Saturday, November 27, 2010

Credit Crisis

”There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
— Ronald Reagan

Now that the mid-term elections are over, the real fun begins, (can you hear my sarcasm?).  The past few weeks since the elections, the Democrats and Republicans have started in on each other once again to pass blame and to criticize the ideas and direction that each side believes is the best way for the country to move forward.  They talk about the “lame duck” session of congress and what they will try to push through.  Will they be able to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?”  Although this issue may be important to some, its resolution is not essential to turning the economy around.  

During the many interviews and face to face debates on the network and cable news stations, the phrases “The American People” and “The Future of our Children” come up often. Each time they do, my head feels like it wants to EXPLODE! With all of the talk about their concern about the American People it is quite apparent that they care very little about our current and future state.

While they bicker with each other, many Americans struggle to make ends meet.  They’re concerned about the cost of health care, about the economy, about high and burdensome tax rates, and the never ending spending of our financial resources on things that do not keep our people safe or enhance the quality of our lives.

Last week I was walking in our downtown area where I met two men sitting on a bench drinking coffee.  As I began to speak with them they said that this is the worst they have ever seen in terms of the economy.  They spoke of the struggle to find work, to pay bills and to get ahead.  This is what is on the minds of the American people.

Please hear me when I say that I am not expecting the government to take care of me or my family, I can do that myself.  What I am saying is that our elected leaders continue to miss the mark on what is truly important to us. For many of them it is about winning and losing the party fight.  It is about their personal agenda and making the other side look bad.  We must demand from our elected officials to put away partisan political games and get this country back on track, together.

We can accomplish great things when we “don’t care who gets the credit.”  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

“No Thought, Just Action”

"It is courage, courage, courage, that raises the blood of life to crimson splendor. Live bravely and present a brave front to adversity." Horace

As he stood with his back to President Obama, Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta faced away with the cameras in his face and his wife in attendance to accept the Medal of Honor from his Commander in Chief.  Giunta is the first living service member to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan to be given the nation's highest honor.

As I looked at his face he did not have a big smile as I would have expected, but a stoic one.  Even after the President placed the medal around his neck, his expression did not change.  Why?  In an interview on 60 Minutes, he was asked about his feelings on receiving the award?  He simply said that he did not do anything his fellow soldiers would not have done.  He did what he was trained to do, “No thought, just action.”

What did he do?  The paratrooper and rifle team leader saved at least two comrades during combat on Oct. 25, 2007, in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.  An insurgent ambush separated his team and he went into the open to pull one comrade to safety and then fought to free a dying friend who was being dragged away by Taliban fighters.

In another interview, he talked about not being an extraordinary soldier, but mediocre, and that there are a lot of soldiers fighting and engaged in the protection of the country that are better than he was, and who are more deserving of the award.”  That is exactly why he is deserving of the award!  True heroes don’t seek acclaim and recognition, they act.  It’s who they are, compassionate and self-sacrificing.

When he carried his friend’s body out of enemy territory he did not do so thinking that he would receive an award, “No Thought, Just Action.”

There is an important lesson to learn here.  Serving others is never about us, but about those we serve.  When faced with an opportunity to help someone else, take no thought, just act!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Leadership is more than a Title

During a Senatorial hearing on the Iraq war, a general was responding to one of our senators.  In answering her questions, he followed his military training and showed respect by always referring to her as ”ma’am.”  At one point during the hearing she stopped him and said, “Do me a favor.  Can you say ‘senator’ instead of ‘ma’am?’  It’s just a thing—I worked so hard to get that title.”  

Just because you have a leadership title does not make you a leader.  You may have the title and the responsibilities of a leader, but unless you recognize the importance of setting the proper example for those you lead, good luck with achieving real success.  Whether you are leading a business, a home or working in the community, setting the proper example instills the right behaviors.

While talking with a business owner who is struggling to maintain his business, he explained to me that he has lost his staff.  The primary reason for the loss is due to the fact that he did not know how to effectively lead people.  His past success came as an individual contributor and his lack of leadership skills has put his business in jeopardy.  Most of his problems come from his lack of setting the proper example for his team.  He is an owner, but not a leader.

As a leader you need to make sure that your team sees you effectively handling the affairs of the business.  Are you at work on time?  How do you communicate? How do you carry out your work?  Do you say what you are going to do and then do it?  These activities and character traits are the building blocks of respect and leadership.  In the end, if you have to remind people of your title, you may not be living up to it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Tribute

"...and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:27 NIV

Imagine seeing a small bald man with a large white beard running around a dining room with an energy that belies his 68 years.  I had never met a man with such energy at his age until I met Hendrik. Now, imagine all this in spite of the fact that he had been up since 1:00 am making breakfast for over 250 inner city residents of Oakland, CA. Many people half his age aren’t that energetic after a full night’s sleep!

This small-framed man with the great big heart has made a tremendous impact in his community.  It’s been more than 10 years since he started a small bible study of 10-12 residents, which turned into breakfast for hundreds of residents every Saturday.  He is quick to tell you that he did very little to cause the changes in the neighborhood.  That may be true, but as a result of his decision to accept the challenge to start a Bible study in the mean inner city streets of Oakland, a transformation has occurred.  The drug dealers that once stood on the corners surrounding the resource center he helped to establish are no longer there.  This is a huge accomplishment due to the fact that a contract was placed on his life as a result of his commitment to move the drug activity from the neighborhood.  His love for God and his love for the people of West Oakland have touched the lives of thousands all over Northern California.  As a leader he has shown extraordinary character. 

Traits that I most admire:

·       Strength
·       Integrity
·       Humility
·       Love for service
·       Unselfishness
·       Dedication and committment to the inner city residents of Oakland
·       NO Fear.

After 10 years he is now leaving for another opportunity to serve people in the mountains of Colorado.  He will surely be missed by so many.  He leaves a legacy of Love, Service, and Commitment behind that will last a lifetime for all those who knew him.

As a leader there is no greater accomplishment than to know that lives have been changed for the better because of your leadership.

Thanks Hendrik!  God bless you and your family.