Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Longview: Last Strategies for Rising Leaders - interview

The Longview: Lasting Strategies for Rising Leaders

Author Roger Parrott explains why leaders need measure lasting outcomes as well as immediate results

We live in a quick-fix, immediate-impact, short-view world. But we serve a longview God.

We need to return to a biblical model of leadership that values transformation over turnaround and measures eternal outcomes as well as immediate effectiveness. In his book, The Longview, Dr. Roger Parrott offers a guide to a leadership lifestyle of lasting significance that will revolutionize the way you lead, and provide you practical tools to lead for the longview.

Chapters of the book present hard hitting revolutionary leadership thinking, such as:

· Planning Will Drain the Life from Your Ministry

· Deflate Your Ego to Expand Your Influence

· Preempting the Stickiest Challenge of Long-Term Leadership

· Shepherding a Vision Without Scaring Away the Flock

· Lead As If You’ll Be There Forever

For three decades our culture has increasingly valued short-term producers-from stockbrokers to college coaches-as leaders at every level have indoctrinated us to believe immediate gains trump long-term consequences. And the Church has been swept up into this same leadership pattern, hiring and rewarding people who promote Band-Aid fixes as monumental solutions, creating plans that promise the moon and always come up short, raising funds from unrealistically compressed donor relationships, and touting to boards and constituencies those results that can most easily be measured and applauded.

From health care and the global financial crisis, to the needs of a businesses, local churches, or community based ministries, Dr. Parrott calls leaders to tackle the foundational eroding of leadership. Christian leaders in the marketplace and in ministry need to courageously break the short-view pattern leadership that has kept us on a course of disappointing results and blocks us from capturing God’s best.

Q&A with Dr. Roger Parrott, Author of The Longview

Part 1

Many of today’s ministries suffer from a near-sighted vision. Too often leaders choose easy solutions over principled, long-term strategies. The results can be devastating, as ignored issues become full-blown crises, and small problems become big challenges.

The Longview (David C Cook, October 2009) is a fresh approach to leadership that will transform how readers make decisions and address problems. Author Dr. Roger Parrott offers proven, practical principles drawn from scripture and his renowned career in educational leadership. Parrott issues readers a timely challenge: Defy the trends of short-sighted goal-making for quick returns by learning to lead for long-term significance.

Do we have a leadership void today?

The problem is not that we don’t have great leaders, in fact, we’ve probably never had more educationally well prepared leaders than we have today. The problem is that leaders are caught in an ever tightening vice grip of unrealistic expectations that pressure them into valuing turn-around over transformation. Today’s leaders are expected to find simple solutions to complex problems, and because these quick-fixes only hold for a short time, leaders from presidents to pastors disappoint those they are leading.

I believe this pattern started in American culture in the 1980s with the quest to get rich quick from junk bonds and buy outs, through the dot.coms in the 1990s, and the explosion of “want it now” credit card debt and built into the real-estate frenzy created by leveraged speculators in the past decide. So leaders have been reared, tutored, and equipped to operate in a world that prizes immediate results over lasting significance.

For three decades skyrocketing incentives have been the norm for all manner of short-term producers—from stockbrokers to college coaches—as leaders at every level have indoctrinated us to believe immediate gains trump long-term consequences. This nearsightedness is eroding the foundational underpinnings of organizational quality and severely handicapping the effectiveness of leaders who are robbing the future to pay for today.

How did the Church become caught up on a short view approach and what are the consequences?

As we often do in the Church, we’ve followed the pattern of the world – in this case, the best of business and organizational teaching – but in mimicking the leadership patters of business and politics, we’ve strayed from the Longview leadership model given to us by Jesus. Because this short view corporate culture has so permeated the church today, we in ministry have loosened our grip on the biblical model for leadership. We have grown to expect and even demand an ever-increasing cycle of measureable and immediate results from our leaders.

Our theology and our ministry passion draw us to talk about Longview outcomes as our heart’s desire, but we have been duped into fostering a generation of leaders, board members, employees, and constituencies who value short-term gain over Longview significance. Ministry leaders believe it and act accordingly—hiring and rewarding people who can promote Band-Aid fixes as monumental solutions, creating plans that promise the moon and always come up short, raising funds from unrealistically compressed donor relationships, and touting those results that can most easily be measured and applauded.

Why do you believe rising leaders are the generation who will value a Longview approach to leadership?

For three reasons I’m convinced this new generation of leaders are ready to embrace Longview leadership:

1. They know the short view doesn’t work. This is likely to be the first generation that has not had a quality of life better than their parents. And they know the reason is we are not dealing with Longview solutions in the macro problems of health care, terrorism, energy, and the economy. And they will be the ones to pay the price for patchwork fixes.

2. They are connected to huge networks of real people through social networking, and listen to them rather than public relations messages – and they know from their peers that sugarcoating a problem doesn’t make it go away.

3. This new generation of leaders is much more focused on mission significance and problem solving than on organizational stature and position climbing. They want to make a difference in the world, and they are willing to dig into problems to find lasting solutions.

The challenge for younger leaders is that they have never been given the tools to lead in a Longview pattern. So the book is not just a call to Longview leadership, but mostly is deals with the everyday nitty-gritty issues of leadership from a Longview perspective.

Part 2

America is paying the price of short-term decision making (i.e., sub-prime mortgages, Bernie Madoff, health care costs, General Motors bankruptcy, et al). As more ministries adopt the prevailing short-term pattern, they move closer to the same outcome—the quick payoff—at the cost of a future crisis. In The Longview, Roger Parrott calls for a seismic shift in the leadership attitudes and actions of readers. Parrott is a seasoned, practical leader who is not afraid to challenge younger leaders to lead for lasting impact, not fleeting bragging rights. The book offers practical insights from both scripture and his own experience. Both young and seasoned leaders will uncover a solid foundation for success for any ministry, organization, or business.

How does the Longview approach get lived out in the every-day demands of ministry leadership?

I suggest that leaders begin by leading as if you’ll be there forever. The heart of the Longview does not begin with actions as much as attitude. Imagine that the organization and position you are in right now is what God wants you to do for the rest of your professional life. For many, it might be discouraging to truly feel “locked in” to your job. But contrary to the mantras of popular career gurus, this is one of the best things that could ever happen to you and your ministry, because to lead as if you must remain in that same position forever—and live with the long-term consequences of every decision—will shift your perspective, align your priorities, and build lasting strength in your organization, rather than allowing you to settle for the comfort and accolades of immediate results.

When a leader is thinking, living, and acting in terms of only the short-range, everyone around him suffers and may be handicapped for years to come because the decisions of today will narrow subsequent options and opportunities. The compounding weight of each shortsighted decision speeds the deterioration of the ministry’s foundation, while a long-term perspective strengthens that substructure for a higher reach in the future. Whether new on the job, nearing retirement, or eyeing a climb up the career ladder, leading as if you’ll be in your current position forever will revolutionize the way you lead.

Give us some examples of leadership principles made with the long term in mind.

This book challenges leaders to think very differently about leadership, so some of the section headings can be a bit jarring because we need to radically break free from conventional leadership models if we hope to return to a biblical pattern of leaderships. So I’m suggesting to leaders ideas such as:

· Planning Will Drain the Life from Your Ministry
· Deflate Your Ego to Expand Your Influence
· Policies are for Cowards
· Learn to Work with the “Untouchables” Of Leadership
· Understand the Diagnostic Triggers to Preempt Conflicts of Interest
· Treasure the Four Gifts Found in Your Rearview Mirror
· Learn to Shepherding A Vision Without Scaring Away the Flock

We live in a quick-fix, immediate-impact, short-view world. But we serve a Longview God. To bridge this gap, Jesus became the ultimate example of Longview leadership amid the clamor for expedient results. Of course His sights were always aimed toward eternity (the ultimate Longview), and He lived and thought in that realm. But even in the practical everyday demands of leadership, Jesus showed us the value of investing in Longview solutions as we serve those in our care. And that’s what I wanted to address in the book – how Jesus lived our Longview leadership in the practical challenges of everyday leadership.

If you could summarize the Longview approach in one rule, what would it be?

To boil it down to one rule, it would be this: be prepared to catch the wind of God.

I am convinced one of the core problems of evangelical leaders is that too often we’ve stopped trying to catch the wind of God in our sails because we’ve become fairly effective at creating our own independent power to get God’s work done.

Would we rather set out to achieve a set of sharply defined goals by revving up the engines to create the best programs, the best ministry concepts, and the best future our well-trained minds could imagine? - OR - Would we rather go wherever the wind of God might take us? While the second choice is clearly our desire, too often we live, plan, and work as if our direction is totally dependent on the power we can generate and the best course we can envision.

There is a world of difference between powerboats and sailboats. And those differences are critical benchmarks for each of us in ministry leadership. (I lay out six of them in the book.) Leaders need to be willing to turn off the power of their organization’s agenda and the best ideas that drive them. We may feel proud when powerboats of ministry are big, well built, and polished, even a small, poorly crafted, and worn sailboat will outdistance a powerboat every time—because only the sailboat is able to catch the wind of God.

About the author: At age thirty-four Roger Parrott became one of America’s youngest college presidents. Parrott is currently the president of Belhaven University, an innovative liberal arts institution recognized as the leading evangelical college in the Arts. He earned a PhD in higher education administration from the University of Maryland. Parrott serves in leadership of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, Mission America Coalition, and Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He has advised a wide variety of ministries in the US and internationally.

The Longview by Roger Parrott, Ph.D.
David C Cook/October 2009/ISBN: 978-1-4347-6749-3/hardcover/255 pages/$16.99
www.davidccook.com – www.thelongview.info

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