The election season is over. For some voters, going to the polls was merely a civic duty. For others voting was a matter of stewardship, understanding that God gives us this American privilege, and we will be held accountable for every vote we cast.
But my real focus of this article is not on voters, but rather it’s a message to the newly elected (or re-elected) officials.
God has given me the opportunity (and sobering responsibility) to meet and get to know dozens of politicians, from councilmen to several Presidential candidates. While I’m no longer active in political endeavors, many of these friends or acquaintances were elected to office this last cycle. These offices range from school board members to US Senators, and many offices in between.
So with this as a backdrop, the following verse jumped out at me this week from the book of Daniel:
“For this has been decreed by the messengers; it is commanded by the holy ones, so that everyone may know that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses— even to the lowliest of people.” Daniel 4:17
The Instruction Manual
The book of Daniel is the instruction manual on how Christians in government should behave. Daniel also illustrates to believers how we should respond to government, particularly adversarial ones.
As we read this manual, for guidance both in civics and governance, it’s important to understand that the government officials we are introduced to in Daniel are both followers of (the one true) God, as well as pagans (followers of someone or something other than the one true God). In addition to Daniel, there are many other books and passages in the Bible that offer insights into God’s view of government officials, and their role in serving Him.
God Elevates Both Believers and Unbelievers to Government
This is the first principle that each recently elected government official should understand. Regardless of whether you believe in and follow God, or not, it is God that has given you the victory you are celebrating. It’s not the voters. It’s Him. Sure, the voters all cast a vote, some for you and some against you.
But ascribing your victory to voters is akin to thanking a courier who hands you the keys to your new car, that your rich uncle just bought for you. Your uncle deserves the acknowledgement and thanks, not the courier.
God “gives them (kingdoms) to anyone he chooses — even to the lowliest of people” affirms this principle. So whether you were elected the county dog catcher, or the President of the United States, God has lent you the office to test your stewardship. That’s not only an awesome opportunity, but it’s more importantly a sobering responsibility. You will be held accountable, not merely by the voters, but more importantly by God Almighty.
God is Testing Your Humility (or Pride)
In Daniel, we read about the story of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon and a powerful ruler of his day. But with that power, we also see a man who grew very proud. We read in Daniel 4:30 these words:
“As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’” (Daniel 4:30)
If ever there was a man who embodied the spirit of the “self-made” man, King Nebuchadnezzar was that man. Note how his power led to pride. (And we’ll find out in our next principle, what the king’s pride led to.)
It’s a very difficult task to resist the temptation of pride. Power and pride seem to go hand and hand. So as someone is elevated to a position of power, who was a “no one” or perhaps a “lesser one” before his election, it’s so easy to become prideful in that new found position. A politician can easily look at himself as important. As special. As above others. As privileged. As deserving.
But all those attitudes are not only false, they are Pride whispering lies to us. It’s incumbent on you as an elected official to resist such temptations, and rebuke those attitudes. But if you fail this test, you will soon experience the warning from Proverbs 16:18 where we’re told:
“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”
How many politicians do you know that seem to struggle with pride? If we’re all honest though, this is a sin many of us have succumbed to in our own lives. So Mr/Ms Politician, resist this huge temptation that comes to all of us, but particularly those with power. If you don’t, you may find yourself experiencing the next principle.
Pride Leads to Bad Stuff
I suppose I could have been more “sophisticated” in describing this principle, but “bad stuff” really is the result of Pride in the life of an elected official. The prophet Daniel, who was also a high government official in King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, warned the King of what would occur if he took credit for “his” achievements versus ascribing any success to God. Note Daniel’s warning:
“You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses… King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.” (Daniel 4:25, 27)
Sadly though, this is what occurred when Nebuchadnezzar refused to heed God’s warning, spoken through Daniel:
“…A voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’” (Daniel 4:31-32)
What a great fall King Nebuchadnezzar experienced! From the height of world power, to the lowliness of an animal — simply because he allowed the spirit of pride to rule in his life.
It’s uncanny, but should not be surprising, that 600 years later, Jesus, the Son of the Voice from heaven who spoke to Nebuchadnezzar, reminded us again of the repercussions of pride in our lives:
“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)
So be sure of this elected official. Pride will tempt you, but you can resist it in your live, and as you do, and take the less travelled path of humility, God will exalt you, according to Jesus, God’s Son.
Nebuchadnezzar’s own life is a reflection of this reality for when the king finally humbled himself and acknowledged the One who had exalted him to begin with, this is what the king had to say:
“After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.” (Daniel 4:34, 36-37)
We’ve all heard of the “servant leadership” principle. It’s a teaching that’s hip these days, and often promoted in corporate entities. But long before motivational coaches latched onto this truth, Jesus had this to say about the role servant leadership should play in all of our lives, including elected officials:
“But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.” (Matthew 20:25-27)
Having been around elected officials for many, many years now, I have seen a spirit that is often anything but “servant leadership.” The head tables, the honored seats, and the best of everything is always reserved for politicians. And yet, the elite status most politicians enjoy is entirely at odds with their self-assigned title of “servants of the people.”
So if you were just elected and want to be different and break the political mold, what if you were to truly embrace the idea of “servant leadership” in your elected role? Perhaps one antidote against the pride that will lead to destruction and fall, is to simply commit oneself to truly being a servant in practice versus simply in words.
There are at least two reasons to do so. The first is because Jesus modeled such leadership and what better person to pattern our lives after than the Son of God? But there is another reason, and it has to do with future rewards:
“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)
God’s Elevating of An Individual Does NOT Suggest He Endorses That Individual
We often misunderstand God’s actions and choices, assuming that because He places certain individuals in positions of authority, that God must then endorse such an individual. This fallacy has been a huge stumbling block for Christians, particularly over the last couple years. But this could not be further from the truth, as taught throughout Scripture.
God elevates individuals to positions of authority for several reasons including 1) to achieve God’s greater Plan, 2) to test that individual, 3) to punish, test, or refine those who are under the ruler’s authority, or some other purposes. We cannot always be certain of God’s reasons, but we can know this:
“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
We also know that at times God will even elevate evil or immoral rulers to achieve His greater Plan. But when that Plan is achieved, God will discard the ruler, when he does not turn to God and acknowledge His sovereignty. The examples of the numerous kings of Judah and Israel in the Old Testament are an affirmation of this principle, as God used both good and evil kings to continue to advance His objectives. But as soon as God finished with an immoral ruler, God always discarded him.
So the lesson any elected official should learn from this truth, is that God’s selection of you for the office you now hold, is not necessarily an endorsement of you, your political solutions, ambitions, or even your character. Rather, He has placed you there for His purposes. So it’s incumbent on every elected official to ask these questions:
“Why did God elevate me? What does He want to achieve through me? How can I best serve God in this capacity? Am I ready to give account to Him for my actions in my current position?”
All these questions require one particular attitude which we referenced earlier: Humility.
In closing, I trust as you assume the new office or term, which you have been given for a brief moment, that you will ponder these truths from God’s Word. I trust you will acknowledge Whom it is that elevated you, that you will remain humble, that you will truly model servant leadership, and that you will never assume that God endorses all you do, simply because He has granted you this position of authority.
Remember what Jesus said to Pilate when He, as the Son of God, stood before the government official who had been lent the power of life or death:
“Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” (John 19:11)
So if your authority is given to you by God Himself, then this should be your response:
“What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
Blessings to you as you move into what has often been portrayed as “The Swamp.” But in reality, it may be your greatest opportunity and responsibility to:
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
(If you know an elected official, and agree with this message, would you forward this to him/her?)
In life, there are choices we make and habits we form that either produce happiness and success or regret and failure. One such choice is whether to walk with integrity or not. And that choice begins in the smallest of decisions.
Recently, I had an interaction with a business owner that demonstrated this principle of integrity. My HVAC unit at our farmhouse had developed a water leak and while we attempted to fix the problem ourselves, it continued to leak. So I put a call into my HVAC contractor and the office manager, Nancy, setup an appointment for a service call. However, I suggested I would like to text a video of the leak to the owner, Kim, for him to review and Nancy encouraged me to do so. Within 5 minutes of texting the video of the leak, I received a call back with a suggestion from Kim on what I could try to perhaps solve the problem. With the help of our farm foreman, we tried what was suggested and, voila! The problem was fixed.
The response from Kim, the owner of the HVAC company, resulted in a couple hundred dollars of lost revenue. But that decision, while it may seem like a small thing, had the effect of growing his integrity in at least a couple of ways.
While employees are frequently encouraged to increase a company’s revenue, the decision by Kim served as an example to Nancy, his office manager, that there are things that trump revenue or profit. When Kim provided me with the solution to my problem over the phone, he elevated integrity over profit. He communicated to his employees that where you can provide a simple solution that requires little to no effort, then one should do so. Earning a buck is not the supreme or only goal. And so Nancy had that behavior modeled to her by her boss. Can there be any stronger way to teach a value than to live it?
When the solution that Kim provided to me over the phone worked, and he lost a service call in the process, I was convinced that Kim’s company was one that I could trust. Because Kim was willing to give up the service call revenue, and elevate integrity over profit, my confidence in his company skyrocketed. I knew that were he to do any additional work for me in the future, I could trust him without reservation. So his faithfulness in a small issue grew my trust exponentially.
What about you? Are you ever tempted to bypass integrity? Do you ever rationalize small, seemingly insignificant, compromises of truth or honesty? You’ve heard the saying, “Sow a thought and you reap an action, sow an action and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
Do you desire a destiny of happiness, success and fulfillment? It begins with integrity in the little things. Commit yourself today to doing so and not only will you be thankful you did, you’ll also be pleased with where you end up.
Cruz, Trump, Rubio, Carson, Bush, Kasich? What’s a conservative to do? Who is the right pick? How can one determine which politician to trust?
As I’ve thought about, studied and researched each of these candidates, I’ve certainly seen strengths and weaknesses in all of them. But at the end of the day, you and I can only pick one for our preferred nominee (assuming you’ve already ruled out the two socialists in the other party). So what is the best way to winnow out the candidates who are either not who they say they are or are ill-equipped to lead our nation back to our founding principles?
Over time, what a person does will accurately reveal who they are and what they value. As the saying goes, “you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.” So if one is willing to be objective and truly evaluate a person’s track record, one can very safely predict the future actions of that person. At the end of the day, when we are faced with difficult decisions or stressful scenarios, we will all default to the core of who we are. And so it is with all six of the remaining Republican candidates for President.
If we understand this truth and are willing to objectively apply it, we can rationally mark off those candidates whose track records will not live up to scrutiny. Of course, it will also require us to set aside our own biases, preferences and even the temptation to believe what they claim. But what do we value most, simply being told what we want to hear, or searching for truth and acting out of reason versus emotion? Consider this. When you go to a doctor, would you trust one who is charismatic, handsome, and/or winsome, but he does not tell you the truth of your illness, choosing rather tell you what you want to hear?
So as I evaluated the remaining candidates, I have done what I’m suggesting you do as well. I evaluated each of these candidates, and slowly, deliberately and comprehensively, I concluded that Senator Ted Cruz is the candidate whose track record is the most consistent and verifiable over the course of the last 30 years. While not perfect, Cruz is not simply a “campaign conservative” but rather he is the consistent conservative.
I write this article for two reasons. First, I’m seeking to provide those who are still struggling to select their candidate with some of my reasons for selecting Ted Cruz. And secondly, to encourage others who might be supporting a different candidate to at least reconsider their choice.
If there is one document that separates us from every other nation in the world, it is our Constitution. Our nation’s founding document contains not only the principles that created the most exceptional nation in world history, but it established a form of government that has enabled We the People to govern ourselves through men and women who were to remain accountable to the People. Because of the greatness of this document and the role it is meant to play in constraining the passions and mischief of men, the reverence and allegiance any politician reflects to this document should be of paramount importance to all Americans.
This perhaps is one of the greatest strengths of Ted Cruz. During his years as a teenager, Ted Cruz memorized the Constitution, and its values have guided his political views and ideologies throughout his entire adult life. His years in front of the US Supreme Court as Texas Solicitor General led to many victories for the Constitution on matters that are foremost to conservatives including the 2nd Amendment, US sovereignty, and religious liberty.
Life & Marriage
In an era when the biblical values of life and marriage have been under extreme attack, Ted Cruz has been a stalwart voice to support life and defend marriage. As the murderous policies of Planned Parenthood have been exposed, Cruz has continued to call for the defunding of this organization that profits from the taking of innocent life.
Senator Ted Cruz stood alone in September 2013 in his 21-hour marathon anti-Obamacare “filibuster.” While several other Senators chimed in, Cruz’ has remained the foremost voice in repealing Obamacare seeking to replace it with “common sense health care reform that makes health insurance personal and affordable and keeps the government from getting between Americans and their doctors.”
In 2013, Ted Cruz led the fight in Congress to defeat the Gang of Eight amnesty bill, which would have extended amnesty to over ten million illegals. Democrat Chuck Schumer (D) and Republican Presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio were the key sponsors and spokesmen for the Gang of Eight bill. One of the bill’s most outspoken critics, Senator Jeff Sessions credited Cruz with the ultimate defeat of the bill saying, “I believe without the vigorous opposition from Ted Cruz, this bill very likely would have passed.” The Cruz plan to stop illegal immigration includes securing the border, restoring the rule of law, and reforming immigration to protect Americans.
Abolish the IRS / Replace with Flat Tax
The Cruz simple flat tax plan would establish one flat 10% tax rate for individuals with a postcard being used to file one’s taxes. A family of four would pay no taxes on their first $36,000 of income. Additionally, the business flat tax would abolish the corporate income tax and payroll tax, and replace them with a 16% tax. The death tax, Obamacare taxes and more would also be eliminated. The IRS as we know it would be abolished.
Defeat ISIS & Secure our Nation
Believing that America is an exceptional and unique nation, Ted Cruz has proposed a six-point plan that would position the US as a shining beacon, to exert world leadership, rebuild our military, defeat ISIS, protect the homeland, and rip up the Iran deal. American Spectator recently stated, “Cruz presents a well-thought out, foreign and national defense policy based on the original, Reagan conservatism. One that focuses on advancing America’s security interests around the world, not on sacrificing American lives and treasure on replacing foreign dictators… birthing new democracies, or building jobs and prosperity in foreign lands.”
Appointment of Supreme Court Justices
Justice Scalia’s death over the weekend has highlighted the strong likelihood that up to four Supreme Court Justices could be replaced by the next President. Given the razor-thin 5-4 decisions that have been rendered on issues as foundational to our nation as religious liberty, abortion, 2nd Amendment and more, the judicial philosophy of the next President’s is critical. Ted Cruz has praised Scalia for his efforts in “returning the focus to the original meaning of the text (of the Constitution) after decades of judicial activism.”
Stand Against the Washington Establishment
Ted Cruz, while only one of 100 Senators, has consistently stood firm for the values he campaigned on, and this has frequently exposed the political schemes and corruption by congressional leaders in both parties. While the Washington establishment has rejected Cruz for his principled stands, this firmness of conviction will bode him well were he to lead from the Oval Office in 2017 as he continues to stand with the People vs. the Establishment. His Five for Freedom plan would eliminate the IRS, and the Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development.
Man of Faith
Too many politicians speak of faith, but their walk and particularly their policies are at odds with the faith they claim. Ted Cruz not only professes a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but his walk aligns with one who is truly a Christ follower. The policies he pursues are ones that both affirm the values of our Constitution while respecting the values of his faith. Hundreds of faith leaders have examined Cruz and have endorsed him for President. At the same time, though Cruz has been quick to acknowledge he is not running as “Pastor in Chief.”
In closing, America is at a seminal moment. We are at a crossroads. The choice we make in 2016 will determine whether we will travel to a point of no return, leaving forever the Judeo/Christian principles of our founders. Will we embrace a candidate who quickens our base emotions or uses eloquent phrases, or will we examine the candidates’ track records to validate whether their talk matches their walk? We may not have another chance. This could be our last opportunity to restore the Constitution, the rule of law, and to call on God’s mercy and grace as we seek to restore our Constitution and the Creator to the rightful place in our nation. I pray you will join me in prayerfully supporting Ted Cruz for President.
I find it very curious that so many folks have enthusiastically thrown their support behind Donald Trump in 2016. But I’m particularly amazed at evangelicals who have fallen head over heels for Trump, both those in the pews, as well as noted evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell, Jr., Robert Jeffress and more. As I’ve listened to these men trumpet their praise for Donald, much of their rationale is based on the billionaire’s perceived business acumen and his supposed fiscal credentials.
In his statement endorsing Donald Trump, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr, called Trump, “a successful executive and entrepreneur.” And Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of 11,000 member First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX, stated on FoxNews that evangelical pragmatists say, “Let’s find the most conservative person we can. Let him concentrate on fixing the economy… pragmatists are basically going towards Donald Trump.”
The sentiments by Falwell, Jeffers and millions of other “pragmatic” evangelicals prioritizing the economy and fiscal matters is quite puzzling and got me wondering whether other values of an individual should be ignored? Do a candidate’s positions on other issues matter? What about his personal behavior and life — is that fair game? Or should we simply remain focused on fiscal issues, as if strengthening the almighty dollar should be our nation’s singular priority?
Let’s consider another businessman who, by any measure of economic standards, has achieved extraordinary business success. In 1953, a 27-year-old entrepreneur, struggling to find his place in the world, invested $600 of his limited capital to launch a monthly periodical. The first issue was an instant success, selling out all 53,991 copies at 50 cents per copy. Over the next several years, the magazine’s circulation grew to over 1 million by 1960, and it continued on a rapid upward trend, peaking at over 5 million copies monthly in 1975.
Boosted by his rapid success, the young entrepreneur ventured into a number of related business ventures, including casinos and night clubs. With his growing success, the periodical he founded attracted mainstream authors and secured interviews with noted personalities, including presidential candidate Jimmy Carter and even Donald Trump.
Despite falling on hard times in the 80’s, the following decade the business regrouped under the leadership of his daughter. As a result, the enterprise that began as a men’s magazine nearly 40 years earlier successfully launched a TV channel and soon after that a membership only website. Fast forward to 2015 and the founder of that first fledgling periodical in 1953 now boasts a multi-billion dollar global operation. And this entrepreneur’s own personal net worth is estimated at $50 million… which all started with a $600 investment.
Obviously, from the title of my article you can already surmise our mystery entrepreneur is none other than Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy, one of the most economically successful men’s magazines of all time. Yet, by any measure of wholesome and upright values, Hugh Hefner is someone who has preyed on women and capitalized on the sexually degenerate appetites of men. Hefner is a man whose values have served to hasten our nation’s slide into the abyss of moral degradation and depravity. The door Hefner’s Playboy dared to crack open has ultimately served to proliferate an industry that has become so mainstream that many simply shrug their shoulders as it leads millions of young men down a dead end trail of remorse and regret.
Like Hugh Hefner, Donald Trump has achieved extraordinary business success and it’s this success that he touts when he claims, “I’m running for office in a country that’s essentially bankrupt, and it needs a successful businessman.” There is no doubt that America’s fiscal condition is dire with up to 40% of all federal expenditures being funded through increasing our national debt as it bursts through the $20 trillion mark. But driving this fiscal threat is our bankruptcy as a nation relative to our adherence to the Constitution and the principles of our founding fathers, including those Judeo-Christian values upon which America was founded.
Given these truths, we are faced with a chicken and egg type dilemma. Do economics drive a person’s values or do a person’s values drive their economics?
I believe all that we do flows from our core values so while evangelical leaders like Falwell and Jeffress appear to base their endorsement of Trump on his fiscal prowess, I believe one cannot and should not ignore the values behind Trump’s financial successes. So, let’s look very briefly at just a few of Trump’s “values” that would be at odds with the values many evangelicals and conservatives claim as their own:
Trump boasts in his book “The Art of the Comeback” about his numerous extra-marital exploits: “If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller.“
Trump said in 1999 “I am very pro-choice” and he would not ban partial birth abortion. He claims to have changed his views in recent years.
Trump said he is open to the idea of continuing federal funding of Planned Parenthood for their “good aspects… and the things they do properly and good” but he would not fund the abortion part of their business.
Trump supports a universal healthcare system similar to Canada’s government-run system and the government would foot the bill for those who could not pay.
These are just a few highlights of Trump’s views that clearly conflict with conservative values. To find out more about the issues Trump supports, that should concern conservatives, go to Conservative Review here and here. Additionally, for evangelical conservatives, these articles by CNN and The Daily Beast provide additional areas of concern.
At the end of the day, I believe that one’s core values will ultimately influence every other decision a person makes. And while our nation certainly requires some drastic fiscal reforms, there are still matters that should trump the dollar, even when it comes to Donald Trump. And finally, we should all remember the words of Jesus when He said, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” At this crucial time in our nation’s history, are we more concerned in gaining the world or losing our souls?
How many times have you heard someone say, “God gave you two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you talk?” While I don’t know if that’s the reason God made us that way, I do believe in the message that is conveyed.
It seems that many in leadership are frequently more interested in speaking first and listening second, if at all. Perhaps a leader seeks to impress or dominate the conversation. Or perhaps he simply feels he has all the answers. But if there’s one thing that will diminish the respect of others, it is a leader’s lack of interest in what others think or have to say. It may not be intentional on his part, but if a leader cares about those he is entrusted with, it’s incumbent on him to listen more than he speaks.
I think back to the late ’90’s when my business partner and I were opening up one of our more than two dozen senior care facilities. We had the distinct privilege of escorting a noted federal elected official through our property. We obviously felt honored to have him as our guest. But as I recall the encounter, it was clear that the politician had very little interest in our views or concerns. He was more interested in monopolizing the conversation. Since that day, I have had the opportunity to engage with the same individual on a number of other instances and his qualities have never changed. The conversation is always one-sided.
On the flip side, I had a recent encounter in 2015 with one of the Presidential candidates for the Republican nomination and his wife. Following a visit by Senator Ted Cruz, and his wife Heidi, to Chattanooga, I had the unexpected honor of traveling with the two of them on their campaign bus from Chattanooga to Murfreesboro where they were holding another event. I’ve been around three other Presidential candidates in one-on-one scenarios in the past and I had seen the “talk first” mentality exhibited by a couple of them so I fully expected the same from Ted Cruz.
From the beginning of the trip though, I was pleasantly surprised when Heidi Cruz first sat down across from me and some other friends who were also traveling on the bus. Heidi engaged in an interactive, two-way conversation. While she wasn’t the candidate or individual seeking to lead, it was clear that she possessed strong leadership qualities. There was no sense of her desiring to monopolize the conversation but rather she exhibited genuine interest in me, my background and my views.
After 20 minutes or so, Ted came forward from the back of the bus, where he had been engaged in an interview with an NBC reporter. When he joined us, there was no air of “I’ve arrived so it’s time for everyone else to listen up.” Truthfully, Ted was less about him and more about us. He took real interest in what was on our minds and what our concerns were. While we grilled him with questions, his answers were not long or verbose, as I’ve frequently seen from other leaders and politicians. Ted continued to bring the conversation back to us.
In thinking about the leadership qualities and styles of these two elected leaders, I believe there are some distinct lessons that can be learned by those seeking to be good leaders themselves.
Leaders Ask Questions
A leader will ask questions of those he seeks to lead. Questions are the means of finding out what is in the hearts and minds of people. Without asking questions, you’ll never know what concerns others are grappling with. And when you are asking questions, you are talking less.
Leaders Talk Less
There are certainly times when a leader must motivate and inspire others with his words, whether in a rousing speech, or in a call to action with his employees. But generally, a leader must listen more than he talks. As referenced above, questions can serve a useful purpose. But there are frequent times when simply saying little and listening to the hurts, wants, or dreams of your team can be highly instructive to you and healing to them.
Leaders Don’t Interrupt
Interrupting is a trait that is not only disruptive to a meaningful conversation but it can cause frustration and even silence those with whom one seeks to converse. A leader who continuously interrupts others can send a variety of mixed signals such as impatience, superiority, being disinterested and more. So just don’t do it. Wait to speak.
Leaders Remove Distractions
When communicating with others, it’s critical to remove any distractions. In our digital world, it’s easy to be distracted with an iPhone or laptop rather than focusing in on what is being communicated to you. Yes, I struggle with this. But when someone begins talking with you, put everything else aside, look the person in their eyes, and actively engage in the conversation. You will be more apt to retain what was said to you, and the person you are speaking with will be validated in their thoughts and opinions.
Of course, there are many more traits of a good leader we could continue to highlight, but the above list is a good start. Master these, and you will be well on your way to being the kind of leader others respect and will gladly follow. And your effectiveness in addressing the concerns shared by those you lead will skyrocket.
This last week I had the opportunity to view the newly released Hollywood movie, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Having followed the tragic circumstances surrounding the loss of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, I was eager to view the movie. The film tells the true story of four Americans killed, including our Ambassador, during an attack by Islamic jihadists at a US compound in Libya, as a security team struggled to defend the lives of several dozen Americans.
While there were several scenes and lines that stood out to me in the film, one in particular is the subject of my post today. The main characters in the story, Jack Silva and Tyrone Woods, were retired Navy Seals and long time friends.
In the relevant scene, the two are sitting on the rooftop of one of the building in the compound they are defending, following an intense battle in which they and their small team had just survived one of what was to be several waves of attacks from dozens of heavily armed Islamists. As Jack recounts his frustration with having left his wife and children behind in the US to sign up for another stint on the security team, he expresses his bewilderment at what drives him to continue to return to the battlefield. In response Tyrone explains that, “Warriors aren’t trained to retire.”
If one isn’t paying attention in the movie, it would be easy to miss this line that succinctly explains the behavior of these Navy Seal warriors. But the line, “Warriors aren’t trained to retire” is also a statement that bears examining for possible application to our lives.
No matter where you are in life, the concept of retirement is one that has crossed your mind. In our culture, it’s commonly accepted that all who work will eventually retire and begin a life of leisure. Typically the word retirement is tied to two variables: age and economics. And it generally looks like this. A person will work 40-50 years, create sufficient assets and related income, so that when they are 60-70 years of age, they can “retire” and live happily ever after.
The “happily ever after” can change from one person to the next, but for most it ranges from moving to Florida, playing golf several times a week, traveling, or a host of other R&R type activities.
But this “conventional” approach would seem at odds with the point Tyrone was making to Jack, that warriors just don’t know how to retire because it isn’t something that is taught, or perhaps more importantly, even contemplated. While becoming a warrior involves training and know-how, to be an effective warrior it also requires a certain type of spirit or mental attitude that never quits. A warrior understands that there is always another mission and his skills and know-how are not expendable; rather, they are desperately needed by others.
When thinking of your own circumstances, I’d like to challenge you to consider what you will do with your life once you are no longer gainfully employed. Many eagerly await that day, believing that punching out that last time will be the start of all things new and better, anticipating that the grass is greener on the other side.
But I’d suggest that if we are working today to simply stop working tomorrow, we are overlooking one of life’s greatest purposes. Despite our 21st century way of thinking, the world hasn’t always considered that when one reaches a certain age or economic status, he can then simply turn his attention inward, seeking to devote much of his waking hours at that point to his own fancies and pleasure.
To the contrary, I would suggest that at the point one leaves the office for the last time, it is then that one’s experience, wisdom and perhaps even passion have likely reached a crescendo. And if we believe the truth that “to whom much is given, much is required” then we will be compelled to share the wisdom and life experiences we have gained with others in need. Those “others” could be a young man who is just beginning his family and career, or a woman who is facing a difficult midlife challenge, or even an organization that is in desperate need of our expertise.
I have a friend who is an honorably discharged twenty-three year combat veteran of the US Army who beautifully exemplifies the idea that warriors don’t retire. Rather than head for the golf course or sandy beaches, Bob in his post-retirement years launched a new non-profit organization with a two-fold, synergistic mission: “To support military veterans by training and employing them in schools as classroom volunteers, tutors and mentors.” And today, Bob and his colleagues are making a huge difference in the lives of veterans and school children in my community.
So what about you? No matter whether you are in the first half of your career, or approaching those final years in your job or business, it’s never too early, or too late to be thinking about and planning for life after employment. I encourage you to seriously consider how you will invest into the lives of others in a way that will have deep and lasting impact for good… because “warriors aren’t trained to retire.”