Two New eBooks at Amazon Kindle!

FacebookMySpaceTwitterDiggDeliciousStumbleuponRSS Feed

Leadership can be understood as a series of ironies, statements that capture seemingly contradictory yet complimentary ideas about how leaders can lead effectively.  Here are a few:

While leaders must lead and are necessarily in the "spotlight," effective leaders must serve others. Moses’ example of meekness speaks eloquently against contemporary macho notions of leadership. Followers who are affirmed, appreciated, and assisted express more commitment to the organization’s mission.

While leaders must know their followers, effective leaders must develop some social distance from them. Christ’s love for his disciples was great, but he declined James and John’s desire to assume a place at Christ’s side in Glory (Matthew 10:35-45). Leaders must maintain an appropriate objectivity in making personnel and resource decisions. Too-close relationships can make these decisions more difficult and even biased.

The wiser the leader, the more frequent the admission that he or she does not have all the answers. Leaders must make informed judgments, but they do not speak ex cathedra or with vox Dei. This point is illustrated in Proverbs 15:22, “without counsel purposes are disappointed; but in the multitude of counselors they are established,” and in Ecclesiastes 4:13, “better is a poor and wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.”

The more emotional the times, the more rational must be the leader, the more rational the times, the more emotional must be the leader. More emotional times are generally characterized by crisis. Leaders must be able to think clearly and render judgments based upon facts and identified alternatives, not feelings, sentimentality, or peer pressure. More rational times are those in which organizations forget their original purpose and yield to bureaucratic tendencies. Personnel begin to consider means more important than ends, and rules and regulations become more important than client interests and needs. Leaders in such times must be emotional. They must recall the organization to this raison d’etre, and clear impassioned leadership is one of the best ways to do this.

The more complex the organization and its future, the more focused and even simple leadership must be. As organizations grow, they diversify, fragment, and multiply their parts. Leaders are hard-pressed to maintain coordination and continuity. Effective leaders use metaphors and easily understood goal statements. Joshua reminded the people that their task was to possess the land that the Lord their God had given them. Clear, concise leadership is all too rare in this day of circumvention and “doublespeak.”

Effective leaders are optimists at the same time they are realists. They should have their heads in the clouds while their feet remain planted firmly upon the ground. Christian leaders must be optimistic realists, optimists because they affirm God’s sovereignty and realists because they acknowledge the temporal presence and power of sin.

A leader's impact upon an organization is often greater after departing office than when in office. Leaders may actually hold office for a few years, but the values they advance, the structures they establish, and the personnel they attract can influence an organization for decades. Old Testament kings like Ahab left terrible legacies, while others like Josiah left honorable legacies. A leader’s legacy is either an organization’s firm foundation or a nightmare of entrenched accumulated poor decisions.

The busier the leader and the less time to pray and plan the greater the necessity to take time to pray and plan. Crisis management is sometimes required but leaders cannot remain effective for long using this approach. Both prayer and planning help the leader and the organization to focus on identifiable, meaningful goals. Samson’s career is a case in point. Although he periodically accomplished great feats for God, he neither prayed nor planned consistently. Consequently, except for the final hours of his life, Samson’s ministry was a disappointment. While he contributed to God’s service, he could have contributed much more.

The "higher up the ladder" a leader climbs, thus the more specialized in leadership he or she becomes, the more of a generalist the leader must be. Perhaps Nehemiah is the best scriptural example of this irony of leadership. He was promoted from Cupbearer to leader of a reconstruction expedition. He became the leader, but his wisdom was taxed as a spiritual guide, organizer, builder, and more. Effective leaders develop a personality with a wisdom born of perspective and cultivate an eclectic understanding of their organization and the world.

The more effective the leadership, the greater the likelihood that the leader recruited people more intelligent, dynamic, capable, or credentialed than the leader. “Threatened” leaders are not effective. They appoint individuals who are non-threatening and who by definition weaken the organization. King Saul failed to understand this irony in his relationship with young David, but Pharoah avoided similar pitfalls by appointing Joseph to direct Egypt through years of plenty and famine.

The more dynamic, exciting, and even effective the leader’s ideas, the more criticism he or she is likely to receive. This irony is so much a part of the human condition that we can state with reasonable assurance that if leaders are not being criticized, they are probably not leading. If leading and changing go hand in hand, leading and criticism must be hand in glove.  Great ideas change things. People don’t like change. Ergo, change agents (leaders) attract criticism. Abraham lived with a family critic in his nephew Lot. Moses had to answer his critics before he could do great things for God.  Paul responded to critics in the early church. The great man Job even had to deal with critics on his sick bed. Effective leaders fix their thoughts on Jesus and attempt to live peaceably with all people.

The more a leader celebrates rational traditions, the more accepted will be his or her rejection of irrational traditions; the more a leader champions responsible change, the more accepted will be his or her rejection of irresponsible change. Truly effective leaders do not allow themselves to be identified strictly with change or tradition, for both must be continually evaluated for the good of the organization’s mission. It’s true that leading and change are virtually synonymous, but not all change is good and not all traditions are unworthy. Indeed the right kind of traditions create loyalty, espirit d’corp, and community, and the wrong kind of change can harm an organization.

Leaders turn their followers into leaders. John C. Maxwell has nearly cornered the market making this point, and rightly so. James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner say this happens because leaders give people the courage to do things they’ve never done before. Leaders encourage the follower’s heart.

Leaders always are accountable to someone. Leaders answer to the Lord, whether they ever understand or acknowledge this fact of life. Leaders are always responsible for their organizations and thus answer to someone, owners, constituents, personnel, clientele.

And a last irony for the road…visionary leaders lead when others are not yet following.


**A version of this blog was originally published as "The Ironies of Leadership," Christian Management Report, 15(April/May, 1991)3, pp. 5-6.

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


For some reason, Christian leaders have rushed to hand kudos to Craigslist for closing its “Erotic Services” listings. I don’t understand their excited affirmation, particularly one Christian-leader-tweet I saw saluting Craigslist leaders for doing their best to fight sex trafficking.

I, too, am glad Craigslist has closed its listing. Good actions should be reinforced, so perhaps the company deserves a small pat on the back.

But before we get too warm and fuzzy please note that to get to this point took months of pressure, legal wrangling that continues, and some 17 state Attorneys General recently making this a national issue.

Please also note that Craigslist is not pleased, that it’s not clear the listing will remain unavailable, that the company posted “Censored” in bold letters rather than just remove the section, and that this kind of listing has apparently not been removed internationally.

Craigslist is opening another listing soon called “Adult Services.” This listing will assist legitimate adult businesses, but what this means remains to be seen.

So I’m not ready to anoint Craigslist with a halo. The company has made multiple millions on the sex trade, is loudly unrepentant, and no one really knows what’s going to happen next.

If Craigslist wants to be a responsible corporate citizen it has a ways to go. And Christian leaders would do well not to rush to judgment.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at, or follow Dr. Rogers at

Leaders are not machines. They’re human beings and as such will lead more effectively, remain in leadership during their productive years, and probably live longer if they learn to love, listen, and laugh.

What and Who Should Leaders Love?

To accomplish goals and achieve greatness, leaders must love the vision of the organization. Leaders who aren’t passionately engaged with the vision can’t present it day in and day out with any degree of credibility. If they don’t love the vision they’ll sound fake, because they are.

Leaders must love personnel. I don’t mean something illicit, of course, but rather a genuine appreciation for those who work to fulfill the organization’s mission. Leaders who care more for prestige, perks, power, profit, or pensions than people may earn revenue but they won’t earn respect. Leaders who love personnel will more likely inspire them to contribute to mutual success. And leaders who put people first will always lead more effectively, and last longer doing it.

To What or Whom Should Leaders Listen?

Leaders who think they know it all eventually evidence otherwise. Usually, others know emperors have no clothes even if emperors do not.

But listening leaders are learning leaders. The fact that they listen demonstrates humility and opens them to new ideas. Learning leaders listen to what they read, they listen to the marketplace, they listen to advisors, they listen to personnel, they listen to clients or customers, and the public, they listen to their critics, they listen to their heart.

Why and When Should Leaders Laugh?

Laughter is a sign of a healthy soul. Leaders who do not laugh shouldn’t be trusted. The Scripture says “a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22), which is why I said leaders who laugh will live longer. Laughing relieves stress and improves leaders’ disposition, something followers watch and emulate.

Leaders should learn how laugh. Laughing at themselves and laughing with others is a great humanizing, bonding expression. It almost inexorably draws people to leaders, increases the esteem with which they’re regarded, and thus enhances their influence.

Leaders should learn when to laugh. The Scripture again gives us direction: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Leaders lead best when they laugh and cry with those they’ve asked to follow them on the journey. Nothing says you’re one of the team than actually being one of the team.

Leaders who love, listen, and laugh model traits that will enable them not simply to survive but to thrive. So too their organizations.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

Lazy language has become one of the “acceptable sins” in the Church. Christian people can be heard using the B-word, the S-word, and the A-word, along with a host of other crudities.


Years ago, men, especially around women, would attempt to mask such behavior with silly statements like, “Pardon my French.” I don’t hear that much anymore. Actually, it’s been years since I’ve heard anyone anywhere apologize for his or her language.


But I’ve heard Christians using what we used to call “bad language” on the golf course and at fancy dinners, from the podium no less. I’ve heard it on campus and in restaurants and coffee cafes. I’ve heard it in professional settings.


This is not a "go-to-heaven" issue. I'm not making that case. It is, though, a "testimony" issue and, I suggest, a "professional" one as well.


People say "You are what you eat," but the Scripture says "What goes into a man's mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean" (Matthew 15:11).


So why are we, Christians, using more bad words? Frankly I don't know, other than it's what Francis A. Schaeffer said years ago: "Christians catch their values like they catch measles." In other words, we just absorb cultural values and actions by osmosis right out of the air and don't apply any spiritual discernment to what we're doing. So we sound like our culture and don't know it.


Using morally acceptable language is also a leadership issue. Leaders who spew aren't going to inspire people to sacrifice to reach the next level, I don't care who they are. Leaders with tainted vocabularies may gain fear, but they will not gain respect.


Maybe the words on my bad-word-list aren't the same as yours, but bad words are not a mystery. Like pornography, you may not always be able to define them, but you recognize them when you see or hear them.


Sanitizing or sanctifying our vocabulary is a good, positive, immediate-impact way to craft for ourselves a better image, reputation, and ultimately legacy.


Read more in my essay at "Pardon My French."



© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

Sunday is a day for renewal, involving reverence, rest, recreation, reading, rumination, re-visioning, refreshment, and relationships.

Reverence means focusing upon the Lord who can rejuvenate our spirits. This preferably includes church attendance where we can worship in community. In any event, it means recognizing once again that all good and perfect gifts come from God.

Rest might include the renowned Sunday nap, but it might not. God rested on the 7th Day of Creation not because he was tired but because he wanted to enjoy what he had done. Rest allows us to review and reconsider, ponder and appreciate. Rest is part of restoration. Rest usually means a pause, but it might also mean activity like recreation.

Recreation is another form of re-creation, rebirth if you will, an opportunity to juice the spirit and the mind as well as the body. Recreation can make you tired, but it’s a good tired rather than a stressful one. Watching sports is OK, especially when enjoyed with others. But getting active is probably more important for most of us in the couch-potato-culture in which we live.

Reading is still the best way I know of to exercise the mind, and it is one way the Lord speaks to us through his Word, the Bible. Unlike watching television, a passive activity, reading is an “active activity.” It introduces new thoughts and experiences, even if vicariously, and it increases both our vocabulary and our facility in using that vocabulary.

Rumination is a fancy word for thinking. In the Scripture it says Mary the Mother of Jesus witnessed the events following his miraculous birth and “pondered them in her heart.” She thought about them. Most of us, certainly me, would do better if we ruminated more and talked less. Meditation on spiritual matters is also important, one with an honored and worthy tradition in the history of the Christian Church.

Re-visioning is an opportunity to take stock. Are we on the right track? Do we need to adjust our heading if not our destination? Is there some new, bold, proactive step we could take in our lives that takes advantage of the time, talent, and treasure God has given us? Should we take a calculated risk? Is it time to step up and step out?

Refreshment can involve the obvious, food, nothing wrong with that. Food can involve quantity, type, or quality. Maybe we need to “eat better” rather than more. Or refreshment might mean re-energizing the spirit or body via the activities we’ve mentioned. The key is to find something we can do or experience that is different, i.e. non-repetition, from what we typically do day by day.

Relationships speaks to the opportunity the weekend in general and Sunday in particular usually affords for reconnection with family and friends. We don’t often admit it, but even the most individualistic among us needs others. We need each other for support, iron sharpening iron, or simply camaraderie.

It’s not that any or all of these things cannot be accomplished any day of the week. It’s just that most of us are far too professionally engaged to pause long to reflect about anything. Without reflection there is no renewal. No better day for that than Sunday.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

 *This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at, or follow Dr. Rogers at


Early in my career I taught a course called “Christian Social and Political Responsibility.” It was fun. At least I thought so. Not sure about the students.

I thought the most fun, and coincidentally the most learning, took place when we defined terms used in political discourse. We did this knowing that public debates often produce more heat than light, in part because people talk past each other by using the same-word-different-meaning.

Here are a few words dealing with racial politics.

Diversity refers to the rich variety of human demographic attributes God created for our enjoyment and his glory, including race, gender, ethnicity, and physical make-up. At times I add socio-economic status. But I do not include sexual orientation, religion, or religious orientation, particularly if it might be construed that I believe an organization may not make hiring decisions based upon moral views regarding sexuality or religion as protected categories. I don’t have any problem including religion or even sexual orientation if we’re talking simply about respecting others different from ourselves in a free country.

Reconciliation is a word I use to describe the human need created by what a sociologist once called our “relational dilemma.” At the Fall in the Garden of Eden sin broke our relationship with God leaving a “hole” in our hearts. This brokenness characterizes the human race, the individual human being, and Creation. We may be reconciled to God through Christ’s sacrifice and finished work on the cross by virtue of God’s grace and forgiveness. Believers are God’s reconciling ambassadors in this broken world, carrying the message of reconciliation, and God will one day reconcile all of Creation to himself. Sometimes this word is applied to racial concerns as in racial reconciliation. If this means working to restore a right relationship vertically with God and horizontally with our fellow humanity, I support and promote it.

Antiracism might be the most problematic word in this list. I use it to refer to policies or approaches to race relations and racial understanding that identifies racist, which is to say prejudicial or discriminatory, ideas, attitudes, and actions and attempts to help or require people to grow beyond them. But this word is used by a variety of groups that proclaim there’s no such thing as race or that define virtually all opportunity or merit-based advancement in capitalist society as racist. I can’t embrace these usages of the word.

Social justice is an outcome of the Gospel evidenced in the lives of believers who attempt to apply Christian values in life and culture by loving their neighbors as themselves. Working toward social justice is a Christian responsibility, a necessary part of obedience to God. Examples include the biblical Good Samaritan and in more recent history England’s William Wilberforce. Social justice exists when human beings are eternally valued, protected in liberty, treated with dignity, given access to equal opportunity, and encouraged to live with moral accountability before God.

How we use words matter.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at, or follow Dr. Rogers at