What Being Married Has Taught Me about Servant Leadership

According to Ken Blanchard (one of my favorite authors and thought leaders in the area of leadership development), servant leadership is a higher form of leadership that focuses on those being served.

I’ve held various leadership positions in ministry over the past 16 years. In each position I’ve learned one valuable lesson – if you don’t have a heart for GOD’s people, you have no business serving in the kingdom of GOD.

Later this year, my husband and I will celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary. During the course of our marriage, we’ve learned a lot about each other and have experienced GOD’s abundant favor upon our lives. I’ll be the first to admit that it took me a minute to grasp the responsibility of my role as a wife and what was expected of me. I had become accustomed to living the single life and operating with a single mindset that learning how to think less about me and more about how I could serve my spouse was a lesson that I soon learned would be the norm in my house. Most recently during a rather challenging pregnancy with our youngest daughter, I found myself witnessing what servant leadership looked like being demonstrated before me.

Here are 3 lessons I learned:

:: Servant leadership begins at home (well, I knew this one already but this became more real to me). When it comes to leading well, your home should be the laboratory where your leadership skills are tested and refined. It’s in the home where we learn how to serve – how to be sensitive to the needs of others and seek ways to meet those needs. I watched as my husband ensured that our home was taken care of first before responding to the requests of others at work or at the church. Servant leadership requires an understanding of prioritization – putting first things first. As a leader, making the affairs of your home a priority reflects the value you place on your family as a gift from GOD and your commitment to ensuring the needs of your family are met. Be careful not to be quick to serve the ministry at the expense of your family.

:: Servant leadership is selfless and others focused. Beginning in the sixth month of my pregnancy, I started experiencing challenges in my ability to walk and my energy level started to decline. Having an active 4 year old at home didn’t help the situation as toddlers have a difficult time of grasping what “sit still” means. There were times I observed my husband, after coming home from a long day of work, immediately finding ways to make me comfortable and keep our toddler entertained. Although tired in his body, he didn’t think about how he was inconvenienced but rather how he could serve us. As I observed his actions, I began to think how our actions are often motivated by the feelings we have in our heart toward those we serve. Is our love for those we serve genuine? Is our love selfless, not seeking anything in return? Leadership in the kingdom of GOD requires selflessness. It’s not about you but how you best can serve others. If you find yourself serving while frustrated or seeking recognition, STOP! You’re doing more damage than you are good.

:: Servant leadership seeks to honor others. At times during my pregnancy, I wasn’t the easiest person to deal with (it was the pregnancy hormones, I promise!). During those times, my husband made the decision to not only continue serving but to still honor me as his wife. As a leader, there are times when we’ll find ourselves serving others that have a less than desirable disposition. Our serving others is not contingent on how others act toward us, but is motivated out of a love for GOD and His people and doing our part to serve in the spirit of love and humility.

Now that the pregnancy is over and I’ve resumed my household responsibilities, it is my highest honor to unselfishly serve my family with joy and find ways to ensure I’m doing my part to meet the needs in our home. I find myself intentionally looking for ways to let my husband know how much I appreciate all that he does for our family and ways I can help him be successful in being the man that GOD is calling him to be. Shouldn’t this be our desire as servant leaders in the kingdom of GOD? Constantly looking for ways to serve others and helping them to be more like Christ?

If we understand the importance of servant leadership privately, we’ll be able to do well as servant leaders publicly.

Are you a servant leader or a selfish leader? Not too sure? Ask your spouse.

With Excellence,
Towanda

 

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Leaders Read

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a chance to blog about my thoughts on leadership. Although I’ve been inconsistent in keeping up with this blog, my passion for operating in kingdom excellence is still very strong.

Over the past year I’ve learned many valuable lessons about what authentic leadership looks like and how important it is to lead in a way that’s worth following.

I am always inspired at the opportunity to discover ways I can grow as a leader. What impact would I like to make in the kingdom of GOD in 2015? How can I lead and inspire others to serve our great GOD with the excellence He deserves and requires of us?

As I pondered these questions, I thought I’d begin 2015 (and the resurrection of this blog) with a simple but powerful reminder that Leaders Read. Those who know me well know that I am a champion of reading – not only for entertainment – but for personal development. It goes without saying that the Word of GOD is the final authority when it comes to what servant leadership looks like. However, it is my personal opinion that in order to grow and lead – whether in your home, local assembly, community or corporate environment- investing in other resources is vital to your development as a person of influence.

Here’s a peak at my reading list for 2015.

::Instinct – T.D.Jakes
::Raising Kingdom Kids – Tony Evans
::Great Leaders Grow – Ken Blanchard & Mark Miller
::The Secret of Teams – Mark Miller & Ken Blanchard
::The Servant Leader – Ken Blanchard & Phil Hodges
::Mentor Like Jesus – Regi Campbell
::The People Factor – Van Moody
::Good to Great in God’s Eyes – Chip Ingram
::Courageous Leadership – Bill Hybels
::Too Busy Not to Pray – Bill Hybels
::Overwhelmed – Perry Noble
::All In – Mark Batterson
::21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader – John Maxwell
::Leading at a Higher Level – Ken Blanchard
::Ask It – Andy Stanley

Throughout the year I’m sure I’ll come across other resources that will challenge me in the area of leadership development that I’ll add to my library. I encourage you to invest in resources that will assist you in becoming more effective as you seek to influence those you lead. Intentionally seek to be a leader worth following. Do the work. Read.

I’d be interested in hearing what’s on your reading list for 2015.

#LeadersRead

With Excellence,
Towanda

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I Need a 1 On 1

Last week, I decided to join up with women across the country and participate in the One Month Kingdom Woman Journey. This one month journey is based on the amazing book, Kingdom Woman authored by Chrystal Evans Hurst and her dad Dr. Tony Evans. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS BOOK (SN: Leaders read)! So when Chrystal announced that for one month women could come together and share this journey of being a Kingdom Woman together, I thought, I’m all in! I need this!

With the changing of the season upon us (the Fall season begins 9.22.2013) I began to feel there was a shifting of seasons taking place in my own life. Internally I’d begun to feel “anxious” in some ways and started to remind myself of the usual – “GOD is in control”, “be anxious for nothing”, “if you pray don’t worry, if you worry, don’t pray”. Yep. I get that. I do. But the truth of the matter is, sometimes, even those of us who serve in the Kingdom of GOD find ourselves needing some answers to some very serious questions.

It’s just when I begin to feel overwhelmed that GOD has a way of reminding me, “hey, Towanda, I can help you with this”, that I’m comforted and encouraged. You see, no matter what we face, GOD knew we’d be right where we are BEFORE we even arrived at this point in our lives. The scriptures tell us “you saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book “. (Psalm 139:16NLT) As I paused to meditate on this verse, I quietly decided, I need a 1 on 1 with GOD.

Zacardi Cortez has released a single that has been in heavy rotation on my iPhone lately.  The song, 1 on 1, opens with this verse:

I, I just need my one on one time with you.
With no, no interruptions I just want it to be me and you
I need a one on one
I just need a one on one, with you

Isn’t it great that GOD has an open door policy with us? I know I’m glad about it because there are times this kingdom woman (loving wife, busy mom, servant leader, helpful friend) feels like she’s unraveling at both ends and that at any moment I could be thrown into a mental tizzy. {BREATHE}. But thanks be to GOD who invites me to come and just let Him know how I’m feeling.

FACT: GOD knows everything about me and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about any season of my life comes as a surprise to Him – At. All.

So, as I’ve prayed Psalm 139 for the past week and have opened my heart to GOD, I’ve prayed the following:

 Search me, O GOD and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
(Psalm 139:23-24)

As a kingdom woman, “one who positions herself under and operates according to the rule of GOD over every area of her life” and as a servant leader in the body of Christ, I confess that sometimes I just need GOD to search me, examine me, take inventory of my life and remove those things that are offensive to Him (like doubting that He knows what I’m facing at every moment of the day and fearing for one second that I’m being overlooked) and that hinder me from being this “kingdom woman” I’m trying to become.  Not to mention that as one who seeks to influence others to serve GOD with excellence, I must constantly ensure I’m living the life and doing my part not to become a stumbling block to others.

Time with GOD is vital to my very existence – as vital as my next breath.  This morning, while the house was quiet and as the sun was beginning to kiss the horizon I quietly stepped into GOD’s office and had one of many 1 on 1 sessions (big thanks to Chrystal Hurst for agreeing to Tweet me to make sure I kept my appointment. In my head, she’s my new BFF). I tell you, after our time together, I’m reassured that everything that concerns me concerns GOD and He, as always, has it all in control.

Be encouraged to know that whatever you may face RIGHT NOW, GOD sees, He knows and He cares. You are constantly on His mind (Psalm 139:17).

I see the office door open. Go ahead – He has a slot open for a 1 on 1 with you too.

With Excellence,
Towanda

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Repositioning the Family for Kingdom Work

*reposition – to shift, to realign, to put back into place*

For the month of July 2013, my family and I were blessed to participate in a month long series focusing on getting families back in line with GOD’s original intent for the family unit.

This series focused on each member of the family understanding their respective roles in the home – Men, Women and Children. How dynamic the family unit can be if we understood how important our roles are in helping to advance the Kingdom of GOD.

It’s no secret – broken homes are made up of broken people who bring their brokenness to churches. Far too often, families do not receive the necessary help needed to address and heal their brokenness which further aides in the dysfunction we witness today.

As I reflected on the lessons being taught and my role in the family as a wife and mother, I thought about how my desire for kingdom excellence really begins at home. Consider this – how can one expect to lead others to pursue excellence in ministry when our lives are in chaos at home? Don’t misunderstand, I’ll be the first to yell, I’M FLAWED! However, shouldn’t we all be striving to “practice what we preach?”

As my family and I began this journey of evaluating where we stood as a family and our desire to get in alignment with GOD’s word, we came across some fantastic resources that opened our eyes in amazing ways (SN: Leaders Read!). My husband began reading “Kingdom Man” by Dr. Tony Evans and I began reading “Kingdom Woman” by Dr. Tony Evans and his daughter, Chrystal Evans Hurst.  The message of these books further confirmed that when we understand our roles as a Kingdom Man and Kingdom Woman and how it is our responsibility to position ourselves and operate according to the rule of GOD in every area of lives, then and only then are we in a position to effectively lead our families.

Here are a few takeaways I captured during this month I thought I’d share with you:

1. Lead well at home – first!

2. Being diligent in spiritual disciplines (prayer, Bible Study) at home has a powerful impact when we engage in these activities publicly with others. Your relationship with GOD becomes evident.

3. Make having a relationship with GOD attractive to your children. Engage in prayer and Bible Study with them. Training our kids at home to serve GOD results in children who grow up with a desire to advance the Kingdom of GOD.

4. Seek balance – be sure to invest the time necessary in making sure your family is whole in every area. Do not sacrifice family time for ministry.

5. Love, value, cherish and appreciate one another.

I thank GOD for the family He has blessed me with and the opportunity given to be an example of His love to others. I encourage those who lead in ministry to pause for a moment to evaluate the condition of your family. Men, have you checked in with your wife to make sure you’re both focused on the same things? Ladies, have you affirmed your husband by letting Him know that you believe in his ability to lead your family as GOD shows him? Young people, are you submitting to the authority of your parents at home and honoring them as GOD says you should?

Before we consider leading anyone else, let’s stop and consider the conditions of our families FIRST and begin to operate with kingdom excellence at home.

With Excellence,
Towanda

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10 Commandments of Effective Leadership – No Church Left Behind

On April 25 – 27, 2013, thousands of pastors and church leaders from around the globe met at the Dallas Convention Center in Dallas, TX for the annual Pastors and Leaders Conference hosted by Bishop T.D. Jakes. I’ve had the pleasure of attending one of these conferences and each year Bishop Jakes and his team delivers one solid event – year after year.

I loved the theme of this year’s event – NO Church Left Behind. There are ministry teams around the world seeking for ways to bring their ministries into the 21st century without compromising the message of Jesus Christ. With the ever-increasing presence of technology, sometimes trying to find ways to engage church members can be a daunting task and intimidating for those ministry leaders who may not have embraced the benefits of technology.

This year’s conference had a line up of over 30 sessions that covered practically every area of ministry. Bishop Jakes is serious about equipping the Body of Christ with the tools they need to ensure their ministries execute with kingdom excellence in every area of their ministry.

Bishop Jakes opened the conference with what he calls the 10 Commandments of Effective Leadership. I found these principles to be vital to understanding how we should operate with kingdom excellence and captured some notes to share.

Commandment #1 – Thou shalt not lead beyond your own exposure
In other words, you cannot lead others beyond the level at which you’ve been exposed. As a leader, you should always find ways to expose yourself to materials that will help you GROW as a leader and help take your team to the next level.

Commandment #2 – Thou shalt not choose your leadership team like you choose your friends
There are too many people who can know you one way, but serve you another. Be careful about placing friends in leadership.

Commandment #3 – Thou shalt not reward nepotism
Leaders should know that the people you serve pay attention to what you reward. They notice who/what actions you celebrate. Be certain its behavior you want repeated. Learn to reward people for performance and NOT personality.

Commandment #4 – Thou shalt not avoid confrontation
When it comes to learning how to confront issues, leaders must decide if they want to be effective when its time to confront an issue. The bottom line is this – you cannot be an effective leader without confronting issues. Leaders must be willing to put being liked at risk for the sake of being effective.

Commandment #5 – Thou shalt not over promise and under deliver
Be careful not to allow your advertisement – how your ministry looks on your marketing materials – not be better than your reality.

Commandment #6 – Thou shalt clearly articulate expectations
Oftentimes it’s frustrating as a leader when it appears things are not meeting your expectations. First ask yourself, “did I do my part to communicate my expectations clearly?” Next time, have your team repeat back to you what your expectations are to ensure they’re clear as to what you expect of them.

Commandment #7 – Thou shalt not mistake regimentation for revelation
Simply put – a leader moves, they transition. Your church is excited about fresh revelation and not stale traditionalism.

Commandment #8 – Thou shalt not lead forward without updates
It makes no sense not to update your team. If you’ve received information that could be helpful for the team, update them! Find ways to update those in your circle or else your staff will become experts at giving you what you USED to need. Updates are important!

Commandment #9 – Thou shalt not lead without listening
Understand that listening is very important in leadership. Be careful not to always monopolize the time you have with your team members by being the only person sharing. Stop. Listen to them. Just because you’re sitting in the office doesn’t mean you know what’s going on in the basement. Learn to listen to those in the trenches.

Commandment #10 – Thou shalt cross-pollinate
Get out of your circle and expose yourself to other giftings. Be confident enough to be exposed to various idioms of thought. Understand that bringing another talent who can take your team to the next level doesn’t make you a bad leader – it makes you a GREAT leader!

Finally, it’s so important to remember great leaders read! Not only you be an avid reader of the word of GOD should also read books that will challenge you to grow in your leadership abilities. Challenge your team to follow your lead and start reading. In a future post, I’m going to share my reading list with hopes you are inspired to read and GROW!

Take this list and evaluate yourself. Do you see areas where you can improve as a leader? When you know better, you do better!

Again, great job to Bishop Jakes and his team for delivering another stellar event! Just another example of what kingdom excellence looks like.

With Excellence,
Towanda

Disclaimer: These notes were captured on April 25, 2013 during the public service hosted by Bishop T.D. Jakes. These personal notes were gathered in a public forum and these personal notes are being shared on this blog for informational purposes only. 

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Happy Administrative Professionals Day!

This post is dedicated to the women (and some men too!) who serve in an administrative capacity for the Body of Christ.

Today, I salute you for all of the “behind the scenes” work you do to make sure your local assembly executes with kingdom excellence. I know where you are and I know how you feel and today let me share you with you that You. Are. Appreciated! The kingdom needs you to continue working hard and serving the people of GOD with excellence.

Your role is VITAL to the smooth execution of some of the things others may take for granted. For example, the way you keep your Senior Pastor organized. Without you, he (or she) would double book themselves with meetings and appointments, or fail to block off time to spend with their families. Or how about how you keep the ministry calendar in order? You take the time to ensure the ministry doesn’t miss an engagement or that as an engagement approaches, those who need to be in place are where they’re supposed to be. You do what you do without complaining and need for recognition because for you, it’s more than just managing calendars and appointments and sending correspondence – administrative support is a ministry!

I am a firm believer not everyone is called for administrative ministry. Outside of the basics, you know, having good interpersonal skills, being able to put together a formal letter, using proper English, basic phone skills, etc, this ministry requires so much more. How about the fact that you understand how to keep your pastor’s confidence – because there are times when your pastor gets frustrated and overwhelmed and YOU oftentimes are the ones to hear it. Yep, they’re human and it shows. This ministry requires you to know how to also support your Pastor’s spouse. Yep, that’s right! You may not administratively support your pastor’s spouse but in serving your pastor you’re making sure that his/her schedule is not monopolized with the business of the church. NO! Kingdom excellence calls for our leaders to know how to take care of their FIRST ministry – their families! You help them do that by ensuring enough time is built into their schedules for family time. Oftentimes, you are managing several tasks at once and at every moment know what’s going on where. As the administrative support of the ministry, you’re always on duty. No matter where you are, you’re armed and ready to take on the next task. Again, I tell you, you are appreciated!

As the administrative support of the ministry, you are the one folks will find reason to fault if there’s a typo in the church bulletin, or if the church voicemail isn’t working or if someone was left off of the email distro list – no matter what goes wrong, oftentimes, the administrative support is the first in line for attack. Yep, been there, done that! And to you, I say, hang in there. You won’t always get a thank you or an “atta girl” for the things you do. But always remember, you serve GOD – first! Serve with a smile, serve with compassion, serve with a sincere heart and always, always, serve with excellence.

Again, I salute you! Your gift is needed in the Kingdom!

With Excellence,
Towanda

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Leaders Lead With Excellence

As I watched President Obama deliver a very moving speech during today’s interfaith service, I couldn’t help but begin to admire his leadership style and how he leads our country (in my personal opinion) with excellence.

Our country has experienced several tragic events in the past months. Events that, for some, have caused us to question our faith, to constantly look over our shoulders and to even hide away in fear. But in the midst of tragedy and times of uncertainty, there needs to be someone who can rise up and restore our faith and confidence in what we know is right.

In the past few months, President Obama has had to deliver this type of speech far too frequently – back in December in CT as we witnessed the lives of children and adults lost to senseless gun violence and most likely, we’ll hear another inspiring message of compassion from the state of TX. As a leader, it’s his job to be the voice of hope, the voice of reason, the voice of inspiration. As a leader, it’s his job to show courage and authority in the face of those who would do wrong. As a leader, it’s his job to lead with compassion for those with wounded spirits.

Here are a few things that I took away from today’s speech about ways a leader leads with excellence:

1. A leader has faith in a power much greater than themselves. Today’s service brought together persons from various religious backgrounds. Each one of these persons serves as a leader in his or her community and has had to first, find it within themselves, to believe in a greater power. For me, my faith lies in Jesus Christ, the son of the living GOD. The point is that each of these persons recognize they cannot lead and encourage others if they first do not have faith.

2. A leader has courage in the face of adversity. As a leader, we all face adversity or times of challenge. You haven’t? I encourage you to keep leading, because one day, you will! A leader who leads with excellence displays a courageous disposition, one that is not intimidated by the senseless acts of others but will remember who they are and who they represent. Leading with excellence requires a leader to always, always remember who they are! A leader recognizes that fear is of the enemy. Know who you are!

3. A leader that leads with excellence leads from a place of love and compassion. A great leader knows how to encourage those they serve to push on, persevere and to not grow weary, even when it hurts.

The world is crying out for leaders who will lead from a place of service and not dictatorship. Will you be that leader? Will you purpose today to lead with excellence? Regardless of where you serve, determine to be excellent in your leadership example. The Kingdom is counting on you.

With Excellence,
Towanda

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