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, September 29, 2016

Keep Them Engaged

Episode 59:  Adam’s Rib

Hawkeye:    I didn’t hear you say that.  Because it isn’t possible.  It’s inhuman to serve the same food day after day.  The Geneva Convention prohibits the killing of our taste buds.  I simply cannot eat the same food every day.  Fish, liver, day after day.  I’ve eaten a river of liver and an ocean of fish.  I’ve eaten so much fish I’m ready to grow gills.  I’ve eaten so much liver I can only make love if I’m covered in bacon and onions.  Are we going to stand for this?!  Are we going to let them do this to us?!  No, I say, NO!!  We’re not going to eat this drab anymore!  We want something else!

Hawkeye is enraged by being served the same food week after week and demands for something different.  His desire for a change inspires him to place a takeout order for spareribs from Chicago all the way to Korea.

As a preacher, week after week I have the responsibility to prepare and deliver messages that will inspire and inform a diverse group of people how to integrate biblical truth with everyday life.  In order to keep my congregation interested my content must be relevant and my delivery engaging, otherwise they will zone out or look elsewhere.  Whether you are a teacher or preacher, coach or mentor, facilitator or consultant, the creative tension between content and delivery is the space that must be managed by all effective communicators.  In my experience, great messages can be equally compromised if the speaker is all charisma with little content or has great content without any passion.  In an age of sensory overload our audience won’t tolerate being anaesthetized by either. So be well prepared, stay energized and keep them engaged.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Professional Partnerships

Episode 58:  There Is Nothing Like A Nurse

Trapper:   [Tension in the OR without the nurses] My kingdom for a  nurse!
Radar:     I’m doing my best.
Trapper:   Radar, if you don’t start handing me the instruments in  the right way, I’m going to cut you off at the knees.
Henry:     Klinger, you’re standing in my light.
Klinger:   Whatever I do is no good!
Hawkeye:   Let’s keep those sponges coming Father, nurse is also a  verb.

The threat of an enemy invasion leads to the evacuation of all the nurses from the 4077.  Camp morale is low and the tensions in O.R. high as the doctors try to cope without the nurse’s expertise and companionship.

Throughout 20 years of leadership serving alongside my wife we have developed a professional partnership in our ministry.  Together we make a great team that intuitively complements each other’s gifts and abilities.  However, when one of us is missing for any length of time the other is left second guessing counter-intuitive roles that fall outside our normal areas of responsibility.  If there is one thing we have learned about leadership, it is that it is not a solo activity.  We need each other.  We need competent people with complementary gifts to partner in pursuing a shared vision and common purpose.  This is true for any team and leadership context. Sue Mallory advocates this strongly:  “A team is a group of uniquely gifted players with a common purpose. Each player has a responsibility and is given the authority to carry it out. As team members they are fully and jointly accountable to one another and to the team’s results.”

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Managing Demands Of Leadership

Episode 57:  Alcoholics Unanimous

Frank Burns:   There’s just no question, you’re alcoholics!  You              drink constantly.
Hawkeye:       Alright, we drink.  We drink so we can get through            these lousy, stinking 48 hour days.
Trapper:       We’re cold, filthy, lonely.
Hawkeye:       Scared, bored, tired!

Acting commanding officer, Frank Burns, declares prohibition at the 4077th in response to the growing alcohol use in camp.  His dismantling of the ‘still’ and his one man campaign to outlaw alcohol causes havoc among the personnel as they try anything to sneak a drink.

How do you cope with the demands of leadership?  For some, a helpful escape comes in the form of a good book or watching a favourite movie.  For others, engaging in exercise and physical activity relieves the tension.  However, statistically it is well documented that many seek relief from the stress and demands of leadership through the consumption of alcohol.  While this may bring temporary relief, health experts believe that alcohol can actually exacerbate stress and diminish long term capacity to cope under pressure.  In the context of leadership this can be dangerous!  Trying to deal with the stressors that come with the territory through any substance use not only impacts our ability to personally cope with the challenges but risks our capacity to professionally lead others through the same challenges.  Alcohol may ‘mask’ the reality but cannot ‘mitigate’ the responsibilities of leadership.  Leaders must build healthy strategies and networks to effectively ‘manage’ this space.