Newsletter 630 – Look-Around Learning

During my years as a public speaker, I got into the habit of listening to preachers and other speakers with two questions in my mind: what were they saying (their message) and how were they communicating (their methods)? I looked at how some speakers connected effectively with the audience and why other speakers rarely connected at all. Later I started doing something similar with writers. Why are some better than others? Maybe you have developed the practice of observing academic, business, political and pastoral leaders in the similar ways. If you want to be better in what you do, open your eyes, look, and learn from what others are doing well–or not so well.

Francis 1Pope Francis is an example. This week a blogger critiqued the Pope’s leadership style as demonstrated on his recent North American trip. Francis had prepared well for his speaking, using illustrations and quoting leaders who would be known and admired by his audiences. Wherever he went, the Pope modeled his stated values. Away from the crowds, Francis apparently maintains a disciplined schedule, takes short rest periods to preserve his strength during each day, resists trying to do everything, and avoids pointless activity that drains his energy. And he’s not afraid to tackle difficult issues even if they are unpopular.

OscarEverybody knows about the Pope but have you heard of Oscar Muñoz? His name appeared in the news last month when he was appointed new CEO of United Airlines. Last week Muñoz was interviewed about his new leadership role. He observed that United employees have become disenchanted, disenfranchised, and disengaged. These “three D’s” need to be acknowledged openly, then fixed. But United customers also need attention because they have been forgotten in a business that claims to be service-oriented. Muñoz added that “the key is not always improvement, which suggests doing things better, but innovation which means doing things altogether differently.” And like Pope Francis, Muñoz seems to be operating in accordance with his values.

Both of these leaders are working to change a culture: one changing the culture of an international church, the other changing an international corporation. Sometimes we learn from reading accounts from or about turn-around leaders like Howard Schultz at Starbucks or Steve Jobs at Apple. But there is much to be learned simply by looking around at leaders in front of our eyes. Please comment on this and share other examples.

    • JennyG
    • October 8th, 2015

    It’s quite fun to learn by observing good speakers – or writers. In one seminar I watched a speaker interact with his audience regarding some sensitive cross-cultural and spiritual issues. When he took the questions or comments he would listen well, completely focussed on the person speaking. But, rather than answering immediately he would take several more questions. Then after moving a little bit further forward in the topic, he would stop and return to the questions raised, addressing each one with compassion and respect, but sometimes a little indirectly. It was an absolutely fascinating display of artistry in both his winsomeness and commitment to biblical truth.

    • Martha Greene
    • October 15th, 2015

    Gary,
    I have a question. In your Newsletter 587, you mentioned working with a “life planning coach.” Would you be willing to share his/her name with me? I am a Certified Professional Life Coach (trained at PCCI by Chris McCluskey) and would like to work with a life planning coach as well as incorporate life planning more effectively into the coaching I do. Thank you!

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