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(my) desired qualities of leadership.

I don’t read many leadership books because I don’t really believe that leadership can be taught through text. I believe that leadership is a skill best taught through real-life experiences and best learnt through real-life examples.

As I watched the latest (leaked) episode of Naruto Shippuden 169, I couldn’t help but to be drawn to Naruto’s hidden and often-understated leadership and charisma. It may just be anime but it has taught me so much about life and in this case, leadership. (Actually, I wrote an article on the top ten reasons to watch Naruto before.) Naruto has a magnetic personality and he has qualities that just naturally endears you to him – he may be reckless but he’s so charmingly reckless you can’t help but to join him in his recklessness. I think Shikamaru got it right when he said, “That guy, has something no one else does… …When I’m with Naruto, ‘I want to walk alongside him’, is what I think”. I desire to have leadership qualities like that!

And so it got me thinking about the kind of leader I aspire to be as well as who and what I’m inspired by. I see some of these qualities in the leaders, mentors and role models that I look up to. In my primitive perspective, an outstanding leader should have or be:

  1. A forward-thinking visionary.
  2. Depth in character and understanding of self.
  3. Knowledge and expertise (a.k.a. IQ).
  4. Charisma and people skills (a.k.a. EQ).
  5. Determination and fighting spirit.
  6. Courage and a willingness to take risks and try new things.
  7. Wisdom, patience and maturity.
  8. Authentic and unafraid to exhibit flaws and shortcomings.
  9. An unquenchable desire to learn from mistakes, improve and improvise.
  10. Humility to acknowledge defeat and apologise whenever necessary.
  11. Confidence and an acute awareness of his strengths and weaknesses.
  12. Situational awareness and appreciation.
  13. A keen sense of strategy and shrewdness.
  14. Excellence and thoroughness.
  15. Commitment to follow-through with the plan and vision.
  16. Versatility and an all-rounded capability.
  17. Sensitivity and compassion to reach out to the underdogs.
  18. Spirit-controlled and a master of his temperaments.
  19. Consistency and a reputation that has been proven over time.
  20. Always one step away from fulfilling his glass-ceiling potential.

But most of all, I think, a leader must have followers. Otherwise, it is absolutely useless to possess all the above-mentioned qualities if you have no one to lead! If people aren’t willing and wanting to “walk alongside you”, then as a leader, you will simply be rendered ineffective and redundant. I think that’s the harsh but honest truth.

Frankly, it didn’t take me very long to list these 20 qualities and I could easily (and seriously) go for another 20 more (and I’m sure you could too), since I’ve merely shared my opinion of an ideal leader. However, the more I think about it, the more I think that Jesus is our perfect role model of a leader – I can’t think of a better example who has all these qualities and one whom I’d want to emulate than my Saviour.

I think I will expand on each of these qualities another time. For now, I just wanted to extract these thoughts out of my head. I need a good physical rest tonight!

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the difference between a job and a career.

I spent some time deliberating this over the past couple of days. I found some interesting attempts at defining and differentiating the two. These definitions are amongst the first few to appear when I googled the above question:

“Your job is what you are doing today. Your career is what you’ve done over the past years and what you plan to do in the future… Your job feeds you and your family today. Your career will feed you and your family tomorrow and beyond.”

“The job pays your bills, and a career is a path you’ve taken (hopefully because you enjoy it) to attain or keep the ideal job for you.”

“A career is something that you build during your lifetime. Jobs are often times task-oriented positions to help meet the goals of an organisation or business. Jobs are often a means to an end… Sometimes jobs lead to careers.”

“A job is something you do simply to earn money; a career is a series of connected employment opportunities. A job has minimal impact on your future work life, while a career provides experience and learning to fuel your future. A job offers few networking opportunities, but a career is loaded with them. When you work at a job, you should do the minimum without annoying the boss. When you’re in a career, you should go the extra mile, doing tasks beyond your minimum job description.”

There’s an endless list of dichotomous definitions but they are largely synonymous.

I remember learning this from somewhere – maybe in one of KK’s workshop (?) – that in a career, people usually stay for a long time and “climb” up the organisational ladder; the good ones care about the welfare and well-being of the company and its employees. To a certain extent, they live for others. Whereas a job is just something people do from 9am to 5pm and remain indifferent to just about everything except for the accuracy and arrival of their paycheck. To another extent, they live for themselves.

Now, this gets me thinking about my own predicament – is it a job or a career? I know for sure that during my army days, it was a job – I did what I was expected to do; on good days, I go the extra mile and on bad days, I do the bare minimum. When I was in Shanghai, it felt a little different because I treated it like my own company. There wasn’t such a thing called “Official Working Hours” simply because at the management level, you work as hard and as long as you’re required to; my boss did not believe in overtime pay for the managers because it was expected of us to get the job done and the project(s) completed. AT’s an excellent boss, and although sometimes he’s quite a slave-driver, he has successfully imbued in us managers the all-important ownership of the company.

So this brings me back to me today as a youth minister with Grace Assembly of God. Is this my job? Not really, because I’d have been imparting my life into young people anyway even if I was an army officer or a marketing manager – I’m just doing it full-time on a more intensive level. Is this my career then? Not really too, because I do not even know if I will be doing this for the long run. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m committed to what I have signed on to do, but I’m keener to listen to God’s prompting. The last thing I want is to overstay – I think that would be absolutely meaningless. But if God tells me to go, I’d be gone in an instant – I’m not worried about transitions and to start out all over again in any industry because I have confidence in my ability to excel wherever I go.

Hence, my answer to the question above – the difference between a job and a career is to know your calling in life and to pursue that calling wholeheartedly in any given time or space instead of being in an occupation for a season of life. I’ve said this to quite a number of people – in my current “job”, while it’s slightly easier than the previous ones because my gifting and skills-set are tailor-made for it, I’ve also poured in double the work hours and emotional involvement. Yet I feel that since I’ve joined Grace in October 2009, I’ve not worked a single day at all simply because I am pursuing what I believe God has intended for me to pursue for this season of my life.

Have you found your calling? Are you stuck with a job? Or are you caught in a career?

would you let go of me?

It was my turn to “teach” a lesson from EC’s outstanding handbook, “Mentoring Paradigms”. (Now, I actually don’t quite understand how I was supposed to teach a lesson that is supposed to be self-taught by simply reading the book and reflecting so) I took the liberty to teach outside of the book; after all, the book is supposed to be self-explanatory and the leaders present at the meeting are old enough to digest the wisdom for themselves.

The gist of the paradigm that I taught was on God’s efficacy. (The book is on my office desk, so I’ll update this post again and list the key lessons I’ve learnt from EC’s teaching.) And so I brought everyone’s attention to the three parables placed one after the other in the Gospel of Luke – The lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. I thought it was appropriate for the leaders to see for themselves God’s efficacy at work in a dynamic manner in these three examples. In my reflection, I think it’s common to hear that nothing is wasted in the economy of God; I’d turn that around and say that in God’s economy, there’s no such thing as nothing!

Observe, for the lost sheep, one in a hundred went missing; for the lost coin, one in ten went missing; and for the lost son, one in two went missing – the stakes are upped dramatically. Observe again, the shepherd left ninety-nine and went out to search for that lost sheep; the owner (went in and) turned his house upside-down to search for that lost coin; and the father could do absolutely nothing when he lost his son. Actually, to better phrase it, it was his son that decided to lose him.

Now, from this juxtaposition, I’ve learnt that the closer the missing subject (a person, usually) is to you, the lesser you can do about it should he or she decide to leave you. There are some people you go out to hunt for, some you turn your ransack your house for, and for some, you are simply powerless to do anything about it – and yes, it is extremely heartbreaking because you can almost see their outcome.

Around three years ago, I experienced that with my beloved sister. I remember the two-hour conversation in the car. It was then that I had to let go of her as my younger sister so that she can become her own woman. Letting go of a younger sibling that you protect is a lot more difficult than letting go of a young person that you shepherd. Without getting into details, I basically realised that I couldn’t and shouldn’t protect her in the same manner anymore, for she was old, mature and experienced enough to make her own decisions, and be responsible for them. (Sometimes, I wonder if it’s painful because I am relinquishing my status in her life – I don’t ever want to be a redundant elder brother.)

I had to learn to trust God for her eventual outcome and while it’s painful for me to let go of my sister because I love her so much, I must remember that God loves her so much more than I do and so surely He will look after her well-being better than I ever can. Hence, I shall have no fear for my Lord is in control of my sister. Either way, God has a plan for her and already knows what He is doing with her, way ahead of me. At the end of the day, I’m actually left with no choice, but learn not just to trust her, but to trust Him, whom I’m entrusting her to.

On that note, I believe that parents put so many restrictions on their children in this generation not because they don’t trust them, but because they don’t trust themselves – they are not confident of their own upbringing of their kids. I’m not yet a father so I write this callously, but I’d like to believe that when it’s time for my children to make their own decisions and account for themselves, I will deliberately and gladly let go of them, so that they can grow in an exponential manner apart from me. I will do this partly because I trust them, but mainly because I trust the good way that I would have brought them up. I guess I’d only be able to put my money where my mouth is when my children reach that age of reckoning.

On a side, random and personal note, I am absolutely and unashamedly confident that I will make an imperiously outstanding father. And just like in RD’s “Danny The Champion of The World”, I will become that father with the sparkle in his eye. Perhaps the absence of it makes me pine for fatherhood so much more, but somehow, I have this unquenchable, untamable conviction that of the many things that I will excel in in life, fatherhood is one that I am most certain of because it is something closest to my heart.

I have no idea how this evolved into a piece on parenting but I’m glad anyway.

understanding your personality temperament.

Whenever I meet other Christian leaders for the first time, I always like to ask if they know their character temperaments because it gives me a opportunity to instantly square them up. While it’s not always good to do this, it does give me a certain head start in knowing how to engage them. I believe that a leader should be versatile and conversational skills are always a helpful for a leader.

There are four personality temperaments – Sanguine (I), Choleric (D), Melancholic (C), Phlegmatic (S). Some may be more familiar with D-I-S-C. I’ll describe each personality very briefly, according to my understanding:

Sanguine – Extroverted and people-oriented, this ball of energy is popular with people and is often inspiring and persuasive. However, he is usually an insecure person, struggles with being alone and is a scatterbrain.

Choleric – This task-oriented, natural-born leader operates with authority and is a high-achiever who is often outspoken and domineering. However, he also bossy, insensitive to other people’s feelings and struggles with submission.

Melancholic – A perfectionist to a T, this idealistic artist passionately pursues details and is often a peace-maker and a people-pleaser. However, his fragility is exhibited in being overly emotional, indecisive and hard to please.

Phlegmatic – No one brings stability, consistency and loyalty to the table as he easily as he does, as his steadfastness breeds people’s trust. However, his inability to overcome inertia often births laziness and results in him watching life sail him by.

I first took the personality test when I was 16 and I discovered that I was a Choleric-Sanguine (my score was something like S8 C14 M3 P0). Three years later I took the test again and discovered that I was Sanguine-Choleric (score of S16 C8 M6 P-3). Today, seven years later, I think I’m still predominantly a Sanguine. I guess my secondary trait would always be a Choleric but as I often mention, I think I’m a secret Melancholic, especially when I work and plan. I’ve intentionally efforted (what an irony!) to pick up Phlegmatic traits, but it still remains an elusive element. I’m thankful though, that 27 years later, with the Spirit’s help, I’ve learnt to be a lot more Spirit-controlled than uncontrollably Sanguine.

While understanding your personality temperaments allows you to perhaps relate a little better with others as well as to gain a better mastery of yourself, I’ve learnt to aspire to be like Jesus, who incidentally is the most balanced individual, I think. He wasn’t 25% SCMP, no, that would make Him inept and limited. I’d like to think that Jesus was 100% SCMP, making Him 400%. We see in His Sanguine in how He loved and fed people, as well as to heal and talk to them; His Choleric was demonstrated in how He was focussed on His mission and that caused Him to move from place to place to do ministry; Jesus demonstrated His Melancholic through His detailed and organised preaching of the comprehensive Sermon on the Mount; and His Phlegmatic was experienced in how meek and gentle He was with people, to offer peace to them.

I’ve read and repeated this cute analogy many times, and its self-mockery never fails to make people laugh:

Whenever there’s a problem;
The Choleric tries to solve the problem;
The Melancholic dwells in the problem;
The Phlegmatic doesn’t realise there’s a problem;
And the Sanguine IS the problem!

Our approach to life is always going to be different and with it comes a kaleidoscope of obstacles and challenges. Regardless of our personality temperaments, we’ll have our own sets of strengths and weaknesses to bear. I believe that confidence is an acute awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses. And while we could do well to work on our weaknesses and operate in our strengths, I think that problems are one of the sure things in life, but – and here’s what the Holy Spirit just inspired me to pen down – “Whenever there’s a problem, Jesus is the ONLY solution!” Remember that!

And if you are keen to discover where you are Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic or Phlegmatic, you can click here to take the personality temperament test. Be sure to leave a comment to let me know what temperament you are!

when exhaustion sets in.

During my devotion a few days ago, I thought about the impending December and how crazy it was going to get – and how tired I was going to be. I applaud and take my hat off CX and RY who have been doing it for a decade.

On this note, I reckon that disillusionment sets in when people are exhausted. I’ve said this before and I believe that fatigue causes us to get emotional and irrational, and this results in us losing interest in people, events and pursuits. Whenever we feel moody we don’t want to talk to people. Whenever we feel down, we feel like we have nothing left to offer so we stop giving. When we are feel tired, all we want to do is to avoid everything and everyone and just recluse into our own space. Can you identify with that?

If you have ever felt that way, which I’m sure you have, that’s completely human and understandable. We have physical capacities and limitations and there’s only so much we can give or do, I guess.

And that is why I was so encouraged when the Holy Spirit directed me to Psalm 121:1-8. This is the absolute faithfulness of God:

1 I look up to the mountains — does my help come from there?

2 My help comes from the LORD, who made the heavens and the earth!

3 He will not let you stumble and fall; the one who watches over you will not sleep.

4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel never tires and never sleeps.

5 The LORD himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade.

6 The sun will not hurt you by day, nor the moon at night.

7 The LORD keeps you from all evil and preserves your life.

8 The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

We should give Him praise for being someone who neither sleeps, tires or slumbers! What a great assurance! We can put so much confidence and trust in God to deliver us! This portion of scripture reminds me that God is like a 24-hour call centre that never stops operating, never takes a break and is available whenever, wherever.

When I get tired of seeking You, You never get tired of seeking me. Oh God I praise You for Your lovingkindness and steadfastness in my life. Thank You for never giving up on me and for always persisting to pursue me. I love You, Lord.

when the numbers add up.

There is no denying that I am really aging. I no longer can sleep at 4am and wake up at 7am feeling fresh. It takes a toll on my body and its consequences are usually perpetuated acne on my cheeks and bags under my eyes. Ulcers are less frequent now, so I am thankful for that. It’s interesting how I hardly get sleepy or lethargic in the afternoon though.

My body is no longer working as hard as it ought to. A slower metabolic rate means that I can no longer have supper like a king (sigh!) and not feel its repercussions gathering around my torso afterwards (double sigh!). My fitness levels have also declined. While I am not unfit, it’s obvious that I am past my physical peak of fitness; I don’t know think I will ever run 2.4km in 9:21, finish SOC in 7:53 or score 21 for pull-ups ever again. There are some once-in-a-lifetime trophies.

However, while my physical prowesses decline (I sound like I’m 40!), I notice an increase in my intellectual, emotional and spiritual awareness, especially in my awareness of my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve always believe that confidence is an acute awareness of what you’re good at and what you need to work on.  I’m still much more Sanguine than the average Sanguine, but I’ve mellowed significantly; I remember LY exclaiming, “Joey, can you stop mellowing!?” Age brings about a certain calmness, levelheadedness and deliberate delays in responding to situations, events and people. Maybe wisdom is applied knowledge.

This gets me thinking about maturity and how from year to year I evaluate my growth. Hindsight is powerful – it would be a gift if we had present-sight. I don’t know about you but when in retrospect I find that I’ve matured relatively exponentially from period to period. It’s like I’ve either really grown a lot or that I was really immature last time!

During my short coffee-break with LL just now, I told him that I was thankful for a colleague like him who’s my age. I told him that since we are not married and have no children yet, we should aspire to give to and serve the Lord with high levels of zeal and zest that reflect our age, while we are still young and energetic and able to contribute like that. Taking our lead from what God puts in our hearts, this is the best time for us to make investments in time and energy before the marriage and family elements kick in.

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