My all time favourite TV series is M*A*S*H, a comedy/drama centred around the doctors and nurses of the 4077th M*A*S*H unit during the Korean War. The series was so popular that it outlasted the duration of the 3 year war, spanning 11 seasons and 251 episodes.

The strong characterisation and story lines presented thought provoking themes that provide an ideal platform for lessons on life and leadership. Whether you are a fan of the show or not, I'm sure you will connect with my leadership insights from M*A*S*H.

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES features bite-sized, candid insights that speak into the gritty space of leadership through the eyes of a fellow leader seeking to "lead with all diligence" (Romans 12:8).

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Episode 11:  Germ Warfare

Frank:      Isn’t that the POW?
Hawkeye:    That’s right.  He’s in my c-o-t.
Frank:      I ordered him shipped out. What’s he doing here?
Hawkeye:   Easy Frank. Henry okayed it. He’s not taking up anybody’s space but mine. Why don’t you buzz off, Frank? Go review your hypocritical oath.

When a North Korean POW arrives wounded and in need of blood, Hawkeye discovers that Frank Burns is the only person in camp with the same blood type.  Frank expresses his disapproval of the 4077 caring for the enemy and tries to have him shipped out, while Hawkeye and Trapper arrange for a midnight caper to swipe a pint of blood from Frank.

Hypocrisy is the ugly side of humanity where stated values and beliefs are out of alignment with actual behaviour.  It is one of the biggest challenges of my leadership to discern what is real when the face of the people I lead hides a contradicting attitude of the heart.  It is also a big challenge for the Church, as hypocrisy is one of the biggest accusations that are levelled against the body of Christ.  Christian leaders have the enormous task of not only setting an example after Christ of authentic leadership, but to recreate a culture in the Church where what we believe consistently defines the way we behave.  While the Church may be the context for my leadership, authenticity and integrity are coveted values in every arena of leadership.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Question of Character

Episode 10:  I Hate A Mystery

Hawkeye:     Lieutenant, I’ve always admired your analytical  
             mind.  You’re one of the few people who can see  
             things without emotion or prejudice. Let me ask you…
Lieutenant:  I think you did it.
Hawkeye:     Let me rephrase the question.  How would you assess
             my general character?
Lieutenant:  You’re cynical and selfish. When you’re not in the 
             operating room, all you ever think about is 
             your own pleasure.
Hawkeye:     Don’t sugar-coat it. Give it to me straight.

A spate of thefts at the 4077 sparks a search of all personnel’s belongings by Colonel Blake, revealing the stolen goods hidden in Hawkeye’s foot-locker.  In an attempt to prove his innocence, Hawkeye lays a trap to reveal the identity of the real thief.

In leadership, character is everything!   We can all think of competent leaders who have compromised their position of influence because of character issues.  Our character is a window into our true selves and provides the foundation upon which our leadership is built.  In his book “Uprising,” Erwin McManus describes “Character [as] the mark that defines who we really are when you get to the core.”  It is this core of who we are that will withstand the challenges and expectations of leadership more than what we are able to do.  When dealing with conflict and facing criticism, character “is both developed and revealed” (Rick Warren), exposing the true nature and quality of the leader. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Commanding Loyalty

Episode 9:  Henry, Please Come Home

Hawkeye:  When were all of us really happy here?
Trapper:  When the nurses were new?
Hawkeye:  We were happy when Henry was in command. He understood 
          us, we understood him.

Colonel Blake is transferred to Tokyo after the 4077 achieved a 90% efficiency rate and Henry received a special citation from General Hammond.  With Frank Burns in command, running the camp like a dictator, Hawkeye and Trapper devise a plan to try and get Henry back.

Leadership in a post-modern world can no longer use position to command loyalty and respect, it has to be earned from a foundation of trust.  I may be appointed as the leader of my church, however, my position and title does not automatically assume that people will follow my lead.  I can only command people’s loyalty by winning their hearts and minds through building authentic relationships.  Loyalty cannot be taken, it is received.  Loyalty cannot be manufactured, it is cultivated.  Loyalty to a leader or an organization is driven by mutual respect and commitment to a shared set of values and a common vision.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Overcoming Temptation

Episode 8:  Cowboy

Hawkeye:   [reading Cowboy’s letter from home] “Dear John.  Sometimes when you’re away from someone you thought you loved you find yourself tested by being tempted.  That’s what has happened to me.  Dear, dear John.  I was tempted, and I didn’t want to write until I knew whether I’d pass the test.  If I say I love you more than ever, will it tell you how I did?  And that I’m completely worthy of the most wonderful guy in the world.”

Helicopter pilot “Cowboy” is awaiting a letter from his wife while laid up at the 4077th with a shoulder wound.  Concerned that she might be cheating on him and angered by Colonel Blake’s refusal to send him home to deal with his domestic issues, Cowboy tries to blow Henry up and takes him on a kamikaze helicopter ride.  The letter arrives and disaster is averted when Cowboy receives the news he is hoping for.

Leaders often find themselves in vulnerable situations where they are faced with a variety of temptations.  As people in a position of trust we must be aware of our weaknesses, put appropriate boundaries in place and develop accountable relationships.  While this may be sound advice, there is another dimension to fighting temptation.  I was recently confronted with the uncomfortable truth that I cannot be tempted by what I don’t desire. Therefore, the key to overcoming temptation is to submit my desires to Jesus Christ and allow His Spirit to renew my mind, for “those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5).

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Handling Stress

Episode 7:  Bananas, Crackers And Nuts

Trapper:  You know, if I was to analyse your symptoms…
Hawkeye:  Yeah?
Trapper:  I would say stress.  Irritability from overwork.
Hawkeye:  That’s what I’ve got.
Trapper:  And you know what would I prescribe?
Hawkeye:  Two days rest and recreation at the R and R centre in Tokyo
Trapper:  Actually, I was thinking about three days.
Hawkeye:  Well, you’re the doctor.  Shall we visit our 
          friendly travel agent?

Hawkeye and Trapper are starting to feel the stress from overwork and are upset when Henry refuses their request for some R and R. They devise a plan for Hawkeye to pretend he is cracking up to swindle some leave passes from Frank, while Henry is absent. Their plan comes unstuck when Margaret arranges for a psychiatrist friend to examine Hawkeye to expose his act.

This is a subject I feel unqualified to speak about, as I am often accused of being a workaholic.  The truth is I am a driven person, have a type-A personality, and a high tolerance for stress.  Nevertheless, even I recognise the importance for leaders to understand their stress threshold and engage in activities that re-energise them.  Kenneth Blanchard says that, “Stress in and of itself is not good or bad.  It all depends on how you handle it.”  Leaders need to learn how to handle stress before it handles them.  Stress can either be a positive force that stimulates productivity or a negative force that suffocates potential.