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Lead with Respect

You probably can recite the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’ gospel parable is a staple of Sunday school classes and Bible studies. By contrasting the generosity of the Samaritan with the actions of the other travelers, Jesus uses the story to teach a core element of Christianity.

The parable also offers lessons for leaders. Jesus included details in his story that can guide us in caring for the people we lead.

“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “

—Luke 10:33-35

Jesus built three themes into his story that we can apply to our leadership.

1) Be Bold
The Samaritan doesn’t do his work anonymously. He doesn’t drop the traveler at the doorstep, ring the doorbell, and run away. Jesus tells us that the Samaritan asks the innkeeper to look after the injured traveler. The Samaritan takes accountability for the traveler’s care.

We should ask ourselves how we could visibly demonstrate care for those we lead.

2) Be Generous
This aspect of the story has always bothered me because it indicates a level of personal stinginess. The Samaritan in Jesus’ story not only gives the innkeeper two silver coins, but declares that he will provide more if it’s needed.

What do the people you lead want from you? It might be better compensation—an appealing reward whether we’re talking about an exhausted executive or a young upstart employee itching to make a difference. But more often, people want a more precious commodity—your time. Are you able to say to them, “Here are two hours of my time, and if that’s not enough, I’ll be back tomorrow with more?”

3) Be Committed
Because I have so many irons in the fire at all times, I have a tendency to meet the minimum requirement, and no more. For instance, I’ve always felt that a pleasant nod to a coworker in the morning is an adequate greeting (and certainly preferable to engaged conversation). In contrast, the Samaritan does much more. He spends the night tending to the injured man, and then arranges to come back to check on him when he returns from further travels.

The Samaritan makes a serious commitment.

How do those you lead know that you’re committed to them for the long haul? How can you show that you will not abandon them when the going gets tough?

The people you lead may not be laying on the roadside stripped of their clothes and injured, but they will definitely appreciate a leader who lives out the elements that Jesus taught in the Samaritan story.

And Jesus will appreciate it, too. After all, the second greatest commandment isn’t higher profit margins or improved workflow efficiency. You know what it is.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

And who are your neighbors? They’re the people you work with every day.


Living With a Grateful Heart

My mother has always urged me to “Live with a Grateful Heart!” Even when I was a young girl, she was able to teach this valuable life’s lesson because that’s exactly how she has always lived her life.   What’s more, since  my mother’s advice is something I treasure, I have not only tried my hardest to live with gratitude, but  have done my best to instill this virtue in my children. 


As Americans, we annually observe Thanksgiving in November.  We surround ourselves with family, friends and remembrances of our blessings in life while giving heartfelt thanks.  We celebrate these blessings around a table as thoughts of Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting are recreated in homes nationwide.  Sadly, many will only celebrate and recognize their blessings once a year.  What I am urging is that we find the wonder all around us each day and give thanks!

Many of the simple things in life can be reasons for being grateful. These are often things that we tend to take for granted–our health, family, friends, our livelihood–until they are brought to our attention or taken away.

Remembering to be grateful daily for one’s health, family, friends, a job during a recession, having a roof over one’s head and food on the table is a good way to start living with gratitude. Even in bad times when one of these may be taken away, there ARE still blessings all around us.

As each year ends and a new one begins, we have the opportunity to stop and reflect on the current state of our lives and remember to be grateful. Each New Day can give us the chance to start anew and is an excellent time to start keeping a Gratitude Journal, as a written reminder of for all that you have to be grateful.Take a few moments and think about what are grateful for everyday.


Begin Your Day with Gratitude 

If you begin looking at each breath as a blessing, then suddenly everything in an ordinary life becomes a miracle-delighting in the colors of the setting sun, feeling the rain on your face or smelling the amazing fragrance of a single perfect rose.


What are the ways you can think to show your gratitude and share your blessings with others?  Can you volunteer?  Can you give personal time or financial support to those in need?  Whatever way you identify, believe me you will continue to be blessed over and over again.


Christian Leadership in the Business World

As an ordained Episcopal Priest and businesswoman I know firsthand that Christian leaders, are held to high moral, ethical, and social standards. If you are a leader, you may say well gee, everyone is held to high standards, but what I am saying is that as a Christian leader, that bar is raised even higher. And why is that? The answer is fairly simple.  Because society as a whole expects that Christians measure up to their self-proclaimed moral and ethical standards, as they rightly should.

So what can you do to be sure you are above reproach and effective in the area of Christian leadership?  As I see it, here are some simple guidelines I would suggest.

Probably the most important thing you can do as a Christian leader is to clean up your act. Take inventory and if there is anything in your life, moral or ethical, which would not stand up to scrutiny if the entire world found out—you must eliminate it immediately. Do not give anyone an occasion to think that you are a hypocrite.

I think it’s essential that you make sure your choices and decisions are honest and ethical. You cannot effectively lead, as a Christian or not, when your decisions and actions are not above-board, fair, and honest.

As a Christian leader, commit to telling the truth no matter what. When you lie or tell half-truths, people tend to feel that your entire faith is a sham. There really is no such thing as a little white lie now is there? So no matter where you serve in a leadership role – make sure you function using the 100% rule.

Learn everything you can about the tasks at hand, even if it means working in the trenches for awhile. This summer a new TV show aired featuring CEO’s of national companies that went undercover to work alongside their employees.  It was extremely enlightening for them and meant the world to the “worker bees” on the front line. It clearly demonstrated that most workers like to be led by someone who has done what they are doing. This doesn’t mean you have to become an expert, just participate in the menial work long enough to understand the frustrating aspects of the work. Another benefit to this is, when you have actually done the work, you can more effectively brainstorm solutions to challenges when they arise.

 Do unto others…. You know what that means don’t you?  It’s simple … you have to lead by example. Do you expect your employees or secretaries to arrive on time for work and dressed well? Then you must do the same. Sometimes it is so easy to think that you have earned the right to come in whenever you feel like it, or to return from lunch whenever you wish. Sure, you may have earned the right, but you gain far more by setting the example for performance. Do you expect others to work overtime when a project is behind projections? Then you must be willing to do the same.

Although you may feel you have earned the right to delegate away all the work, continue to be involved in productive tasks. By doing some of the work, not only do you gain the respect of your employees, but also you keep in touch with the flow of things. As a leader, it is easy to become disengaged from the actual productive segment of your business, which results in decisions that look good on paper and sound good around the boardroom table, but are actually worthless when implemented.

Constantly reevaluate your own performance. Often, you may spend so much time correcting the actions of others and solving crises you didn’t create, that you develop a sense that others aren’t as capable as you. Consequently, you may not recognize when you are falling into bad habits that also need to be corrected. Be the first to recognize and correct your own short-fallings.

 And lastly, I think it’s critical that you avoid pride. Once in a position of leadership, especially if you are good at what you do, it is easy to begin to feel that you are invincible. Once that occurs, you become vulnerable to pride, and may make decisions you would frown on if your subordinates made the same decisions. Maintain full responsibility for your actions, and keep them above-board at all times.


Vacation Bible School: Find the Right Program for Your Child

Vacation Bible School provides much more than informal Christian education.  For many children, VBS is the first place where children meet childhood friends of a similar faith, dedicate themselves to church outreach programs and engage in concentrated studies of the Bible.  Many families may not attend church on a regular basis, but they may send their children to Bible school. According to the Barna Group, “Nearly half (43%) of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (2004).”

The unfortunate news is that the Barna Group also found that, “Another shift in children’s ministry since 1997 has been the 12% decline in the percentage of churches offering VBS from 81% to 69%. That represents about 38,000 fewer churches offering VBS than eight years ago.”  With VBS programs on the decline, it is important to support the faith-based organizations that provide stellar programs for children.  

Allocate large chunks of time towards starting a list of Vacation Bible Schools within a reasonable distance and conduct copious research. Many reliable and accurate recommendations come from family members, friends and church members who have gone through a similar process. Once you have completed your list, start contacting each VBS. Many have their own websites filled with relevant information including quotes of educational philosophies, pictures of the facility and several appropriate contact sources.

Arrange for tours and meetings with teachers. As you observe the teachers, staff and administrators at work, consider the caliber of quality education offered and your child’s specific needs to choose the best pre-school. Be certain to take your child to trial days at your top two or three choices and see where he or she acclimates best and learns the most from their brief visit.


Behind the Veil: The Symbolism

Mackenzie Carpenter, a reporter for the Post Gazette, published an article titled, “Muslim Women Say the Veil is More About Expression Than Oppression.”  According to Carpenter, “Today, the hijab has taken on a multitude of meanings; perhaps more than it was ever meant to carry.
While some Muslims consider it an expression of modesty and piety, others claim such emphasis on the scarf as a religious symbol is overstated.

And while some Americans recoil from the sight of any form of Muslim dress as a symbol of terrorism and aggression toward non-Muslims, many feminists, mostly American but some Muslim, invest the hijab with another kind of significance, oppression of Muslim women. That last assumption has been fed by television images of women in Afghanistan, shrouded in the burqa, being beaten for showing an ankle or part of their face. And while Muslim men also are required to dress modestly with a turban or a cap, women’s dress is seen as a symbol of the greater restrictions they labor under in some Muslim countries.”

However, many of the Muslim women Carpenter interviewed maintained that wearing the veil was their personal choice.  According to Carpenter, “It is estimated that about 10 percent of the female Muslim population nationally wears the hijab, although those numbers may be growing as more people convert to Islam. It is not clear how many women do so among the 10,000 Muslims living in the Pittsburgh region. But nearly all of those interviewed stressed that wearing the veil was a personal decision, a far cry from the coercion experienced by women in Afghanistan.”

However, some cultures, including Afghanistan’s, still struggle with the oppression of women for their gender and faith.  Worldwide initiatives have focused their attention on improving the lives of women in these countries still restricted by religious and political organizations.


Behind the Veil: An Early Female Leader

A’ishah, or Ayesha, Bint Abi Bakr was the third wife of the Phophet Muhammed.  She was married to him at a young age to strengthen Muhammed’s relationship with her powerful father, Abu Bakr.
Aisha remained a faithful follower of Muhammed and was one of the earliest group of converts to the then-new religion. She became a powerful force in the political turmoil that followed the death of her husband nine years after their marriage.

Following his death, she became an authority on the Muslim tradition, and very important for her role in two-sided struggle to gain the vacated Caliph’s seat, which sparked a Civil War.  She was defeated and captured in a battle in 656, and was only released when she promised to abandon political life. Her religious teachings became important for the Shiite branch of the Muslim faith.

A’ishah Bint Abi Bakr’s role and influence in the very beginning of the Muslim faith has shaped the religion’s teachings and instructions today.  She provided Muhammad’s followers with his personal habits, including grooming, dress and prayer, to those who converted to the faith to ensure that the traditions were passed down.  Today, many of these practices remain an essential part of practicing the religion.  She is both a role model and a courageous leader.