Serving Leader

All leaders are serving – either themselves or others.” ~ Global leadership guru and author Bill Hybels. Tweet

In his book, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, John Maxwell used the late General Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. as an example of servant hood. As a retired military officer, I love that one of my favorite authors, leadership guru Maxwell recognized this stellar officer as a servant leader.

For those of you too young to remember, the General led coalition forces during DESERT STORM, and was affectionately referred to as Stormin’ Norman. But I admit…I found the choice surprising given that even as military members are SERVING their country, many don’t see them as servant leaders.

They see the military as a top-down, orders-driven and rank-focused hierarchy. The reality is much more complex.

The primary motivation to join an all-volunteer organization that doesn’t pay very well, that asks its members to leave friends and families and put themselves in harms way, an organization that sometimes requires its members to make the ultimate sacrifice…the motivation to join that organization is usually, not always, but primarily, the desire to serve. The desire is to serve something other than self…something bigger than self.

What those members who desire to serve and commit to serving learn as they grow into leadership roles is that serving is demonstrated in the care and development of those they are privileged to lead.Tweet

“Take care of the people and the people will take care of the mission” is the phrase I learned as a young officer…which made sense considering I wasn’t the one doing most of the work.Tweet

So I focused on doing what only I could do… identifying and sometimes fighting for the resources my airmen needed to do their jobs safely and efficiently.

Not only do servant leaders provide the resources needed to get the job done, they work on actively developing the members who will fill their leadership shoes, driving retention and compelling loyalty.

And yes, in the military, there is time for following orders without question. What ensures an order WILL be followed is the demonstration by leaders at all levels that they care about each individual entrusted to their care, about their families, about what’s going on in their lives outside of work… who ensure the members of their team have the resources needed and the development opportunities required to do the task they’re committed to complete.

People make sacrifices for those leaders.

Are you serving yourself or others?

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked

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Purpose

We all have a reason for being on this earth and unique ways to express our purpose. The passion or enthusiasm we feel for a particular cause is pointing us to our God given purpose. If we pay attention, our purpose is manifested in our hopes, dreams, and wishes and can impel our growth and forward motion.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10 NIV

Inhale Passion, Exhale Fear…
Inhale Possibilities, Exhale Fear…
Inhale Purpose, Exhale Fear…
Just Breathe…

#JustBreathe

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Ignite Purpose

Our dreams can ignite a passion for a cause that reveals our purpose. We all have a purpose…our reason for being here. When we don’t fulfill our purpose, things come undone or don’t get done.

Our purpose is sometimes revealed in an unexpected way when we experience something personally or something happens to someone close to us and we feel compelled to act. Candy Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving after a drunk driver who had a history of arrests for intoxication hit and killed her daughter.

misty4secondpositionOr sometimes we’re exposed to something for the very first time and we don’t understand how we’re going to live with out this in our lives. Think Misty Copeland who wasn’t introduced to ballet until the relatively late age of 13.

Every now and then our innate and obvious passions and talents are nurtured and developed from the beginning of our lives…we call those people prodigies. Pablo Picasso’s passion and talent for drawing were evident, encouraged and expanded from an early age by his art instructor father.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets that kind of early, sustained support, but that doesn’t mean we can’t act on our desires and use our talents to fulfill our purpose as soon as we know what it is. It doesn’t matter how or even when we get to our purpose. It only matters that when the discovery is made, we strive to live in and on purpose.

Our light is revealed as we strike our gift against the needs of the world…” ~ Mark Nepo

Inhale Dreams, Exhale Delusion…
Inhale Discovery, Exhale Discouragement…
Inhale Development, Exhale Abandonment…
Just Breathe…

#ReflectionsWithRenita

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Centered

Everything I read during my morning devotion encouraged me to get still. I was feeling agitated…nothing debilitating just an increased level of “did I get this done” and “what can I do to make a difference?”

I realized I hadn’t been doing what I know to do to keep myself centered and receptive.
I was watching too much news.
I wasn’t entering my items “to do” in my phone planner app as soon as they occurred to me so I could let them go.
I wasn’t taking the time to slow down and really get still.
And I was feeling some kind of way that wasn’t reflective of how I want to feel.

So I took the time to get still, breathe in unison with life and let the truth flow in. And already, I’m feeling more at peace…

“Being centered…plunges us again and again, into that unseeable stream in which life is continually vital and refreshed.” ~ Mark Nepo

Inhale Centered, Exhale Chaotic…
Inhale Slow Down, Exhale Stress Out…
Inhale At Peace, Exhale Agitated…
Just Breathe…

#JustBreathe

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Stillborn

Most of us have not actually experienced what happens after our bodies cease to function. But some of us have experienced an emptiness that results from not giving into the passion we feel…not allowing our desire to make a difference, not giving voice to our dreams, not allowing our hears to break…not giving birth to what is inside us that will lead us to our purpose. And isn’t not giving birth to the seed inside you the same as death?

“Don’t die with your music still inside you. Listen to your intuitive inner voice and find what passion stirs your soul.” ~ Wayne Dyer

Inhale Birth, Exhale Death…
Inhale Being, Exhale Emptiness…
Inhale Beginning, Exhale Desolation…
Just Breathe…

#JustBreathe

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Keep Dreaming

Our dreams are like babies. They need to be fed, nurtured, and protected in a safe environment to thrive. If they are not fed enough, or neglected too often, or exposed too early to a harsh world before they are sufficiently developed, our dreams die. And even though our bodies may continue to function, when our dreams die, we are less than alive.

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

“Harlem” by Langston Hughes

Inhale Dreams, Exhale Stagnation,
Inhale Inception, Exhale Restriction,
Inhale Conception, Exhale Destruction…
Just Breathe…

#JustBreathe

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Dream On

The dreams that you have, the desires placed on your heart, the emotions you experience in response to events are there for a reason. They are showing you bits of your destiny…what your world can look like if you step into the fullness of who you are…and how stepping into your purpose can impact your larger community, even the world.

“If your dream only includes you, it’s too small.” ~ Ava DuVernay, director of Selma

Inhale Dreams, Exhale Distractions…
Inhale Desires, Exhale Indifference…
Inhale Destiny, Exhale Complacency…
Just Breathe…

#JustBreathe

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American Experiment: Willful Ignorance

Amid the videos of violence committed against black bodies this past week, was one of a Trump official stating that she didn’t “think there was any racism until Obama got elected.” The video of Kathy Miller, who is white and chair of Trump’s campaign in Mahoning County, went viral and resulted in her resigning from her post.

Just in case you missed it…

But her resignation only means she won’t be associated with the “isms” emanating from the Trump camp.

It doesn’t mean she has suddenly changed her mind about why some black Americans have not thrived.

It doesn’t mean she no longer believes blacks have “had benefits to go to college that white kids didn’t have.”

It doesn’t mean she’s realized black voter turnout percentage exceeded all other groups in the last two presidential elections.

It just means she won’t have a public platform to state beliefs shared with a number of white Americans who are increasingly vocal about their racism.

She is a product of the systemic racism taught in our public schools and reinforced through racist institutions, most notably our criminal justice system. She has bought into American’s collective self-image, the core of which “is the assumption that mobility is always possible, so failure to move up reflects on one’s character. By extension, the failure of a race or ethnic group to move up reflects very poorly on the group as a whole.” ~ Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

She will hold onto her beliefs because in a country that continues to attract freedom-loving people from all over the world, it’s easier to believe that everyone is free to achieve the American Dream.

“There is but one coward on earth, and that is the coward that dare not know.” ~ W.E.B. Du BoisTweet

The easy thing is to reject new information and realities. The hard thing is to accept what is difficult to know and be transformed through a deeper understanding of the truth.

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked

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How Are You?

I admit, I have struggled to stay positive in the face of so much injustice, so much hypocrisy … so much inhumanity. I haven’t been able to watch the videoed violence against black bodies, seemingly a new one each week, but like most people of color at least, each incident has impacted my sense of security. It’s personal…it’s frustrating…it’s heartbreaking.

I weep at night for the families and friends directly impacted. I look at the faces of the black people I see on the train and wonder…”How are you doing? How are you coping with the trauma?”

And then I remember that “suffering is inevitable for human beings as long as we believe that things last—that they don’t disintegrate, that they can be counted on to satisfy our hunger for security.” ~ Pema Chodron.

And I try not to panic…

Inhale Action, Exhale Apathy…
Inhale Caring, Exhale Indifference…
Inhale Resolve, Exhale Fear…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe
#Humanity

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Right Now

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift from God, that’s why they call it the present.” ~  Babatunde Olatunji

This right here, right now moment is all we really have, so be in it. Embrace this moment…wallow in it…let it wash over you. Enjoy the wonder, the emotion of it…see what is there to see, experience the flow of life, feel what you are feeling.

…Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange for the hard work of staying alive….” Ecclesiastes 9: 7-10

Inhale Now, Exhale Frustration…
Inhale Now, Exhale Worry…
Inhale Now, Exhale Anxiety…
Just Breathe…

#JustBreathe

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