drive the way you lead.

My personal theology of leadership is…….now you fill in the blank!