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).

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Principles or People?

Episode 46:  George

Frank:      There’s one of “those” in camp.
Trapper:    One of “those” Frank?
Hawkeye:    Which one of those “thoses” do you mean?
Frank:    One of those types that don’t like girls.  Get it? Private Weston.  Patient came in this morning, knows some of those guys in his outfit.  I think it’s disgusting.
Hawkeye:    What business is it of yours, Frank?
Frank:      Don’t you understand?  The man is not normal.
Hawkeye:    What’s normal, Frank?
Frank:      Normal is everybody doing the same thing.

Hawkeye and Trapper take a stand against the prejudices of Frank Burns by blackmailing with his own hypocrisy to try and stop him from obtaining a dishonourable discharge for a wounded homosexual soldier recovering at the 4077.

The same-sex marriage debate has exposed the polarised views about homosexuality in Australia, amplifying the need for inclusiveness of all people, despite their sexual orientation or lifestyle choices.  For those leading in an environment where social and spiritual values are at odds on this issue, the challenge of inclusiveness is complicated by the gap that exists between people and principles.  While our principles may differ, we share a common humanity which must define the way we treat people if we are to foster an environment that truly values people in a way that transcends our differences.  Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, "If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”  Jesus demonstrated non-judgemental love for people by leading in the tension between principles and people through a perfect balance of grace and truth that put a higher value on people over principles.  Putting people first allows leaders to openly discuss and debate principles on a foundation of mutual respect instead of prejudice.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Don't Panic

Episode 45:  Crisis

Hawkeye:    What’s the idea of the gun, Frank?
Frank:      It’s classic.  The enemy cuts off your supply lines, you get cold and hungry, then they go right for your soft underbelly.  That’s why the rifle fella.
Trapper:    Just like you to panic, Frank.
Frank:      Who’s panicking?
Hawkeye:   Well, do you see anybody else pressing the soft-underbelly button?

When the supply lines are cut to the 4077, the officers rally to respond to the crisis by taking on rationing responsibilities, putting the camp under extra stress while they try to function on limited supplies.  The crisis brings out the best and worst in the personnel under the difficult conditions.

Having worked in Christchurch as part of the earthquake recovery team I witnessed some amazing displays of resilience by people who lost most of their possessions during this disaster.  The crisis brought out a variety of responses from people who were under stress and were experiencing significant personal loss.  There were those who rose up and overcame adversity and others who were overcome by their circumstances.  Leadership expert John Maxwell explains how “one of the major keys to success is to keep moving forward on the journey, making the best of the detours and interruptions, turning adversity into advantage.”  Adversity is unavoidable and crisis is inevitable in the unpredictability of life.  Panic usually results from being crippled by crisis, when you are unable to see a way through, whereas, resilience comes as a result of persevering through crisis because you hold fast to the belief that there is a way through. 

What's The Idea?

Episode 44:  As You Were

Henry:     Being as how we’ve got so much spare time on our hands lately, I thought I’d deliver the required commanding officer’s monthly orientation lecture this morning rather than wait for another time, which while we have it, why not use it?  So if you guys are ready, why, we’ll start with today’s subject.
Trapper:    Which is what Henry?
Henry:      I’ll answer questions later, McIntyre.
Hawkeye:    Can you give us the subject first, just in case we can’t tell what it is from your talk?

During a lull in the war, Henry delivers his monthly orientation lecture resulting in hilarious interjections from the officers who try and lighten up an awkward topic, making the task almost impossible for their leader.

Have you ever sat in a lecture and wondered what on earth you had just spent the last hour listening to?  Or have listened to a sermon and have struggled to pull all the disjointed pieces together to nail down the main point of the message?   As a leader and a preacher I understand how important it is to ensure that I don’t bombard people with so much information that they miss the point or to complicate it so they don’t understand it.  Authors Chip and Dan Heath provide some powerful and practical strategies in their book ‘Made to Stick’ to ensure the ideas we are seeking to communicate take hold and positively impact your audience.  In summary, they share the following six principles to help make an idea stick:  keep it SIMPLE, attract interest through the UNEXPECTED, give CONCRETE examples, refer to CREDIBLE authorities, appeal to the EMOTIONAL, and use STORIES.  If an idea is worth communicating, then it is worth making the effort to effectively present it in a way that maximizes its impact.